Recreational gym goers and bodybuilders alike both ponder the same question: how much protein is really necessary in order to maximize muscle growth? Since the age of the bodybuilders such as Arnold Schwarzenegger, the accepted paradigm has usually been anywhere from 1.5 to 2 grams of protein per pound of body weight. However, new research shows that this might not be the case after all.
At the moment, the recommended daily amount (RDA) of protein is .8g/kg or .8g/2.2lbs body weight per day. However, this is the RDA for healthy adults who do not engage in strenuous physical activity. In other words, this is the amount of protein that the average individual needs in order to maintain their health. When it comes to strength athletes, the RDA of protein goes up. According to the International Society of Sports Nutrition, the RDA for strength athletes lies anywhere from 1.4 to 2 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight. This means that a 155 pound strength athlete should consume anywhere from 98 to 141 grams of protein a day in order to maximize muscle growth. However, it should be noted that over time, this amount may go down due to the body adapting and becoming more efficient at using protein to repair muscles.
According to one study, there was no difference in protein synthesis between strength athletes who consumed .6 grams per pound of body weight and those who consumed 1.1 grams of protein per pound of body weight. Furthermore, it concluded that protein intake ‘maxes out’ after 1.8 grams/lbs of body weight. Thus, any protein consumed past this amount is just extra calories, and one runs the risk of it being stored as body fat. It should also be noted, however, that consuming protein above the recommended amount is not harmful to bodily functions. Some believe that excess protein intake can potentially damage the kidneys, which is actually not the case.
Overall, there seems to be a lot of conflicting information about protein needs for strength athletes. There does not seem to be an accepted paradigm on the matter as of today. I think the most important thing for athletes looking to build muscle is to focus on eating a healthy and balanced diet full of nutrient dense foods. While the amount of protein consumed is certainly a big part of muscle building, the type of protein one eats is important too. One should not rely on protein powders and supplements for all their protein needs. Instead, it is better to get most of the protein out of healthy sources such as lean meats, nuts, and eggs.