February 20, 2014

How much protein should you consume?

February 20, 2014
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How much protein should you consume?

Protein Basics with Thomas Hicks.  Qualified Dietician and Natural Bodybuilder.


Protein – Proteins are the building blocks for the formation of new muscle tissue. Without protein in your diet you will not build muscle.  Proteins are made up of amino acids. There are 21 amino acids, 9 of them being essential and 12 being non-essential. Essential amino acids have to be consumed through the diet as the body cannot produce them. To maximize muscle building response all 21 amino acids should be present within the blood stream. Eating a variety of protein sources at each meal will ensure a blend of amino acids.

How much protein should I consume?You may believe that the body can only absorb a set amount of protein.  It’s a common belief for gym goers to think that the body can only absorb 30 to 40 g of protein per meal. Well this is actually incorrect.

Unless you have had a section of your gastro intestinal system removed or you have a protein enzyme deficiency, then you will actually breakdown and absorb all of the protein you consume whether its 30 g or 100g assuming it’s a bio-available source.  When you consume the larger amounts of protein the digestion process just slows down to deal for the large influx of amino acids.

Individuals looking to gain muscle and reduce body-fat need to think about protein intake.  It’s not how much protein you are going to absorb, but the optimal quantity the body needs to maximize the muscle building anabolic response.

Individuals often assume the amount of protein that is being absorbed into the bloodstream is representative of it utilisation.  Typically 30 to 40 grams of a high quality protein will generally be enough to maximise the anabolic response.

However, say you consume 100g of protein, think how much of this protein is actually going to help build new muscle tissue and how the rest is going to be used? Making new skin cells, bone growth, hair growth etc.  There is only a certain percentage of this protein that will actually be used to activate the muscle protein synthesis response which in turn will trigger muscle growth. The rest is used in other ways. If too much is consumed then it will be stored as fat. A general rule of thumb is that ‘all roads lead to fat’. If we eat too much of anything it will be stored as fat.


The Importance of Leucine

The essential amino acid leucine which is present in varying amounts within all sources of protein has been shown to be the amino acid that is primarily responsible for activating the muscle protein synthesis response. Leucine bypasses the gut and liver and is not significantly extracted.

For the average 200lbs athlete, consuming a meal that contains 2-3 g of leucine is a suitable quantity to aim for; this value will maximize the muscle synthesis response.


  • d. paddon-Jones, M. sheffield-Moore et al., Am J physiolEndocrinolMetab., 286, pp. E321-328 (2004).
  • K.d. Tipton, A.A. Ferrando et al., Am J physiol., 276, pp. E628-634 (1999).




The following are protein sources rich in leucine and therefore need to form an essential part of your diet:

  • Chicken
  • Lean beef
  • Whole eggs
  • Whey protein


Alternative Protein Sources.

Gluten and soy protein will naturally be lower in leucine, therefore you will have to consume more of them to maximise you muscle protein synthesis response. You would have to eat lots of gluten or soy to get equivalent of leucine compared to other sources such as: eggs ,beef and whey.

Remember, when consuming a protein source, ideally you want high amounts of leucine per serving to maximise muscle growth.



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