If you are getting advice from Muscle Magazines then it’s very likely they are over-estimating your protein needs. There are two reasons for this: 1) the advice is from bodybuilders who take steroids and can therefore utilise more protein, or 2) the article is trying to sell you a protein powder.
At the other end of the scale are the Government Guidelines (page 7). They usually under-estimate protein needs and quote an intake that most strength athletes have surpassed by mid-morning. While it’s hard to get an exact number, here are a few things to consider.
How Much Protein Do I Need To Gain Muscle?
The first factor to assess is your body-weight. Specifically, your Lean Body Mass (how much your body would weigh without any fat).
If two people have the same muscle mass, but one guy weighs an extra 10kg from his beer belly, does it make sense that his muscles need more protein to grow? It does not.
Check out the pictures below, and multiply your body-weight by the number displayed to get your Lean Body Mass.
The next thing to consider is what kind of exercise you do.
- Sedentary: 1.2-1.4 grams per kg of Lean Body Mass.
- Endurance trained: 1.4-1.7 grams per kg of Lean Body Mass.
- Strength trained: 1.7-2.0 grams per kg of Lean Body Mas
Below is a Table as a guide:
The final consideration is protein quality. Not all protein is created equal. A gram from free-range chicken breast is not the same as caged chicken cooked from frozen. The same goes with eggs.
If you aren’t gaining muscle despite eating sufficient protein, then your problem could lie here. Try to avoid soy protein and frozen foods, instead get high quality fresh cuts of meat from your butcher and free range eggs.
If you consume protein powders, be aware that the cheapest brands usually add fillers. This means that not only are they using cheaper ingredients, but it might not contain as much protein as it says on the label.
Can You Eat Too Much Protein?
While it’s not true that we can only absorb a limited amount of protein per meal, it is true that we can only absorb so much per hour.
For that reason it is fine to slightly exceed your protein requirements, but don’t do so believing that it will result in greater muscle gain.
This is why it’s best to spread your intake evenly across the whole day. Try working with 25-45 grams per meal, as well as ensuring you are getting at least 25 grams after your workout.
Keep track of your protein intake and remember that once you gain some lean muscle you will need to re-calculate your needs!