Can You Gain Muscle Without Protein?

Protein is essential to the body. They’re basically the building blocks of life.

Kind of like Midi-chlorians in Star Wars. Without them, we would have no knowledge of the Force, and life could not exist. Damn you, George Lucas…

Your muscle tissue is constructed of amino acids, which is why your body needs enough protein to build more muscle.

However, it isn’t just protein that allows for this – carbs, healthy fats, electrolytes, and your overall muscle building training are important as well.

While they aren’t the only thing to consider, you absolutely cannot build muscle without protein.

So let’s cover the basics of how much protein you need, and other vital things you need to consider if you want to gain the most muscle possible.

How Much Protein Your Body Needs To Build Muscle Tissue

how much protein do you need edited 1

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 of protein necessary to build muscle mass and optimize your strength training is around 0.8 grams of protein per pound of body weight.

This might seem low, but it’s the perfect amount when you factor in the increased total 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 for muscle growth to occur, the increased carbs and calorie intake contribute more to muscle building than an excessive amount of protein.

This allows us to eat just enough 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 allow for building muscle on a cut.

And yes, it is possible to build muscle mass and lose weight at the same time.

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

For a 200-pound man, here is how much protein you should consume to lose weight, maintain, or train for muscle growth.

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

And with that, we now know how much protein we need to maximize our chances of building muscle!

Definitely not as much as you thought I’m guessing, huh?

Do You Need Protein Post Workout?

Pretty much everybody has heard about that “golden eating window” after your workout.

This is the period following a workout where you can optimize recovery and performance by consuming fast-digesting amino acids, 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 after your workout.

Because of this, as long as you’re consuming enough protein in your diet, your muscle protein synthesis will be maxed out regardless of when you consume them.

Splitting them up across the day and after training 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 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 some protein powder with fast digestings carbs after your workout 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?
These 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!

The Best Foods That Are High In Protein

Foods High In Protein
When in doubt, pick animal 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 as they’re highly bioavailable options and some have healthy fats as well.

  • 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.

Can You Build Muscle Without Protein Powder?

Protein Powder To "Supplement" Your Diet!

Some think that protein powder is “required” to build muscle. And hey guess what, they’re wrong!

You can absolutely build muscle without protein powder.

They’re just another way to supplement your diet when it’s hard to get certain nutrients in food form. The more you get from natural sources, the better.

Get your diet in line first and supplement with protein powders after. Not the other way around.

That “supplement” word is the most important part. Any diet’s goal is to stick to whole food sources 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 g of protein is a lot. Mind you, this person was over 200 lbs, so I’m not sure where his appetite went…

For these people, I recommend a protein supplement to get enough protein every day.

The best option for this that I’ve found is Syntha 6 EDGE Protein Powder.

I love these types of protein powders so much because they combine 6 different types of amino acids into one formula.

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

The Best Type Of Training For Muscle Growth

If you want to get the most out of your workouts, you need to be following a structured resistance training plan.

Here are the five principles you need to follow to allow for the best gains possible.

  • Train To Failure – This is by far the most important factor necessary to build new muscle tissue. Mechanical tension is the primary driver of muscle growth. This is just a fancy way of saying your muscles need to slow down involuntarily because they literally cannot produce any more force to move the load. By training to failure, you kick off the signals necessary for muscle growth to occur.
  • Apply Progressive Overload – Training to failure is important, but if you just keep adding more and more sets, you’re going to spin your wheels. This is where progressive overload comes into play! All this means is you need to do more reps or move more weight than you did previously. If you did 6 reps this week with 200, your goal is to push to failure and beat 6 reps the following week with the same weight. Or, once you get to 8 reps with 200, you move up to 205 lbs and kick off the whole process again. And no, adding more sets isn’t progressive overload.
  • Pick The Best Exercises For The Job – If you apply progressive overload while pushing to failure on subpar movements, you’re going to make progress. However, by choosing the RIGHT movements for your structure that train the muscles properly, you’re setting yourself up for BIG gains! Say you want a bigger chest and barbell benching isn’t cutting it. Well, you need better movements that provide more stability and train the pecs through horizontal adduction. Two things the barbell bench press is poor at. So choosing something like a cable press or even a converging chest machine would be much better to build muscle in the chest.
  • Train In The 5-8 Rep Range – While all the rep ranges from 5-30 reps with the proper intensity will build muscle, the more reps you do, the more fatigue you’re going to accumulate. So there really isn’t any benefit to doing reps higher than 8 as they just require more recovery time anyways.
  • Execute Each Movement Properly – You can add a ton of weight to your lifts, train to failure, use the right movements, and do your lifts in the best rep range possible. But without the proper execution of the exercises you choose, none of it is going to matter. You should be moving the weight with as much force as possible, while also lowering the movement with complete control. If you aren’t lifting with intent and doing the exercises correctly, nothing else we went over before matters.

That’s pretty much it!

  • Pick the best movements for your structure.
  • Train to complete muscular failure in the 5-8 rep range.
    • If you do more than 8 reps, add weight the following week.
    • If you do less than 8, perform the same weight again the next week but beat your reps.
  • Perform each exercise you do with the proper execution.
  • Repeat forever!

This is the best way to train for muscle growth.

Of course, your body needs a calorie surplus and at least 0.8 grams of protein per lb of body weight.

Do those two things and you’re set.

Conclusion

As you can see, it’s not possible to build muscle without protein. But it’s not as much as supplement companies will have you believe!

0.8-1.25 grams of protein per lb of body weight should cover everything your body 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 lb of body weight are the norm. They definitely are not, so don’t buy into the hype.

While having shakes to supplement your diet is a good idea, it isn’t necessary.

Until next time,

-Dante Redgrave

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