Diets high in protein have gained popularity in recent decades. From the Atkins diet for weight loss to high-protein diets consumed by athletes and bodybuilders, protein has taken center stage in the discussion of fat loss and muscle development. The question remains: does extra protein help you to gain muscle?
This question is best examined within the context of bodybuilding, which holds muscle building as its main goal. How much is enough protein if your goal is to develop muscles? The advice for bodybuilders varies. Some experts argue that a bodybuilder should eat 1 gram of protein for each pound of weight; others argue that this number should be doubled, that is, to 2 grams.
In addition to the amount, the timing of protein consumption is considered of importance. It is advisable to spread protein consumption throughout the day, eating more protein following workouts.
Guidance on the type of protein also varies. Meats and dairy contain adequate protein. Whey protein, however, is considered useful by bodybuilders because the body absorbs it faster. Other nutrition experts argue in favor of consuming proteins from soy and flax seed to avoid risks associated with eating large amounts of animal products.
Clearly, bodybuilding history alone tells you that to build more muscle, more protein is needed. However, for the average person who wants a fit and toned body, how much protein is necessary? Will packing the body with protein automatically lead to a more muscular body?
As is the mantra from most medical and nutrition experts, for the average person, well-balanced meals are key. If you get moderate to no exercise on a regular basis and begin to eat large numbers of calories from protein–more calories than you burn off–those calories will not automatically turn into muscle; they will turn into fat.
Also of note is that decades of research studies show that excessively high-protein diets result in increased risk for bone loss and kidney failure. This poses an even greater argument for eating meals balanced in proteins, carbohydrates and healthy fats. As many nutritionists know, when a diet is overwhelmingly packed with proteins, the result is a strong craving for refined carbohydrates. These are foods such as sugar, white flour, pastas, and even alcohol, which contains sugar.
To determine your protein needs, first identify your primary personal goals: to maintain weight, to lose fat or to build muscle. Then divide your current weight in pounds by 2.2 to arrive at the number of kilograms. To maintain your weight, the recommended daily protein intake is 1.4 grams per kilogram of weight. For building muscle this is increased to 2 grams. For losing fat, some experts recommend more protein, 2.2 grams per kilogram.
Protein is an essential component of a healthy diet. It is critical for muscle development. However, diets that are excessively high in protein are unhealthy. It is possible to build muscle, and be healthy and fit by practicing moderation in protein intake.