How much protein is required for muscle growth?

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It can be difficult to calculate or understand how much protein you need exactly in order to achieve your desired results. At this point it is important to note that consuming large quantities of protein alone will not result in muscle growth. A combination of resistance training with adequate amounts of carbohydrate and protein must be applied in order to achieve muscle growth and enlargement.

Len Kravitz, PhD, is the programme coordinator of exercise science and a researcher at UNMA (The University of New Mexico). He states that muscle growth occurs when the rate of muscle protein synthesis is greater than the rate of muscle protein breakdown.

 

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According to this phenomenon, it is natural to assume that consuming large quantities of protein will result in muscle growth. This however is not the case as increasing muscle size requires a series of complicated biological processes which stimulate muscle protein synthesis, to take place. These reactions are initiated as an adaptation to the stresses that resistance training cause to the muscle fibres. Consuming too little protein or none at all following a strength training workout could result in a decrease in muscle mass as the muscle fibres will not be able to repair and strengthen effectively. Consuming too much protein could possibly tip you over your daily calorie requirements and in the long run, lead to weight gain. In addition excess protein could disrupt the balance of nitrogen in the body as protein is a nitrogenous compound.

Protein requirements for athletes is a significant and vastly researched topic. The Reference Nutrient Intake (RNI) for protein according to the British Nutrition Foundation, is 56 grams for men aged 19-50 and for women within the same age band, the RNI is 45 grams. For an individual who undergoes any form of resistance training regularly with the aim of increasing muscle mass, a protein intake greater than the RNI is required.

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It is recommended that for resistance training athletes, a daily intake of 1.6-1.7 grams of protein per kilogram of bodyweight should be consumed (1, 2). Following this guideline amount in conjunction with an effective weight training programme, the rate of muscle protein synthesis will be greater than the rate of muscle protein breakdown, resulting in muscle growth over time. Therefore, utilising protein supplements could aid in muscle growth as a specific amount of protein can be measured, allowing you to consume your specific protein requirements.

  1. Cockburn, E, Stevenson, E, Hayes, PR, Robson-Ansley, P, and Howatson, G. Effect of milk-based carbohydrate-protein supplement timing on the attenuation of exercise-induced muscle damage. Appl Physiol Nutr Metab 35: 270-277, 2010.
  2. Lemon, PR. Effects of exercise on dietary protein requirements. International Journal of Sport Nutrition 8: 426-447, 1998.

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