If you’re here, you’ve probably had the question – how much protein do you need to build muscle? – crossing through your mind as you work out. Intuitively, we all know that protein is good for us.

And with picture-perfect images of bodybuilders and athletes chomping down on steaks, fish and eggs, it’s no wonder that protein has a reputation for helping to build muscle. But the question remains: how much protein should I eat to gain muscle?

In this article, we get to the bottom of this so that you can make better dietary choices to complement your workout. So, without further ado, let’s get started.

What is the importance of protein?

Although we won’t go too deeply into the biology behind proteins, what’s worth knowing is that apart from helping our bodies generate new hair, skin and bone mass, proteins are also highly useful in helping us build muscle. In addition to fats and carbs, proteins are one of these three nutrients that we need in our diet on a regular basis. But apart from this, protein is also crucial for our bodies’ enzymes, hormones and neurotransmitters.

So, if you had to imagine what a protein looks like (no, you shouldn’t be picturing a steak right now), you can try to picture a long chain of small units. These are called amino acids. Why are they important? Because they are the body’s building blocks.

They help with muscle growth and repair. Out of these amino acids – of which there are a total of 20 – some are essential (nine of them) and some are not. An essential amino acid is something that the body cannot produce on its own and requires intake from an external source to get it to help you build your muscles.

And now, after this brief Biology 101 lesson, we get back to proteins and muscles. Overall, they are both crucial for our:

  • Metabolic health
  • Physical strength
  • Mobility (among many others).

How does protein work in our bodies?

We now come to the nitty gritty: how does protein work in our bodies? If by now you’re wondering what happened to the question – how much protein to build muscle – don’t worry. The best is yet to come. Stick around a bit longer and you’ll get the full low down. But before that, a brief interlude: the process of the body’s absorption of protein.

Here’s how it works. You eat protein (whether a MLO 100% Whey Platinum Protein or a steak) and this goes into your stomach where digestion begins. This process continues in the beginning part of your small intestine. (If you knew this was called the duodenum, well done on your biology knowledge!) And now, we’re in the duodenum, where around 40% to 50% of the available amino acids are absorbed.

This will be used for energy as well as local protein synthesis. After this, the remaining amino acids that are left will be released into the hepatic portal vein and then taken up by the liver. According to some sources, only 10% to 20% of ingested protein ends up as skeletal muscle. So, where does that leave you in terms of how much protein for muscle growth? Don’t worry, we are getting there!

What does protein do for muscles?

You can probably already guess the answer to the question: what does protein do for muscles? Of course, it is essential for making muscle because it forms the building blocks of muscle tissue. It also helps us to maintain muscle and promotes muscle growth and repair. This is especially the case after doing resistance training.

When you perform repetitions of resistance training, it is believed that muscle growth is optimized if you combine this training with an adequate amount of dietary protein. However, that’s not all that matters. In fact, your age, health, gut bacteria and many other factors will also impact protein’s impact on your body.

What happens when there’s too much or too little protein in our system?

And now, a little disclaimer. What happens when there’s too much or too little protein in our system? Well, it isn’t pretty and is something you should definitely discuss with your doctor. But the gist of it is as follows:

Too much protein

  • Kidney dysfunction
  • Unwanted weight gain
  • Increased risk for osteoporosis
  • Azotemia
  • Irritability
  • Dehydration
  • Fatigue
  • Nausea

Too little protein

  • Muscle loss
  • Lower physical strength
  • Poor balance
  • Mobility issues
  • Weight gain and increased body fat
  • Worsening condition of your hair, skin and nails
  • It takes longer for wounds and injuries to heal
  • More frequent colds and infections
  • Anaemia and muscle weakness
  • Swelling in your limbs
  • Fatigue
  • Changes in body composition and posture

How much protein do I need to build muscle?

If you stuck with us up until this point – excellent! We are ready to look at the topic – how much protein to gain muscle. As you can already expect, there’s no clear cut answer. This is simply because everyone’s bodies are so different. We are all at different ages, heights, genders, physical activity, health conditions, body conditions, weights and compositions. So, firstly, the answer is that it depends. However, we’re not going to leave you hanging with just that. And that’s why we now focus on the question: how much protein for muscle gain?

If we look at the Reference Nutrient Intake in the UK, the answer to the question is 0.75 g per kilogramme of body weight. Now, this must be considered the minimum amount that’s required to prevent loss of lean body mass. In addition, this figure is based on an average and sedentary adult. That’s why this figure should be taken with a pinch of salt when trying to address the question: how much protein per day to build muscle?

With that being said, the best way to calculate your daily protein needs is using your weight. A general rule of thumb is to eat about 1.2 g protein per kg of body weight to maintain muscle. However, this could increase to 1.2 g to 1.6 g/kg of body weight, especially when you are looking to add lean mass or if you’re a woman in midlife.

As for weightlifters or strength athletes who are looking to add muscle mass, it’s only natural that they’ll require more protein. This is estimated to be around 1.4 g – 2 g/kg of body weight per day. Meanwhile, for endurance athletes, the recommended daily amount of protein is 1.2 – 2.0g/kg of body weight.

If we look at some science to back up how much protein per kg to build muscle, we go back to 2016 when the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, Dieticians of Canada and the American College of Sports Medicine: Nutrition and Athletic Performance released a position statement with their recommendations. This is what they stated:

People who are physically active take in 1.2 g to 2 g of protein per kilogramme of body weight or 0.5 g to 0.9 g per pound of body weight, whether they are endurance or strength athletes.

So, what’s the recommended daily protein consumption?

By now, you should have a generally clear idea of more or less how many grams of protein per day to build muscle. But to make things even easier for you, we’ve created a table that’s quick and easy to access that helps you determine how much protein a day to build muscle depending on your weight and how active you are as well as in terms of gender per kilogram of body weight.

Underweight Healthy weight Overweight Obese
Male 2.0 g 1.4 g 1.2 g 1.2 g
Female 1.8 g 1.2 g 1.0 g 1.0 g

And there you have it: an easy and accessible answer to how many grams of protein to build muscle! And we also cover the question: how much protein should a woman eat to gain muscle and how much protein to maintain muscle?

Protein shakes for muscle growth

With all this in mind, you may also be wondering about the actual proteins themselves. Sure, you can eat steaks, poultry, eggs and fish but there are other ways to get your daily protein intake. So, with this in mind, you may now also be wondering about how many protein shakes should I drink a day to gain muscle? The answer is that it will typically depend on the shake that you’re consuming and its make up of protein properties.

However, one major tip from us is that if you want to build muscle mass and you’re making a concerted effort to do so through a serious workout regime, you will want to ensure that you consume your protein shake at least 30 minutes after your exercise session. This covers the frequently asked question: when to drink protein shakes for weight loss and muscle gain.

Final remarks

So, the answer to the question how much protein per day to gain muscle isn’t as clear or straightforward as you imagined, was it? However, there are some basic guidelines for people with healthy weight who are looking to build muscle as seen in the table above. With this in mind, you will want to be careful with your diet and not over or underconsume protein so that you don’t harm your body. As such, you should consider looking at products that offer you a balanced approach to your protein diet and that comes in the form of the very powerful MLO 100% Whey Protein, which you can now purchase online.