Muscle Building and Essential Amino Acids: How to Balance Dietary Sources and Protein Powders?

Protein is present in every cell and tissue in the human body. Not only does it support the proper function of the body, it is also essential for muscle growth as it helps repair and maintain muscle tissue.

Proteins are made up of 20 amino acids, which are the building blocks of cells and tissues in the body. Some can be synthesized by the body, while others cannot. The 9 amino acids that the human body cannot manufacture are called essential amino acids, and must be obtained through diet.

Why should we consume enough protein for building muscle?

When a person eats protein, it is digested and broken down into amino acids. Amino acids are involved in tissue growth and repair, support immune function and provide energy. Our cells are in the process of aging, and amino acids can provide materials for repairing old cells and producing new cells.

In order to build muscle, a person must consume more protein than what is broken down. Muscle cells are stimulated through resistance training, making the muscles under stress, they will send signals to allow the body to deliver amino acids to the muscles, thereby promoting muscle growth.

And even if we don’t do resistance training, muscles are constantly broken down and rebuilt. So, it is necessary for the people with workout habits to ensure adequate protein intake.

The Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) for protein is a modest 0.8 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight. This recommended intake is based on the minimum amount of activity an adult needs to prevent muscle loss. It’s the minimum amount you need to keep from diseases.

In other words, the RDA can only satisfy people who have no exercise habits, such as sedentary white-collar workers. If you want to build muscle, 0.8 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight is not enough. So how much protein should you eat to gain muscle?

How much protein do people need to build muscle?

Most studies so far have linked resistance training with high protein intake to increased lean mass and strength. But the jury is still out on the optimal amount of protein needed to build muscle. Because optimal protein intake depends on several factors, including age, gender, activity level, health status and other variables.

One 2020 meta-analysis published in the journal Nutrition Reviews found that protein doses ranging from 0.5 to 3.5 grams per kilogram of body weight may increase or maintain lean body mass. Slightly increasing protein take, as little as 0.1 grams per kilogram of body weight per day, can also help maintain or increase muscle mass.

Another 2022 meta-analysis concluded that consuming around 1.5 grams protein per kilogram of body weight per day, along with resistance training, has the best effect on muscle strength. Furthermore, the researchers noted that benefits of increased protein intake on strength and muscle mass do not appear to be greater at levels of 1.5 to 1.6 grams per kilogram of body weight per day.

According to the above analysis results, we can know that the daily protein range required for muscle gain should be 0.8 to 1.6 grams per kilogram of body weight.

The 2020-2025 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend that most healthy adults should get between 10-35% of their daily calories from protein. One gram of protein provides 4 calories. An adult who eats 1,500 calories per day would need to consume between 38 and 132 grams of protein per day.

If calculated on 0.8 to 1.6 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight, a 60-kg (132-pound) adult needs to consume between 48 and 96 grams of protein per day to meet muscle-building needs, which is higher than the recommended amount in dietary guidelines.

What are the best protein sources?

Sources of protein can be divided into dietary sources and supplemental sources, the most common being whey protein powder. There are two major sources of protein in the diet, namely animal-based food and plant-based food.

Animal-based protein sources are better than plant sources when it comes to building muscle mass. This is because animal-based food is digested and absorbed more easily by humans than plant-based food, so does protein.

Animal-based protein sources

  • lean meats
  • poultry
  • eggs
  • fish and seafood
  • dairy products
  • animal viscera

Plant-based protein sources:

  • beans
  • peas
  • nuts
  • lentils
  • seeds
  • soy products

Main type of protein powder

  • whey protein
  • casein protein
  • egg protein
  • pea protein
  • soy protein
  • mixed plant protein

Some plant-based proteins have low bioavailability and are difficult to digest. The exception is soy, which is highly bioavailable, high in amino acids, and easy to digest.

Most research suggests that eating more than 2 grams of protein per kg of body weight per day can cause health issues over time.

How to balance protein dietary sources and protein powders?

Most research suggests that eating more than 2 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight everyday can cause health issues over time. Symptoms of excessive protein intake include intestinal discomfort, nausea, dehydration, fatigue, weight gain, irritation, headache.

Recall the results of the study just mentioned that when a person guaranteed a daily protein intake of 1.6 grams per kilogram of body weight, his gains in muscle and strength leveled off. A large intake of protein is risky, and it cannot be assumed that more protein is better.

At present, there are a variety of protein powder products on the market with a sweet taste, easy to carry, easy to dissolve in water, and become a must-have for fitness and muscle gainers.

When you add protein powder to a shake cup, be careful how much you should eat, depending on your exercise intensity and weight. Depending on the product, protein powder contains several levels of protein per serving, 10 grams, 20 grams, 30 grams or more.

It is best not to eat more than 30 grams of protein per meal, which can reduce the burden of digestion and liver, and save your protein powder and money.

The best sources of protein are still animal foods. If you’re pressed for time and don’t have time to cook, protein powder can save time. It is best to choose whey protein powder and soy protein powder. Whey protein powders should not be consumed if you are lactose intolerant, as they may contain lactose.

GNC is like a health supplement supermarket, they offer protein products, vitamin supplements, healthy food & drink, etc. There are 2,318 GNC stores in the United States as of January 18, 2023.

You can find hundreds of protein products on their website, and you can filter protein powders according to the protein dosage per serving and your goals, which will help you find the right protein powder for you. The categories also include gluten-free, dairy-free, lactose-free, non-GMO, vegan, etc., to meet your individual dietary needs. Check GNC’s latest coupon and start your protein shopping.

Conclusion & Tips

  • Daily protein range required for muscle gain should be 0.8 to 1.6 grams per kilogram of body weight.
  • More protein is not always better. For muscle building, consuming more than 2 grams per kilogram of body weight per day is risky.
  • It is best not to consume more than 30 grams of protein per meal to reduce damage to the liver.
  • Animal-based source protein is easily digested and absorbed by us.
  • Protein should be obtained from the diet, protein powder can be a convenient protein supplement.
  • It is best to choose whey protein powder. People with lactose intolerance can choose soy protein powder and pea protein powder.
  • GNC offers a wide selection of protein powders for people with different training goals and diets, with more than 2,000 stores in the United States and hundreds of protein products and nutrition supplements.