Protein requirements for building muscle

How much protein do we need to build muscle mass?


By Joe Johnson

How much protein is enough?

If you’ve ever stepped foot inside a gym you’re probably well aware of the importance that protein plays in building muscle. Protein forms the very building blocks of muscle, and therefore is absolutely necessary unless you want your valiant efforts in the gym to go to waste. Lifting weights to failure creates microscopic tears in the muscle tissue, and protein helps to repair these tears, making the muscle bigger and potentially stronger, so the body is better equipped to deal with a similar or greater level stress in future.

It sounds like a simple process, so why do so many people fail in their muscle-building endeavours? It could be down to any number of factors; they may not be training hard enough, or using enough volume, they may not be recovering properly, they may not simply be getting enough calories in to support muscle repair. One mistake I see too many trainers making however, is not getting enough protein in their diet.

But how much is enough? This is a question that’s plagued many trainers for years; on the one hand you need provide your body with the building blocks it needs to repair muscle damage and create new muscle tissue, best just to eat ALL your calories from protein then, right?

Not so fast.

Protein is essential for kickstarting the repair and building process, but that doesn’t mean more is always better. There are other factors to consider here - what about actually fuelling your training session? Carbohydrates are the body’s preferred fuel source for longer bouts of intense training, and fat helps with the production of key muscle-building hormones, so replacing these other crucial macro nutrients with protein isn’t an intelligent tactic.

There’s also cost to consider - protein is often a lot more expensive than carbohydrates and fat, can you afford to eat an all protein diet? Protein can also be inconvenient to transport - do you commute to work? Is lugging several tupperware containers of chicken breasts around with you in the middle of summer the best idea? Of course products like LA Whey can get around the issues of convenience and cost.

So if you need protein to build muscle, but you don’t want your whole diet to comprise of it, how much should you eat? It’s a tricky subject that has been debated by sports nutritionists for some time, and will probably continue to be for years to come.

Unfortunately, there is no definitive answer, but there are some guidelines we can use as a starting point. Assuming you’re looking at aesthetic goals - i.e. building muscle, a good place to start might be 2g of protein per Kg of bodyweight. So let’s you you weight 80Kg - or just over 12.5 stone;

80Kg x 2 = 160g of protein per day

If the average chicken breast comes in at around 40g of protein, that’s the equivalent of four chicken breasts per day. Four chicken breasts per day is going to work out fairly expensive over the course of a week for most people, but that’s where varying your protein sources comes into play. Look to alternative sources like LA Whey or eggs, which often work out much better value pound-for-pound than fresh meat (not to mention that varying your food sources is crucial for getting the whole range of vitamins and minerals).

So how could a day’s protein intake look for an 80Kg guy or girl? Here’s a sample daily intake;

Breakfast - 6 large Eggs = approximately 35g of protein

Snack - LA Whey (1 serving) = approximately 50g of protein

Lunch - 1 Can of Tuna (185g) = approximately 45g of protein

Dinner - Rump Steak (200g) = approximately 50g protein

This nets you 180g of protein, 20g over the target but when you’re aiming for muscle-building, overshooting is never a bad thing. Of course it’s important to remember to include the other macronutrients in a balance that suits you to achieve your overall calorie target (in order to build muscle you need to be in a calorie surplus, it’s not all about protein).

It’s also important to stress that 2g of protein per Kg is purely a starting point, amounts may need to be adjusted going forwards in order to achieve your goals. Unfortunately there is no clear-cut way to determine exactly how much protein you need, since the requirements will vary from person to person. Select a start point, experiment, and adjust accordingly.



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