My brother does resistance training, and he regularly asks me what he should eat to increase his muscle mass. I also try to fit resistance training into my workout regime, to tone my body and because increasing my muscle mass increases my resting metabolism. Muscle is made up out of protein, but can you support the increase of muscle mass by eating protein?
Daily protein intake
Proteins are made out of amino acids; some amino acids can be produced by the body, others cannot. Those last ones are essential amino acids, and you need to ingest them via your food. In general, animal derived proteins contain most essential amino acids, but some plant derived proteins, such as soy, are also a good source.
The recommended daily intake of protein for adults is 0.8 gram per kilogram body weight. Research shows that people that exercise regularly (both endurance and resistance training) need more protein, about 1-1.5 g/kg body weight. Thus, a man of 80 kilograms should consume 64 grams of protein daily if he doesn’t exercise regularly, and 80-120 grams if he does. Most people easily reach these amounts of protein in their regular diet. Eating more protein doesn’t make sense; it would only be converted into carbohydrates and fats. Too much protein could also lead to kidney problems, although it is unclear from which quantity exactly. If you stay under 2 grams protein per kg body weight daily, it is definitely not harmful.
Protein intake after resistance training
With resistance training you increase protein synthesis in the muscle, and by eating protein directly after your training you can increase this even more. The most effective is whey protein, a protein that is often used in powder form to make protein shakes. The fast uptake and high amount of essential amino acids make that whey protein increase the protein synthesis the most. The best results are seen after ingesting 20-25 gram of whey protein directly after the resistance training, which is most easily achieved by a protein shake. An alternative for a whey protein shake is drinking a large glass of skimmed milk directly after your training. The effects will not be the same, since milk contains less protein and is absorbed slower compared to a whey protein shake. However, whey protein can be relatively expensive and milk contains more nutrients that are beneficial for your health besides protein.
What do I do?
I make sure my food contains between 60 and 90 grams protein per day (I weigh 60 kg, so 1-1.5 gram per kg body weight). Furthermore, I drink a large glass of skimmed milk after a resistance training session. A whey protein shake is not necessary for me, I don’t like the taste and I prefer “real” food. My brother is more concerned about building muscle mass than I am, so I advice him to drink a whey protein shake directly after his resistance training.
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