It is one of the most common questions I have come to hear over the years: “How much protein should I be eating?” It is no secret that protein should be an essential component of everyone’s diets, especially that of bodybuilders. The question of how much protein to consume has been debated at length for years with no real specific answer. That is because there is gray area when it comes to protein requirements. As I said, it is incredibly important for everyone to incorporate protein into their diets, but each individual’s protein requirements will vary depending on what their goals are. If you are a professional or competitive bodybuilder, you are going to need to ingest a lot more protein than someone who is just exercising for health or general fitness. I will do my best to explain why.

The “Protein Change Theory” suggests that the human body can essentially become used to a given amount of protein, and to further stimulate anabolism, additional protein will be needed. Anabolism refers to the building up of muscle tissue whereas catabolism refers to the breaking down of muscle tissue. For example, if a 175 lb. bodybuilder has been eating 1 gram of protein per pound of body weight and is looking to gain 10 more pounds of muscle, he is going to have to increase is protein intake to a higher percentage. This sudden change in baseline protein intake should stimulate muscle growth, given of course that this bodybuilder is training correctly and aggressively. Obviously, this kind of strategy of increasing protein intake will not last forever. The body will begin to adapt to this change and anabolism rates will begin to slow. This explains how people can have similar protein intakes yet have different rates of growth over a period of time.

It is also important to realize that there should be limits to the rate at which protein is increased. It should be gradual. If you are ingesting 150 grams of protein per day, you would not want to immediately jump to consuming 500 grams of protein per day. Nothing within the human metabolism is isolated and everything works in relation to everything else. It is also important to remember that carbohydrates and fats carry their own anabolic performance benefits. If protein intake is increased too quickly, then carb and fat intake will need to be kept low in order to avoid exceeding calorie requirements, which will most likely result in fat gain.

If you are someone who is not looking to add bulk, but simply want to be healthy and have definition, then increasing your protein intake is not as important. However, it is still vitally important to have lean protein in every meal. Research suggests that consuming 0.8 to 1.0 grams of protein per kilogram of bodyweight is sufficient for people in this category. To calculate your weight in kilograms, just divide your bodyweight in pounds by 2.2. For example, a man who weighs 155 lbs. (70.45 kilograms) would need to consume 56 to 70 grams of protein per day. But again, requirements for athletes and bodybuilders who are looking to pack on some serious muscle are going to be significantly higher.

So how about those lean proteins? Need a refresher on some of them? Good examples include: chicken breast, turkey breast, egg whites, low- fat yogurt, salmon, tuna, tilapia, soy, black beans, almonds, and walnuts. As far as supplements go, whey protein has long been touted as one of the best as it gets into your bloodstream faster than any other protein. If you are someone who is looking to add serious muscle, it is advisable to consume a whey protein shake immediately following your workout. After training your muscles are in a catabolic state, which means muscle is being broken down. The main goal here is to switch to an anabolic state as quickly as possible. The period immediately following training is called the anabolic window. This is because your muscles are depleted and are very sensitive to nutrients for approximately 2 hours. An even better idea is to have a protein shake that consists of a protein/ carb mix immediately following your workout, which can increase protein synthesis (a re-building of muscle tissue) up to 300 percent. If you wait until three hours after your workout to have the same protein/ carb mix, protein synthesis will only increase about 12 percent. As you can see, timing is everything!

In some cases, it can also be beneficial to consume protein prior to and during a workout as well. During training, your body is primed to soak up anything that is in your blood stream. When certain nutrients are taken at specific times, they can have an amazing impact on your performance. For people looking to build muscle, precisely timing the ingestion of these nutrients will help immensely. Another added benefit is that shedding fat also becomes that much easier.

The main point that I am trying to make in this article is that ingesting lean protein is vital for everyone. Regardless of what your goals are, it should be consumed in every meal of the day, which should total about six in case you’ve forgotten. The more aggressive the training is, the more protein you will require for adequate recovery and muscle building. People are always amazed at how much protein I consume. I always hear “Oh my God, aren’t you going to get fat?!” No, I won’t. Because as long as I am eating lean sources of protein in adequate amounts, spread out throughout the day, I am ensuring that the heavy demands of my workouts are being met. The same can be true for you.
Be healthy!