How to Build Muscle Without Protein Shakes

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A serving of salmon on a bed of rice and vegetables. (Image: Bogdanhoda/iStock/Getty Images)

Commercials for protein shakes are everywhere you look. Athletes with rippling abs and bulging biceps tout the benefits of protein for bulking up -- but the advertisements are misleading. While it's true that a nutritious diet plays an important role in building lean muscle, most Americans exceed the recommended daily allowance for protein, according to Columbia Health. Challenging, consistent workouts and a well-balanced diet are the best way to build muscle. There's no need to shell out big bucks for expensive shakes.

Step 1

Determine your protein requirements. An active person needs roughly 0.8 g of protein per kilogram of body weight, according to Columbia Health. For instance, an 80 kg, or 175-pound, individual would need 64 g of protein per day. Extra protein is not stored by the body and will not help you to build muscle mass. Protein can come from any number of healthy foods including nuts, beans, fish, poultry, lean meat, yogurt and milk.

Step 2

Eat a well-balanced diet. Although you may need extra calories to keep up with a strenuous exercise regimen, the calories should come from a variety of sources including whole-grains, fruits and vegetables, healthy fats, low-fat dairy and lean protein. Use the U.S. Department of Agriculture MyPlate graphic to guide your food choices. Half your plate should be filled with produce, a quarter with whole-grains and a quarter with protein. Have a serving of low-fat dairy, too.

Step 3

Be consistent about your workouts. Your muscles are broken down with each workout and repaired on the intervening days of rest. If you don't consistently challenge your muscles, however, they will quickly atrophy. Aim for two to three full-body strength training sessions on non-consecutive days of the week. Make a workout appointment on your calendar so that you don't forget.

Step 4

Build muscle gradually. The Hospital for Special Surgery recommends following the 2-for-2 rule. If you can do two more repetitions than you did the previous workout for two consecutive workouts, you can increase your weight. For instance, if you are able to perform 14 dumbbell curls, instead of 12, with a 20-lb. weight for two sessions, increase your weight to 25 pounds. The gradual increase will challenge your muscles without causing injury.


Consult your physician before beginning an exercise regimen, particularly if you have a history of muscle, ligament or tendon injury.

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