How Much Protein Do I Need?
If you’re just getting into fitness or bodybuilding, you may well ask the question “How much protein do I need?” It’s a great question to ask, and the answer isn’t the same as you’d get if you asked the question and your daily activity did not include heavy training or athletic activity.
A normal sedentary person can make due with about 1 gram of protein per kilo of body weight. Other sources list 36 grams per 100 pounds as the minimum for sustenance. If you’re training hard, either to build muscle or to lose fat, you’ll need more. Building muscle involves hypertrophy; basically over stressing the muscle in order to force adaptation. This means you’ll need more protein than if you were watching Sponge Bob and sipping a Diet Coke.
To support fat loss and enhanced muscular development you will need more protein than a typical individual. Studies support the fact that protein is important in not only increasing muscle development, but preventing muscle wasting when reducing calories in order to lose weight and body fat. In fact a study performed at the Minnesota Applied Research Center and the Geriatric Research Education and Clinical Center (GRECC), Veterans Administration Medical Center found just that in a randomized, double-blind clinical study.
Protein Study Results Say What?
In the study subjects reduced their daily caloric intake by 500 calories. One group was given a whey protein supplement twice per day, while the other group was not. The supplements were given 20 minutes before breakfast and dinner. The results demonstrated that the protein supplements had a significant effect on fat loss and muscle sparing. The protein supplementation group lost 73% more fat and less than half the amount of muscle tissue. The groups in this study were not even exercising, which shows the importance of getting the proper amount of complete protein in your diet.
They’re Not Alone in Protein Recomendations
Another study on the effects of protein supplementation with and without exercise goes a bit farther to explain the importance of this nutrient when training. Conducted at the Department of Human Health and Nutritional Sciences, University of Guelph, in Ontario, Canada, the study revealed what many of us already knew from years of experience. Protein is extremely important when exercising.
The results plainly showed that “a high-protein diet was superior to a low-fat, high-carbohydrate diet either alone or when combined with an aerobic/resistance-training program in promoting weight loss and nitrogen balance, while similarly improving body composition and risk factors for the Metabolic Syndrome in overweight and obese Canadian women”…. American, Peruvian, and Chinese women too, I’d reckon.
Okay, those studies are pretty definitive, but what about those of you who are hitting the heavy iron and trying to gain some serious muscle mass. How much protein do you need? A study “The Effect of Whey Isolate, Creatine and Resistance Training on Muscle Fiber Characteristics, Strength and Body Composition,” completed in 2003 at Victoria University in Australia, indicates that whey isolate and creatine are more effective at increasing muscle size and strength compared to a placebo. The results demonstrated that the combo “produced greater muscle fiber growth increases that transferred into significant increases in functional strength. “
How much protein did they use in the study, which was conducted on advanced (but presumably natural) bodybuilders?
Test subjects received 1.5gms of whey protein isolate per kilogram of bodyweight per day. Keep in mind these were experienced bodybuilders, whose body fat percentages, even between contests is seldom above 10%, typically lower. Someone with more bodyfat could probably use less supplement. Also, note that the study used whey protein isolate. If you use plain old protein powder, you’ll need to up the amount of protein you use every day, providing you train as a hard core athlete does. If you train with less intensity and duration, you’ll require less protein per day.
These studies and the experience of many bodybuilders and athletes that adding protein to your diet is important to see the maximum results from your training program. So, to lose fat and gain muscle, stock up on the protein!