Macronutrient Needs—The Importance of Protein and Carbohydrates
Welcome to Lesson #2. Today, we’ll dive into your macronutrient needs, paying particular attention to the role of protein and carbohydrates when it comes to muscle building.
Let’s dive in.
We all know that protein is an important part of the diet, but this is especially true when trying to build muscle mass in a calorie surplus.
How Much Protein Is Enough Protein?
Research shows that a daily protein intake between 0.6-0.9g per lb (1.3-2g per kg) of bodyweight is adequate for maximizing protein synthesis. This same study also recommends that eating closer to the 0.9g per lb (2g per kg) mark may be advantageous for those eating in calorie deficit to help preserve muscle mass.
Another study found that 0.8g per lb (1.8g per kg) of bodyweight is the optimal daily intake to promote muscle growth in those who perform regular strength training. The researchers of this study also noted that those who perform endurance as opposed to strength can get away with as little as 0.5-0.6g per lb (1.1-1.3g per kg) of bodyweight.
At the same time, one more study concluded that their results were “unable to show any significant evidence indicating that protein intakes above 2.0g per kg [0.9g per lb] per day [were effective] for enhancing strength and body composition changes in college strength/power athletes.” This study in particular highlights the fact that protein intake above 1g per lb (2.2g per kg) of bodyweight is not necessary for the recreational to semi-serious weightlifter, given that even under the physical demands of their training, college strength and power athletes gained no additional benefits from a protein intake over 2g per kg (0.9g per lb).
Where does this leave us?
Right here: The optimal protein intake to build muscle mass is 0.6-0.9g per lb (1.3-2g per kg) of bodyweight, with the idea of sticking closer to 0.9g per lb (2g per kg) when eating in a calorie deficit and closer to 0.6g per lb (1.3g per kg) when eating in a calorie surplus.
Now, going over this recommendation isn’t bad for you, but it will impact your intake of fat and carbs, which can affect your performance in the gym.
What about Carbs?
Research shows that glycogen stored in your muscles is the primary fuel source of moderate to intense exercise. Add to this research showing that a sufficient carbohydrate intake that keeps your muscle and liver glycogen stores full can improve workout performance.
Not only those, but this research shows that a low carbohydrate intake (approx. 220g per day) compared against a high carbohydrate intake (approx. 350g per day) resulted in more strength lost, slower recovery, and lower levels of protein synthesis.
So, regardless of whether you’re trying to lose fat and preserve muscle mass or gain muscle and minimize fat gain, you can begin to see why a moderate to high carbohydrate intake is beneficial if you’re strength training regularly.
Obviously, depending on your total daily calorie allowance, your carb intake may not be that high, but it does go to show that keeping your carbs as high as possible can result in improved performance in the gym, which translates to more progressive overload, more strength, and more gains.
Recommended Macronutrient Ratios
To help you set up your macronutrients when building muscle, I have included my preferred setup:
• Protein is set as per the guidelines in this lesson, i.e. 0.6-0.9g per lb (1.3-2g per kg) of bodyweight.
• Fat is set at around 20-30% of daily intake to help with the absorption of vitamins, regulation of hormones, and general satiety from meals without taking too much away from your carbohydrate intake.
• Carbohydrates then make up the remainder of your calorie intake after protein and fats have been set.
Today, we looked at the importance of protein and carbohydrates for muscle building and learned that your optimal daily intake should look like this: protein—0.6-0.9g per lb (1.3-2g per kg) of bodyweight, fats—20-30% of daily intake, and carbohydrates—the remainder.
Tomorrow, we’ll look at why you shouldn’t use cheat meals when building muscle and what to do instead.
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