We have all seen people working out vigorously in the gym day in and day out and they never seem to acquire much muscle mass for all their hard work. Of course, you have to give them credit for their dedication. But sometimes, especially with strength training, you have to work smart AND hard to gain as much muscle as possible.
Muscle growth is difficult if your diet is wrong or out of place. The same is true if you’re trying to burn fat and maintain muscle at the same time. After all, health and fitness is 25% exercise and 75% diet. The old saying that abs are created in the kitchen is partly true.
There are people that only train their abdominals once in a blue moon, but there diet is so on point that they have lowered their body fat to a point where “some” ab definition is visible.
However, this proves a point. If your diet is not what it should be, no amount of exercise is going to make you look healthy or fit. And if you are interested in building muscle, then you need to be following a high protein diet that will give you the results you need.
Protein + Resistance Training = Muscle
Muscle is hard to come by so if you have it, you need to do your best to hold onto it. Interestingly enough, the same way you keep your current muscle mass on your body is also the same way you build muscle as well.
To keep it extremely simple, you just need two things to build new muscle. First, you must do strength training on a consistent basis while pushing yourself in the gym.
Second, you need to watch what you eat much more closely than you probably are. You should always be keeping an eye on your diet, particularly your protein intake.
Consuming enough protein is essential for daily life. If you don’t get enough protein, this can have a negative impact on your health due to the fact that proteins are essential building blocks for your body.
Protein is used to develop and maintain muscles, skin, organs, and tendons. Protein also supports your molecules, neurotransmitters, hormones, and enzymes. Overall, protein has a role in many important functions throughout your entire body.
In general, protein from animals (meats and fish) provide all the essential amino acids you need and contain the correct ratios so you can get exactly what you need out of them. This is possible because animal tissue is very similar to human tissue.
As long as you’re consuming animal derived protein such as dairy, eggs, fish, and meat, you’re getting the right type of protein. However, if avoiding animal derived food is important to you, it can be challenging to get all the essential amino acids that your body needs—and this can have a negative effect on your ability to maintain muscle and burn fat.
This is why it’s so important for vegans and vegetarians to ensure they’re still getting adequate amounts of protein. Luckily, there are plenty of plant-based protein sources available, such as tofu and beans.
It’s important to understand that getting an adequate amount of protein to support the functioning of your body doesn’t only involve the quality of the protein you consume, but also the quantity. While most people don’t need to invest in protein supplements, taking these supplements can be very beneficial for bodybuilders, athletes, and vegans.
The Research on Daily Protein Intake
A general rule of thumb says you should take 1 gram of protein per pound of bodyweight per day. But how do you know whether this rule is right for you?
For example, if you weigh 180 pounds, do you need to take 180 grams of protein every day? After all, 180 grams is a lot of protein. Fortunately, research provides a more realistic number to help us calculate our daily protein intake.
This number pulled from a meta-analysis that studied the impact of protein on muscle growth stands at 0.7 grams per pound of bodyweight (which is 1.6 grams of protein per kilogram of bodyweight).
The researchers who compiled this meta-analysis looked at multiple studies from almost 50 trials that examined more than 1,860 participants. The researchers discovered that eating less than 0.7 grams of protein per pound of bodyweight hinders muscle growth. In contrast, eating more than 0.7 grams of protein doesn’t have much of an impact on muscle growth and strength development.
After studying the meta-analysis, the researchers made the following statement:
“Given that the confidence interval of this estimate spanned from 1.03 to 2.2, it may be prudent to recommend approximately 1 gram of protein per pound of bodyweight (or 2.2 grams of protein per kilogram of bodyweight) per day for those seeking to maximize resistance training-induced gains in fat-free mass.”
Calculating Your Protein Intake
To determine how much protein you need to take each day, all you have to do is multiply your bodyweight (in pounds) by 0.7. While this formula is ideal, it’s essential to keep in mind that these numbers are a general guideline.
You must take the time to experiment with your protein intake, and discover the exact amount that’s right for you. Everyone is different, so your ideal number could be a little bit above or below 0.7 grams.
If you’re an athlete or bodybuilder, it might be prudent, as research suggests, to up your protein intake to 1 gram per pound of bodyweight (or 2.2 grams of protein per kilogram of bodyweight). Again, it’s essential to try different amounts of protein and take the time to figure out what works for you as an individual.
Hot to Eat More Protein
You can walk into a grocery store nowadays and within minutes you will find a selection of protein shakes. Most of these shakes have between 25 and 30 grams of protein.
Of course, many are also high calorie and high sugar so choose wisely. You want to get a bump in protein, but you also want to get it in a healthy way. Try to boost your protein intake by consuming real food in your diet. Too many protein shakes will leave your stomach upset as they are often hard to digest.
If you’re interested in following a high protein diet, you need to have meat in every single meal throughout the day. In fact, your snacks should also consist of meat if possible.
Chicken and turkey are packed with protein so it would be good to make these a staple of your diet. Just don’t get the meat fried version. Milk and cheese also have a fair amount of protein in them too. Nuts, beans, yogurt, broccoli, and spinach should be added to your diet as well as they are also high in protein.
Read the food labels in the store before loading up your cart to ensure you are getting adequate amounts of protein in your diet.
Protein and Muscle Growth
Building muscle mass takes time. It’s not going to happen overnight. But if you stick with a strength training program and consume approximately 0.7 grams of protein per pound of bodyweight a day, good things will happen.
Within eight weeks, you just might be able to gain five pounds of muscle while losing a serious amount of fat in the process. Nothing feels as good as being able to look in the mirror and see results. Stick with it and others around you will be complimenting you in no time!
Increasing your protein intake is not always just about trying to gain muscle mass and a better physique. If you plan on living a long and healthy life, you may be surprised to learn that a high protein diet can assist you in reaching your goal. It’s not about always looking like a bodybuilder. Protein can help you for a variety of reasons and in many situations.
Protein Helps Burn Fat
In a perfect world, we would all love to increase muscle mass and lose fat at the same time. Welcome to the perfect world! Not only does muscle burn fat and calories even when resting, but protein plays a huge factor in keeping your body weight where you want it to be.
Have you ever sat down to binge watch a TV series, and, after three hours, you’ve eaten a couple of bags of chips and a pack of cookies while downing three to four sodas?
Sugar and over-processed foods will not leave you feeling full. In fact, they will lead to more over-eating. You will ingest thousands of calories that provide very little nutrients at all.
Protein has the opposite effect. After eating a chicken steak or two, you feel like you are stuffed. A small steak will satisfy most hunger pains. Protein leaves you feeling full faster and longer than anything else you might consume. This leads to less overindulgence and extra pounds around your midsection.
This means that even if you are not following a high protein diet to build muscle along with a strength training program, you will still maintain a healthy weight if you stick to a diet filled with high protein foods.
Protein Dosage for Burning Fat
When it comes to burning fat and maintaining muscle, we can gain some useful insights by delving into the world of professional bodybuilding. Ask a bodybuilder how much protein you need to take each day, and 99% of bodybuilders will suggest 1 gram of protein per pound of bodyweight.
During a cutting phase, when preparing for shows, a bodybuilder will up their protein intake to somewhere between 1.2 grams to 1.5 grams of protein per pound of bodyweight.
But why do bodybuilders increase their intake of protein when not in a muscle-building phase? A systematic review published in the International Journal of Sport Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism examined the effect of protein intake on calorie-restricted diets in resistance-trained athletes.
The review found that 1.4 grams of protein per pound of fat-free mass is needed when restricting calories to maintain muscle mass. As you can see, it’s important to keep your protein intake elevated during a fat loss phase to preserve as much muscle and strength as possible.
Protein Intake and Age
Have you ever noticed how people start withering away as they become older? It’s not just because of age because if you look around there are senior citizens that are stronger now than they were when they were younger (although these people are the exception to the rule).
So what are they doing differently to everyone else?
Muscle loss and “withering” is more about a poor diet and a sedentary lifestyle than anything else. Older adults need to maintain a high protein diet otherwise their muscle mass will deteriorate even faster. And once you lose muscle mass in old age, it is difficult to get it back.
Hormone levels decrease as we get older (testosterone and estrogen included), so our bodies are working differently than they have ever been asked to work before.
We need more protein to combat this natural degradation. How much protein do older adults need? The same as everyone else. At least 0.7 grams of protein per pound of bodyweight a day. What good is living until 80 years old if your quality of life has regressed so much that you are just going from your bed to your chair every day?
With a high protein diet, you can keep your muscles from wasting away as the years go by. You will be proud of yourself when you are able to keep up with people much younger than you and still spend quality time with your family.
Protein Shakes and Meat-Free Lifestyles
It seems more and more people are choosing lifestyles where they leave meat out of their diet completely. This type of meat-free diet can be detrimental to your health if you are not careful.
Also, if you are eating overly-processed foods in place of meat, then you are consuming calories that are high in bad fats that contain very little if any nutrition.
Everyone needs protein in their diet. You can attain a good amount of protein through some vegetables and nuts and dairy as well. But you still might not be receiving enough protein.
You want to have some sort of muscle mass otherwise life is going to get extremely tough down the road. If you choose a diet that eliminates meat, take supplements that will still give you the additional protein that is needed to function properly.
There are protein powders and shakes on the market that will provide you with the protein that is needed every day. There are numerous powders that you can take even with the strictest of diets.
Soy protein shakes consist of plants. Whey protein is the one most associated with muscle-building properties. However, there is also pea protein powders, hemp protein powders, egg white protein powders, brown rice protein powders, and more.
You are bound to find a couple of protein supplements that you can take a few times a day to give you the protein boost that is needed to function properly and hit the recommended 0.7 grams of protein per pound of bodyweight per day.
Conclusion on Protein Intake
Protein is essential, especially if you lift weights or adhere to a vegan or vegetarian lifestyle. If you’re wondering exactly how much protein you need to get each day to support a healthy lifestyle, you should get 0.7 grams for each pound of bodyweight (or 1.6 grams per kg of bodyweight).
If you’re an athlete or bodybuilder, it might be prudent, as research has suggested, to up your protein intake to 2.2 grams per kg or 1 gram per lb of bodyweight.
Again, it’s important to try different amounts of protein and take the time to figure out what works best for you as an individual to boost muscle growth and burn fat.