When working towards a healthier lifestyle, working out is only one side of the equation. Your diet is just as important as your workout regimen when it comes to your health goals. Amping your protein intake to bulk up isn’t unheard of in the workout world. Let’s look at the facts behind this common rule of thumb.
Although protein is an essential macronutrient, not all sources of protein can lead to the same outcome. Before you guzzle down a protein shake, first understand how and why protein can build muscle. That’s where we come in! Keep reading to learn how protein interacts with your body and why people use protein to build muscle.
What Is Protein?
Protein is naturally found throughout your body in your muscles, bone, skin, and hair - basically everywhere! Your body is comprised of at least 10,000 different proteins. These proteins make up the enzymes that power many chemical reactions!
Protein is made from more than twenty basic building blocks called amino acids. Nine of these amino acids, known as the essential amino acids (or EAA), must come from food. Protein is vital for building, maintaining, and repairing; tissues, organs, and cells throughout your body.
How Does Protein Build Muscle?
Let’s dive into how protein can help you build muscle. Protein is associated with muscle mass as it is the foundation for gaining strength. Think of protein and amino acids as the building blocks of your muscle tissue. A diet containing mixed amino acids can help maximize muscle protein and synthesis. In addition to muscle development, protein is essential for bone density, muscle mass, lean tissue, and physiological functions.
Protein is essential for muscle building because amino acids both repair and maintain muscle tissue. For example, while exercising, proteins help your muscles recover because muscles will slightly tear during exercise. Amino acids are used for muscle protein synthesis (or MPS); this is the process of repairing and maintaining muscles after intense use. Muscle protein synthesis is essential for maintaining and building body mass.
When it comes to growing and building your muscles, the amount of protein you eat is essential. To build muscle, you must maintain a positive protein balance, meaning you are eating more protein than breaking down.
When your body doesn’t have sufficient amino acids, your body will have to steal amino acids stored in your body (in your blood and muscle tissue). This can lead to muscle loss over time.
To achieve this positive protein balance, you must have proper protein intake, exercise routine, and rest. Keep reading to learn how much protein you need and what kind of proteins you should be eating.
How Much Protein Do You Need to Build Muscle?
When trying to build more muscle, you might jump to the conclusion that the more proteins, the better--but this isn’t entirely true!
The National Academy of Medicine recommends an intake of just over 7 grams for every 20 pounds of body weight. For a reference point, that is about 50 grams of protein for a 140-pound person. They also recommend protein to take about 10-35 percent of calories per day. Since there are approximately four calories per gram of protein, 60 grams of protein would produce about 240 calories.
Your protein intake can depend on your age, fitness level, and body goals.
Best Sources of Protein
It’s not only the amount of protein that counts. It is also a source of protein. A complete protein will contain all essential amino acids that are needed for muscle repair and growth. Complete proteins are found in animal and plant-based food sources. Animal sources include meat, fish, poultry, eggs, and dairy. Plant sources include chia seed, tempeh, quinoa, soy, and more. However, not all sources of protein are made the same. Here are quality sources of protein to incorporate into your diet.
Most fish are high in protein and low in saturated fat, making them attractive for a high protein diet. Plus, fish like salmon, trout, and black cod are a fantastic source of omega-3 fatty acids!
Chicken can be a great source of protein, but be sure to look for organic and free-range, plus removing the skin can reduce the amount of saturated fat!
Beans are a great source of protein and fiber, too! Beans are an excellent option for those with plant-based diets as they are versatile and easy to make.
Nuts and Seeds
Nuts and seeds are an easy way to add to your protein intake throughout the day. They are a great source of fiber, too. You can add nuts to your salads, eat them plain or look for them in snack bars. Our personal favorite is the ATAQ Mango Almond Energy Bar - perfect for a midday pick me up!
Tofu and Soy Products
Non-GMO tofu and soy are excellent red meat alternatives, high in protein and low in fat. Tofu and soy are a staple for those who want to cut down on their meat or eat no meat at all!
For vegetarians or vegans, plant-based proteins like rice and dry beans may not have all the essential amino acids our bodies need. If you eat a plant-based diet, you will need to have a broad amount of plant-based proteins to get all essential amino acids. ATAQ Fuel’s Plant-Based Power Protein uses over five different sources of plant-based proteins to match all the amino acids in whey as closely as possible for muscle growth and recovery. No matter your diet preference, you’ll be able to stay on track for your fitness goals.
A significant factor of your daily protein needs revolves around balance. Make sure not to overdo it on the protein as it does more harm than good. Also, always balance your healthy diet with regular workouts and lots of sleep!