#1 POWDERS ARE BETTER THAN FOOD.
Protein powders are easy to absorb, and absorption is an important part of the mass-building process. However, whole-food animal sources of protein, such as eggs, dairy, fowl, red meat and fish, have complete, though somewhat different, amino-acid profiles. Some are higher in certain amino acids than others, and this may be a reason why bodybuilders like Jay Cutler claim that serious mass can’t be built without red meat. Cutler tells FLEX, “When I exclude red meat, I can’t add the mass and grow like I do when I eat it daily and sometimes twice daily.” Is it the iron, B vitamins or creatine in the meat? Maybe. It’s also likely that the unique amino-acid combinations allow greater protein synthesis.
For optimal mass gains, don’t succumb to living mainly on powders. Choose a wide variety of foods and include powders before and after workouts, and at times when convenience is essential. The variable amino-acid concentrations among different foods may exert unique effects on you that result in better growth, as opposed to sticking with one or two protein foods or a couple of foods and a protein powder.
#2 PROTEIN NEEDS ARE STATIC.
Bodybuilders trying to gain mass tend to stick to the same protein intake day in and day out. For example, a 200-pounder may eat as many as 300 grams of protein a day, with plenty of calories coming from carbohydrates in order to create a caloric surplus. Of course, protein and calories are the basics of muscle building. However, you can stimulate your body by mixing things up: one or two days out of every 10 or so, consume up to 400, 450 or 500 g of protein. Ideally, do this on training days to better stimulate growth. Changing levels — specifically, instigating a surplus of amino acids in the blood — can cause an increase in protein synthesis, the buildup of muscle mass in the body.
Remaining faithful to the same protein intake day in and day out is OK, but varying protein intake with an occasional day or two of a very high consumption can lead to greater gains.
#3 EVERYONE NEEDS A GRAM OF PROTEIN PER POUND OF BODYWEIGHT.
Although the typical recommendation of a gram of protein per pound of bodyweight is as close to a rule of thumb as there is — which is why we often tout it in the pages of FLEX — it’s not etched in stone. For true hardgainers who bust their butts in the gym, that number should be increased by 50%, to 1.5 g per pound of bodyweight. Keep in mind that you won’t grow — regardless of how much protein you consume — if you are slacking in the gym or training like a wuss.
The key is to match your protein intake with your training. If you’re a beginner, you probably don’t train as hard as someone with a lot of experience — and you probably shouldn’t anyway — so you may be able to get by on slightly less than a gram per pound of bodyweight. If you are a hardgainer or train with intensity on par with your favorite pro, start with 1 g per pound per day, but don’t hesitate to move it up from there if you fail to make significant visible gains.
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