» We think protein when discussing muscle-building for good reason. Protein is vital for muscle repair and it’s full of amino acids which are the building blocks of strength. So the question remains: How much protein do I need to build muscle? With all the information on the internet, it's hard to figure out what the correct answer actually is. So let's break this down:
» To put it simply, protein guidelines generally fall into one of two camps: a proportion either of how much you eat, or how much you weigh. According to the National Academy of Sciences, current recommendations for healthy adults suggest a diet with 10 to 35 percent of calories from protein, 20 to 35 percent from fat, and 45 to 65 percent from carbohydrates. But building muscle requires much more protein than maintaining lean muscle mass.
» For example, the recommended dietary maintenance intake for protein for the average adult is 0.37 grams per pound of body weight, and that equals about 56 grams of total protein for a 150-pound adult. A typical day that includes 3 servings of low-fat or fat-free dairy plus 3 servings of protein foods (such as lean meat, poultry, fish, or beans) will provide quality sources of protein to help reach that goal. Grains, especially whole grains, also provide some protein but may not be enough to meet dietary needs.
» Remember, this is for someone who is trying to maintain their current muscle mass. Many fitness experts will tell you to multiply that 0.37 grams per pound of bodyweight number by two or three. The best answer for you will be determined by your specific physiology. We recommend that you use our BMR calculator to determine what your macros should be based on your age, height, and weight.
No matter how fast your body builds muscle, you will still need to follow your macros. This is where meal prepping comes in. Eating protein is only a small part of your larger diet. Meal prepping lets you optimize your diet instead of simply eating as much protein as possible. You need to eat a balanced blend of protein, carbs, and fat.
Your body relies on fat to supply energy to muscles during activity, and how much fat a person needs can vary. As a general guideline, fat should make up 20 to 35 percent of your total caloric intake. For overall health and muscle strength, focus on sources of heart-healthy fats, including extra-virgin olive oil, walnuts, almonds, avocados, and fatty fish such as salmon, halibut, and trout.
When meal prepping, you should be eating half as much fat as protein. Fat contains twice the number of calories as carbohydrates and protein, so it is important to monitor serving sizes. For example, 1 tablespoon of olive oil has 120 calories and 1 ounce of walnuts (about 14 nuts) has 185 calories. Buying these healthy fats in bulk will ensure that you always have your macros covered with foods that will give you the energy to build muscle.
Don’t forget carbohydrates. After all, you need more of them than the other macros and they are an important group of foods for fueling muscle growth. That's because carbs are partially converted to glycogen, which is stored in muscle to power your workouts. This means that men and women who are strength training need about half of their daily calories from carbohydrates.
That doesn't mean you should be loading up on pizza and bagels. Try adding in good quality carbohydrates that are low in fat, such as whole-grain breads and cereals for the best strength-training boost. Some whole grains even contain a little extra protein!
Low-fat milk, Greek yogurt, berries, and non-starchy vegetables also are good options for getting enough carbohydrates in your diet. When planning your meals and snacks, it is recommended to stay away from higher fiber foods immediately prior to or during exercise.
Taking the time to buy and plan meals that use the right ratios of these macros will optimize your muscle growth. Eating protein is important, but it's not the only thing you need to consider.