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Tuesday, June 16, 2015

How Much Protein Do I Need to Maximize My Muscle Growth?


By: Andrew Jagim

I get a lot of questions about how much protein is required to maximize protein synthesis aka muscle growth at each meal or before and after a workout or even throughout the day.  The Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA) value is 0.8 gram per kilogram for the average person and typically 1.0-1.5 for more active individuals. Or, in a per meal recommendation usually it’s 20-30 grams of protein is thought the be the most amount of protein that can be digested, absorbed and used to maximize protein synthesis. And in a sense, yes this is true as research has shown us that any higher amounts of protein in a single serving don’t really surpass the increase in protein synthesis that occurs when 20-30 grams of protein is ingested. However, based on recent research out of Dr. Wolfe’s lab (the jedi of protein metabolism) consuming more protein can be more beneficial than was once thought, just for a different reason. 


Again, it was as though it was just assumed that any additional protein consumed would just go to waste or be converted to fat however if you ask any strength/power athlete or bodybuilder, they will likely tell you that more protein can help facilitate gains in lean muscle mass. In addition, Antonio et al. (1) did a fantastic study on examining what happens when resistance trained individuals go an a very high protein diet (4.4 grams of protein per kilogram of bodyweight with is over 5x the RDA!) and found that they did not gain any additional amounts of fat mass compared to a moderate/high protein intake even though they consumed more protein and calories.  So, how is the additional protein able to enhance the anabolic response if protein synthetic rates are already maxed out with at the 20-30 grams of protein dose? Well the additional protein appears to help minimize the amount of protein breakdown occurring within skeletal muscle.  During strenuous exercise and throughout the day our rates of protein synthesis and breakdown may both be elevated. Whatever the overall net balance is (protein synthesis + protein breakdown) determines whether or not the muscle is in an anabolic or catabolic state. 

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SO, if we are able to maximize our protein synthetic response by consuming 20-30 grams of protein and then also mitigate protein breakdown by consuming more than the 20-30 gram dose our overall net protein balance will be elevated throughout the day which will help increase muscle mass over time. So, don’t feel that you have to limit protein at each meal to 20-30 grams or believe that consuming more than 1.5 gram of protein per kilogram of body mass won't be beneficial as this is a case where more IS better.  

And you can be rest assured that higher protein intakes won’t damage your increase or increase fat mass as research has shown that a high protein diet is both safe and beneficial in improving aspects of body composition.  So when asked if there is an upper limit to protein intake to maximize the anabolic response the answer is probably but it is likely ~3x or more greater than the amount to maximally stimulate protein synthesis because of its ability to mitigate protein breakdown.  Aim for at least 1.5-2.0 gram per kilogram of bodyweight or even 1 gram per pound as the added protein should pay off in the long run!


Reference:
1. Antonio, J., Peacock, C. A., Ellerbroek, A., Fromhoff, B., & Silver, T. (2014). The effects of consuming a high protein diet (4.4 g/kg/d) on body composition in resistance-trained individuals. Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition11(1), 19.
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