How much protein do I need to build muscle and get stronger?
From what sources should I get it? Supplements? Whole foods?
What protein supplements should I look for? What should I avoid?
This is the introduction to a 3-part series on how to build muscle and strength with protein, over which I will answer the above questions and (much) more.
I've been training for over 20 years, and competing in powerlifting for the last 5 (that's me, above, in my cement refuge).
During this time, a lot has changed in the strength training universe, as anecdotal (word of mouth) evidence grows and scientific research lends credibility to (or rejects) those anecdotes.
(Also, as more and more professional athletes adopt weight training and sports nutrition as significant, if not primary, parts of their general or sport-specific conditioning, and reveal snippets of their training and nutrition protocols to the public, we have an ever larger window into what is working simply by seeing the real-world results play out in arenas and on our TVs).
Despite a lot of change, one thing has remained constant for decades.
It's the one thing that I and so many others have discovered can have the biggest impact on the outcomes of your training efforts.
That is, whether you consistently get bigger, faster and stronger every month/quarter/year, setting new PRs and reaching increasingly challenging goals, or whether you're regularly hitting plateaus and flat-lining for long periods of time.
What is this one thing, this constant that has so much influence over your success in the gym?
It's almost so obvious that too many people miss it:
It's the critical importance of quality protein on building muscle and strength.
'Golden Age' bodybuilders (Arnold, Franco Columbu, Frank Zane, et al.) spoke to this (and certainly understood it) decades ago (in the late-sixties and seventies), many of whom resorted to what, today, would be considered obscure methods for supplementing their diets with extra protein (given that the industry was just fledgling at that time), including drinking extra-rich milk or even straight cream to bump up their protein (and fat) intake, as well as adding powdered milk to liquid milk in order to multiply the whey/casein content.
As much as we've learned since the mid-seventies, it was understood even then that a high-protein diet is a key element of building muscle, and so it is today.
Except today, so many of us have lost our focus on protein partly because so many other popular nutritional supplements have flooded the market (virtually all of which play a less central role than protein in supporting muscle/strength), but also because there are a gazillion different protein products available, and the sheer abundance of it, combined with the misconception that whey is whey or casein is casein, has mislead many into believing that any product from a reputable name brand will do just fine.
But I'm not content with just 'doing fine,' and I bet you're not either.
If you want to maximize the results from your efforts in the gym, you need to dial in your protein intake (e.g. how much, what types at what times, etc.) so that it's purposeful and precise.
Of all things nutrition and training related, this is the one area in which you can't afford a 'wing-it' approach. Not if you want to achieve maximum results.
So, to simplify what many find to be overwhelming, I decided to put together a blog series to answer all your questions on how to dial in your use of protein for building muscle and strength, consistently.
This isn't about gaining 20 pounds of muscle in a month. No nutritional strategy is going to do that.
But with a precise protein strategy, you can consistently build lean muscle and strength, day in and day out, for as long as you're training hard and smart.
This blog series will show you how. So please stay tuned over the next few days, during which I'll release all 3 parts and answer all your questions.
P.S. Just as a preview, the topics will generally be: