One of the most common questions we receive is,” How much protein do I need for gains?”.
The protein requirements for strength-trained athletes has been a topic of debate for years, with the “bone of contention” being the observation that muscle tissue grows much slower than expected, despite super-compensation with a high protein diet. That is, there is incongruence between how much protein we tend to eat versus the amount our muscles tend to grow.
The most accepted method for assessing protein status in the body is nitrogen balance. In a recent study researchers analyzed 9 separate studies that used various amounts of protein during controlled resistance training interventions, while assessing nitrogen balance in the participants.
When nitrogen intake was correlated against nitrogen retention, it was found that the correlation became stronger and highly significant when protein intake, body mass, nitrogen intake, and nitrogen balance were all normalized for body mass. At the end of the analysis, it was concluded that a net nitrogen balance of zero (i.e., nothing wasted that was consumed) occurred at a protein intake of 1.35g/kg body mass/day.
ACTION POINT: Although the medical community generally recommends a protein intake of 0.8 g/kg body mass/ day, research has shown that protein requirements for athletes can be more than 2x this amount. This current study falls in line with our protein recommendations for strength training individuals, which should be between 1.35g/kg body mass/day and 2.0g/kg body mass/day depending on diet phase, training volume, and intensity.
Popovich GE. Protein requirements for optimal nitrogen retention in resistance-trained individuals Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition 2017; 14(Suppl 2):31