Protein is an essential macronutrient responsible for the growth and recovery of muscle tissue.
Multiple studies suggest that a daily protein intake of 1.6 – 2.2 grams per kilogram of body weight is optimal for muscle growth. For example, a person who weighs 80kg should consume between 128 – 176 grams of protein daily to maximise muscle-building potential.
A study published in the International Journal of Nutrients comparing protein requirements between males and females showed a protein intake of 1.6 grams per kilogram was adequate to support muscle protein synthesis for both genders, however, males displayed a significantly greater rate of protein synthesis.
Research widely suggests a consistent protein intake at various intervals throughout the day promotes more potential for muscle building as opposed to consuming one large amount of protein in a single meal. This is because our bodies are limited to how much protein we can absorb and utilise in one given hit. Research shows that protein amounts of 20-40 grams are sufficient to stimulate muscle protein synthesis at an optimised rate for 3-4 hours. However, amounts in excess of 40 grams may be appropriate for larger individuals who need a higher intake of protein to activate muscle protein synthesis as achieving this is usually correlated to bodyweight.
3-4 hours is the optimum timing of protein intake to contribute to a positive protein balance. However, it is also well known that consuming protein after exercise may influence muscle growth.
Research suggests that consuming 20-40 grams of protein within 60 minutes post-exercise may be the best time to maximise protein synthesis. This timeframe is known as the ‘anabolic window’ and is where the body is most responsive to protein intake. The timing of protein intake during this window is important because the damaged muscle fibre requires sufficient protein intake to stimulate muscle protein synthesis for recovery and growth.
Protein intake is essential for maintaining and building muscle mass. The recommended amount is somewhere between 1.6 – 2.2 grams per kilogram of body weight per day in regular servings amongst 20-40 grams every 3-4 hours to optimise muscle-building potential by frequently triggering muscle protein synthesis. However, it is important to remember protein requirements and recommendations may vary based on individual factors such as age, gender, physical activity level, body weight, body composition, training status and stimulus.