There are numerous questions surrounding protein and its importance especially from those who train regularly. Not getting enough protein can be the difference between gaining muscles after a workout and not.
Some prominent body builders recommend taking 1g-1.5g of protein per lb of body weight per day. Many dismiss muscle gain as a goal because they fear they don’t have the hours in the day to consume this many calories.
With results from exercise and weight training being something so visual much of the available advice can be anecdotal advice of outliers.
Those that get the best results from their training will tell us how they managed to achieve their results so quickly. Unfortunately this type of feedback is anything but scientific, it is unlikely that these individual recorded the variables in their training and even more unlikely that the only variable was protein intake.
Most cover models are not only genetically suited to rapid muscle gain and low body fat they are no doubt following a specific diet and supplement routine and training plan.
What we are left with is a case of ‘after it therefore because of it’, and we have an entire industry based on following this system. There is a great deal of research available on the subject which is very helpful in dispelling many of the myths involved around protein and muscle gain.
How much should I take?
Research into quantity of protein required to support muscle growth and repair comes back with a fairly wide range of 0.8-1.5g of protein per kg of lean body mass (approx weight not including fat). The lower end of this range helps to explain the muscle gain of vegetarians, an oft ignore phenomenon easily explained by the lower end of the scale. Personally I would aim for the top figure to be on the safe side, protein can also have the added bonus of making you feel fuller for longer and in turn help you to consume fewer calories in all.
How often should I take?
A prevailing myth is that the body requires a constant supply of protein as it can only ingest 20-30g of protein in one sitting. A myth that has led the protein supplement industry to put approximately 20g of protein in each serving.
One experiment worth noting took a group of elderly men (70+) and took them through a 12 week course of weight lifting during which they ingested their daily requirement of protein in just one meal per day. The result was an average muscle gain of 5lbs.
It seems that it does not matter when we take on our protein requirement, it only matters that we do. Our bodies are also very adaptive so if your protein intake is particularly high your body will adapt to this. If you are not burning off excess calories it will adapt by adding more body fat.
Should I ingest protein straight after training?
Hopefully the above question has gone some way to answering this question. The answer is; if it suits you, then why not. Will it make any difference? No. If you have eaten your protein requirement within the last 24 hours then there will be enough protein available for muscle repair and growth after your workout regardless of its proximity to your workout. If you have built a habit around it it probably pays to continue.
What kind of growth can I expect?
Most experiments are conducted on individuals who have never lifted weights before and programmes range in quality quite greatly in my opinion. Those new to lifting will see more rapid results than those who have been training for some time. Most research experiments are conducted over a 12 week period. During this time athletes saw average growth of 5-8lbs of muscle gain.
Body builders however will be happy with growth of 10lb over a year. I would add to this that if you are not training 3-4 times a week and you are not deadlifting or squatting then you are a beginner.
In light on this new information regarding required protein intake are protein powders necessary at all? Probably not but they are very convenient. For an 80kg man looking to gain muscle you should be aiming for 100-120g of protein in a day. This would require 3 large meat/fish/egg meals I personally find that a protein shake a day can take the pressure of the size of meal you are required to consume. Also with busy work/family schedules lunch can easily be missed, a protein powder can provide an easy replacement.
What supplements do work for muscle gain?
Well I have heard nothing but big things about Steroids but I would suggest avoiding them until they iron out some of the kinks… Assuming legal supplements are the focus here there is only one that has ever been proven to increase muscle growth during human clinical trials and that is Creatine Monohydrate.
There are many others that aid recovery, boost performance etc but they are all worthless unless you are following a clean diet full of veg, good quality meat, fish and plenty of water.
What do you recommend?
- Measure your protein intake and measure your body’s response to it. Over a few months you can discover what protein requirement is optimum for your body.
- You will gain muscle through just training without increasing your protein intake but if you are not getting enough you won’t gain as much.
- The quality of your workout is more important than your protein intake. Your body produces something called ‘Human growth hormone’ when your body exerts maximum effort. Maximum effort is only produced during: Squats, deadlifts, short sprints and Olympic lifts.
- If you cannot do 12-15 body weight chin ups and bench press more that your body weight then bicep curls and tricep extensions are a waste of time.
- No individual workout tip is of any benefit unless your diet is toxin free 80% of the time.