"Take in a gram of protein per pound of bodyweight each day.” That’s the baseline held by the bodybuilding community as the gold standard for muscle growth. In the past few years, some bodybuilders have begun to raise the bar, consuming much more protein than that. Some take in as much as three times the recommendation.
Does increasing your protein above the baseline result in greater gains in mass? Yes and no. Eating enough protein is a must for growth, and if you eat more than one gram (g) per pound of bodyweight, you’ll certainly cover all your bases, ensuring that you don’t fall short. However, eating more for the sake of it may not be as wise as cycling your intake of protein.
In this article, I explain how to move your protein around — eating less protein on some days, more on others. This type of “protein cycling” is a great way to stimulate greater protein retention and muscle growth.
BASICS OF PROTEIN CONSUMPTION
TAKE IN THE PROTEIN BASELINE AMOUNT EVERY DAY: 1 G PER POUND OF BODYWEIGHT
Regardless of whether you’re training to add mass, dieting for a contest or taking a few weeks off from training, you should strive to take in the baseline recommendation. The exception to this is when you’re following the protein-cycling guidelines explained in this article.
HOW MUCH IS TOO MUCH?
If you think you need 2 g of protein per pound of bodyweight, you would be consuming 400 g of protein a day if you weigh 200 pounds. That’s a lot of chicken, meat and eggs. If you rely on protein powders, that’s a lot of shakes (and gastric distress is one possible outcome of downing too many shakes).
I believe that such high daily protein consumption is excessive, although it is common among many of today’s pro bodybuilders. I don’t recommend it because this practice demonstrates a misguided understanding of how muscles grow. Growth depends on a sufficient intake of protein — not on boatloads — and it is also correlated with carbohydrate intake.
HOW MUCH IS TOO LITTLE?
P.W. Lemon, PHD, one of the world’s most reputable protein researchers, has often stated that muscle building occurs with a protein consumption of roughly 0.7 g per pound of bodyweight a day (140 g a day for a 200 pounder). If you consumed less than that on a daily basis, you probably wouldn’t make significant gains. Although 160 g might be enough protein for a 200-pound bodybuilder, FLEX still recommends 200 g for a trainer that size, just to be on the safe side.
“Protein cycling” is a great way to stimulate greater protein retention and muscle growth.
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