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How much protein for a bodybuilder?

How much protein for a bodybuilder?


The subject of the amount of necessary protein comes back like a boomerang. You will easily find the recommendations online starting from 1.5 g per one kilogram of body mass up to the absurd 3.5 – 4.5 g. Scientific studies explain a lot of doubts except for the supply of protein in sports people – during building mass and body fat reduction. Remember, that the producers of nutritions (WPC, WPI, WPH, amino acids) care about increasing sales – therefore, it's very frequent that the “sponsored nutrition recommendations” promote ridiculously high amount of protein. Enjoy the read!

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In many studies you can find the following recommendations:

“current literature suggests that a resistant sports competitor will benefit from providing proteins even for 24 hours after finishing the workout, they deliberately use quickly-absorbing proteins in the amount of 0.25 g per one kilogram of body mass right after training (a man weighing 100 kg, 25 g of protein, e.g. WPC). During the day the scientists advise 0.25 g of protein every 4-5 hours and another portion of 0.25-0.5 g/kg of body mass before going to sleep.” [Nestle Nutr Workshop Ser, July 2013]

You shouldn't follow those recommendations without any second thought for two reasons:

  • many studies did not show advantages of supplying excessive amount of protein in diet, e.g. “for a physically inactive person, even 1.4 g per 1 kg of body mass was too much. The amount of 0.89 g per 1 kilogram of body mass turned out to be enough (balance). For the strength sports competitors the amount of 1.41 g per 1 kg of body mass ensured balance (equable protein turnover). Providing 2.4 g of protein per 1 kg of body mass (the high-protein group) – turned out to be too much for physically active athletes! There was no difference in the amount of protein, which was created in the bodies of the competitors from the high-protein group (2.4 g per 1 kg of body mass), and the moderate-protein group (1.41 g per 1 kg of body mass)”. [Evaluation of protein requirements for trained strength athletes]

  • There are many nutrition schemes which include intermittent fasting (IF) – which breaks the recommendations of providing protein every “4-5 hours”.

  • Supplying protein, without providing proper amount of carbohydrates and fats will not make your muscles grow fast. It will be opposite – that way you can efficiently limit the muscle mass gains!

  • Some studies proved that e.g. the weight lifting competitors consume far too much protein and fat, and too little carbohydrates [Sports Med. 2012].

20 healthy trained young sportsmen were tested on the amount of energy expenditure during one week. In the second week of the experiment they were given food providing 15% of protein and 100% of nutrtient value. In the next 2 weeks there was an intervention: diet based on 15% or 35% of protein and 60% of the current amount of energy supplied with food.

The sportsmen were divided into two groups:

15% of protein – 1 g of proteins per one kilogram of body mass, the control group CP,

35% of protein – 2.3 g of proteins per one kilogram of body mass, high protein group, HP.

The sportsmen trained for 4 weeks just like they did before the experiment.

It was checked how the various amount of protein in diet influences the following:

  • total body mass,

  • lean body mass (LBM),

  • fat mass (FM),

  • results: squat and jump, maximal isometric leg extension, bench press – 1 maximal repetition, bench press with the amount of repetitions and the Wingate test.

Additionally, blood samples were gathered and tested:

  • blood glucose,

  • non-esterified fatty acids (NEFA),

  • glycerol,

  • urea,

  • cortisol,

  • free testosterone,

  • non-bound insulin-like growth factor (IGF-1),

  • growth factor (GH),

at the end of each of the four weeks of observations.


  1. Total body mass – in the low-protein group decreased by 3 kilograms +/- 0.4 kg, in the high-protein group by 1.5 kg +/- 0.3 kg,

  2. Lean body mass (muscles): in the low-protein group: 1.6-kilogram loss +/- 0.3, in the high-protein group: 0.3-kilogram loss +/- 0.3 kg.

The diet did not have important influence on the loss of fat, worse endurance or majority of the metabolic parametres. In the high-protein group there was more urea and non-estrified fatty acids. The group of high protein was a bit tired and achieved worse results in everyday life.

Conclusions: larger amount of protein in diet may be indispensable to sustain muscle mass during body fat reduction (with limited calorific supply).

Conclusions and practical recommendations:

  • It is possible to find the recommendations ranging from 1.8 to 2.3 g of protein per 1 kilogram of body mass in literature for an active strength sports competitor. It can be assumed that lower or higher supply of protein may be inadvisable.

  • After resistance training you should provide the body with proper (to weight, age and hormonal profile) amount of protein and carbohydrates (e.g. 0.4 – 0.6 g of carbohydrates and 0.3 g of protein per each kilogram of body mass).

  • Theoretically, creatine may provide better effects if it is well adjusted right after workout, compared to using it before the workout. But 1 test is not enough to draw unabmibuous conclusions. Best results? A dose of creatine before and after training!

  • During the reduction phase, the increased amount of protein (2.3 g per 1 kg of body mass) may decrease the loss of lean body mass (i.e. mainly muscles) 5 times.

  • The speed of protein synthesis is the highest right after the training and for the next 24 hours, therefore, it's good to use that time to maximise the muscle mass gains (rest and supplying nutrients).

  • Increasing the amount of proteins in diet itself is not the way of increasing muscle mass.

  • The more advanced you are, the harder it is to build muscle mass.

  • Increasing body mass is not the same as increasing muscle mass.

  • Decreasing body mass doesn't mean removing fat.

Sources: “The time course for elevated muscle protein synthesis following heavy resistance exercise “ Can J Appl Physiol. 1995 Dec;20(4):480-6. 2. “Evaluation of protein requirements for trained strength athletes.” Tarnopolsky MA, et al. Show all J Appl Physiol. 1992 Nov;73(5):1986-95. 3. “The role of amino acids in skeletal muscle adaptation to exercise.” Nestle Nutr Inst Workshop Ser. 2013;76:85-102. doi: 10.1159/000350261. Epub 2013 Jul 25. 4. “Unique aspects of competitive weightlifting: performance, training and physiology.” Sports Med. 2012 Sep 1;42(9):769-90. doi: 10.2165/11633000-000000000-00000. 5. “Increased protein intake reduces lean body mass loss during weight loss in athletes.” Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2010 Feb;42(2):326-37. doi: 10.1249/MSS.0b013e3181b2ef8e. 6. „The effects of pre versus post workout supplementation of creatine monohydrate on body composition and strength.” J Int Soc Sports Nutr. 2013 Aug 6;10(1):36.