Should You Take In More Protein to Build Muscle?



Do You Need More Protein to Build Muscle?

I'm always having a hard time trying to show, tell, convince, or ease the conversion of strength training athletes to reduce their consumption of protein supplements. Marketers have brainwashed us into thinking we need more protein to "fuel our muscles". It's this type of macho-lingo that forces us to thin out their wallets in an effort to thicken our arms. The problem is that it works (the marketing scam, I mean).

Pre-Workout Carbs

As a weight lifter, you should focus more on carbohydrates instead of protein to build muscle, especially during your pre-workout routine. Carbs are the "fuel" behind your workouts and your daily life. As mentioned in the earlier section, taking in too much protein also means you're not taking in enough carbohydrates. This is especially important in a strength training program. The result of inadequate carb intake is decreased performance, decreased endurance, quick fatigue, and the "jitters". This is because you’ve gone into hypoglycemia (low blood sugar), forcing your body to release adrenaline to start burning the hard-to-burn fat. Trying to burn fat during your workout isn't a good idea - fat-burning happens when you're at rest watching the game on TV.

Generally, if you've started to burn fat while you're still working out you need to stop and refill your glycogen storages with a carb-rich snack (low protein!). Carbohydrates drive your workout! Taking in protein here won't do much for you, since your body isn't in the anabolic state yet (not until you've completely finished your workout).

Post-Workout Protein

Use Protein To Your Advantage!

The key is to take in enough protein to build muscle, not too much - this definitely is not a "more is better" scenario. Yes, it's true that athletes need more protein to help support muscle growth, but most of us take in much more than we need for this purpose. The rest of it just causes problems we can live more healthily without. Calculate your daily protein intake to determine just how much you need. I've also written a page on customizable daily diet quotas to help you figure out how much protein, fat and carbs you should be getting in your diet.

Timing

The key to using protein to build muscle is the timing of your protein shakes or other supplements. Gorging yourself with proteins throughout the day isn't the way to go - this causes more harm than good.

The best times for a protein shake are immediately following a workout and just before bed. Both shakes should contain a mixture of casein and whey proteins, promoting both short (~1 hour) and longer-term (~8 hours) muscle repair.

Using protein to build muscle should be considered a manipulative tool rather than an "all-or-nothing" diet plan. This is a science! Enough protein, at the right time, in the right metabolic state will result in muscle growth. Simply taking in proteins frivolously will not bid well for your efforts.

The Effects of Using Too Much Protein To Build Muscle

Chronically (over a long period of time), taking in too much protein (usually by way of protein supplements and large amounts of chicken) will put you at risk for certain cancers, developing kidney stones (because proteins get stuck in the kidney tubules and block the excretion of other products - so these particles build up forming crystals). These same crystals that cause "urate" kidney stones may also accumulate in your joints, creating a painful condition known as "gout".

Furthermore, overburdening your body with proteins also means that other nutrients may be lacking. Without the intake of other food products, you'll be limiting your supply of other vital nutrients that are obtained from carbs, vitamins, fats, phytochemicals and antioxidants.

Fat storage

Yes, fat storage. When your body can't use the protein that's floating around in the blood, your body has no choice but to store it as fat (or excrete it in the urine). The fact is that amino acids are more easily converted to fat than they are energy. Remember, too much protein = fat storage. This is true for any strength athlete, normal individual or endurance runner. Therefore, taking in excessive protein supplements will simply add unnecessary calories to your diet without having much of an effect.

You'll find certain protein supplements that claim to deliver protein to your muscles faster (using nitric oxide, abbreviated "NO")than any other product on the market. Is this an effective way for using protein to build muscle?

No. It sounds good, but does it have any effect? Well, yes, you'll store more of it as fat and excrete a lot of it in the urine - but that's about it. Again, if you have too much of it at once, there's nowhere for it all to go except to fat tissue.

As a bottom line, stay within your daily protein limits and adequately supplement when needed and you'll build muscle like the best of 'em!

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Return from Protein to Build Muscle, Part 2 to the Nutrition Guide

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