How much protein do you need to build muscle

There are usually a few crucial mistakes individuals make when trying to build and preserve muscle
  •         Eating too little protein
  •         Eating too much protein
  •         Not training correctly
  •         Not eating enough to meet energy balance
  •         Eating too much over energy balance
People conform to the idea protein equals muscle. Which is partly true, but eating outrageous quantities such as 400 grams of protein a day could be better consumed through other macronutrients. Similarly, on the other end of the spectrum some are eating too little protein to achieve their goals.

What is protein.

Proteins are elaborate and complex molecules found in the cells of all organisms. They’re best known for our muscle mass, they are, in fact, critical components of all tissues that comprise the human body. This includes blood, skin and bones. The functionality of proteins reside in countless areas such as immunity, metabolic processes, nutrient transport, fluid balance, and can even provide energy under some conditions. What is unique about protein in comparison to the other macronutrients is its provision of nitrogen to the body. The body utilizes this nitrogen compound for crucial physiological processes.

Benefits of higher protein consumption


Protein aids fat loss.

  •  The regulation of body weight depends upon the individual’s control on their intake of food(consuming calories), and the regulation of their energy expenditure (expending calories).

  • You want to lose weight (fat) and retain muscle as optimal as humanly possible

  • Protein can be a tool to optimize those environments for maintenance, muscle gain/retention, and weight loss.

How does protein help you lose fat?


Protein also can help you burn fat just by simply eating it. There is no biological free lunch, and when you eat, it puts your digestive system to work. Everything requires energy, even food digestion. This energy used to break down this protein aids you in losing weight, because it further puts you in a calorie deficit.  Protein is a complex compound and the higher the complexity the more work it requires to be broken down. This is referred to TEF (thermic effect of food) and is also denoted as specific dynamic action.  It means when you eat protein you burn more calories as compared to carbohydrates and fats due to its complexity.
Thermogenesis is the heat that is created when you digest this food. This action of heat creation needs energy to occur, and the body uses its own energy, burning more calories, giving you more negative energy balance to lose weight.
You can strategically eat to burn more calories to lose fat faster. The molecular complexity of protein allows for this to happen. It has to be broken down by the body. Eating a higher amount, in comparison to all the other macronutrients , requires a lot of energy to be broken down and used.
Eating a high protein meal has the attribute of requiring a higher caloric burn to digest. This caloric burn(or thermogenesis) is much higher when the substance of the meal is predominantly protein.

How much higher?

The burn is much more significant in comparison to eating high carbohydrate or high fat meals. High protein intake daily and high protein meals are great tools to use in fat loss just by simply eating them. Higher amount of energy your body uses to digest widens your calorie deficit leading to quicker fat loss.  Higher protein meals have shown 200% higher caloric burn for the duration of  2.5 hours postprandial (after a meal) in relation to a high-carbohydrate meal or a high fat meal with low protein.
This effect can be strategically implemented to induce more fat loss without feeling deprived on a diet. Broadening your caloric deficit without feeling deprived allows you to lose fat faster and not feeling worse. Which is very important and why most diets fail. If your diet is agonizing you will be counting the moments until it is over. Higher protein intake allows you to evade this feeling of deprivation. This is due to its caloric burn as well as its satiation effects.

Do I need to be exercising regularly or at a low body fat for this thermogenic effect to happen?

No, the thermogenic effect of food isn’t indifferent on how much body fat you have, it is potent regardless. It is a strategy everyone can implement. Thermogenic effects of food are powerful over the diet period. In some instances they are significantly higher (by almost 3-fold)  after consumption of the protein-rich meal. This is in comparison with the fat-rich meal and high carbohydrate meals. Another significant effect is that this caloric burn was shown in both lean and obese individuals, the thermogenic effect occurs regardless to your weight and body fat.




Satiety is important when trying to lose weight. It allows you to feel fulfilled and have less outward craving for food or thoughts about food once a meal has occurred. This is crucial on a diet for fat loss. Satiation is important to reduce over-consumption of calories (gaining weight) throughout the duration of your negative energy balance of calories. Equally important is your well-being and happiness. You do not want a diet where you are just powering through the deprivation with grit and sheer will, it’s way easier than doing that.  On higher protein diets you feel significantly more full and less hungry. This helps the diet process of fat loss exponentially for you and those around you.
Thermogenesis, as analyzed above, plays a role in this satiety effect as well. This is what creates the symbiotic relationship important to satiety. Satiety is nutrient specifically supported by elevated amino acid concentrations, reactions of anorexigenic hormones or protein-induced energy expenditure. With the TEF of protein it allows you to feel fuller longer (less desire to eat over the course of time to over consume calories).
They work together to provide this satiation due to the slow introduction of amino acids from the protein into the body. It also lowers ghrelin a hunger promoting hormone
What you do not want is slowing fat loss, ingesting calories to the point of calorie surplus will slow fat loss. Burning more energy /consuming less energy is what instantiates your fat loss. Satiation is important over the course of your dieting for fat loss because if you are not hungry, you will not eat over your energy balance and create a caloric surplus. The faster you lose fat you want, the faster you can eat more calories to maintain what you’ve accomplished. Get in, get it off for good, and get out of the calorie deficit. You want to do this because it allows you to have much more energy for the gym training and sport.
Higher  protein meals lead to a reduced subsequent energy intake and less cravings. This means you will have less desire to eat, even blunting that desire over to the next meal.  Thus keeping an energy balance that is negative much easier by subsiding these cravings without feeling its negative effects.  It allows you to feel fuller longer and feeling fuller longer does not create an immediacy effect to impulsively eat. If you approach your next meal not feeling deprived for the last 2 hours you will act very differently (eating more or less) than if you were feeling inadequate and unfulfilled from your past meal.  
Some of the satiety pertains to volume but it also does matter what the makeup of the meal is. Higher protein  meals have the most thermogenic effect on the digestion process. These densely encompassed protein meals propagates more energy to be broken down. Complex protein, in comparison, yields much more required thermogenesis comparable to a high carbohydrate & high fat meals meals 
Satiation over the period of eating in a calorie deficit is very important. Especially when it is aggregated all together over the course of weeks and months. Feeling hungry over 2 months of fat loss is not what is ideal. If the calorie deprivation is compromising your well-being, leaving you hungry all the time, the hunger can lead you to over eat and slow your progress. The feeling of hunger during the diet is something you do not want or want to minimize to the utmost.  You want to feel the best while in your period of negative energy balance. Satiation allows you to feel fuller longer and even eat less than you normally would over the course of a day to the next meal. At a higher protein consumption you have a less likelihood of ingesting higher calories and have more cravings.
This appetite suppression effect allows you to make more sound choices upon your next meal. It actually creates an effect where it allows you to consume less calories the following meal because you approach the following meal with less craving. . It also delays when you feel the desire to eat .
If you want some quick foods that have been proven to be satiating boiled mashed potatoes have shown to decrease food consumption 30-40%  and avocados after a meal have shown satisfying attributes as well but it could be potentially because of the additional calories. But its food for thought! 


Body composition

Athletic young woman showing muscles of the back and hands on a isolated black background

The importance of losing fat and not muscle.
Body composition is used to delineate the percentages of bone, water, fat, and muscle in a body. Body composition is the total aggregate of fat and muscle your body is made up of.  Muscular tissue takes up less space in our body than fat tissue, our body composition determines an individual’s leanness.
With a higher intake of protein it has been shown individuals are less likely to regain weight after weight loss. This is due to body composition, satiety, thermogenesis, and the metabolic profile improves. This could be due to the effect protein has on raising resting energy expenditure. A study of over consumption (gaining fat mass) of a low medium and high protein diets, the now overweight men had higher resting energy expenditure rates of whom had higher protein intakes. They also had significant more lean mass of those who ingested medium to high intakes.
Body compositional changes are significantly determined by the process of either gaining or losing fat, and gaining and losing muscle. Higher protein diet contributes to the positive transition to higher muscle retention and quicker fat loss, resorting to a quicker and more drastic body compositional change. 
High protein diets are much more effective at body composition improvement over the long term aspect as well.


What are the recommendations of grams, kilograms, and pounds?

Many areas of nutrition and sources, including the recommended dietary allowance (RDA)  preclude that 0.8 – 1.6 grams per kg of body weight. In comparison to these mainstream recommendations most of the studies that show significant weight loss and muscular preservation was higher than that, around 30% of total intake is protein.
There are some studies that advocate a much higher intake of protein when in a caloric restriction period.  In fact, some advocate 2-3 times the protein RDA of 0.8 g/kg/d) during periods of energy restriction can enhance fat-free mass. 
This may create a higher fat free mass sparing effect. Higher protein sustains more musculature as the evidence of high protein diet shows.  But levels of that large intake may be overstating the importance of protein in its regulation of fat free mass, more is not always necessarily better. And the term “better” may be very minuscule in variance. Sufficient evidence lacks and more evidence is needed on this area of ultra high protein. It could be potentially better, but better to what extent is the concern when those calories of ultra high protein could be balanced more optimally for energy and hormonal function.
If you are dieting for weight loss it can be more beneficial to up your protein intake due to TEF and its satiation effect.  If you are trying to build muscle, there is little evidence to go higher than 1.3 grams per pound of body weight. The excess protein calories could be better used as carbohydrate calories which will fuel your body to bring intense sessions in the gym and perform adequately to build muscle and sustain strength. Over consuming protein can be a potential for fat storage in a caloric surplus during periods of attempting to gain muscle.
If weight loss is your goal you want the highest rate of musculature retention. Protein can be optimized as well as abused. It comes down to the objective at the present moment and the preference of the individual. Higher protein can allow for the most optimal muscle retention as well as satiation in a caloric deficit but in a calorie surplus the focus should be optimizing intensity in the gym, which is fueled through carbohydrates.
While the mainstream recommendations are lower, the benefits of high protein seem to show higher results in actual studies for weight loss.
Having a low intake can be more harmful than a higher intake in regards to weight loss. There no significant evidence that high protein diets are harmful. 10- 35 % of calories from protein will suffice depending on how much resistance training and sport you perform.
It is pertinent to eat sufficient protein if you want to increase and/or preserve muscle. Some studies suggest that 0.7 – 1 grams per pound of lean mass (1.5 – 2.2 grams per kg) is sufficient.
Most studies suggest that 0.7 – 1 grams per pound of lean mass (1.5 – 2.2 grams per kg) is sufficient but these are more towards overall health rather than muscular building. That should be around the area to promote the most overall musculature for sport and musculature. If there is trouble with satiation then attempt a bit higher intake but no higher than 1.3 looks to be of any productivity. Many variables are important to account for, such as activity, sport, body type, and age. 
Additionally, if you are injured it may be prudent to increase your protein intake. 


Is a high protein diet dangerous?

No, there is no evidence that is science based that there are long term or ailments from a high protein diet.


Do you need to eat animal based protein to reap the benefits?


No you do not. Participants’ biomarkers of satiety with vegetarian (soy) and meat-based high-protein diets for weight loss in men. In addition their gut hormone profile was similar in comparison to the varied diets, which suggests that vegetarian diets can be as potent as meat-based diets for appetite control during weight loss.
This can be presumed even if you do not ingest soy. It has been shown to still be effective. You can still obtain high amounts of protein through plant sources. There are also rice, pea, and hemp proteins you can supplement with.


Productive not destructive

There seems to be vast benefits of high protein diets and the repercussions of low protein diets look to be troublesome. An elevated protein intake plays a key role in successful fat loss through an increased satiety related to increased diet-induced thermogenesis response. This can help individuals during the period feel more fulfilled and create a pleasant experience of fat loss. It is remarkably effective at altering body composition through lean mass retention while still being in a negative energy balance, and its decreased energy-efficiency, all of which are related to protein metabolism, actually upping
individuals resting rate of energy expenditure. While also keeping the regain of fat to a minimum.
These factors can attribute to a relatively larger and faster weight loss, resulting in stronger body-weight maintenance over the course of long periods. It is mostly dependent on what the individual wants to tolerate to achieve their goals, and what their goals are.
If you are wanting to preserve muscle while in a calorie deficit eat around .7- 1.1 grams of protein per pound. If you are very concerned about muscle loss then heighten it to suit your preferences but remember you want as much energy as possible to go about your daily life as well as still holding intense gym sessions.
If you want to know more about protein and when to eat it for maximum muscle gain check out this article!

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