August 09, 2021 9 min read

Bodybuilders know that the bodybuilding building blocks consist of two main phases - the bulking phase, and the maintenance phase.

There is also a cutting phase if you are competing, but if you are not competing, then what you are trying to do is build up your muscle and then, once you have reached your intended level, to maintain it. In both of these processes, it is important to watch and increase the amount of protein you take.

This means that it is also important to understand how protein works and why it is important. If you are pushing your body to the limit, then you need to do it with respect and knowledge about what it is you are doing.

So here, in this article, we will tell you about the job that protein does when you are bulking, why it is important, and how you can get the best and most effective gains. So without any more precursors, let’s kick this off.

What Is Protein?

The first thing to do when you are starting to work out and build up muscle is understand what protein is and how it is involved in this process. Protein is a macronutrient that is built from sets of amino acids that are strung together into chains.

Chemical molecular formulas of amino acids

Your body naturally produces protein, but there is some that you need to get from external sources (these are called essential amino acids).These kinds of proteins you need to get from your food, and they are important for building things from muscles to organs to your hair.

When people visualize protein, they often think of different kinds of meat - but that is not the only source of protein. It is also important to understand that there are healthier sources of protein and unhealthier ones.

If you have access to a sports nutrition expert (nutritionist) or registered dietitian it is recommended that you talk to them about the best sources of protein for your specific body and workout routine.

Why Is Protein Important for Building Muscle?

In order for your body to build muscle, it needs to be able to synthesize more muscle protein than it is able to break down. This is undeniably why you need protein in order to build up muscle.

Less protein in your diet will lead to muscle loss.

You also need to combine that with a proper workout routine. If you are working out your muscles you will need protein to cover the calorie costs, and if you are eating protein you need to work out in order to cover the extra calorie intake.

Why Is Protein Important for Weight Loss?

If you are trying to lose body fat but build up your muscle mass and strength, then protein can be a real help. Protein can increase the number of calories that you burn while working out, and it can stimulate your metabolic rate (depending of course on your body composition).

This means that it can reduce your appetite and help you only eat what you need to in order to gain muscle mass. Even if you increase your protein intake by 15 to 18 percent of calories, then it can help you reduce the amount of fat you will regain after your weight loss by up to 50 percent.

Are You Getting Enough Protein?

If you do not have any dietary restrictions or any contrary doctor’s recommendations, then you should have a daily protein intake of 50 grams (or around 0.8 grams of daily protein per kilogram of body weight). However, if you want to actually put on muscle tissue, then you will need to have a higher protein intake than that.

Professional athletes will consume around 2 grams of protein per kilogram (per 2.2 pound of body weight) every day. If you are starting to bulk up, you should try to get up near that level of protein per day for the beginning of your workout routine. Once you achieve maintenance levels, then you should dial that number down to between 1.2 grams to 1.6 grams of protein per kilogram.

Where Can I Get The Protein I Need?

When you are at the end of your bulking process, it is alright for you to eat less protein, as the closer you get to your genetic limit when it comes to muscle growth the slower your gains will be, and the lower your protein consumption should be.

If you are at the beginning of your process, however, then you will need to consume a high-protein diet.

So here is a handy list of all the foods you can get all your protein requirements from:

  • Chicken Breast: 33g of protein per 100g
  • Cod: 18g of protein per 100g
  • Whey Protein: 80 to 90g of protein per 100g
  • Vegan Protein: 70 to 80g of protein per 100g
  • Clams and Other Molluscs: 48g of protein per 100g
  • Low-sodium Parmesan Cheese: 42g of protein per 100g
  • Tofu: 17g of protein per 100g
  • Lean Beef: 36g of protein per 100g
  • Lamb: 25g of protein per 100g
  • Pork Tenderloin: 23g of protein per 100g
  • Soya Protein Isolate: 88g of protein per 100g
  • Eggs: 12.5g of protein per 100g
  • Grilled Salmon: 24.2g of protein per 100g
  • Tuna: 23g of protein per 100g
  • Grilled pork chop: 31g per 100g

Am I Eating Too Much Protein?

It is absolutely possible to have too much protein in your diet.

If that happens, you may put yourself at risk of kidney stones, or you might develop heart issues or colon cancer. Make sure you are doing everything properly and not going over your protein needs to the point of endangering your health. Bulking up is a process and not one that you can speed up by eating a bunch of red meat at once and going to the gym for 10 hours a day.

What Are My Calorie Recommendations?

If you are trying to bulk up, then it is necessary that you ingest more calories than you need to maintain your weight. In general, people aim for about a 500 caloric increase over what you already ingest.

This would mean that if you were the average person and you maintain your weight at around 2000 daily calories (this obviously depends on your activity level and body type), then you should aim for 2500 calories for the period that you are bulking.

This will help you build muscle much faster (when coupled with hitting the gym frequently).You can calculate your energy needs fairly easily, and then all you need to do is add 500 calories to the result that you get.

Here is a handy guide for calculating your energy needs (you should multiply it by 1.5 to 1.8, the lower being for a sedentary day and the upper being for when you are doing strength training, cardio, or resistance training):

Men: Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR) = 88.362 + (13.397 × your weight in kg) + (4.799 × your height in cm) – (5.677 × your age in years)

Women: BMR = 447.593 + (9.247 × your weight in kg) + (3.098 × your height in cm) – (4.330 × your age in years)

If you have access to a dietitian, then it would be better to consult them on how many calories you spend a day and how much you should increase in order to gain muscle mass.

As much as this information can help you in your daily life, it is always best to leave it to the professionals if you have the chance. They might also give you more info on the kinds of foods you should switch to for better and healthier results.

What Are Your Carbohydrate Recommendations?

Carbohydrates are the main source of fuel for your body, so if you are bulking, you will need to make sure you are consuming enough carbohydrates. This also means that you should take note when you are consuming carbohydrates - you should be consuming these both before and after your workout, before so you can have energy for your training, and after so you can replace those lost calories and replenish your glycogen stores.

For your glycogen stores, after your workout, you should be consuming 0.8 g/kg of bodyweight of carbs (as well as 0.4 g/kg of protein). This means that if you are an average person of 68 kg or 150 lb, then you will want to consume 55 grams of carbs (as well as 27 grams of protein).

This can be something such as chocolate milk, which contains the perfect carb to protein ratio, or a carb-heavy snack such as bananas with a protein-heavy snack such as Greek yogurt.As for the amount that you should be consuming for the whole day, you should get about 4 to 7 g/kg of carbohydrates. This means that if you are an average person of 68 kg or 150 lb, then you should consume around 270 to 480 grams per day.

What Are Your Fats Recommendations?

Fats are often overlooked in fitness routines, even sometimes being demonized as bad for you and your health, but the truth is, a healthy amount of fats is absolutely essential for the regulation of your hormones.

This means that fats are responsible for the production of testosterone, which as you may already be aware, is absolutely essential to the building of muscle. If you lower your fat intake and your testosterone levels drop, you may be looking at a loss in muscle mass.

It is recommended that during your initial phase, the bulking phase, you should get anywhere from 20 to 30 percent of your calories from fat. If you are worried about the kind of fats you are putting in your body, you can opt for monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats. You can find these kinds of fats in avocados, nuts, seeds, fatty fish, olive oil, etc.

What Supplements Should You Take?

We have all heard of protein powder but have you heard of creatine supplements? If you feel that you are not getting what you need from your meals and you want to get more benefits, you can try adding a creatine supplement into your routine. Creatine supplements can help you increase both your strength and mass gains when you are going through your bulking period.

Structural chemical formula of creatine molecule

You should be aware, however, that this is only supplementation - they will neither be the only thing you will need in order to bulk up nor would they be essential for bulking if you are taking care of your food intake. If you are still considering taking it, however, this is the amount we recommend during the different phases. You should consume these supplements with 50 grams of protein and carbohydrates for maximum effectiveness.

Bulking phase: 20 grams a day split equally into 4 doses for 5 to 7 days.

Maintenance phase: one dose of 3 to 5 grams per day until you are done bulking

Q&A Section

1. Why was I not able to lift my usual amount during my workout?

If you find yourself not being able to lift as much as you were lifting before, it likely indicates that you are low in glycogen stores. This means you will want to eat starchy foods high in glycogen, such as pasta, rice, potatoes, quinoa, and leguminous plants.

2. Why did I feel more tired than usual?

If you are lacking in energy, then it is time to get some carbs in you. They provide fast-acting energy and can help if you are feeling more tired than you usually are.

3. Why did I experience brain fog?

Brain fog is characterized by difficulty thinking or concentrating - when your brain feels a little bit “foggy” or “sluggish”. This kind of feeling is quite common (like for example when people are sick with the flu or something), however, if it gets severe, then you might need to look into getting more carbohydrates in you since this is what your brain runs on.

4. Why do I feel shaky after my workout?

Feeling shaky after working out is never good. If this happens to you, it likely means your blood sugar is low. Carbs, as well as sugars, should help this feeling go away.

5. Why am I more tired than usual?

We realize it might look like we are beating a dead horse, but the solution to this problem is also to increase your carbohydrate intake. Often when people are trying to bulk up, they increase their protein intake but they neglect their carb intake, and although protein is important, carbs are what make your body run and work out with ease.

Final Verdict

Now, we know this is a lot of info. However, the main thing is - in the end, you will have to see what kind of diet is best for you. Every body’s journey is different, and now that you have all the info, you can go out and make better and more informed decisions about your diet.

The only things you should keep in mind are: keep your calorie intake high, eat adequate protein for muscle building, consume enough carbs so you can keep up your energy levels, keep eating good kinds of fats (and legumes, and whole foods too), keep up to date with the science, and finally, enjoy this journey.