When it comes to building muscle, all that work you do in the gym is only half of the battle. The other half takes place in the kitchen. Diet is really important when trying to improve your body composition. Without proper nutrients, no matter how much time you spend weight training, you won’t get the results you’re looking for.
Your muscles are made up of over 25% protein along with up to 75% water and stored glycogen (carbohydrates). While people generally understand that consuming adequate protein is very important to support muscle growth and maintain lean mass, the amount of protein to consume becomes the tricky part.
So how much protein do you need when trying to sculpt some lean muscle?
Here´s the science …
When you eat protein, your stomach uses its acid and enzymes to break it down into its building blocks, amino acids.
These molecules are transported into the bloodstream by special cells that line the small intestine, and are then delivered to various parts of the body.
Your small intestine only has so many transporter cells, which limits the amount of amino acids that can be infused into your blood every hour.
This is really what we’re talking about with “protein absorption”: and it happens at different speeds for different types of protein.
Certain proteins are absorbed very slowly and others are processed fairly quickly.
Also, food substances don’t move uniformly through the digestive tract and they don’t necessarily leave sections in the same order that they arrived in.
For instance, the presence of protein in the stomach stimulates the production of a hormone that delays “gastric emptying” (the emptying of the food from the stomach).
This slows down intestinal contractions and thus how quickly the food moves through the small intestine, where nutrients are absorbed.
Carbohydrates and fats can move through your small intestine and be fully absorbed while the protein is still being worked on.
Once the amino acids arrive in the blood, your body does various things with them including tissue growth and repair.
It can even temporarily store excess amino acids in muscle for future needs.
If there are still amino acids in the blood after doing all of the above, your body can convert them into glucose to fuel your brain and other cells.
So, that’s how your body processes the protein you eat.
So how much does your body need?
Timing is everything—especially when it comes to muscle growth. And while some exercise guidelines already suggest eating protein during or immediately after resistance training in order to build bulk, a new study—published in Nutrition & Metabolism—wondered if your pattern of intake throughout the day matters too.
To find out the best time to eat protein, researchers asked a group of men to do leg extensions, then follow one of three whey protein regimens: 10 grams every 1.5 hours; 20 grams every 3 hours; or 40 grams every 6 hours.
They found that the muscle building potential of men who ate protein every 3 hours was moderately greater than the 6-hour group, and slightly better than the 1.5-hour group. The study was only done for one day, so is it enough to justify changing your protein schedule? Possibly. The researchers pointed to other studies that showed less protein breakdown and more protein storage when people ate protein throughout the day.
So whether your goal is to build muscle, burn fat, or train like an athlete, you should aim to consume roughly your bodyweight in grams of protein.
Eat 20-25 grams protein within 15-30 mins after your workout.
Spread the rest of the protein throughout the day to keep your body fueled at an even pace.