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The Caloric and Protein Needs for Muscle Building


Muscle building is a common goal among athletes of all levels. Whether you're a professional bodybuilder or just looking to improve your athletic performance, increasing muscle mass can help you achieve your goals. But building muscle requires more than just lifting weights - it also involves paying close attention to your diet. In this article, we'll take a closer look at the calorie and protein levels needed to build muscle in athletes.


Calorie Needs for Muscle Building


When it comes to building muscle, calories are king. You need to consume more calories than you burn in order to build new muscle tissue. This is because muscle tissue is metabolically active, meaning it requires energy to maintain. By consuming more calories than you burn, you provide your body with the energy it needs to build and maintain new muscle tissue.


Keep in mind that your maintenance level may vary depending on factors such as age, sex, weight, and activity level.

Calories are the energy source for the body, and they are necessary to support muscle growth.


The number of calories required for muscle growth can vary depending on various factors, including age, sex, body size, activity level, and muscle-building goals. In general, a caloric surplus is required for muscle growth. A caloric surplus means that an individual is consuming more calories than they are burning through daily activities and exercise.


The excess calories are used to build muscle tissue.

The exact amount of calories required for muscle growth depends on an individual's basal metabolic rate (BMR), which is the number of calories the body needs to maintain basic bodily functions at rest. The BMR varies based on age, sex, height, weight, and body composition.


To calculate the BMR, use the Harris-Benedict equation:

For men: BMR = 88.362 + (13.397 x weight in kg) + (4.799 x height in cm) - (5.677 x age in years).

For women: BMR = 447.593 + (9.247 x weight in kg) + (3.098 x height in cm) - (4.330 x age in years).


Once the BMR is calculated, it is important to add the calories burned during exercise to determine the total daily energy expenditure (TDEE). To support muscle growth, an individual should consume approximately 250-500 calories above their TDEE.


Protein Needs for Muscle Building


In addition to consuming enough calories, athletes looking to build muscle must also pay close attention to their protein intake. Protein is essential for building and repairing muscle tissue, so consuming enough protein is critical for muscle building.


The amount of protein you need for muscle building depends on your body weight and activity level. A general guideline for athletes is to consume 1.2-2.0 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight per day. For example, if you weigh 68 kilograms (150 pounds), you would need 81-136 grams of protein per day.


It's important to note that consuming more protein than your body needs does not necessarily lead to more muscle gain. Instead, excess protein is converted to energy or stored as fat. Therefore, it's important to consume an appropriate amount of protein for your body and activity level.


Sources of Protein for Muscle Building


When it comes to building muscle, not all protein sources are created equal. High-quality protein sources, such as those found in animal products, contain all of the essential amino acids your body needs to build muscle tissue. Essential amino acids are those that your body cannot produce on its own and must be obtained through your diet.


Examples of high-quality protein sources include:

  • Lean meats such as chicken, turkey, and beef

  • Fish and seafood

  • Eggs

  • Whole grains

  • Nuts and seeds

  • Dairy items such as fresh cheeses, yoghurts, ricotta, cottage cheese, Skyr and Quark

For an extensive list - check out my protein blog here.


While all sources of protein are important for muscle growth, some sources are better than others. Animal-based sources such as meat, fish, and dairy products are considered high-quality proteins, as they contain all the essential amino acids that our bodies need to build muscle. Plant-based sources such as legumes and soy products are also good sources of protein, but they may not contain all the essential amino acids in the same proportions as animal-based sources.


Example Meal Plan


Here is an example meal plan with focus on protein, for an athlete looking to build lean muscle:


Breakfast: Omelette made with 2 whole eggs, 2 egg whites, and spinach, served with whole-grain toast and avocado.


Snack: Greek yoghurt with mixed berries and almonds


Lunch: Grilled chicken breast with quinoa and roasted vegetables (such as sweet potatoes, broccoli, and bell peppers).


Snack: Protein shake made with whey protein, almond milk, and banana


Dinner: Baked salmon with asparagus and brown rice


Snack: Cottage cheese with sliced fruit (such as peaches or pineapple) and walnuts


This meal plan includes a variety of high-quality protein sources such as eggs, chicken, salmon, and Greek yoghurt. The quinoa and brown rice also provide additional protein, as well as complex carbohydrates for energy. The snacks include protein-rich options such as almonds, whey protein, and cottage cheese, along with fruits and vegetables for added nutrients.


How much of each, at each meal, depends on your unique needs as mentioned using the above maths.


Key Takeaways:


  1. Building muscle requires consuming more calories than you burn, with a caloric surplus needed for muscle growth.

  2. The exact number of calories required for muscle growth depends on an individual's basal metabolic rate, which can be calculated using the Harris-Benedict equation.

  3. Athletes looking to build muscle should consume 1.2-2.0 grams of protein per kilogram.

  4. Choose high-quality proteins from animal sources often, vegans should aim to use plant-based proteins where possible such as soya, edamame, peas, beans, grains, mycoproteins and foods they enjoy and know digest well.

  5. Dosing protein regularly at meals means you can eat smaller portion sizes to hit your total protein intake as well as having regular synthesis of muscle protein.

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