Athletes and gym-goers are often focused on the goal of building their muscles and losing fat during their training.
Alongside exercise, a healthy and balanced diet is needed to fuel your body in order to do this.
If you’re new to the game and are looking to gain some more muscle, you might be wondering if you need to eat protein to do this.
If so, how much do you need to eat? We will answer that question in this article.
What Is Protein?
Protein is an important part of our diets, everyone needs to eat sources of protein to stay healthy.
Proteins are made up of amino acids, these are used to build and repair your muscles and bones and also to make hormones and enzymes.
Recommended Protein Intake
Experts have been advising us on calorie intake and what we should eat for decades.
The amount of protein needed per day for an individual depends on multiple factors such as age, weight, gender and activity levels.
If you’re a fairly inactive older person, the likelihood is you won’t need a huge protein intake.
Let’s look at an example, the average male who is a healthy weight and doesn’t do much exercise needs to eat around 56-91 grams of protein per day.
An average female in the same position in terms of health and lifestyle should aim for around 46-75 grams of protein per day.
How To Build Muscle
Building muscle is more than just lifting heavy weights, diet plays a key role in fuelling your body and helping to build and maintain the bodily functions that contribute to muscle growth.
It’s well known that refined carbohydrates and sweets are bad for you. But many people looking to gain muscle see carbohydrates as a ‘bad’ food choice and avoid them.
The forms of carbohydrates that come in things such as whole grains, fruit, and vegetables actually help to fuel your body and ultimately your exercise.
If you aren’t eating enough carbohydrates, then your body will be looking to other sources such as protein to provide it with energy.
This means the protein is burned rather than going into your body. Including high-quality carbohydrates sources in your meals is a great way to avoid this.
Fat is another essential part of the diet, but like carbs, it’s often a ‘bad’ word to mention around athletes.
When it comes to fats, eating the right kinds of fats is the key as certain fatty acids are essential for the body as the body can’t make them itself.
The structure of our cell membranes contains fatty acids, including our muscle cells. Therefore, maintaining the levels of these acids in our diets is essential.
Another function of fat is fueling moderate intensity, longer-term exercise.
Healthy sources of fats come from foods such as nuts, seeds, fish, oil, and avocados which is suitable for every diet.
Finally, eating the correct amount of protein at the right time is important for stimulating muscle growth.
Muscle-protein synthesis (MPS) refers to the metabolic process in which amino acids are incorporated into bound skeletal muscle proteins.
This process is stimulated by strength training and when eating protein.
Plant and animal sources of protein are equally effective in providing the building blocks for MPS. These can be found in soy, poultry, fish, nuts, seeds and beans which all stimulate MPS.
Proteins that take longer to digest such as eggs and milk can help to prolong the MPS process.
How Much Protein Is Needed To Build Muscle?
When you’re resistance training it’s advised that you don’t go below the minimum recommended amount of protein that an average person needs.
When you’re starting to factor in exercise to your protein needs, they will start to change.
Research has shown that those who exercise regularly need to eat more protein than the recommended intake.
If this regular exercise consists of lifting weights and you’re wanting to increase your muscle mass, you should eat a range of 0.5 to 0.8 grams of protein per body weight.
Generally speaking, you can meet the protein requirements through diet alone. There’s no need to overdo your intake with copious amounts of protein shakes and cuts of chicken.
The average American man over the age of 20 weighs around 197.9 pounds, if he is looking to gain or maintain muscle mass should aim to eat between 90-162 grams per day (American Dietetic Association).
There are online calculators available if you’d like to calculate the specifics for your weight, height and age.
Building Muscle Without Protein
If you’re attempting to build muscle without meeting your protein requirements, you may find that the results aren’t coming through no matter how hard you try.
Proteins are used as the building blocks of muscles as well as your blood, bones, skin, cartilage, hormones and more.
So trying to gain muscle without the components used to build it doesn’t really make sense.
As proteins also make up the haemoglobin which is used to carry oxygen around your blood, a critical element in the amount of energy available when it comes to exercise, protein is very essential in the building of muscle mass.
To answer the main question, no you can’t build muscles without eating protein. Muscles are largely made of protein, so not getting enough in your diet means that you muscles cannot grow.
If you’re lifting weights in the gym or an athlete looking to build lean muscle, upping your protein intake is essential.
Some people may find it hard to do this, so it’s easy to start by setting yourself goals and increasing your intake a little at a time.
This can work alongside meeting your fitness goals.
We hope you found this article interesting and informative and hopefully you have a better understanding of why protein is such a crucial part of building your muscles.