You’re lifting weights and getting the right amount of rest – but this means nothing if you don’t get your protein. Other macronutrients are important for your health and muscle growth, but none more so than protein. How much protein should you get every day?
Protein balance, an equal amount of protein intake and muscle breakdown, is key to building muscle mass. Muscle protein synthesis is what makes your muscles grow. How does this work? As you work out, you leave a trail of microscopic damage in your muscles. Your body breaks down protein into replacement amino acids to repair damaged cells in your muscles. Once they are repaired, your muscles need time to recover so you’ll have full use of them again.
Your body is regularly breaking down proteins – and not just for your muscles: to repair tissue, maintain enzyme levels, and maintain hormone levels. If you’re working out, you need to take in more protein since you have more muscle tissue damage to repair. When you don’t eat enough protein, your body pulls protein from muscle tissue, which defeats the entire purpose of your workout.
Protein: How it Works in Your Body
A balanced amount of protein keeps muscle growth at peak speed – too little protein and your body won’t last while you work out, too much protein and you’ll put on extra fat. Your body either stores unused protein in fat stores, or burns it as energy; there is no protein hanging around, waiting to become muscle.
Healthy Protein Sources
A balanced amount of protein does not just apply to daily calculation; the protein you eat per meal must be balanced as well. Where does your protein come from? A variety of protein sources provide different types and amounts of protein. Meat, fish, eggs, and milk products all provide essentials for muscle growth. But don’t overlook plant-based foods; veggie-only protein intake requires a little bit more planning, but all the protein your body needs can come from a vegetarian diet. (Bill Pearl, a bodybuilding legend, managed to win two Mr. Universe titles after becoming a vegetarian.)
As a building block of life, an adequate amount of protein must be part of your regular diet, no matter what your age or circumstances. This is especially important for bodybuilders, since their workout demands more of their body. If you want to build up, protein up. Your body will thank you for it.