Does Eating More Protein Help You Gain Muscle
Protein is an essential building block of muscles. Learn about how much protein you should eat to gain muscle, and why carbs and fats are important to include in your diet as well

Eating more protein can help you gain muscle as long as you are strength training and eating the right balance of protein, carbs, and healthy fats.

How much protein should you eat a day?

The amount of protein you should eat depends on two factors: body weight and daily calorie intake. 

According to the recommended daily allowances (RDA) set by the Food and Nutrition Board, you should eat about 0.36 grams of protein a day for every pound of body weight. So, if you weigh 160 pounds, you need about 58 grams of protein a day. If you are trying to gain muscle, you need to increase your intake to 0.55 to 0.77 grams of protein per pound of body weight.

Out of your daily calorie intake, about 15% should come from protein. If you eat foods that give you 2000 calories a day, for example, about 300 of those calories should come from protein.

Most Americans get the more than required amount of protein from their daily diets.

Do you need to eat more protein to gain muscle?

Studies regarding whether you need more protein to gain muscle have reported conflicting results. Previous research reported that higher protein intake is linked to weight loss and improved muscle mass.

However, according to a recent study published in JAMA Internal Medicine (2018), eating roughly 60% more than the recommended daily allowances (RDA) had no impact on muscle mass, strength, or power in men. 

Another study published in the Journal of Nutrition (2016) observed 12 weeks of protein supplementation in men who participated in a resistance training program. The study found that the groups with extra protein gained no more muscle strength than those who had no extra protein. In addition, the reported boost in muscle mass with extra protein intake in meta-analyses was minimal.

It is also important to note that eating too much protein can cause microscopic damage in the kidney filtration units, increasing the risk of kidney disease in the long run.

What other nutrients help you gain muscle?

Like protein, carbs and fats are important nutrients that you need to gain muscle.

Carbs

Carbohydrates are stored as glycogen in your muscles, and this glycogen is used to provide energy during exercise. About 50% of your daily calorie intake should come from carbohydrates. 

However, it is important to choose the right kind of carbohydrates—ideally ones that also provide you with dietary fiber. Examples include:

  • Whole grains
  • Legumes
  • Quinoa
  • Root vegetables, such as sweet potatoes
  • Starchy vegetables, such as corn and squash

Fats

Fats are also important to include in your diet. About 20%-35% of your daily calorie intake should come from fats. 

Choose heart-healthy fats from sources such as:

  • Avocados
  • Nuts
  • Vegetable oils, such as olive and canola oil
  • Fatty fish, such as salmon, herring, sardines, and trout

QUESTION

According to the USDA, there is no difference between a “portion” and a “serving.” See Answer

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Medically Reviewed on 4/29/2022
References
Image Source: iStock Image

Carbone JW, Pasiakos SM. Dietary Protein and Muscle Mass: Translating Science to Application and Health Benefit. Nutrients. 2019;11(5):1136. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6566799/

Bhasin S, Apovian CM, Travison TG, et al. Effect of Protein Intake on Lean Body Mass in Functionally Limited Older Men: A Randomized Clinical Trial. JAMA Intern Med. 2018 Apr 1;178(4):530-541. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/29532075/

Phillips SM, Moore DR, Tang JE. A critical examination of dietary protein requirements, benefits, and excesses in athletes. Int J Sport Nutr Exerc Metab. 2007 Aug;17 Suppl:S58-76. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/18577776/

Harvard Health Publishing. How much protein do you need every day?. https://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/how-much-protein-do-you-need-every-day-201506188096

Reidy PT, Borack MS, Markofski MM, et al. Protein Supplementation Has Minimal Effects on Muscle Adaptations during Resistance Exercise Training in Young Men: A Double-Blind Randomized Clinical Trial. J Nutr. 2016;146(9):1660-1669. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/27466602/