Can You Gain Muscle Without Protein Powder?

There seems to be a growing trend in the fitness community. A lot of people seem to have a misguided view of the role supplements take in building muscle.

Many of them believe drinking protein shakes are so important you can’t build muscle without them. So let’s set the record straight.

You can ABSOLUTELY build muscle without protein powder. If this is the magic bullet you’re looking for, it’s not going to work out the way you want, unfortunately.

Now that we have that out of the way, how much protein do we actually need? And what sources should we be getting them from?

Read on to find out!

Can You Build Muscle Without Protein?

This is a common question I hear a lot from people, and it’s something that you absolutely need to understand if you want to build the most muscle possible.

While you definitely can build muscle without protein powder, you cannot build muscle without the right amount of protein.

It’s going to be incredibly inefficient, you aren’t going to recover as quickly between workouts, and your body just isn’t going to appreciate it very much.

Can You Build Muscle Without Protein
If you try to build muscle without getting enough protein in, don’t be suprised if Gordon Ramsey calls you an idiot sandwich.

I’ll go over how much protein you need in the next section but realize that the DRI (Dietary Reference Intake) that official nutrition organizations recommend are for sedentary individuals.

They recommend 46 grams for women and 56 grams for men.

So if your family is telling you you’re going to damage your kidneys because you’re eating more than 46-56 grams of protein per day, it’s just not the case at all.

If you’re training hard, your body needs more protein to maintain and build muscle mass, as well as assist in recovery.

So if you ever ask yourself, “can I build muscle without protein?” know that you’re not going to be building muscle optimally and might just be spinning your wheels in the gym if you don’t have the correct amounts.

That being said, let’s go over how much protein do you actually need to build muscle now!

How Much Protein Do You Need To Build Muscle?

how much protein do you need to build muscle

A lot of people tend to think they need tons of protein to build muscle. But in reality, you require a lot less than you think!

The minimum amount necessary to build muscle and optimize your training is around 0.8 grams per pound of bodyweight. This might seem low, but it’s the perfect amount when you factor in the increased calories from carbohydrates.

Carbohydrates are incredibly good at maintaining muscle mass, on top of that, they’re critical for fueling training and building muscle tissue.

Because you should be in a calorie surplus to gain muscle, the increased carbs and calorie intake contribute more to building muscle than excessive amounts of protein.

This allows us to eat less protein, save money on expensive supplements and eat tastier foods.

The only other thing to consider is that you actually want to consume MORE protein when you’re trying to lose body fat! The main reason is that they’re much more satiating than fats and carbs; they fill you up more.

Also, because you need to be in a calorie deficit to lose body fat, you have to lower your carbohydrate and fat intake at some point. Your protein shouldn’t lower as well, however, because you need it to maintain and even build a little muscle on a cut.

And yes, it is possible to build muscle and lose fat at the same time. There’s a catch to it, but I go over that in this article.

The highest range you should go to is 1.25 grams of protein per pound of bodyweight. 

For a 200 pound man, here are his recommend protein intakes depending on if he’s trying to lose fat or gain muscle.

  • Build muscle; 0.8 grams: 160 grams of protein
  • Maintain body weight; 1 gram: 200 grams of protein
  • Lose fat; 1.25 grams: 250 grams of protein

And with that, we now know how much protein we need to build muscle! Definitely not as much as you thought I’m guessing, huh?

Do You Need Protein Post-Workout?

Pretty much everybody has heard about the post-workout eating window. This is the period following a workout where you can optimize recovery and performance by consuming fast-digesting proteins, carbohydrates, and other nutrients.

In the grand scheme of a total diet and training program, this “window” is elevated up to 6 hours after training. While muscle protein synthesis is elevated for up to 24 hours or longer post-workout.

Because of this, as long as you’re consuming enough protein every day, your muscle protein synthesis will be maxed out regardless of when you consume them. Splitting them up across the day and consuming them post-workout as well will give you the best results, however.

how much protein do you need post workout
You definitely don’t need to be walking around with a full bottle of protein powder like Branch Warren does. He’s an IFBB professional bodybuilder, odds are you’re not.

Do you absolutely have to have protein in that 30-minute eating window? No, you definitely don’t. Overall calorie and macronutrient intake over the entire day matters much more for body composition.

If you want to get that last 5% of gains, consuming a post-workout shake with protein will help. It definitely has benefits; just don’t think that it is a magic bullet that cures everything.

Does Increased Protein Intake Cause Kidney Problems?

A ton of claims have come up in past years about protein intake causing kidney problems. Are these claims unfounded, or do they actually have scientific backing to prove them?

Short answer: yes and no.

Does Increased Protein Intake Cause Kidney Problems?
This suckers are much better at their job than people give them credit for I promise.

The kidneys serve as the body’s “water filter”; they eliminate unneeded substances and other waste products in the body. Any excess nutrients filter through it and are either stored or excreted from the body.

This myth is still going around due to research stating that high-protein diets increase how hard the kidneys have to work. The catch is this only occurs in those who already have damaged kidney function or chronic kidney disease.

For those with healthy kidneys, increased protein intake leads to hyperfiltration. This might sound dangerous, but it’s not. It simply means your body is adapting to the increased protein intake.

Basically, your kidneys become better at metabolizing excess protein. 

So to put this one to rest, if you don’t have pre-existing kidney dysfunctions, you aren’t at risk of developing them due to increased protein intake.

End of story!

Foods High In Protein

Foods High In Protein
When in doubt, pick animal protein sources as they’ll usually be the highest in micronutrients as well as protein.

When it comes to finding protein-rich food sources, there’s a lot to choose from, honestly. Here’s a small list of the main ones that most people should know about.

  • eggs
  • leaner cuts of beef
  • chicken breasts
  • turkey breasts
  • beans, such as garbanzo beans or black beans
  • shrimp
  • nuts and seeds, such as pumpkin seeds, peanuts, and almonds
  • fish, including salmon, flounder, and haddock
  • sprouted grain bread, such as Ezekiel bread
  • whey or plant protein shakes
  • lentils
  • quinoa
  • chickpeas
  • oats
  • dairy products, such as Greek yogurt, cow’s milk, or cheese
  • vegetables, including Brussels sprouts and broccoli

This is just a basic list of some of the best sources out there. Even if you’re vegan, you can find protein-rich sources as well. Stick to this list, and you’ll get a ton of other benefits as well.

Protein Powder To “Supplement” Your Diet!

Protein Powder To "Supplement" Your Diet!

Protein powder and other supplements are meant to “supplement” your diet. The more you get from natural sources, the better.

Suppose you need more protein and can’t stomach more protein powder. Suppose you need more vitamins and minerals, supplement. If you have low testosterone, you might need TRT

Get your diet in line first and supplement from there. Not the other way around.

Now that we have the main questions out of the way, we’re going to end on protein powders to supplement your diet.

That “supplement” word is the most important part. Any diet’s goal is to stick to whole food options that give you a varied range of micronutrients.

Suppose you only consume Gatorade, butter, and protein powder (a disgusting combination, I know). In that case, you’re going to miss out on a ton of vitamins and minerals necessary for maintaining a healthy body.

With that being said, some people have issues with eating a lot of protein. I actually had somebody say that 150 grams of protein are a lot. Mind you, this person was over 200 lbs, so I’m not sure where his appetite went…

For these people, I recommend supplementing with protein shakes to get enough protein every day. The best option for this that I’ve found is Syntha 6 EDGE Protein Powder.

I love this type of protein so much because it combines 6 different types of protein powder into one formula.

Those protein powders being; Whey Protein Concentrate, Whey Protein Isolate, Hydrolyzed Whey Protein, Calcium Caseinate, Micellar Casein, Milk Protein Concentrate.

The other reason is that their Chocolate Milkshake protein is absolutely delicious. I make iced protein coffee with it every morning, and it’s fantastic.


Hopefully, this article helped you all out! As you can see, the amount of protein you need isn’t as high as you might think.

0.8-1.25 grams per pound of bodyweight should cover all your needs no matter who you are.

Here’s something to leave you all with, who do you think pedals higher protein intakes than that? Protein supplement companies!

They want you to think protein intakes of 2 grams per pound of bodyweight are the norm. They definitely are not, so don’t buy into the hype. While having protein shakes to supplement your diet is a good idea, it isn’t necessary.

You can build muscle without them; it just depends on your appetite and budget. Some meat is expensive based on where you live, after all!

Until next time,

-Dante Redgrave

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