Thursday, November 08, 2007

How much protein do you need to build muscle?

The idea that you need massive amounts of protein in your diet in order to build muscle is one that will probably never go away. While I agree that many of us need to eat a little more protein than we typically do, I don't think we need super-mega amounts in order to pack on muscle.

In a really interesting study published back in 1996, 43 men who were experienced weight lifters took part in a study that involved exercise and weekly injections of testosterone enanthate for 10 weeks.

Yep, these boys were on steroids for the benefit of science!

They were divided into 4 groups.

  • The first group performed no exercise and didn't get any steroids.
  • The second group performed exercise but didn't get steroids,
  • The third group didn't exercise but received the weekly injections and
  • The fourth group exercised and received the injections.

As you can imagine after 10 weeks of lifting weights 3 times per week, the group that was receiving the steroid injections gained over 13 pounds of muscle.

The group who were just working out didn't do too bad either, packing on almost 4.5 pounds of muscle in only ten weeks.

The guys who sat around doing nothing for 10 weeks but received the steroid injections still had an increase in lean mass (almost 6 pounds), while the group who received no steroids and didn't workout did not see any change in their lean mass.

So what does a study on steroids have to do with nutrition? well, all four groups were on the same diet. They were all consuming about 0.7 grams of protein per pound of body weight and about 16 Calories per pound of body weight.

What this shows is that for a group taking steroids while exercising, 120 grams of protein per day was enough to supply the amount of protein needed to allow for a 13.5 pound gain in lean mass!

It was also the same amount of protein the the exercise only group ate to gain 4.5 pounds, and the other groups ate to see their gains, (or lack thereof).

What this shows is that for the groups who saw less gains in lean mass then the steroid group, the amount of protein that they ate was not what determined how much muscle they gained. The workouts and the steroids did that.

In the end, protein is important, but as this study shows, 0.7 grams of protein per pound of body weight is enough daily protein to allow for a 13.5 pound increase in lean mass in 10 weeks. It's also enough to allow for a 4.5 pound increase in people not taking steroids, which is still very impressive muscle growth for a ten week period!


For those of us who are not 'pharmaceutically enhanced' this study helps support the idea that your workout is the most important part of your muscle building journey.

Get a great workout, put in a great effort, see great results, it might just be that simple.

PS - If you are looking for my recommendation on a great quality workout, then Turbulence Training is where it is at. You can check out Craig Ballantyne's Turbulence Training programs by clicking HERE.

(Bhasin S, et al. The New England Journal of Medicine. 335(1), 1-7)

Interested in learning more about fasting for weight loss? Then click HERE

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Your Natural Remedies said...

My cousin has Muscle Milk - and is always drinking those protein and other sort of muscle making or enhancing drinks.

Michael said...

Hi Brad,
Just got your book via the TT Members website and found it struck a chord straight away. I've just finished a "regular" low calorie diet + weight training so am interested in building muscle now. Any suggestions on timing fasts / training sessions to maximise muscle growth while minimising fat gain (or dare I say it, losing fat)?

Brad Pilon said...

Hi Michael,

Thanks for the post.

To sum up a really complicated answer and make it simple, I think that if your workouts
are designed to build muscle, then you will build muscle, regardless of when you do or
don't eat.

You will damage muscle tissue while you workout (as long as your workouts are intense
enough). This muscle tissue must be degraded and replaced. If you are training
consistently than this is a consistent, albeit very slow, continual process.

Therefore every single meal you eat is both post workout and pre workout if you are
training several times a week.

Muscle regrowth is very, very slow, and will happen inspite of what you are eating (Even
on a super horrible diet, people who break their leg or strain a muscle still repair the

So I think as long as your workouts are properly designed, breif periods of not eating
won't really make any difference. I would structure your workouts for when they are most
convenient in your day, and not around your fasts.