Are you looking to improve your physique? Do you want to see results from your efforts in the gym?
Who doesn’t, right? But even with all the hours you spend pumping iron in the gym, it’s hard to achieve lean muscle mass from exercise alone.
Weight-bearing exercise is essential to building muscle, but to really improve your physique, you need to be just as adamant about your nutrition. Protein is the essential nutrient to help build those muscles. Keep reading to learn how protein helps build lean muscle mass as well as the best ways for you to get more quality protein.
Protein and Muscle-Building
What exactly is protein and how does it help build lean muscle mass?
Protein is an essential nutrient that consists of amino acids. Amino acids are the building blocks of muscle. This supply of amino acids is needed to build, repair and maintain muscle tissue.
This is why it makes sense to give your body enough protein throughout the day to feed your muscle growth.
When you have a sufficient intake of protein, your body goes into an anabolic state. This is when it goes to work building muscle.
If your protein intake is low, however, your body will be in a catabolic state. In this physical state, your body breaks down the muscle you worked hard to build for energy. To maintain or build lean muscle mass, then, it’s important to fuel your body with adequate amounts of protein.
How Much Protein Do You Need to Build Lean Muscle Mass?
Protein is important to building muscle, but how much should you aim to consume each day?
With recommendations ranging all over the place, it can be difficult to know how much protein you actually need to improve your muscle mass. The common recommendation is that more is better, but that’s not always the case. What you need is an adequate amount to keep your body in an anabolic state throughout the day.
The American Dietetic Association recommends that a person get 0.36g per pound of body weight each day as a minimum. This recommendation is based on individuals with sedentary lifestyles. Since you are working out more to build muscle, your requirements will be higher than the average.
The more you work out, the more protein your body requires. According to the ADA, active people should aim for 0.4g to 0.6g of protein per pound of body weight. Competitive athletes may need as much as 0.8g.
Finding Your Protein Sweet Spot
Since every body differs on an individual level, it can be hard to know which recommendation to follow. Your protein requirements depend on your genes, your goals, and your current eating habits.
While the exact number may vary for everyone, you may want to start by aiming between 0.6 to 1.1g of protein per body weight to build lean muscle mass.
At that rate, you’re likely looking to aim for 30-40g of protein at each meal. This supply will help your muscles recover between workouts while still technically working to increase in size.
Note that if you’re overweight and looking to reduce body fat while increasing muscle, you’ll also need to lower your carbohydrate and fat intake. As you increase your protein amount, paying close attention to the rest of your diet will help you shed fat faster.
But bodybuilders or others who are looking to build lean muscle mass may be trying to gain weight.
If that’s the case, you may want to keep your fat and carbohydrate intake up while also increasing your protein consumption. Extra calories will help you put on more size.
Consuming Quality Protein
Eating the right kinds of protein is just as important for fueling muscle growth as it is to eat the right amount of protein. But what are the best sources of this key nutrient?
There are two different types of protein: complete proteins and incomplete proteins. Complete proteins contain all 9 essential amino acids while incomplete proteins contain only a few.
You can get protein from both animal and plant sources.
Complete proteins are those most commonly in animal sources, though grains and seeds such as quinoa, buckwheat, hemp and chia also are great sources of complete proteins. Incomplete proteins most commonly come from plant sources.
Whether you eat animal or plant sources (or both), you can definitely meet your protein requirements to build lean muscle mass. However, protein from animal sources tends to be easier and more convenient to come by.
Vegans and vegetarians are just as capable of building muscle with adequate protein, and they can include sources such as legumes, whole grains, nuts, seeds and soy products in their diet. Dairy and eggs are also excellent sources of protein if you’re not vegan.
No matter your dietary preferences, you should aim to get your protein from a variety of foods from day to day.
This will help ensure that you get all of the necessary amino acids your body needs to build muscle.
Best Sources of Protein
Some of the best sources of complete protein foods include:
- Fish and seafood
- Lean beef
- Hemp seeds
- Chia seeds
The best sources of incomplete protein foods include:
When you’re trying to increase protein and calories, however, it can be difficult to constantly cook and buy whole foods to meet your requirements.
That’s where supplements and high-quality protein powders can be convenient. Whey protein and plant-based protein powders will help you naturally increase your intake, build lean muscle mass and help your body recover from workouts.
Build Your Best Body Ever
Lifting weights and working out is only one part of the equation to getting ripped. What you eat is equally as important.
Protein should be your best friend if you’re trying to build lean muscle mass.
Aim to eat roughly your body weight in grams of protein per day, and get your protein from a variety of whole foods and supplement sources.
Have questions about protein and the best protein powders? Contact us today!