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Monday, August 15, 2011

How Much Protein Do You Really Need Per Day to Build Muscle?

Protein could be one of the most popular and controversial topics in all of nutrition. It’s become the golden child of muscle building and fat loss. Wanna build big muscles? Eat your protein. Wanna lose fat and look like a fitness model? Eat your protein. After all, everyone knows you need to eat a minimum of 30 grams of protein every two to three hours.

But how much protein do you REALLY need per day to build muscle? Chances are that you may be actually overeating. But how much is enough to help maintain and build muscle? Is there a limit per meal that the body can use?

According to the recent researches, muscle protein synthesis maxes out after a meal at 20-30 grams and anything in over will actually not help stimulate more muscle protein synthesis, but rather just increase excess oxidation (burn for energy).
More Protein Does Not Mean More Muscle?!
If you thought it's scientifically PROVEN that more protein equaled more muscle. Don't be so sure!
While protein is of course essential to build up muscles, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that just eating more and more guarantees bigger muscles. So how much do we really need in the first place? Well here’s some numbers for you:

·The RDA (recommended dietary allowance) for protein is 0.8 grams per kilogram of body weight of adults (or roughly 0.36 grams per lb of body weight). Or I have also seen advised that women need at least 46 grams of protein per day, and men need at least 56 grams of protein per day (to avoid deficiency).

· NSCA (National Strength and Conditioning Association) recommends that for active people, endurance and strength training, a higher intake is advised at around 0.4-0.6 per lb of bodyweight (and up to 0.8g/lb for full time athletes).

*Note that most of these “body weights” for calculating protein are more based on “ideal” (or even “fat free”) weight.

These are interesting numbers and much lower than what you may hear out there. You can see that with more activity, and then the recommended amount of protein will increase. What is also important to remember is the overall calorie intake is also increasing with activity level. So in essence, while the amount of protein may increase the % of protein per daily calories may actually be the same (or less). Just something to keep in mind, as calories also matter.

Let’s take a look at one of the research studies that the super-high protein advocates always use to ‘prove’ that eating protein after a workout makes you build muscle.

If you were in this study, this is how your day would have gone:
You would show up at a research lab around 10 PM, and you would go to sleep (no eating). The researchers would wake you up around 6 AM and start poking and probing you (again no eating). After a bunch of weighing and measurements, you would start working out around 9 AM…you still haven’t eaten yet.

This would be one of the toughest workouts you have ever done. Most likely you would do 10 sets of 8 reps on the leg press machine, followed by 8 sets of 8 reps on the leg extension machine. All of your reps would be done at 80% of your one rep max. Like I said, it's one brutal workout. It’s about 10am now, still haven’t eaten.

After your workout you would be given a drink that contains 3 to 6 grams of essential amino acids (the same amount of amino acids found in a glass of milk).

After that, the researchers would take measurements for the next 4 hours and measure your rate of "protein syntheses". This is pretty much the standard protocol for these types of studies.

And guess what they found?
An increase in protein synthesis over these four hours. So what does this prove? It proves that if you haven’t eaten since 10 PM the night before, do a brutal workout at 9 AM the next morning, and drink a glass of milk, you will increase your protein synthesis for four hours!

So much for needing 30 grams of protein, and so much for needing protein every couple hours.

You know what else? The only reason for protein synthesis increasing for 4 hours is because after 4 hours the researchers stopped measuring. Who knows how long you would have stayed in a muscle building state. Some researchers have estimated that a single workout can put you into ‘muscle building mode’ for as long as 48 hours after your workout!

Even more interesting is that researchers have found similar results when they made people drink the amino acids before their workout, and even when they made them wait and drink the amino acids a couple hours after their workout!

First, the TYPE of protein you are consuming does matter
You can get it from a variety of sources, with the difference being the rate at which the body absorbs and uses it. For practical purposes know this, the average person has the ability to process and use:

Egg protein 1.3 grams/hour
Casein isolate - 6.1 grams/hour
Whey isolate - 8-10 grams/hour

At BEST if all your protein comes from Whey the most you can process in 24 hours is 240 grams. Bear in mind for even that to be the case; you have to ingest it through out the day fairly evenly. So, clearly any recommendation that puts the average person over this amount is false.

Secondly, not all of your body weight needs protein. Fat doesn’t
So don’t feed it. Calculating the body weight used without removing your fat stores results in too much protein, which in and of itself isn’t unhealthy. But it does mean that you are likely taking in too many CALORIES in total, which results in additional FAT GAIN, which is unhealthy.

Thirdly, the FDA’s RDA is for sedentary adults
For babies and young children they double it to .75 gram per day per pound. Why? They are growing of course. Obviously then if your goal is to add lean muscle mass you too will grow. So at least .75 is needed. In fact it has been determined that 1.1 to 1.5 gram is good for active, strength training adults.
Lastly and most importantly, no amount of protein matters if you are not hitting the weights.
If anybody tells you that more protein will make up for any shortcomings in your training they are wrong. Erratic, high rep, low weight training will not add muscle mass even if you take Whey protein 24/7 intravenously.

In conclusion the amount of protein needed to add lean muscle mass is determined this way:
Your weight - (Your body weight X %body fat)] X 1.3* = Grams per day of protein
Example 1: you weigh 200 lbs and your body fat is 15%
[200 – (200 x .15)] = 170 x 1.3* = 221 grams Example 2: you weigh 200 lbs and your body fat is 25% [200 – (200 x .25)] = 150 x 1.3* = 195 grams

* Younger people can use the 1.5 multiplier and be fairly safe in avoiding fat gain.

Have a nice night! :)

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