protein intake

Protein Intake for Strength and Mass Gains

People often fail to meet their strength goals due to a lack of planning in the dietary aspects of the training sphere.

Goals are not enough, they have to be associated to an action plan.

It is a myth that 21 days are necessary to change an habit, the scientific research points out that it takes at least 66 days for the average person to install an habit.

Daily Protein Intake

From experience, whether you want to gain muscle mass or strength, the first goal you should establish is how much protein you should eat in a day.

For males, who aim at increasing muscle mass and strength gains, if you only train once a day, 2 g/kg should be more than enough (for women 1.2g /kg of bodyweight).

With Olympic level athletes in strength sports who train up to 5 times a day, that value can climb up to 3.3 g/kg  to 4.4 g/kg. This in accumulation phases where they aim at increasing their muscle’s cross-section.

However, athletes that reach those high protein needs are about as rare as lawyers who under-bill their clients!

Spreading Proteins and Nutrient Timing

That total protein amount should be spread out over 5 to 6 intakes a day, including any peri-workout intake (during/post).

In the recent past, I have found that 80 grams coming from 40 grams of essential aminos with an additional 40 grams of BCAAs worked best to increase my gains in the gyms. I was certainly not consuming enough intra-workout.

Since hypertrophy was the goal, I also consumed 30 to 70 gr of carbs depending on the size of body part, insuring proper transport into the cell.

Of course the quality of the protein matters. You cannot compare 40 grams of baloney protein to 40 grams of bison protein.

My former protein suggestions were based on working years with my usual clientele : Olympians and pro-athletes. However, to be fair, 99% of the  readership of this website actually only devotes 4 to 5 session a week to resistance training.

Balancing Carbs and Protein

In order to grow you will need a minimum of 40% of your calories coming from carbs. Keep that in mind.

Higher intakes of carbs are indicated when one has great insulin sensitivity and has the training volume to validate it.

Again for most of the readers, 40% is probably better.

There are three populations who in my experience need higher protein intakes (3.3-4.4 g/kg) :

1.  insulin resistant morbidly obese, ultra-low carb. As their insulin sensitivity improves the protein needs will go down, being replaced by paleo carbs.

2. Athletes who are fully dedicated to developing hypertrophy/strength; however they have to train enough: more than 2 sessions a day. An extremely small percentage of the training population. For a lot of them, they actually finally recover once they move that up.

3. People from phenotypes that respond better to high protein i.e. Native Americans.

Keep in mind that Ed Coan became one of the strongest men in history with a very limited workload, his protein intake being circa 2 g/kg.

Individualization is key.

Not growing ?

Try more protein

Still not growing?

Cut back on protein and increase carbs.


Enjoy the path,

Coach Charles R. Poliquin

P.S. If you want a pretty review of the topic, please read my friend Paul Carter’s article