In bodybuilding nutrition circles, it’s long been debated exactly how many grams of protein should be consumed at each meal in order to deliver the best possible gains. Scientifically, you’ll have a 145-pound “guru” saying one thing while using his PhD, and on the other hand, at the street level, you will have the actual 260-pound muscle monster saying something completely opposite. His only testimonial will be, of course, the physique he wears. Which one of these men should you believe? Very often, real live and the book world meet in a gray area in the middle, where many factors will influence how “black” and how “white” your direction will run. Let’s examine a few of the factors which can lead to variations in protein assimilation rates.
Natural vs. AAS users
Right off the bat, if you use steroids, you are going to be able to enjoy MUCH more protein from your diet than a natural lifter would. This is a simple, cold heart fact which is not even up for debate. Protein assimilation – particularly, the amount of amino acids from your bloodstream that muscle fibers are able to absorb – are elevated along with red blood cell count when you are using supplemental testosterone. If you believe that AAS usage is in the cards for you, or are already using steroids, then your daily protein consumption should be 400 to 500 grams – period.
Training capacity and habits
What kind of trainer are you in the gym? Do you subscribe to high volume training, spending 90 minutes in the gym, 4 to 5 days each week? Or, do you tend to take it easy on yourself (at least time-wise), and use a HIIT low volume, high intensity kind of program? The greater number of muscle fibers you tear down each workout, the greater amount of protein you will require to recover and grow. Longer workouts typically lead to more muscle fiber damage, so take this into consideration as well.
Genetics & Current Bodyweight
Look at those in your family, and compare your ‘starting line’ to your peers. If you were a solid 215 pounds before you ever touched a weight, you may just require a bit more daily protein to maintain your current levels of muscle mass than someone who was 135 before starting weight lifting. Of course, your basic caloric requirements will naturally be higher, and since you know that protein should encompass at least 30% of your daily calories, it stands to reason that your total number of protein grams consumed daily will increase along with your total number of calories.
Getting the Formula Right
How much protein to build muscle will be answered by applying the answers to these questions to a little bit of common sense! Start with a baseline of 30 grams of protein per meal. Considering you will probably be consuming about 6 meals per day, this actually only comes out to a (comparatively) paltry 180 grams per day. While this is probably way more protein than the average non-training American consumes each day, it is certainly below the numbers eaten by most top bodybuilders. Sure, you’ll always have the exception that will make great gains eating candy and Oreo cookies all day, but most of us need to subscribe to a high protein diet in order to make the right kinds of consistent gains.
Best Protein Foods
Your sources of protein should include a list of the usual suspects! Whey protein is a fast delivery system which is very effective in the mornings and post-workout. Casein protein is good before bed, since it takes up to 8 hours to fully digest. Your daily sources should include a wide variety of pork, poultry, beef, egg, and daily products. Mix it up to keep things fresh, but never resort to empty fatty sources such as beef jerky or cheeseburgers. Keep your health in mind!
Remember that you aren’t just fueling your body’s current levels of muscle mass – you are working to fuel FUTURE levels of muscle mass. If you are currently 180 pounds and pretty solid, you shouldn’t eat like a 180-pounder. Rather, you should be eating like a 210 pound man. After all, that is your goal. You need to walk and talk like a 210 pound man. You need to eat, sleep and train like a bodybuilder that weighs 210 pounds. If you do what you’ve always done, then you’ll get what you’ve always gotten! However, if you bump up the protein consumption, train harder than ever, and give your body time to recover, you will definitely see some new muscle gains!