How Much Protein Should You Intake To Build Muscle?

How Much Protein Should You Intake
To Build Muscle?

Author Image Ash May Training Nutrition

By Ash May

The answer to this question is actually pretty straight forward. 

However, there are a few things we need to understand and clarify first of all. 

What Is Protein?

Protein is a macronutrient which is essential for building and maintaining muscle mass. It is most prominent in animal products, but is also present in other sources such as nuts, and vegetables. 

Protein contains 4 calories per gram, which is equal to a gram of carbohydrates, and much less than a gram of fat containing 9 calories. 

Calories per protein fats and carbs

Protein is commonly referred to as the building blocks of muscle mass, and is composed of amino acids which are commonly referred to as the building blocks of protein. 

How Does Protein Build Muscle?

As mentioned above, protein is literally the building block of muscle – but how does it build muscle? 

Okay, here comes the science… 

Skeletal muscles are the most adaptable type of muscle, and these are what we target when weight training. . 

These muscles get damaged from the resistance training which leads to micro tears within the muscle tissue. 

Protein is made of amino acids, which are responsible for the reactions which happen in your body. 

When you eat protein, your body will break down the protein to get the base amino acids. 

It will then string these amino acids together into new proteins which it can use to repair the damaged muscle tissue.

Amino Acid Chains

The damage will also activate satellite cells which flood the damaged area and multiply, fusing onto the muscle fibres to repair the tear and make it bigger and stronger. 

However, muscle growth will only occur if you have enough amino acids to repair the damaged muscle, plus some extra left over. 

The left-over amino acids can then be used for further muscle growth beyond the initial muscle repair. 

If you don’t have enough amino acids then your muscles will neither grow or repair damage, making you much more prone to injury and muscle loss. 

Therefore, it is clear to see the importance of optimal protein intake when trying to build muscle, or even to just maintain a healthy body and lifestyle. 

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Protein sources for building muscle

How Much Protein Do You Need?

So, how much protein do you need to eat per day, and per meal, to not only build muscle – but to maximise muscle growth? 

Well, the published recommended dietary allowance (RDA) for protein is set at 0.8 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight. 

This means that a 70kg individual would only need to eat 56g of protein per day. 

I will tell you right now that this is not enough. 

However, it is important to remember that the RDA guidelines are the amount of a nutrient which are needed to meet your basic nutritional requirements. 

Building muscle is beyond a basic nutritional requirement – but even so, these numbers are very low.

Cable Bicep Curl Arms Superset

Now that many studies have been performed and replicated on optimal amounts of protein for building muscle, we have a range which is pretty safe to say is optimal. 

If you want to build muscle, you want to eat between 1.8g – 2.25g of protein per kg of body weight. 

This equals 0.8g – 1g per lb of bodyweight. 

This means that the earlier mentioned 70kg individual would need to be eating between 126g and 154g of protein per day. 

Following these protein intake guidelines will be good enough to confidently provide your body with enough amino acids to consistently be able to repair and build muscle. 

Where You Should Be On The Scale

In the example given, there is nearly a 30g protein variance per day. 

That is pretty substantial. 

So, where should you be, the low end or the high end? 

If you are within that range at all then you are likely safe to say you are eating enough protein. 

However, to really dive deep – it is recommended that the more experienced you are, the higher you want to be on the scale. 

A beginner lifter of 1 – 3 months will build muscle regardless of nearly all situations, so the low end of this will be more than optimal. 

However, as you progress and things get tougher, it is best to stick to the high end of the scale – just to be safe. 

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How Much Protein Per Meal?

As long as your overall daily protein intake is reaching the calculated amount that your body needs to build muscle, then you won’t have too much to worry about. 

However, if you are really trying to optimise your muscle growth, you can look at how you are breaking down the overall intake into meals.

Muscle protein synthesis threshold graph

The first way of doing this is to simply look at how many meals you generally eat in a day, and divide your protein intake into that amount of meals. 

Balancing your protein intake to be relatively consistent meal to meal will help reach optimal distribution throughout the day. 

For example, if your protein requirement is 150g per day, and you eat 3 meals per day… You eat 50g of protein in each meal. 

The second way of doing this is to further optimise this. 

You will want to get between 30g – 40g of protein per meal, as this has consistently shown as slightly more optimal in terms of protein distribution. 

This means that you would take your total protein intake and divide it by these numbers, and then have that amount of meals with an equal amount of protein per meal. 

For example, if you need 150g of protein per day, you can divide this by 30g in each meal and eat 5 meals per day. 

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