How much protein does it take to build massive muscles? Do you need 20 grams per meal? Or is it a matter of consuming X amount per day? The subject has confused people for decades. In the end what most of the successful and largest bodybuilders did was to consume so much protein that it didn’t matter how much they really needed; they exceeded the recommended protein intake no matter what.
But that doesn’t seem to be the best approach.
You would think that in today’s world of advanced scientific study that we would be able to pinpoint what the requirement is. While in some cases we have made advances, this is still a bit of a grey area. Part of the problem is that it is difficult to perform a study with adequate numbers of individuals doing the same thing. Most of the time, while bodybuilders do similar actions in the gym and can use diets with some of the same basics, you would be hard pressed to find 5 out of 20 that do the exact same thing. Mainly that occurs because each body is so different even while we might look so similar.
Theories on Protein
So what is the recommended protein intake? Thoughts vary based on who you ask. Many bodybuilders use a community approach. They check and see what others do and then form a consensus approach. This is actually very logical. But then again with the sheer number of people doing different things there still ends up being a ‘range’ instead of focused answer.
The range most bodybuilders use is between 1 and 1.5 grams of protein per pound of bodyweight. That can be quite a lot. For average even if you use 1.25 then a 200 pound person is consuming a whopping 250 grams per day. Now imagine what some of the larger lifters in ‘offseason’ weight must be doing. At 250 pounds you need to consume almost 315 grams of protein. That is almost 8 cans of tuna.
There have been some very focus scientific studies made about protein. One reason they probably don’t get as much light shed on them is because there has not been as much opportunity to test the ideas on a large group of people at once. But if you read all of the various studies they do make a very good case as to what the true recommended protein intake should be.
Ideally for an active strength athlete the range of protein consumed would be .55 to .85 grams per pound of bodyweight per day. Why the variance of .30? Part of the reason is because people are different and the other reason is that people do not train everyday without rest. This would put the protein level for our 200 pound person at a more reasonable 165 grams per day on the high end. Ideally you only need about half of that to maintain a minimum about of body integrity and keep your nitrogen levels balanced.
The Bottom Line
More than likely unless a bodybuilder does the research themselves, there will still be a desire for consuming more protein. The general mentality for bodybuilders is ‘more if better’ in regards to size and lifting weight. That is perfectly fine. In that case move up to a 1 gram per pound of muscle weight. Note that we didn’t say bodyweight. When looking at the recommended protein intake we are talking about what is needed to support our muscle size and not the entire body including the skeleton. But you can always ballpark the figure so if you have 10 percent body fat and weigh 200 pounds then you need 180 grams of protein per day. That should be more than enough to grow on.