Protein is the most important nutrient for muscle gain. If we don’t ingest enough through diet, we not only hurt muscle gain, but also health. The problem is that there are many different opinions on regards of how much protein we should eat per day. Most of the official health organizations recommend a very modest amount.
The daily recommendation is 0.8 grams of protein per pound of body weight. Although this amount is sufficient to prevent disability, studies show that this is far from enough to sustain muscle gain or ensure maximum health.
With that said, what would be the proper amount of protein we need to ingest per day to generate proper muscle gain and maintain health?
Proteins are the “bricks” of the body. Used to build muscle, tendons, organs and skin. They are also used to make hormones, neurotransmitters, enzymes and various molecules that have important functions in our body. So without protein, life as we know it would not be possible.
So how much protein should we eat each day?
Muscles are basically made of protein. And just like most body tissues, the tissues are dynamic, meaning they are constantly being broken and rebuilt. To generate muscle, the body needs to be synthesizing more protein than it is breaking down. In other words, it is necessary to have a positive protein balance (also called a positive nitrogen balance).
For this reason, people who want to gain muscle mass need to eat more protein than sedentary or non-trained people. You will also need to take in more protein to retain muscle mass while trying to burn fat, since at this stage the body tends to break down muscle tissue to generate energy.
A common recommendation for people who train is to ingest 1g of protein per pound of body weight, but it is not a “rule”.
Numerous studies have tried to determine the best amount of protein to ingest to gain muscle mass, and several of them have come to different conclusions.
Some studies have shown that an intake of 0.8g/lb or less is wasteful, while others suggest that an intake slightly greater than 1g/lb is required to sustain muscle gain. While there is no exact number you need to ingest. 1.5g/lb or higher remains a great goal for those who are hypertrophic.
Remembering that if you are overweight, it is a good idea to calculate the protein intake based on the weight you want to get when you slim down or only on your lean muscle mass.
Does “excess” protein hurt you?
Over the years, protein has been wrongly blamed for numerous health problems, from osteoporosis to kidney problems. However, none of this is supported by science. While protein restriction is helpful in people with pre-existing kidney diseases. There is no evidence that high protein intake is harmful to healthy people.
“But if high protein intake is something healthy, it should be healthy for everyone – including patients”. Think of it this way: Anyone with the least health knowledge knows that aerobic exercise is one of the best activities to improve heart health, right? But is this true for a person who already has heart problems and who can die if the heartbeat goes out of control. Well, even something healthy can be bad for someone with health problems.
Verdict: The consumption of protein does not generate health problems in healthy people. People with pre-existing problems should be careful with increased protein intake. When in doubt, check with a doctor before changing your diet.