Exercise used to be solely concerned with survival. When you analyze our primate ancestors, their strength and endurance is a function of their evolutionary need to source food and adapt to their environment.
Yet, due to findings in modern science, we know more than ever about the nature of muscle-building and how it is influenced by protein. This knowledge allows us to sculpt our bodies in ways that our ancestors could never dream of.
How Can You Use Protein to Build Muscle?
One of the most important aspects of a diet for anybody looking to build muscle is protein intake. In this article, we offer 6 tips for achieving maximizing muscle growth using protein-rich foods.
1. Timing is Key
Experts claim that there is a small window of time after each workout that is ideal for consuming protein. Exercise helps break down fat and stresses our muscles, so it’s understandable that you are hungry afterward. Your body needs to refuel.
However, if you wait too long, then your muscles have likely utilized an internal storage of energy to rebuild and refuel, which is not as effective as fresh food. If you eat too soon after a workout, then your body might be overwhelmed by having to navigate digestion and recovery. This could result in a less than optimal recovery phase.
The optimal window for eating protein to build muscle is 15-30 minutes after a workout. If you are only interested in muscle maintenance, then try eating on the later side of this range, perhaps even as long as 45 minutes after a workout.
2. Focus on High-Quality Protein
Not all protein is created equal. Some are more bioavailable than others and can thus be used more readily by our bodies to build muscle.
Whey, a protein in dairy foods, is one of the highest quality proteins available, but make sure you are getting this protein in as unrefined of a state as possible. This means focusing on fresh milk or yogurt instead of overly processed protein shakes or protein bars. While these will still nourish you, they also contain other additives that do not optimize muscle building.
Photo credit to Pinterest
3. Simpler is Better
Your body is in a vulnerable state after a high-intensity workout, and its main focus is to simply recover and refuel. If you overload it with too many different foods, it will have to shift its focus purely to digestion. This will be detrimental to your recovery time.
4. Don’t Get Too Much Protein
While it’s important to eat high-quality protein after a workout, too much can actually be a bad thing. Your muscles can only handle so much, and any excessive protein intake will overtax your body and prevent maximum muscle building.
Experts agree that between 10-20 grams of protein is all that is needed. Some studies claim that as much as 40 grams are ideal, but this estimate is more geared towards bodybuilders and high-performance athletes. If you are just looking to build muscle, keep it under 20 grams.
5. Sleep is Critical
Many athletes that want to master using protein to build muscle forget that what occurs outside of a workout is just as important as what occurs just before, during, or after one. In particular, even though your body starts building muscle immediately after you finish a workout, the process of consolidation and recovery continues well into the night when you sleep.
If you don’t sleep well, you will also not have enough energy to perform at an optimal level the next day, and this could impact how your body uses protein to build muscle.
One way of maximizing muscle growth is to eat right before you go to bed. This increases protein synthesis and allows you to continue building muscles throughout the night. This helps with repairing current muscles and also building new ones.
6. Eat Protein More Often
Another way to maximize protein synthesis is to not only eat after a workout but also every 3 hours during the day. This will keep your metabolism high and force your body to constantly be building muscle.
This will also help prevent your body from ever using its muscle for fuel, which could happen if you go too long without eating.
Other Tips in Using Protein to Build Muscle
If you want to maximize how you use protein to build muscle, you might have to make some lifestyle changes first. This might entail ceasing any kind of intermittent fasting regime, as fasting is catabolic to muscle growth.
Additionally, if you are used to eating larger meals, you might have to shift to eating fewer calories more times throughout the day. This might mean extensive shifts in what foods you are actually consuming.
But, ultimately, if you are focused on muscle growth, then the effort will certainly pay off.
Title Keyword: Protein to Build Muscle
Body Keywords: Protein Intake, Muscle Growth, Muscle Building, High-Quality Protein