Why Do We Need Protein? How Much Protein Do We Need To Build Muscle?
While strength training is important for building muscle, so is consuming the right amount of protein. If you wish to build muscle, there is no escaping the importance of protein.
In this article we will discuss why we need protein to build muscle, why muscle is so important and how much protein intake we need to maximise muscle gain.
What is protein?
Protein is found throughout the body. It can be found in muscle, bone, hair, skin and virtually every other body part or tissue. It makes up the enzymes that power many chemical reactions and the hemoglobin that carries oxygen in your blood. At least 10,000 different proteins make you what you are.
Protein is made from twenty-plus basic building blocks called amino acids. Because we don’t store amino acids, our bodies make them in two different ways: either from scratch, or by modifying others.
Why do we need protein for muscle growth?
Protein is a macronutrient – a nutrient we need in larger quantities. As we mentioned above this macronutrient is made up of essential amino acids. These amino acids are important building blocks for our bodies’ cells and tissues, including muscle mass.
Our bodies are constantly building, maintaining, and repairing tissue. If we don’t consume enough protein then amino acids that are stored in our muscle tissue will be taken in order to meet these needs elsewhere, which is why we get muscle loss.
Amino acids are also used for muscle protein synthesis (MPS).
MPS simply put means repairing and maintaining the muscles after strenuous activity that causes micro-tears in our muscles. This is a very natural process that happens when we exercise our muscles. In turn it can lead to stronger muscles that are better adapted to the type of training that caused the tears such as body building.
MPS is the reason why both strength training and protein are crucial for building muscle mass. So think about it, if your goal is to gain muscle, you really need to be consuming a lot more protein than your body is breaking down.
Why is muscle important for weight loss?
Higher amounts of muscle help to increase your metabolism, helping you burn more calories around the clock even at rest. This is because muscle is more metabolically active than fat, meaning it requires more energy. So the quick answer is “gain muscle to lose more weight” this is why exercise and muscle gain is very important for weight loss.
How much protein do we need to to gain muscle?
According to the Public Health England, the recommended daily intake of protein is 45-55g.
However, it is important to remember that this is defined as the minimum amount of protein you should consume in order to prevent muscle loss, rather than the recommended maximum intake.
However if you are an adult whose goal is to build up muscle mass through exercise, then this intake is unlikely to be enough.
The optimum amount of protein for muscle-building appearing be around 1.2 g and 2 g per kg of body weight, which is the amount that most professional athletes aim to consume.
If you are following an extremley intense exercise regime, you may want to consider consuming around 2g per kg on a daily basis for the first 12 weeks of training. During this time, your body is most hard at work, breaking down muscle fibres, repairing micro-tears, and creating new structures in order to adapt to your exercise routine.
Try using our protein calculator below to help you work out your protein intake.
Where do I get my protein from?
- Poultry such as chicken.
- Legumes such as beans, lentils and peas.
- Oily fish such as mackerel and salmon.
- Dairy products such as cheese, yoghurt and milk.
- Lean meat.
- Plant-based meat alternatives such as tofu and tempeh.
People who are very serious about muscle gain tend to use protein products such as bars, powders etc.
TIPS: Easy ways to increase your protein intake
- Eat the protein first: Always fill up on the protein first before you eat carbs. For example if there is chicken on your plate finish that first before hitting the spuds.
- Snack on cheese: Snacks are a good way to get extra protein into your diet — as long as you choose healthy ones.
- Replace breakfast cereal with eggs: Many breakfast foods are low in protein, including toast, bagels, and cereals.
- Top food or snack on almonds: Almonds are a great source of protein.
- Eat lots of Greek yoghurt: Greek yogurt is a versatile, high protein food.
- Make yourself a protein shake to enjoy on the way to work: You can even add some Greek yoghurt.
- Add canned fish to your diet: Canned fish is a fantastic way to boost your protein intake.