“One of the biggest myths about protein is that we need an exorbitant amount to build muscle and/or get leaner,” says Nicotera. “Athletes have been shown to benefit from twice the Recommended Dietary Allowances, but an intake of more than 2 grams per kilogram of body weight has not been shown to be any more beneficial.”
Perry says that the research on this topic is mixed, but noted that a daily intake that falls somewhere between .6 grams to 1.1 grams of protein per pound of bodyweight, combined with an effective strength training program, is probably your best bet for building muscle. For more on this topic see: Are You Eating Enough Protein to Build Muscle?
A complete protein is a protein source that includes all nine essential amino acids. Most proteins found in animal foods like poultry, eggs, milk and meat are complete. And if you’re vegetarian or vegan don’t worry, there are plenty of non-animal foods that contain complete proteins, too. If you’re working with protein powder or other supplements, Perry recommends whey. “Whey protein includes all 9 essential amino acids, is fast digesting and superior after a workout. Casein is a slower digesting protein better for around bed time.” For more on this topic see: Whey Protein vs. Casein Protein: Which is better?
“Another myth is that plant protein is not adequate for building muscle or supporting endurance exercise,” says Nicotera. “Though it takes more planning and preparation, there are plant protein options that are in fact, complete proteins that are just as effective as meat based protein sources. High-quality protein promotes cell growth no matter where it comes from.”
According to both experts, the biggest way a high protein diet aids weight loss is by increasing satiety. “When people eat higher protein foods, less calories are eaten the rest of the day,” says Perry. Nicotera pointed out that the muscle-building benefits of protein are also beneficial for those with weight loss goals because muscle mass requires more energy to be maintained, which slightly increases the rate of your metabolism.
“Protein absorption and digestion occurs in the gastro-intestinal tract,” says Nicotera. “So anyone with GI issues may have issues with protein absorption.” Perry also noted that if you consume more protein than your body needs you will either excrete it or it may be stored as fat.
“Research suggests that 10 to 20 grams of protein be consumed within 60 minutes after a workout session,” says Nicotera. “This intake guideline is intended to promote muscle growth and recovery.” Perry adds, “Lifting weights breaks down muscle and glycogen stores, so drinking whey protein post-workout can help protein suck into muscles more effectively.”
“For people who have pre-existing kidney problems, protein intake may cause problems,” says Perry. “But to my knowledge, those with healthy kidneys will not experience any issues as a result of a high protein diet.”
“Some people believe eating more protein will automatically build muscle,” says Perry. “This is certainly not the case. The only way to build lean muscle mass is by combining an effective strength training routine with a balanced diet that includes adequate protein intake.