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January 14, 2022 8 min read

Every gym rat, athlete, or weekend warrior knows that proteins are the building blocks of muscle tissue. Which means it is a non-negotiable part of effective post workout nutrition.

If you want to build muscle, or at the very least prevent muscle loss, then you need protein. But how much protein powder do we need, from protein supplements and from food, for weight loss and muscle growth?

The short answer is: “It depends.” 

It depends on your height and weight, age, sex, and of course, activity level. We all have varying protein needs, but there is a standard recommendation to use as a baseline. For healthy adults,  the current protein RDA is 0.8 grams per kilogram of bodyweight  (That’s 0.36 grams per pound). 

For athletes and healthy individuals doing serious resistance training or endurance sports, the recommendation goes up.  

The RDA for that group is 1.2-1.7 grams per kilogram of bodyweight (that’s 0.5 to 0.8 grams per lb). In an attempt to gain mass, some men will eat up 2 grams of proteinper pound of bodyweight. This is ill advised, as the human body cannot physically use that much protein—no matter how hard you’re training. 

Eating excessive calories in an attempt to gain more protein will result in a “dirty bulk,” or growing muscle with excessive fat gain. Although it is not recommended for the general population, it may be appropriate for bodybuilding and strongman competitions where calorie surpluses of 1,000-2,000 kcal per day is common. For hypertrophy (muscle growth) with minimal fat gain, only a modest calorie surplus, such as 300-600 calories, is required. People looking for muscle mass should be going for a “clean bulk,” or gaining muscle with minimal fat gain.

  • For these examples we will use a 5 ft 10 in, 175 lb, active male with an average to athletic body mass, who does 1 hour of strength training and/or cardio five times per week.
  • For weight maintenance, he would need to eat 2800 calories per day.
  • For aggressive weight loss of 2 lbs per week, he would need to eat 2200 calories per day.
  • For bulking, he would need to eat 2800-3500 calories per day, depending on his goals.

person counting daily protein calories with app on smartphone

What Percentage of Calories are Coming from Protein?

For maintenance, based on the “0.8 grams per lb of bodyweight for athletic types” metric, that’s 140 grams of protein daily. Protein has 4 calories per gram, so that equates to 25% of our subject’s recommended caloric intake for maintaining weight. 25% of your total calories from protein is appropriate for gaining muscle. 

The  minimum RDA for protein intake 10% of total calories consumed, and the maximum RDA for protein is 35% calories.

Try to stay within this range. For muscle growth, 20%-30% is ideal. So the goal is to get plenty of protein in without going over on your calorie budget. How do we add more lean sources of protein into our diet? Here are a few tips to get plenty of protein without an excessive amount of calories:

1. Choose Low-Fat Protein Sources

Peanut butter, eggs with the yolk, full fat dairy, nuts and seeds, and fatty cuts of meat such as bacon, chicken wings, marbled, and beef all have plenty of protein, but they come with a whopping amount of fat calories as well. 

A gram of fat contains 9 calories, and a gram of protein contains 4 calories. 

So opting for primarily lean sources of protein is a good strategy to get more protein for your caloric buck. Fat calories are easy to come by, not the best at satisfying hunger, and an excessive amount of it can sabotage your gains by causing you to go over too far over your caloric budget.

2. Take a High Quality Protein Powder 

Think of your daily protein shake as a nutritional cheat code or protein insurance policy. Most protein powders will have at least 20 grams per scoop. Protein shakes are great for post workout feeding, but they’re also great way to break a fast, or stave off hunger. Protein intake increases satiation when you’re dealing with hunger. 

Both whey and plant protein powders are excellent sources of complete protein.

A high quality protein power will have a complete amino acid profile. Whey, pea, brown rice, water lentil, and hemp are all acceptable complete protein sources that come in powder form. If you're on a dairy free or plant-based diet, VEG PRO is a great option to reach your daily protien needs. It is a complete, 100% dairy free, vegan plant protein that contains 20 grams of protein per serving with a variety of delicious flavors like peanut butter, hot cocoa, and cookies and cream.

3. Carbs Have Protein Too

Sometimes we think of foods like bread, pasta, rice, oats, and other grains as only providing two macronutrients—carbs and fiber. The reality is, hearty, unprocessed whole grains are excellent sources of carbohydrates, fiber, and protein.

Whole grains are actually protein-rich foods.

Opt for a hearty sprouted grain bread instead of white bread. Buy whole grain pasta. Cook with steel cut oats and brown rice. This will help boost your protein intake without going crazy on the excess fat calories in meat and dairy.

How Much Protein is Too Much?

Studies suggest  that 25 grams of protein in one sitting (1.5-2 hours) is about how much the average human body can use at a time to synthesize muscle protein. Protein synthesis is maximized in young adults around this point. For larger and older people, 30-40 grams of protein may be appropriate. For this reason, small frequent meals and protein-rich foods is generally considered the best way to go if you’re trying to reach the upper protein intake threshold with a high-protein diet. 5 servings of 30 grams of protein gets your to 150 grams of daily protein, which is an appropriate amount for a healthy, average sized male.

Whey Protein or Plant Protein?

The quality of a protein can be assessed by the amino acid profile. You want to use protein supplements that are high in branch chain amino acids (BCAAs). The BCAA’s are leucine, isoleucine, and valine.

Leucine is the most important of the amino acids when it comes to muscle protein synthesis (MPS).

You can find substantial amounts of leucine in both whey, and pea protein powders, the two dominant sources of protein powders on the market. Whey, brown rice, and pea protein powders will help you achieve your gains.

It’s a myth that you can’t get protein from plants. 

The best protein supplement is one that you can take regularly with little side effects such as stomach issues, and one that you enjoy the taste of and look forward to taking. 

Check out this vegan bodybuilder who has never eaten meat in his life:


What is a Complete Protein?

Essential amino acids are the one that your body cannot produce, so a complete protein is one that contains all 9 of the essential amino acids. 

These include:

  • Lysine
  • Valine
  • Leucine
  • Iso-leucine
  • Histidine
  • Methionine
  • Phenylalanine
  • Tryptophan
  • Threonine

If a protein source is lacking one of these amino acids, it is not considered a complete protein. For protein powders, it’s best to make sure yours is made from complete sources of protein like pea, whey, and brown rice. Does an amino acid profile need to come from the same ingredient source to be absorbed and utilized properly by the body?  No, it does not!

Your body is smart enough to combine and use amino acids from different foods, thereby creating a complete amino acid profile!

Rice and beans is a common example. Rice is low in lysine but high in methionine. Beans are high in lysine, but low in methionine. The key is to diversify your protein portfolio and refrain from putting all of your amino acid eggs in one basket.

When to Take Protein Powder

Pre and post workout protein shakes are both considered effective times for protein supplementation.It is important to note that only a limited amount of protein can be used by the body at a time. For lean muscle growth, and smooth digestion, it is best to eat small, frequent protein rich foods, even beyond your initial post workout meal.

How to Use Protein Powder

  1. Shakes: The most common and obvious way to take protein powder is to make a shake out of it. Most gym goers and fitness enthusiasts have more blender bottles than they need. If you have a good brand of flavored protein powder, it should taste good and blend well with just water. Plant-based alternatives such as almond milk, pea milk, and oat milk add a creamy consistency to protein shakes.
  1. Smoothies: If you like making smoothies, a great protein powder can turn any smoothie into a tasty, gains inducing treat. Mild flavors like vanilla tend to pair well with a variety of fruits. If you hate tasting even the slightest bit of chalkiness or residual powder in your shakes, then you might want to consider smoothies.
  1. Recipes: You can turn oatmeal and other cereals into protein rich, flavorful masterpieces with this kitchen hack. Try adding ½ serving of protein powder to every serving of oats. If you’re doing overnight oats, just pour a protein shake over the oats and let it sit in the fridge over night.

Who Shouldn’t Take Protein Powder?

High protein consumption is generally regarded as safe, except for populations with kidney disorders and diseases. People with kidney issues should be especially cautious before taking a protein powder. 

Those with food allergies and sensitivities should also be cautious when deciding on a protein powder.

If you have a lactose intolerance, either a plant protein or a whey isolate, will do. Whey concentrations contain casein, a slow digesting, yet effective milk protein. Casein protein is not tolerated by everyone, therefore, whey isolates are becoming common.

Don’t Forget the Carbs

It’s clear that protein is important for muscle growth, but it isn’t the only thing. Carbohydrates are important for muscle growth because they are “protein sparing,” meaning that your body will choose carbohydrates as energy before breaking down proteins and thus, muscle tissue. Your muscles also hold a certain amount of glycogen, or, what carbs turn into in your body.  

If you eat carbs, you will be able to do more with a lower daily protein intake.

Low carb and ketogenic diets are not the optimal  macronutrient distributions for muscle growth

Carbohydrates also help fuel your workout. Your muscles can’t perform their best without them, which is why HYPERADE is a great choice to fuel your intense training sessions. HYPERADE is a fast-digesting carb, electrolyte and liquid amino replacement for advanced glycogen support designed to replace delpeted muscle glycoge stores lost during grueling training sessions.

Protein Powders are a Tool for Success

Protein powders are a valuable tool in your arsenal. As the most satiating macronutrient, protein plays a key role in helping us feel full. Replacing simple carbs or high fat snacks with high protein alternatives can be a great strategy for curbing your appetite.

While it’s not recommended to consume excessive amounts of protein shakes, raw eggs and meat, it can be helpful to have up to 2 servings a of protein powder a day. 

For hypertrophy and “clean bulking,” a slight calorie surplus with a substantial amount of protein, 0.8 grams per kg of bodyweight, is appropriate. Protein supplements are a covenient way to sneak larger amounts of protein into your diet without having to consume excessive amounts of meat.

For those who are on calorie controlled diets, the caloric efficiency of this protein source is unbeaten and the metabolic advantages of regular protein powder supplementation should be enough to make protein powder a staple in your pantry.