Hi Mark, the bodybuilding magazines say you need 1 gram protein per pound of body weight to build muscle. Elsewhere I hear that is nonsense, and you need much less and eating so much protein only makes you fat. What is the truth? I don’t want to lose muscle!
This is a really good question. It turns out you need much less protein per day than the food industry -which wants to sell it, after all- would have you believe. The reality is closer to 1 gram per kilogram of lean mass, and that’s rather little.
We’re looking at about 70 grams a day on average, of course depending on your individual weight, activity level, whether you’re trying to build lean muscle or just maintain it, etc.
Say you weigh in at 81kg (178lbs), and body fat is 10%: that would be 72 grams of protein a day. Not much, right? If your diet is relatively healthy and varied, then extra protein supplements aren’t even necessary, this amount should be easily covered just by the normal foods that you eat.
Rice has protein, lentils have lots -more than meat- pasta has protein, oats are loaded with it, etc, etc. These are not considered protein foods, yet they have plenty and it is, contrary to popular belief, very bioavailable.
Say you want to gain muscle? In that case my recommendation is to jack it up to as much as 1.5 grams per kilogram of lean mass, so in the 81kg example at 10% body fat that makes about 110 grams a day. This should be a short term thing though: only for the build up phase, afterwards you can go right back to the above formula of 1 gram a kilogram.
Long term high protein consumption puts unnecessary strain on your kidneys and yes, adds extra calories the body doesn’t really need. If you’re struggling to get ripped, maybe this is the place to start. Cut back on the protein shakes and lower overall intake and see what happens.
For athletes though it’s a slightly different story. They have generally higher nutrient requirements and to support their gains from strength training as well as for general recovery, the very least I recommend is 10 grams of BCAA’s before training and 10 grams L-Glutamine after. Basic daily protein intake might be somewhat higher at 1.3- 1.5 grams per kilo of lean mass. So about a 100 to 120 grams/day for the 81 kilo athlete from our earlier example.
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