Protein for Muscle Gain and More: How Much Do You Need?

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The following post is an overview of an episode from Science for Sport’s podcast, “Massive Muscle Gains: How Much Protein Do You Need According to Science?”. Host Matt Solomon and  Dr. James Morehen answer critical questions related to protein and its role in muscle growth. 

This podcast is a great additional resource for those following our Building Muscle Series

In this post, we will provide an overview of Matt Solomon and Dr. Morehen’s discussion that covers: 

  • Protein’s role in muscle growth and sources of dietary protein.
  • How much protein do you need to maximize muscle growth? 
  • Practical ways to hit your protein needs in a day. 

What Does Protein Do? 

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Protein is one of the three macronutrients, the other two being carbohydrates and fats. Protein is not only for athletes, but the general person as well. Almost every reaction or process that helps us function and operates as normal healthy human beings requires protein. Protein is an essential structural component of hair, skin, eyes, and of course, muscle. 

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Sources of protein include:

  • Animal proteins such as beef, poultry like chicken and turkey, pork, and fish
  • Dairy products such as yogurts, kefir, milk, and cheese
  • Plant proteins such as tofu, beans, legumes, grains, and grain products 

How Much Protein Do you Need? 

We don’t often work in the metric system, and to calculate your needs, you will need to convert your weight in pounds (lbs) into kilograms (kg). To do that, take your weight in pounds and divide by 2.2 to convert to kilograms.

Once you have converted your weight, you can calculate your protein needs by multiplying by 1.6-2.2g/kg to determine your daily needs. 

It is important to remember the role of protein in the body. It’s more than just supporting muscle growth and maintenance. 

Building muscle is an energetically expensive process, thus requiring elevated needs; HOWEVER, we can’t forget that caloric and carbohydrate intake are also essential in building mass and supporting performance. 

Distribute Protein Throughout the Day

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This segment was my favorite part of Science for Sport’s episode. Dr. Morehen does an excellent job of outlining how you can hit your total needs for the day, around training, and when to adjust up or down based on training/competition duration and intensity. 

Break your total protein needs down into meals. 

  • Aim for 0.3 to 0.4 g/kg of protein at each meal.
  • Make sure it adds up to your total daily needs.
  • You may need to adjust slightly up or down at each meal to hit your daily target.

Consume protein before and after training sessions, and consume a protein-rich meal before bed. 

  • Include protein in your pre-training meal, especially before lifts.
  • It’s great if you can consume a source of protein post-lift. If not, don’t worry, as you still have that muscle-building opportunity up to 2-4 hours post-lift. 
  • Protein before bed can support recovery during sleep. 

Let’s Make It Practical

Once you have taken care of the math and key timing opportunities, determine how you will hit those numbers. 

It doesn’t have to be all protein powders nor costly cuts of beef. Use relatively inexpensive sources of protein such as: 

  • Eggs, milk, and yogurt
  • Beans, legumes, and whole grains (buy in bulk)
  • Include powders to supplement or provide a convenient way to meet your protein needs

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“You’re a DJ…”

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Are we training once or twice a day, and is it the day before the competition. Our overall calorie, carbohydrate, and protein needs will change based on training duration and intensity. Knowing when to dial up or down these needs is an important skill, eating with intent. 

This segment was my favorite analogy that Dr. Morehen used to explain “eating with intent” during his interview. 

Think of yourself as a DJ at your mixing board. Depending on the type of track you are playing, you may need to adjust your protein and carbohydrate intake. This suggestion could be within one track (a day) or from track to track (day to day).

Here are some examples: 

  • Before a hard/intense training session, including a high protein and high carbohydrate breakfast, dial down the carbohydrate if it’s a light or skill-based session. 
  • The day before and day of competition, dial down the protein and dial up the carbohydrate. This scheduling is so you can make more room for carbohydrates. 

Where to Listen 

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Listen and subscribe to Science for Sport’s Episode, ” Massive Muscle Gains: How Much Protein Do You Need According to Science?” using your favorite platform:

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