Does More Protein Mean More Muscle?
Protein, and the amino acids it provides to your body, is the building blocks of muscle.
I see a lot of people eating a very high amount of protein. Like 2x their bodyweight in pounds.
For example, a 180lb man who is strength training and wishing to gain muscle, would usually be recommended to eat between 0.8 and 1g of protein per lb of their bodyweight. This would be from 144 to 180g of protein per day.
Some people take that advice and think “I’ll eat EVEN MORE!”
Why do they do this?
Some people seem to think that more protein equals more muscle.
Yes, increasing protein MAY lead to more muscle, but only if your protein intake is too low to begin with.
Once you get over about 0.8g per lb of your bodyweight, increasing protein further doesn’t really impact muscle gain.
If you’re a 180 lb man, eating 150 grams of protein is likely to get you the same results as eating 400g of protein if everything else is the same (i.e. calories in the right range for gaining muscle in both scenarios).
If you’re consuming 0.8g of protein per lb of your bodyweight each day but you’re not gaining muscle, then the answer is not “more protein!” – it’s likely something else:
Are you eating enough total calories?
You need to be in a calorie surplus to gain muscle.
You can ensure this by estimating/figuring out how much energy you need to maintain your weight, then tracking your calories and weight until you see a slow and steady rate of gain (about half a pound per week is good – too much more than that means more fat gain than necessary).
Some people think the answer to gaining more muscle is to eat more protein, because this reflects their past success. They keep increasing protein until they finally see size gains. But guess what? They probably didn’t gain muscle because of more protein. They just kept increasing calories via protein until they were finally in a calorie surplus and could gain weight!
Are you training properly?
You can eat the right amount of protein and the right amount of calories to gain, but you’re not going to gain muscle if your training isn’t on point.
You MUST be progressively overloading your muscles. Over the weeks and months, challenge your muscles to do what they haven’t done before. Make incremental increases in load and/or reps over the months. You don’t necessarily have to progress linearly every workout, but you do have to progress.
Muscle is not built while you train. It’s built while you recover. Rest days, deloads and proper sleep are essential.
Sleep 7+ hours per night.
Don’t do stupid amounts of volume. Don’t go 100% in the gym all the time. You shouldn’t be maxing out on your lifts weekly, or even monthly. 60-120 reps per week TOTAL is enough for every major muscle group. 30-60 reps per week for smaller muscle groups is enough.
Add up your total reps for back, quads/hamstrings/glutes and chest. These should all fall between 60 – 120 reps. If they exceed this, you need to reduce the number of exercises you do, the number of sets and reps you do, or the number of days you train.
Do the same for your biceps, deltoids, triceps and calves specific exercises. These shoul be 30 – 60 reps per week. If they’re not, cut something.
Is your diet full of crap?
I’m a proponent of fitting in chocolate, cake, takeaway food, chips, fries – whatever – but I am not a proponent of having a BAD DIET.
You need to be in good health and get proper nutrition to build muscle. Vitamins and minerals like vitamin D, iron, calcium, magnesium etc. are still required.
80-90% of your calories should be coming from nutrient dense foods. If you’re deficient in key nutrients, your health, energy, and ability to recover will all be impacted – which affects how well you’re able to train.
Don’t completely fill your macros with whatever you want all the time and think it’s going to work.
Does protein timing matter?
Not a massive amount. First concentrate on getting the required amount in the day. That will make by far the biggest difference.
Once you’ve done that, try to split it evenly across the day. Either roughly half in the morning and half in the evening. Roughly a third in the morning, a third at lunch and a third in the evening, etc.
Don’t worry about being exact. 4 servings of 15, 25, 35 and 25% is likely going to work just as well (or near enough to make no difference) as 4 equal servings of 25%.
Don’t stress about getting protein in IMMEDIATELY after your workout. It will be fine in you get it in within a few hours. There’s no need to rush to your locker to make your protein shake and chug it down before taking a shower.
In Summary – it’s not as complex as you might think!
Follow these rules:
- Train progressively – track your progress and make sure you’re improving
- Eat in a calorie surplus. Track your calories and your weight to ensure this.
- EAt 0.8 to 1g per lb of bodyweight of protein per day.
- Use protein shakes to help you hit that number if you need to.
- Eat a mostly nutritious diet (80 – 90%)
- Get enough rest and recovery – 7 hours of sleep minimum per night, and have rest days from the gym.
- Split your protein intake up over the day somewhat (doesn’t have to be exact, and this is a lower priority).