How much protein do I need to build muscle

How much protein do you need to build muscle?

How much protein do you need to build muscle?

How much protein do you need to build muscle with different types of food

Hitting that point of temporary muscle failure on each exercise is the most important factor in getting benefits from strength training, in our opinion.

But, it's not the only factor that can affect results.

Have you ever asked, “How much protein do I need to build muscle?” In this article, we deep dive into the importance of protein, how much you need to gain muscle, how to get enough protein, and more. Let’s get into it…

Jump to Topic:
The Effects of Protein
How Much Protein is Enough?
High Protein Intake
Too Much Protein
How to Get Enough Protein
Protein Pays Off

The Effects of Protein

Protein intake affects how much lean muscle you gain from exercise. If eating more protein enables more muscle growth, then any additional protein to your usual diet should help, right?

It’s not quite that simple.

Researchers have discovered a phenomenon called the “protein change theory.” If you want to gain more strength and muscle by adding protein to a typical diet, there’s evidence you can’t just add a little more to make a difference.

Research has shown the increase in your diet must be significant.

The protein change theory was created after researchers noticed conflicting results of studies.

In studies when strength trainees increased their habitual protein intake, some gained strength and muscle, and others saw no change.

When looking closer at how much the intake was increased between those who got stronger and those who didn’t, a clear answer stood out:

  • Studies showing noticeable strength and muscle gains averaged a protein consumption increase of 60%.
  • Studies with small increases, such as those under 20%, led to no changes.

In terms of actual amounts, a 60% increase for a person who eats 50 grams of protein per day is jumping to a daily amount of 80 grams (which translates to about five more ounces of meat per day, considering an ounce contains 6-7 grams of protein).

To maximize muscle and strength growth, protein intake can have an effect. According to the protein change theory, a large increase, perhaps as much as two-thirds of your current intake, may be needed to notice extra results (depending on how much protein you’re already eating).

Otherwise, any change in protein consumption may not make as much of an impact on your strength or appearance.

A scoop of protein powder is how much you need

How Much Protein Is Enough?

Although many people normally eat a diet that provides sufficient protein that can provide for good strength training results, some people do not.

One recent study looking at protein intake with people who strength trained found that if enough protein isn't consumed, muscle development will be limited.

So how much is enough? In this study, the trainees ate one of three amounts of protein relative to their body weight:

  • 0.86 grams per kilogram of body weight per day
  • 1.4 g per kg/day
  • 2.4 g per kg/day.

The group eating 0.86 grams per kg/day developed less muscle than the 1.4 and 2.4 gram groups. Eating 0.86 grams per kg was not enough to help post-workout muscles rebuild to an optimal extent.

On the other hand, the 2.4 g group actually had an abnormally high rate of amino acid oxidation (breakdown), meaning that there was a large excess of protein. While 0.86 g was not enough, 2.4 g was too much.

The researchers concluded that a person who strength trains should consume a minimum of 1.3 g per kg of body weight per day.

To translate this formula into pounds, you can figure out your daily minimum by multiplying your weight by 0.7.

For example a:

  • 100 lb person x 0.7 = 70 grams of protein per day
  • 150 lb person, this is 105 grams per day
  • 200 lb person, this is 140 grams per day
  • 250 lb person, this is 175 grams per day

High-Protein Intake

According to the Journal of Nutrition, a high-protein intake is helpful for several reasons. A higher protein intake:

A high-protein diet is helpful for maximizing your physique, health, and physical function. But is there such a thing as too much?

Is There Such a Thing As Too Much Protein?

Earlier we mentioned there was such a thing as “too much” protein when overconsumption led to amino acid oxidation, but eating that much protein is not easy to do without massive changes to your diet. So, unless you’ve been consistently getting something like 350+g of protein in a day, (which is what a 175lb person eating 2.4g a kg would be) you won’t need to worry about this.

One concern some people have is the fear that eating more protein may lead to kidney damage. Some research supports the idea that this shouldn't be a concern for most people.

The University of Connecticut researchers in this study conclude, “We find no significant evidence for a detrimental effect of high protein intakes on kidney function in healthy persons.”

Also, the Institute of Medicine states that protein is safe to consume for 10- 35% of calorie intake. To put that in context, a person who consumes 100 grams of protein and 2,000 total calories per day only consumes 20% of calories from protein.

If you’re not sure you can eat enough protein simply because of how much food it would require you to consume in a day, read on.

How to get enough protein, a large spread of different types of food

How To Get Enough Protein

How can you reach the amount that’s recommended for a person of your weight? Consume a major source of protein at every meal.

Some “whole food” sources of highly digestible protein are poultry, fish, red meat, eggs, and dairy.

Other examples of high-protein foods include:

  • low-fat Greek yogurt
  • cottage cheese
  • Tofu

For more non-meat, dairy-free protein alternatives, read Healthline’s 18 Best Protein Sources for Vegans here.

If looking for a protein supplement, consider whey, casein, egg, or pea protein. These supplements have high levels of most or all amino acids and are largely digestible. If you know you have allergens or sensitivities, especially to whey or milk protein, check out Precision Nutrition’s whey sensitivity & intolerance article here where they talk about alternative kinds of protein supplements.

Maximize your results by complementing your strength training program with a sufficient amount of protein intake each day.

Eating enough protein will ensure that you are gaining muscle, strength, managing your weight, and maintaining your physical function.

Protein Pays Off- A Real Life Story

We were emailed a real-life story of a high-intensity strength training member and her experience with protein needs:

“I was working with a woman who had lower than average muscle tone. This woman was approaching her senior years with a very small frame, below average muscle mass, and osteopenia (the precursor for osteoporosis).

Her goals: gain muscle, strength, and improve her bone density.
She quickly and fully absorbed the value of intensity, working to ‘muscle success' on every exercise a few sessions after starting. I can honestly say that I never left our sessions thinking that she could have worked harder.

However, despite a large capacity for physical improvement and her great effort, her body barely changed over the first two months. I was at a loss for words when witnessing the lack of change. Needless to say, she was unhappy with the training and with herself.

Fortunately, I had come across some research on protein intake at the time. After informing her of the researchers' recommendations, the woman admitted that she didn't consume much protein.

She made some diet adjustments and, sure enough, her body started to slowly develop into what she wanted. About three months later, she routinely showed up to sessions talking about compliments from friends and family about the muscle tone in her arms, shoulders, and thighs.

The funny thing is, even though her muscles made noticeable changes over the latter three months, it was her diet that changed. Specifically, it was her protein intake.”

It's extremely unlikely that you will “bulk up” like a bodybuilder, regardless of how much protein you eat. Instead, all of us over the age of 25 are fighting against age-related muscle loss (“sarcopenia”), which slows the metabolism, promotes fat gain, and is definitely not what you want.

We recommend striving to develop every bit of body shaping, calorie-burning muscle tissue that you can!

The relationship between strength training and nutrition is an interrelated one. While putting in a great effort at the end of each strength training exercise is key, protein provides the amino acids that your body uses to develop new muscle tissue.

If you would like to learn more about our method of strength training, read about our methodology. If you are new to The Perfect Workout, try a workout with us and book a FREE Introductory Session.

  • Anderson, G.H. & Moore, S.E. (2004). Dietary proteins in the regulation of food intake and body weight in humans. The Journal of Nutrition, 134(4), 974S-979S.
  • Bosse, J. D., & Dixon, B. M. (2012). Dietary protein to maximize resistance training: a review and examination of protein spread and change theories. Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition, 9(1), 42.
  • Graham, J. (2019). Why older adults should eat more protein (and not overdo protein shakes). KHN. Retrieved from https://khn.org/news/why-older-adults-should-eat-more-protein-and-not-overdo-protein-shakes/
  • Martin, W. F., Armstrong, L. E., & Rodriguez, N. R. (2005). Dietary protein intake and renal function. Nutrition & metabolism, 2(1), 25.
  • Phillips SM. Dietary protein for athletes: from requirements to metabolic advantage. Appl Physiol Nutr Metab. 2006;31:647.
  • Phillips, S.M. (2012). Dietary protein requirements and adaptive advantages in athletes. British Journal of Nutrition, 108, S158-S167.

How Long Does it Take to Build Muscle?

How Long Does it Take to Build Muscle?

How long does it take to build muscle, before and after photo

“When will I see results?”

This is one of the most commonly-asked questions when someone starts The Perfect Workout. It’s also one of the most challenging questions to answer.

The answer is complex because it’s based on many factors. Also, “results” could mean many different things: fat loss, added strength, more energy, better sleep, or visible muscle growth.

It’s safe to say most people want to be able to see some muscle definition. So, in this article, we will discuss what the research says on when you should start noticing muscle growth, what are not signs of muscle growth, and how that timeline can be expedited.

Why We ALL Want Muscle

Before we deep dive into all things muscle growth, it’s important to keep this in mind – strength training is not just for growing bigger muscles. In fact, strength training does so much more for your overall health and longevity than simply looking toned and muscular.

  • Here are some good reasons to build muscle:
  • Avoid muscle loss
  • Avoid metabolic rate reduction
  • Increase muscle mass
  • Increase metabolic rate
  • Reduce body fat
  • Increase bone mineral density
  • Improve glucose metabolism
  • Increase gastrointestinal transit speed
  • Reduce resting blood pressure
  • Improve blood lipid levels
  • Reduce low back pain
  • Reduce arthritic pain
  • Reduce depression

As you can see from all those benefits, building muscle isn’t just for looks. But if you are concerned about getting “big and bulky” or want more information on how strength training affects men vs women, this might be the article for you.

Muscle soreness from muscle building on a woman's quads

Misleading Signs of Muscle Growth

Muscle growth starts almost immediately when strength training begins. However, gaining a noticeable amount of muscle takes a little longer. Before discussing a timeline, let’s talk about what are NOT indicators of growing muscles.

Muscle soreness

“I like being sore the next day because I know I did something.”

Most of us have said or felt this way after a workout.

Soreness, although gratifying for some, is not a sign of whether or not you stimulated your muscles to grow. Read that again.

Sore muscles simply indicate that you did something new or unusual for your muscles.

Walking 20 miles in a day would likely cause most of us to have sore leg muscles, but it won’t help to grow your muscles.

Early strength gains

Being able to lift increasingly heavy weights is typically a sign that your muscle cells are becoming larger. The exception to this is at the start of a new training program or regimen while your body learns to lift weights efficiently.

For the first few weeks, people gain strength due to neurological adaptations. In other words, the nervous system becomes more efficient and effective at stimulating coordinated movement on the exercises. This makes the movement [lifting heavy weights] more automatic and seemingly easier.

After a few weeks, gaining strength is primarily a result of muscle growth and less due to deceptive neurological adaptations.

The post-workout muscle “pump”

One of our favorite parts of the strength training experience is having swollen muscles following the workout.

Why?

It’s aesthetically pleasing (and we’re all a little guilty of checking ourselves out in the mirror once or twice after the workout). This effect, known as “transient hypertrophy,” is due to a short-term increase of blood plasma in and around muscle cells. It gives the muscles a temporary appearance of looking larger and more shapely … aka, the “pump.”

The pump only lasts a few hours and isn’t a direct indicator of muscle growth.

Before and after photos of muscle growth

How Long Does It Take to Build Muscle?

Building muscle takes time and most people begin to notice physical results, or “noticing their muscles” after about 3-5 weeks. However, muscles begin getting stronger within the first week of strength training and continue to get stronger with consistent workouts.

Now that we know muscle soreness and a post-workout mirror check aren’t reliable ways to gauge muscle growth, how do we know when we’re building muscle? And how long does it all take?

The muscle growth timeline was studied by researchers at the University of Oklahoma. CT scans were conducted weekly on men who started a strength training program. Similar to The Perfect Workout, the participants in this study trained twice a week.

After just one week, muscle fibers became 3.5% thicker.

  • Muscles grew steadily after that point:
  • 4.5% larger at the end of week 2
  • 6% at the end of week 3
  • 6.7% at the end of week 4
  • 8% at the end of week 5
    Finished at 9.6% larger at the end of the study (eight weeks)

The conclusions are that muscle growth starts immediately and steadily continues after that point.

You might be thinking, but when will I be able to see more muscle definition? When is it noticeable?

Researchers noted that about 7-8% growth is the point when this change can be seen. According to the study, this should take about 3-5 weeks to start noticing muscle growth. And according to exercise researcher Dr. Ellington Darden, “Genetically gifted men can probably reach their maximum size in 24 months.” (Read: not the norm.)

How can people notice initial changes in muscle size?

Common ways to see this is clothes fitting differently, pants feeling tighter in the thigh or hip area, or “new” muscle lines appearing in the thighs or arms.

How to Build Muscle Faster

The timeline of 3-5 weeks is when you could start to see muscle growth. That timeline could be longer. Part of that timeline and how much muscle you grow in general, is largely determined by your training habits, other complementary habits, and genetics.

Genetics and biology do play a role in your potential for muscle growth, as discussed in our article about the differences between male and female muscle growth. In Dr. Ellington Darden’s book, The New High Intensity Training, he discusses genetic potential for muscle growth.

In short, the length of major muscles determine genetic potential for muscle growth because longer muscles can be wider and wider muscles lead to more volume. So you can’t do much about those sorts of things. But there are three key things you can do.

Here are three factors in your control that impact how much muscle you grow and how quickly you notice it.

1. Exercise consistency and frequency

How much exercise you do is a big factor in determining the amount of muscle growth. Training three times per week will likely increase muscle growth quicker than training once or twice per week.

Of course, you can plan to train three times per week, but if you are frequently missing sessions, those plans won’t convert to actual results.

It’s also important to know that training three times a week would only be beneficial if you’re trying to get bigger-sized muscles and that strength for longevity and better health is separate and sufficient with 1-2 workouts a week.

2. Full range of motion exercises.

The most common strength training error we see in gyms is a lack of full movement. For example, you might see this in a dumbbell curl where the person only lowers the weight halfway down before starting the next rep.

The vast majority of studies comparing full movement to partial movement show that lifting the full movement enhances muscle growth.

3. Eating enough protein.

Protein is broken down by the body into amino acids, which are used to repair and rebuild muscle tissue following workouts. The amount of protein you consume is critical to your rate of muscle growth.

Your daily intake in grams should be equal to or greater than your weight (lbs.) multiplied by 0.75.

For example, if you weigh 150 lbs., you should eat at least 113 grams of protein each day (150 x 0.75 = 113). If you weigh 200 lbs, eat at least 150 grams per day (200 x 0.75 = 150).

Summary

You might start seeing changes in your muscles around one month in. To gain more muscle immediately and in general, train frequently, consistently, use a full range of movement, and eat ample amounts of protein daily.

Whether you see the muscle changes, know that your body is changing in a positive manner after just one week. Your muscles are growing, you are gaining strength, and your health is improving in several ways that you may or may not notice.

If you want more information on how to incorporate slow-motion strength training into your workout routine, we have a free introductory session. If you’d like to know more about how to work with a trainer online, get a free consultation call with a Personal Trainer.

DeFreitas, J.M., Beck, T.W., Stock, M.S., Dillon, M.A., & Kasishke, P.R. (2011). An examination of the time course of training-induced skeletal muscle hypertrophy. European Journal of Applied Physiology. DOI 10.1007/s0042-011-1905-4.

Deldicque, L. (2020). Protein intake and exercise-induced skeletal muscle hypertrophy: an update.

Lemon, P. W. (2000). Beyond the zone: protein needs of active individuals. Journal of the American College of Nutrition, 19(sup5), 513S-521S.

Schoenfeld, B.J., Contreras, B., Krieger, J., Grgic, J., Delcastillo, K., Belliard, R., & Alto, A. (2018). Resistance training volume enhances muscle hypertrophy but not strength in trained men. Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise.

Schoenfeld, B.J. & Grgic, J. (2020). Effects of range of motion on muscle development during resistance training interventions: a systematic review. SAGE Open. 

Schoenfeld, B.J., Ogborn, D., & Krieger, J.W. (2017). Dose-response relationship between weekly resistance training in muscle mass: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Journal of Sports Sciences, 35(11), 1073-1082.

Campbell, W.,Crim, M., Young,V. and Evans,W. (1994). Increased energy requirements and changes in body composition with resistance training in older adults. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 60: 167-175. 

Evans, W. and Rosenberg, I. (1992) Biomarkers, New York: Simon and Schuster. Forbes, G. B. (1976). “The adult decline in lean body mass,” Human Biology, 48: 161-73. 

Harris, K. and Holly R. (1987). Physiological response to circuit weight training in borderline hypertensive subjects. Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise, 19: 246-252. 

Hurley, B. (1994). Does strength training improve health status? Strength and Conditioning Journal, 16: 7-13. 

Hurley, B., Hagberg, J., Goldberg, A., et al. (1988). Resistance training can reduce coronary risk factors without altering VO2 max or percent body fat. Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise, 20: 150-154. 

Keyes, A., Taylor, H.L. and Grande, F. (1973). “Basal Metabolism and Age of Adult Man,” Metabolism, 22: 579-87. 

Koffler, K., Menkes, A. Redmond, W. et al. (1992). Strength training accelerates gastrointestinal transit in middle-aged and older men. Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise, 24: 415-419. 

Menkes, A., Mazel, S., Redmond, R. et al. (1993). Strength training increases regional bone mineral density and bone remodeling in middle-aged and older men. Journal of Applied Physiology, 74: 2478-2484. 

Risch, S., Nowell, N. Pollock, M., et al. (1993). Lumbar strengthening in chronic low back pain patients. Spine, 18: 232-238. 

Singh, N., Clements, K. and Fiatarone, M. A randomized controlled trial of progressive resistance training in depressed elders. Journal of Gerontology, 52 A (1): M 27 – M 35. 

Stone, M., Blessing, D., Byrd, R., et al. (1982). Physiological effects of a short term resistive training program on middle-aged untrained men. National Strength and Conditioning Association Journal, 4: 16-20. 

Tufts University Diet and Nutrition Letter, (1994). Never too late to build up your muscle. 12: 6-7 (September). 

Westcott, W. and Guy, J. (1996). A physical evolution. Sedentary adults see marked improvements in as little as two days a week. IDEA Today, 14 (9): 58-65. 

Wayne L. Westcott, Ph.D., C.S.C.S, is Fitness Research Director at the South Shore YMCA in Quincy, MA. He is strength training consultant for numerous national organizations, such as the American Council on Exercise, the American Senior Fitness Association, and the National Youth Sports Safety Foundation, and editorial advisor for many publications, including Prevention, Shape, and Club Industry magazines. 

He is also author of 20 fitness books including the new releases, No More Cellulite, Building Strength and Stamina, Strength Training Past 50, Strength Training for Seniors, Complete Conditioning for Golf, and Strength and Power for Young Athletes

Protein, A Key for Muscle Growth

Protein, A Key for Muscle Growth

Mission Monday Episode 4

Imagine trying to build a brick wall with a lack of bricks.

No matter how hard the bricklayer works, a brick wall can’t be built with a shortage of bricks

No matter how hard you work during your strength training workouts, you can’t build muscle with a shortage of protein.

Unfortunately, protein consumption is one of the biggest shortcomings people have when engaged in a fitness program.

This is a problem not just for gaining muscle but for several other reasons.

High Protein Intake

A high-protein intake is helpful for several reasons. A higher protein intake:

  • Reduces hunger levels and snack cravings
  • Decreases the risk of developing osteoporosis
  • Helps sustain weight loss
  • And, for older adults, a higher protein diet is connected with maintaining functional abilities, strength, muscle, and recovering quicker from hospitalizations

In summary, a high-protein diet is helpful for maximizing your physique, health, and physical function

How Much Protein Is Enough?

Research shows that a person should eat a daily amount of protein grams that is around their weight (in lbs) x 0.7.

Again, a daily intake of protein grams should be your weight (in lbs) x 0.7. For example:

  • For a 100 lb person x 0.7 = 70 grams of protein per day
  • For a 150 lb person, this is 105 grams per day
  • For a 200 lb person, this is 140 grams per day
  • For a 250 lb person, this is 175 grams per day

How To Get Enough Protein

How can you reach the amount that’s recommended for a person of your weight? Consume a major source of protein at every meal.

Examples of high-protein foods include fish, poultry, red meat, low-fat Greek yogurt, cottage cheese, and tofu.

If looking for a protein supplement, consider whey, casein, egg, or pea protein. These supplements have high levels of most or all amino acids and are largely digestible.

Maximize your results by complementing your strength training program with a sufficient amount of protein intake each day.

Eating enough protein will ensure that you are gaining muscle, strength, managing your weight, and maintaining your physical function.

If you would like to learn more about our method of strength training, read about our methodology. If you are new to The Perfect Workout, try a workout with us and start with a FREE Introductory Session.

  • Anderson, G.H. & Moore, S.E. (2004). Dietary proteins in the regulation of food intake and body weight in humans. The Journal of Nutrition, 134(4), 974S-979S.
  • Graham, J. (2019). Why older adults should eat more protein (and not overdo protein shakes). KHN. Retrieved from https://khn.org/news/why-older-adults-should-eat-more-protein-and-not-overdo-protein-shakes/
  • Phillips, S.M. (2012). Dietary protein requirements and adaptive advantages in athletes. British Journal of Nutrition, 108, S158-S167.
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Protein, A Key for Muscle Growth

Mission Monday Episode 4

Imagine trying to build a brick wall with a lack of bricks.

No matter how hard the bricklayer works, a brick wall can’t be built with a shortage of bricks

No matter how hard you work during your strength training workouts, you can’t build muscle with a shortage of protein.

Unfortunately, protein consumption is one of the biggest shortcomings people have when engaged in a fitness program.

This is a problem not just for gaining muscle but for several other reasons.

High Protein Intake

A high-protein intake is helpful for several reasons. A higher protein intake:

  • Reduces hunger levels and snack cravings
  • Decreases the risk of developing osteoporosis
  • Helps sustain weight loss
  • And, for older adults, a higher protein diet is connected with maintaining functional abilities, strength, muscle, and recovering quicker from hospitalizations

In summary, a high-protein diet is helpful for maximizing your physique, health, and physical function

How Much Protein Is Enough?

Research shows that a person should eat a daily amount of protein grams that is around their weight (in lbs) x 0.7.

Again, a daily intake of protein grams should be your weight (in lbs) x 0.7. For example:

  • For a 100 lb person x 0.7 = 70 grams of protein per day
  • For a 150 lb person, this is 105 grams per day
  • For a 200 lb person, this is 140 grams per day
  • For a 250 lb person, this is 175 grams per day

How To Get Enough Protein

How can you reach the amount that’s recommended for a person of your weight? Consume a major source of protein at every meal.

Examples of high-protein foods include fish, poultry, red meat, low-fat Greek yogurt, cottage cheese, and tofu.

If looking for a protein supplement, consider whey, casein, egg, or pea protein. These supplements have high levels of most or all amino acids and are largely digestible.

Maximize your results by complementing your strength training program with a sufficient amount of protein intake each day.

Eating enough protein will ensure that you are gaining muscle, strength, managing your weight, and maintaining your physical function.

If you would like to learn more about our method of strength training, read about our methodology. If you are new to The Perfect Workout, try a workout with us and start with a FREE Introductory Session.

  • Anderson, G.H. & Moore, S.E. (2004). Dietary proteins in the regulation of food intake and body weight in humans. The Journal of Nutrition, 134(4), 974S-979S.
  • Graham, J. (2019). Why older adults should eat more protein (and not overdo protein shakes). KHN. Retrieved from https://khn.org/news/why-older-adults-should-eat-more-protein-and-not-overdo-protein-shakes/
  • Phillips, S.M. (2012). Dietary protein requirements and adaptive advantages in athletes. British Journal of Nutrition, 108, S158-S167.
The Perfect Workout CEO explaining training for mental health

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