How Much Protein To Build Muscle?

The word ‘protein’ comes from the Greek ‘prōteios’ which stands for ‘of the first quality‘. In other words protein is considered the most essential macro nutrient. The body uses protein as a building block for the construction of everything – from muscle to hair. 

The supplement industry has been trying to convince natural bodybuilders that you can’t build much muscle without large amounts of protein. It seems to be working since whey protein has been selling like crazy for the last few decades.

But where are the results?

How much protein do you need to build muscle?


The amount of protein you need depends on gender, age, genetics, activity levels and daily energy needs.

Obviously an athlete would need more protein than someone who watches TV all day. According to the Food and Nutrition Board it’s recommended to consume 0.32 grams of protein per pound of bodyweight.

If you weight 150 lbs, you would need 54 grams of protein a day to be considered healthy.

However, doesn’t that seem awfully low compared to the recommendations of most people?

The official rule of thumb for athletes says:

Since athletes train hard and break down muscle tissue they need a minimum of 1 gram of protein per pound of bodyweight. If you are 150 lbs, that equals 150 grams of protein.

There’s no way to set a golden rule…

The guidelines above are meant to be used just as as that – guidelines. What happens if you weight 170 lbs and instead of 170 grams of protein you eat 140 grams of protein? Nothing happens. People need to learn that the body may be a biological machine but it’s very hard to program precisely to the last digit. Trying to do so does not produce better results.

The 0.82 gr. per lb rule of thumb

Recently people have been advocating more and more 0.82 g/lb as the highest a bodybuilder needs to go to preserve muscle mass.

According to a study performed in 2008 by the U.S. Army Research Institute of Environmental Medicine 0.82/lb is all you need to cover your needs. In the research took part endurance athletes who were divided into two groups – 0.41 and 0.82 g/lb.

On top of the original work of the athletes was added 1000 kcal caloric deficit achieved through exercise. The goal was to send the athletes into catabolic state. The group taking more protein, 0.82 g/lb, had better results and no loss of muscle mass was reported despite the rigorous training.

So, wtf?

Bottom line is you need about 0.82 g/lb {1.8g/kg} to build muscle. If you are 150 lbs, that would be 125 grams. This may seem quite low compared to what you are used to see in the magazine but don’t worry. If you are a natural bodybuilder, you should be fine.

Still, this is just a guideline.

‘The precision of naming takes away from the uniqueness of seeing.’ – Pierre Bonnard

Pikosky MA, et al. Increased protein maintains nitrogen balance during exercise-induced energy deficit. Med Sci Sports Exerc. (2008) Retrieved on May 18, 2014/ /Retrieved on May 18, 2014/

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