Can eating more protein make muscles bigger?

Neal Spruce
Neal Spruce on behalf of dotFIT
Depends on how much you are eating now. If you are eating Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA) of protein and resistance training intensely, then yes, up to a certain amount, more protein can add to your muscle building. If you are not resistance training, no amount of protein will make your muscles bigger unless you are recovering from atrophy (muscle loss) due to a diseased state, surgery or severe dieting. Exercisers and athletes generally have a higher protein requirement than their sedentary counterparts. Additionally, proper timing of protein ingestion around the workout (30 minutes before and immediately after) and spread evenly throughout the day can dramatically enhance exercise-induced results. If you are trying to gain muscle use The Sharecare Fitness Application. It designs the ideal athletic menus individualized for each person including proper protein requirements, meal timing and complete food plans. Simply fill in your personal statistics and create your program. As a simple “rule of thumb,” if you consume 1 gram of protein per pound of body weight, you will cover all your protein needs and more will not add more muscles. So if you weigh 175 LBS, consume 175 g of protein spread evenly throughout the day including before and immediately after training. Below are the protein recommendations for exercisers and athletes:

Strength Athletes/Off-Season Bodybuilders
  • Minimum acceptable intake -- 1 g/kg/d of body weight
  • Adaptation period  -- 1.6 to 2 g/kg/d
Active Recreational Athletes
  • Minimum acceptable intake -- 1 g/kg/d of body weight
  • Adaptation period -- 1.2 to1.8 g/kg/d
Endurance Athletes
  • Minimum acceptable intake -- 1.4 g/kg/d of body weight
  • Adaptation period -- 1.6 to 2.0 g/kg/d
The active recreational athletes' category also includes other competitive athletes not attempting body composition changes. The adaptation period is defined as significant physiological changes occurring due to participation in a new regime, progressive intensity, or high-intensity training. The adaptation period presumes that factors affecting protein requirements may be additive. Athletes participating in aerobic and anaerobic (mainly strength training) activities may need intakes at the upper end of the ranges.
Eric Olsen
Many assume that because muscle is protein, the more protein they eat, the bigger their muscles will become, but it doesn't seem to work that way. The only way to make a muscle larger or stronger is through exercise. Very heavy exercise of long duration may increase the need for extra protein, although this is uncertain.

It is known that excess protein in the diet can be harmful, placing added stress on the liver and kidneys. Although there is little reliable data on the effects of protein consumption on longevity, lab studies with animals at least suggest that decreased protein intake increases length of life.
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There is no proven evidence that eating more protein will help you gain more muscle. What you want to focus on is making sure your getting enough protein for what your body need to help repair it after you break it down after a workout. Getting bigger muscles is something that happens overtime with your workout by challenging your muscles. By challenging your muscles through sets, reps and heavier weight you will see a difference but increasing protein intake will not make muscles bigger.
Brian Tanzer
Nutrition & Dietetics
Eating more protein in and of itself will NOT make muscles bigger. In order for muscles to grow, they must be subjected to physical activity, mainly resistance training. One can use weights such as barbells and or dumbbells and or a combination of exercise with weights and their own body weight (pushups, pull-ups, etc.). When muscles are subjected to these types of exercises, small, but significant changes begin to occur. The exercises create reversible "damage" to muscle tissue. This damage requires healing, and the healing that occurs requires specific nutrients, the main one being nitrogen-rich protein.

During the healing process, protein synthesis occurs within the muscle tissue, resulting in stronger and bigger muscle fibers than what existed before the training and healing process. Since protein is the only nutrient to contain significant amounts of nitrogen as part of its component amino acids, it is the only nutrient that can help stimulate muscle growth. Nutrients such as vitamins, minerals and other cofactors also play a role in building muscle, but this is a more “supporting" role than "leading “role.

To achieve maximum muscle building results from training, a well-balanced diet consisting of high-fiber complex carbohydrates, healthy fats (nuts, seeds, olives, avocado, etc.) and lean proteins (chicken, fish, lean meat) as well as protein supplements such as found in protein shakes (provide a convenient source of protein) will help one achieve the results they seek when it comes to growth of muscle.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.