When it comes to building lean muscle mass or bulking up, most people know they need to lift weights and eat more protein. After all, protein is the building block of muscle and helps build and repair tissue. But just how much should you be eating if you want to see those gains?
Unfortunately, there's not a one-size-fits-all number for how much protein people should eat. Everyone's needs vary depending on age, weight, activity level, and goals. And of course, you'll only see an increase in muscle mass if you also work out.
The good news is, there is a pretty easy formula to follow if you are looking to build muscle mass. For optimal gains, the American College of Sports Medicine recommends a person who strength and endurance trains eat 0.5 to 0.8 grams of protein per pound of body weight. So if someone weighs 150 pounds, he or she should be eating 75-120 grams of protein daily.
That may seem like a lot, but it's totally doable if you are eating protein with each meal and also some protein-rich snacks throughout the day. This is especially important if you are strength training. "The process of protein turnover is increased with resistance training," explains Jim White, RD, ACSM, and owner of Jim White Fitness and Nutrition Studios. Protein turnover is the process by which your body uses protein to build lean tissue.
It's also important to eat plenty of protein so your body has enough amino acids to build muscle, White explains; amino acids are the building block of protein and your body uses amino acids to build and repair tissue, including muscle. By eating enough protein, you ensure that you have enough amino acids to repair and build your muscles.
He adds that after a workout is the most important time to eat protein since it has the most impact on muscle growth; in fact, a study published in the Journal of International Society of Sports Nutrition found that eating more protein before or after a workout can boost physical performance, help with recovery, and increase lean body mass.
To increase muscle mass, White says it's important to get enough protein not only at each meal, but also with your snacks. If you're aiming for 100 grams of protein a day, an easy breakdown could be: 25 grams of protein per each meal then two snacks with 12.5 grams each. Some good sources of protein include tuna, hard-boiled eggs, Greek yogurt, nuts, and seeds.
White also adds that it can be hard to get enough protein if you're not planning and preparing for it, so be sure to stock up on protein-rich snacks and groceries, and plan all your meals and snacks for the week. And to really see that protein payoff, be sure to hit the weight rack at least once a week.