Building Muscles: How Much Protein Should You Have
Protein is a vital nutrient, which is present in every cell of our body and is responsible for cell growth and regeneration. It is required for providing structure to the body, as well as for building muscles, production of enzymes, regulating hormones, enhancing metabolism, strengthening the immune system, and balancing the body’s fluids.
When it comes to building muscles, resistance or strength training along with eating well is key. Training results in muscle breakdown in the form of micro-tears, which need to be repaired with the help of amino acids present in protein. Amino acids are responsible for muscle protein synthesis (MPS), which is the process of building muscle mass. MPS helps build muscle (hypertrophy) and increase strength when muscle synthesis is more than muscle breakdown.
Our body needs all the essential amino acids through our diet in order to build muscles. Hence, what you eat every day plays an important role in muscle building.
How much protein do you need
Protein food sources are classified as complete or incomplete, according to the amino acids present in them.
Complete or higher quality proteins come from foods that contain all the essential amino acids in the quantity required to promote tissue growth and repair. These mostly come from animal sources like eggs, chicken, beef, milk, and so on.
Incomplete protein lacks in one or more essential amino acids, and is generally found in non-animal sources like dals and pulses, cereals, etc.
Check out this table to find out how much protein you need according to the intensity of your physical activity.
Food sources and optimum time for muscle-building
Here are a few food sources for quality protein. Find out how much of these you should consume on a daily basis.
- Your protein intake should meet your body’s requirement with the foods mentioned above
- A cereal-pulse combination ensures a good amino acid balance
- Having casein, which is present in milk, close to bedtime aids in muscle recovery and growth. So, you may drink a glass of milk before sleeping
The timing and how you distribute the protein, along with other nutrients, across your meals is equally important. If other nutrients like carbohydrate and fat are absent, protein may be used for energy generation instead of muscle synthesis.
Resistance training enhances muscle protein synthesis as it is an anabolic activity which means it breaks down smaller molecules to make bigger molecules. Timing of protein ingestion within the 30-minute anabolic window is not as crucial as previously thought. The quantity though is still important, therefore splitting your daily protein intake across 4-5 meals in a day is recommended. Eating a protein as a snack or meal right after exercise is recommended if you skipped eating before starting the workout. A fasted workout may increase the rate of muscle breakdown hampering muscle gain. That said, there is no harm in eating protein right after the workout if it suits your lifestyle.
The post-workout meal should have carbohydrates to provide energy for recovery and protein to boost the muscle protein synthesis. A 3:1 ratio may be followed for planning your meal. Focus on having complete proteins that are fast-absorbing, such as whey protein, egg whites, or vegan protein powders post-workout.
Also read: Protein: Everything You Need to Know
Supplementation of protein
Protein powders are concentrated proteins that have been isolated from an animal or plant source. They are recommended when dietary sources of protein fall short of your requirements.
For muscle gain, investing in whey protein for a post-workout meal may be recommended, but should be taken only under expert supervision in case of underlying health conditions.
The benefits of eating adequate protein are innumerable, and including sufficient amounts in your daily diet would ensure overall health apart from building strong muscles.
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