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Extra Protein, Extra Large Muscles?

Photo by TheBusyBrain via Flickr

Photo by TheBusyBrain via Flickr

Danny was a college freshman who was having a hard time getting girls to notice him. Since the bodybuilder types seemed to get all the attention, Danny decided that he was going to bulk up.  He knew that in order to do that, he was going to need to eat a lot more protein.  So, he started drinking protein shakes, eating protein bars and upped the amount of meat, eggs and dairy products in his diet.  He really hoped all the extra protein would make him stronger soon because it sure was expensive!

Does eating extra protein make you stronger?
Unfortunately, eating extra protein will not give you added muscle bulk. Even though protein functions to build and repair muscles, consuming more protein won’t stimulate muscle growth by itself.  The key to building muscle is to strength train.

What happens to the extra protein?
Any protein over the amount your body needs to build muscle will either be burned for energy or, more likely, be converted to and stored as fat.  Not a desirable outcome!

If the diet you choose is high in animal protein (such as meat and dairy products), it is probably also high in saturated fat, which increases your risks of heart disease and cancer.  And another potential problem with a high protein, low carbohydrate diet is that it can take a toll on your kidneys because they have to process the extra byproducts created by the body’s breakdown of the extra protein.

How much protein should I eat to build muscles?
I’m not saying that you shouldn’t eat protein.  You want an adequate intake of protein to build lean muscle mass.  But if you eat a normal, healthy diet you will most likely get sufficient protein.  It is actually hard not to get enough protein.  The recommended dietary allowance of protein is about 12 to 15% of daily total caloric intake.  That works out to be about 0.8 grams for every kilogram (2.2 pounds) of body weight.

So, most Americans don’t need to worry.  The average American eats meat and dairy products regularly and easily exceeds the recommended dietary allowances.  Actually, the typical American eats almost double the recommended amount of protein.

Studies do suggest that professional athletes, such as bodybuilders or wrestlers, might need more protein than what is recommended by the RDA, but that doesn’t mean they need to go out of their way to consume more protein.  Most professional athletes consume more calories a day than the average person and easily get the extra protein they need that way.

So, what should you do if you want to build muscles?
Follow these 2 tips:

  1. Exercise more: Bodybuilders are strong because of their workouts, not because they eat excessive amounts of protein.  So, if you want to bulk up, incorporate more strength training into your exercise regimen.
  2. Eat a healthy, balanced diet: Your diet should be high in complex carbohydrates (vegetables, fruit and whole grains) and low in fat (lean meats, fish, poultry and low fat dairy products).  That will keep you healthy and provide you with enough protein to build muscle.  If you want to gain weight, just eat larger, healthier meals. Don’t get fixated on large quantities of protein.

The bottom line:
Consuming more protein will not make you stronger.  Exercise is the key to increased strength and muscle bulk.  So, don’t waste your money on protein shakes, bars and drinks.  Just continue eating a healthy diet and spend more quality time with your favorite strength training equipment.  Because exercise is the true key to getting stronger!

Comments (8)

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  1. BioArt says:

    Great Article! I usually try to keep my protein around 150 and carbs below 200. I find it useful to chose snacks that are higher in protein, but that’s usually because I’m looking for lower sugar alternatives.

  2. Maria Isabel says:

    Good podcast. I think that I need to continue to exercise in order to lose the weight that I want. Thanks.

  3. Salim Dibian says:

    Excellent article! Its funny how advertisers advertise that you need roughly 1 gram of protein per pound of body weight or per kg of body weight. I was living poor while I was going to school, eating little, had some protein but nowhere near the amount the magazines sat you need. U remember a friend of mine telling me you can train your but off but it you dont take in alot of protein (with protein shakes) you will not grow. Boy did I prove him wrong. I spent nothing on protein shakes, and still got big! 😉

  4. Great post!
    The only way to gain muscle is to do strength training! It is good to eat protein after a strength training workout. Protein contains the amino acids the body needs to recover and build muscle. Strength training and consuming protein go hand in hand.

  5. Rosy Villa says:

    great post!!! People amaze me how much protein they eat-Thanks Talli!

  6. Harshal Sharma says:

    Good Article.
    Looks Reliable and Erudite on the first look.
    Thanx for posting. Would help a lot of people know what they should do instead of what they think they should do.

  7. Guto says:

    In my case, looks like ‘too much’ protein is causing my cholseterol to go higher. Any suggestions? I tried to quit and lower my intake for a long time but am always wondering if the benefits of working out will be diminished by not taking the right amounts of protein. I usually take a 20gr protein drink after working out and sometimes accompanied by a protein bar -another 19gr. Would you consider it to be too much?

  8. Talli van Sunder says:

    @Guto Protein is essential for building and repairing muscles, but contrary to popular belief, weight training does not necessarily mean that you need to substantially increase your protein intake.

    If you were sedentary, you would need about 0.4g of protein per pound of body weight and if you are active you would need to increase that just a little to 0.5 – 0.6 g of protein per pound of body weight. So, if you weigh 150 pounds you would need about 75 grams of protein a day.

    So, protein supplements are not really necessary. Most athletes get enough protein through their diet. You will gain muscle and strength through your workouts, not from eating extra protein.

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