The idea that you need massive amounts of protein in your diet in order to build muscle is one that will probably never go away. While I agree that many of us need to eat a little more protein than we typically do, I don’t think we need super-mega amounts in order to pack on muscle.
In a really interesting study published back in 1996, 43 men who were experienced weight lifters took part in a study that involved exercise and weekly injections of testosterone enanthate for 10 weeks.
Yep, these boys were on steroids for the benefit of science!
They were divided into 4 groups.
- The first group performed no exercise and didn’t get any steroids.
- The second group performed exercise but didn’t get steroids,
- The third group didn’t exercise but received the weekly injections and
- The fourth group exercised and received the injections.
As you can imagine after 10 weeks of lifting weights 3 times per week, the group that was receiving the steroid injections gained over 13 pounds of muscle.
The group who were just working out didn’t do too bad either, packing on almost 4.5 pounds of muscle in only ten weeks.
The guys who sat around doing nothing for 10 weeks but received the steroid injections still had an increase in lean mass (almost 6 pounds), while the group who received no steroids and didn’t workout did not see any change in their lean mass.
So what does a study on steroids have to do with nutrition? well, all four groups were on the same diet. They were all consuming about 0.7 grams of protein per pound of body weight and about 16 Calories per pound of body weight.
What this shows is that for a group taking steroids while exercising, 120 grams of protein per day was enough to supply the amount of protein needed to allow for a 13.5 pound gain in lean mass!
It was also the same amount of protein the the exercise only group ate to gain 4.5 pounds, and the other groups ate to see their gains, (or lack thereof).
What this shows is that for the groups who saw less gains in lean mass then the steroid group, the amount of protein that they ate was not what determined how much muscle they gained. The workouts and the steroids did that.
In the end, protein is important, but as this study shows, 0.7 grams of protein per pound of body weight is enough daily protein to allow for a 13.5 pound increase in lean mass in 10 weeks. It’s also enough to allow for a 4.5 pound increase in people not taking steroids, which is still very impressive muscle growth for a ten week period!
For those of us who are not ‘pharmaceutically enhanced’ this study helps support the idea that your workout is the most important part of your muscle building journey.
Get a great workout, put in a great effort, see great results, it might just be that simple.
PS – If you are looking for my recommendation on a great quality workout, then Turbulence Training is where it is at. You can check out Craig Ballantyne’s Turbulence Training programs by clicking HERE.
(Bhasin S, et al. The New England Journal of Medicine. 335(1), 1-7)