Eating protein and building muscle go together like protein powder and milk in a blender - you can’t have one without the other.
Protein is quite literally the building block of strength and muscle. It’s vital for tissue repair and is filled with amino acids. It’s accepted that to build and increase your muscle mass, you need a high level of protein intake. But the wisdom on how much protein it takes to do that varies wildly.
Official NHS recommendations state that your daily protein intake should be 50g, but this doesn’t take into account your height, weight or energy output. We’ve done the maths for you so you’ll never need to wonder again how many protein shakes are too many.
What is protein and why we need it
Protein is a macronutrient, which is a nutrient that humans need in large quantities to live. It’s built from amino acids, which your body needs to build everything from your glute muscles to the hair on your head to your fingernails.
To increase muscle mass, your body needs to be taking in more muscle protein than it breaks down. And this statement isn’t just coming from some gym bro who eats 15 grilled chicken breasts a day - a recent study found that ‘protein intake was shown to promote additional gains in lean body mass beyond those observed with resistance exercise alone’. Protein can also help with weight loss by helping to increase your metabolism and reducing your appetite
How much protein do I need?
A human’s recommended dietary allowance, which refers to the amount of a nutrient you need to fulfil basic nutritional requirements, is 0.8g per kilo of body weight. While this might satisfy the minimum requirement, it’s not enough for athletes. Sportspeople training at an elite level eat around 2g of protein per kilo of body weight every day, and if you’ve just started an intense workout programme, that’s what you should be aiming for. When you’re really working your muscles and waking up sore the next day, this is the amount of protein to gain muscle, as fuel + muscle damage = muscle growth.
How much protein per day?
Calculating how much protein you need to build muscle through a proportion of what you eat is a flawed method, as the number you end up with will be dependent on your total calorie intake. Calculating how many grams of protein per day is more consistent when done according to weight, as you’ll be consuming the same amount regardless of your calorie count.
The absolute best way to determine how much protein to eat to gain muscle is to base the measurement off your lean body mass, or, everything in your body that isn’t fat. Calculating protein intake for a man who weighs 135g using the 2kg per kg rule states that he should be eating a colossal 270g of protein per day, which is neither necessary or realistic, especially taking into account that research shows little benefit to eating more than 2.2g of protein per kg of lean body mass.
Calculating how much protein you should eat according to lean body mass is more accurate. If a man weighs 90kg and has 20% body fat, their lean body mass is 72kg. Multiplied by 2.2, their daily protein target is 158g per day - a far more achievable goal
How much protein should I eat?
Timing your protein intake is just as important as calculating the amount, as your body can’t process more than 25 to 35g per serving. Spread your consumption out throughout the day and ensure you’re eating protein with every meal - so that’s a moratorium on all those pasta dinners. The most important time to be consuming protein is in the half an hour following your gym session, which is the window to optimise the repair process in your body.
Innermost’s protein powders are formulated to maximise muscle growth, strength and power output, so they’re perfect for sipping on immediately post-workout. Even better, the different varieties are targeted to exactly what you’re looking to achieve with your workout regime.
The Strong Protein is designed to help you to push yourself as hard as you possibly can, reduce inflammation and speed up recovery, so you’re down for less time. It’s perfect for building up your muscles and supporting your strength goals. The Lean Protein is formulated to encourage healthy, sustainable fat loss, reduce your cravings and to support muscle growth.
Hit up The Fit Protein to increase your energy levels, rehydrate and repair those all-important muscles. And The Health Protein, as well as being vegan, is ideal for boosting your health and your immune system as well as supporting muscle growth.
Whichever protein you choose, it’s crucial to imbibe it as soon as possible following your workout as you produce the stress hormones cortisol and adrenaline after exercise, which can be bad for your body. When you’re taking in nutrition, it counters this effect, kickstarts muscle growth and helping to repair your body.
Bear in mind that you can have too much of a good thing, especially when it comes to protein sourced from red meat which has high levels of saturated fat. It’s better to source your protein from lean sources, such as protein powders, chicken breasts and salmon. Additionally, people with a very high protein diet are at risk of kidney stones. As long as you stick our above calculation, you should be just fine. Now let’s start working on those gains.