If you’re trying to gain muscle, then there’s a big chance you’re already aware of the importance of having more protein in your diet. As one of the most essential macronutrients, protein consists of amino acids, which are precisely the building blocks of body cells and tissues.
But why is protein so important in muscle building, and just how much of it should you be consuming to maximize your muscle gains?
The Importance of Dietary Protein in Body Building
Tissue growth and repair
Proteins are usually made up of special biochemical molecules called amino acids, which play a wide range of important functions in the body. Among those functions include facilitating cell/tissue growth and repair, which are incredibly essential in muscle building.
Essential in building muscle
And of the 20 amino acids that make up protein, 9 of them are known as essential amino acids. Registered dietitian Natalie Olsen notes that these essential amino acids must be obtained from the diet, and are usually present in foods such as eggs, milk, meats, beans, and certain nuts.
Including muscles, much of the tissues in your body are made up of proteins, which are constantly broken down and rebuilt in a pre-programmed process. This means that unless you consume more protein than is being broken down, gaining muscle is next to impossible!
Mark you, it’s also why the body tends to lose mass and strength over time if protein intake is inadequate.
Heightening muscle protein synthesis
Once you eat a protein-rich diet, the proteins are broken down into amino acids, which are then used in facilitating (muscle) cell growth, tissue repair, as well as other body processes like metabolism and immune function.
With a good muscle-building routine, consuming more protein regularly can help increase your muscle mass and definition over time by heightening muscle protein synthesis.
How Much Protein Is Optimal to facilitate Muscle Gains?
The current recommended dietary allowance (RDA) for protein is 0.8 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight or about 0.36 grams per pound. This number, however, is a bare minimum set to prevent protein deficiency in an average sedentary adult, making it too low for people who are actively trying to build muscle.
For someone trying to gain muscle, a higher protein intake of 1.2-2.2 grams per kilogram of body weight (or 0.54-1 grams per pound) is often recommended. This range is based on research showing that higher intakes of protein can help increase muscle growth and strength, but different people may have different needs!
Nonetheless, it’s important to note that there is no “one size fits all” approach to protein intake for muscle building. Your individual needs may vary based on factors such as your gender, activity level, Body Mass Index (BMI), body composition, and dietary preferences.
Thankfully, there are many reliable protein intake calculators to help you estimate the amount of protein you should consume each day to see the best results.
Getting More Protein in Your Diet
One of the best ways to get more protein in your diet is to consume more high-protein food. These would be foods like lean meat, poultry, eggs, dairy products like milk, cheese, and yogurt, and oily fish like sardines and mackerel. Plant-based variants include legumes like lentils and beans; tofu, soy, and tempeh.
In case you’re not getting enough protein from your meals for whatever reason, you can consider supplementing your dietary protein with nutritional supplements. A good example is whey protein powder, which can help support muscle recovery, retention, and growth.
Also, remember that in addition to the amount of protein you are consuming, the timing and distribution of your protein intake are also important. From spaced-out main meals and healthy snacks like these easy-to-make protein cookies, eating protein throughout the day can help optimize your muscle-building efforts.
So, there you have it! You now have a clue of how much protein you should be consuming alongside muscle-building exercises, what it does for you, and how to get it in adequate amounts.
Don’t forget that other nutrients such as carbohydrates and fats are also important for muscle growth. A balanced diet with adequate amounts of all the essential nutrients is the best way to support and reach your muscle-building goals.