Building muscle requires protein as the key nutrient. Protein, fat and carbohydrates are the three primary macronutrients essential in the human diet. If you lift weights or perform any type of resistance training, your goal is to ultimately build and tone your muscles. However, without the proper amount of protein in your diet, this is not possible.
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There are two main types of protein found in food and supplements, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, or CDC. The first is called a complete, or high-quality, protein. This type of protein is found in animal-based foods like meat, fish, chicken and turkey. Complete proteins contain all the essential amino acids your body needs but can’t produce on its own, so they are highly desirable when trying to build muscle. The other type of protein is called an incomplete protein. These proteins do not contain all of the essential amino acids as complete protein do; however, the CDC suggests eating a combination of both types each day.
The recommended dietary allowance for protein, according to the CDC, is 46g per day for adult women and 56g per day for adult men. However, the CDC states that as much as 35 percent of your daily calories can come from protein sources. Based on a 2,000-calorie diet, 35 percent of the daily calories would equate to 175g of protein per day. The exact amount of protein intake ideal for you depends upon your daily caloric intake and daily physical activity level.
If you are actively engaged in a consistent strength training program, your body requires additional protein each day beyond what the average person would need. When you lift weights or perform any type of intense resistance training, your muscle tissue is broken down. You must consume protein following a workout to help repair, maintain and build new muscle tissue. Tom Venuto, pro bodybuilder and trainer, suggests the average weightlifter consume about 1g of protein per pound of bodyweight to build lean muscle mass. He also states that bodybuilders may consume as much as 1.5g of protein per pound of bodyweight.
Consuming too much protein will not lead to greater strength gains and can actually be harmful to your health, according to the CDC. It can lead to unwanted weight gain or kidney problems. Venuto suggests spreading out your daily protein intake equally throughout the day to improve the absorption of it inside the body. He recommends consuming about 30g of protein per meal, although bodybuilders may safely consume slightly more.