Building muscle and burning fat result from diet and exercise, mostly. However, there is one macronutrient that is more powerful than all the others: protein. Understanding how protein contributes to muscle gain and fat loss will provide insight into when and how to consume it for specific results.
Protein Intake and Muscle Building
When it comes to gaining muscle, protein is probably the most important macronutrient. Muscle weighs about twice as much as fat, and you need to build muscle to lose fat. Consuming protein (above the recommended 1.2-1.4 grams per pound of body weight) will help your body store or burn fat more efficiently.
If you want to build muscle, you will need to consume more protein than you would to maintain your body weight. Most people need around 1.2-1.4 grams of protein per pound of body weight, so a 150-pound person would need a minimum of 180 grams to maintain their current weight and mass. However, if muscle gain is the goal, you will want to consume more than the minimum requirements.
Protein Intake and Fat Loss
Protein can help reduce fat stores, but eating too much protein can also leave you with a high-fat surplus. As a result, some people choose to limit their daily protein intake to somewhere between 50-100 grams. However, everyone's body is unique, so while some people who eat around 90 grams of protein per day may experience weight gain, others might experience weight loss.
If you want to know how much protein your body needs, consider consulting your doctor or a nutritionist. Once they have an understanding of your personal goals, they can help you determine the right diet and protein intake you need.
How Much Protein Should You Eat?
To achieve or maintain a healthy level of muscle mass, you need to consume about 0.8-1 gram of protein per pound of body weight. For example, if you weigh 170 pounds, you should eat 170 grams of protein a day, according to the Institute of Medicine. Depending on your goal, you should consume more or less protein than that, and as you might expect, eating too much protein is usually counterproductive, so again, consult your physician for more specific guidelines.
What Types of Protein Should You Eat?
There are three primary sources of protein: animals, plants, and supplements. Animal sources include poultry, fish, and eggs, which are the most commonly consumed. These sources can also be combined with protein supplements or powders for additional muscle-building and muscle-burning benefits. Additionally, you can use plant-based proteins, such as lentils or almonds.
As with any large-scale undertaking, there are many factors to consider when formulating a muscle building or fat loss program. This is not to say that any diet program is right or wrong; it is simply to reiterate that these two lifestyle-oriented strategies do not necessarily contradict each other. Overall, the answer to improving one's physique is simple: eat less and move more. Many individuals take it one step further by focusing on macronutrients, and in the case of protein, that might not be the worst idea.