How Much Protein Should I Consume To Gain Muscle?
According to WebMD:
“Adults in the U.S. are encouraged to get 10% to 35% of their day’s calories from protein foods. That’s about 46 grams of protein for women, and 56 grams of protein for men.”
However, it also goes on to state that:
“Athletes. Most sports involve physically breaking down muscle during the activity and repairing it afterward. So the protein needs of active people are influenced by the length, frequency, and intensity of their workouts. Endurance athletes such as marathoners need about 50% more protein than a sedentary person, says sports dietitian Josephine Conolly-Schoonen, MS, RD, on Medscape Today. Body Builders might need twice as much protein as a sedentary person.”
Assuming an average bodyweight of about 175lbs (~80kg), 56 grams of protein a day for men would equate to 0.3g of protein-per-pound of bodyweight or 0.7g of protein-per-kilo of bodyweight! In our experience, this is simply not sufficient for athletes who are looking to put on some serious muscle mass; in fact, we would not even recommend such a low amount of protein for the average sedentary person.
Our Recommended Intake
Our recommended protein intake, particularly for those looking to put on muscle is 0.8g-1.0g of protein-per-pound of bodyweight. This is what we have found works best for us and is also in line with the general ‘broscience’ recommendations out there.
Broscience vs. Real Science
Hold up! Broscience? But what about real science? Well consider the following:
If you were to go to your standard general health practitioner, and ask him or her on the recommended amount of protein you should be getting in your diet, you would most likely receive a recommendation in the range of 0.5g of protein-per-pound of bodyweight (1g of protein per-kilo of bodyweight), in line with the WebMD recommendations above.
From 1992 up till 2005, the FDA’s infamous food pyramid recommended that the largest portion of your daily caloric requirements, or the ‘base’ of the pyramid, was to come from unrefined carbohydrates!
The effects of excessive carbohydrate consumption (as well as simply consuming excess calories) can easily be gauged just by taking a look around, or by observing published obesity rates.
While we are definitely not disparaging the validity of the scientific method, it is widely known that exercise science, due to the difficulty in conducting easily reproducible and measurable studies, can definitely be lacking behind the other ‘hard sciences’. The fact that the FDA food pyramid remained in existence for over a decade is testament to that fact.
What happens if I consume too much protein? Will my kidneys fail?
While our recommendations for protein intake are definitely higher than what is generally prescribed for the general population, through personal and anecdotal experience, it is likely true that a significant percentage of the fitness community probably consumes protein in amounts greater than 1g per-pound of bodyweight. This has led to questions of whether such excessive protein consumption could possibly lead to future renal damage.
Well, let’s see what ‘real science’ has to say about this matter shall we? According to a study conducted by the National Institute of Health
“Athletes, particularly in sports requiring strength and power, consume high levels of dietary protein. In fact, many athletes habitually consume protein in excess of 2.0 g/kg/day. Supplementation with amino acids will further increase dietary protein levels in these individuals. Yet there is no evidence that this population is at greater risk for kidney disease or losses in renal function. Poortsmans and Dellalieux found that protein intakes in the range of ~1.4–1.9 g/kg/day or 170–243% of the recommended dietary allowance did not impair renal function in a group of 37 athletes. We found no data in the scientific literature to link high protein intakes to increased risk for impaired kidney function in healthy, physically active men and women.
Although excessive protein intake remains a health concern in individuals with pre-existing renal disease, the literature lacks significant research demonstrating a link between protein intake and the initiation or progression of renal disease in healthy individuals. More importantly, evidence suggests that protein-induced changes in renal function are likely a normal adaptative mechanism well within the functional limits of a healthy kidney. Without question, long-term studies are needed to clarify the scant evidence currently available regarding this relationship. At present, there is not sufficient proof to warrant public health directives aimed at restricting dietary protein intake in healthy adults for the purpose of preserving renal function.”
Therefore, unless you have pre-existing kidney issues, consuming protein in excess of recommended amounts (including in excess of already high recommendations) is fine.
For those who are looking to lose weight or to improve body composition, carbohydrate restriction is definitely a great way to go about this. Foods high in protein tend to have a higher satiety index compared to higher carbohydrate foods, which means that a high-protein diet is ideal for those looking to restrict their calories without too much psychological stress.
In conclusion, there is no evidence to show that a high-protein diet results in any negative effects for kidney function barring pre-existing conditions. While recommendations vary in terms of ideal protein intake, we stand by our recommendation of 0.8g – 1.0g of protein-per-pound of bodyweight, particularly for athletes. And while we acknowledge that consuming high amounts of protein is definitely more expensive than consuming high amounts of carbs, well, that’s why what we made this site for!
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