Protein is one of three essential macronutrients – carbohydrates, fats, and proteins – that provide energy, help you function throughout the day, and support your fitness goals. The most important of the three for muscle building is protein. There are many misconceptions about protein including how much you should take, when you should take it, and how often.
Let’s take a look at the most common protein mistakes for muscle building, and the proper way to use protein to achieve your muscle-building goals.
1. MISSING MORNING PROTEIN
Whether you want to build muscle or burn fat, skipping a protein-packed breakfast is not recommended. Studies show that those trying to lose weight were more successful when they ate a healthy breakfast with a large protein serving. What’s more, your muscles need the amino acids from protein for recovery and growth. (1)
Focus on a breakfast that is rich in protein, complex carbohydrates, and healthy fats such as a few whole eggs, a cup of broccoli, and one cup of quinoa.
2. CONSUMING HIGH-SUGAR, LOW-PROTEIN DRINKS
Many protein shakes in a can or bottle seem convenient but check the label. Most times, you’ll find that the sugar content is higher than the protein itself. While simple sugars may be beneficial for post-workout consumption in order to replenish glycogen stores, it is not doing you any good throughout the day.
Simple sugars in the diet have been linked to weight gain and cardiovascular issues. It is healthier and more economical to buy a large tub of no-sugar or low-sugar protein and make your own shakes at home. (2)
3. LIMITING YOUR PROTEIN INTAKE
Regardless if your goal is weight loss, muscle mass, or better eating habits, cutting protein is one thing you don’t want to do. Dietary protein has been shown to maintain and build lean muscle tissue. The more muscle you have, the more calories you burn while at rest. Dietary protein has also been shown as a key tool to promoting fat burning in the body. (3)
If there is any macro-nutrient you should consider limiting, it’s simple carbohydrates such as sugar-based snacks and drinks.
4. SKIPPING POST-WORKOUT PROTEIN
If there is one time of the day that you should not skip your protein serving, it’s following a workout. Thirty to forty-five minutes after your workout is prime time to provide your muscle tissue with the nutrients it needs to repair, maintain, and grow.
The easiest way to take in that muscle-building protein is by using a whey protein isolate. Shoot for twenty to thirty grams of protein up to one hour following a workout.
5. SKIPPING PROTEIN BEFORE BED
Protein before bed has the advantage of promoting muscle building, activating a higher level of protein synthesis, and supporting fat burning. All three are critical if you’re goal is to pack on lean muscle tissue. For those who are trying to lose weight, a protein shake before bed helps to curb hunger pangs. You’ll also wake up without feeling terrible cravings for unhealthy foods.
Want to build muscle? Drink one serving of casein protein one to two hours before bed. Want to burn fat? Try a serving of a whey protein blend one to two hours before bed.
With the common protein mistakes out of the way, let’s clear up a few more misconceptions about protein supplements for muscle building.
TYPES OF PROTEIN
It’s important to select the right type of protein based on your goals and your lifestyle. If you are trying to support muscle building and fat loss, a quality whey protein will be your best friend. If you are trying to improve your overall eating habits or if you have dietary restrictions such as when you follow a vegan or vegetarian lifestyle, then a great plant-based protein might be best for you.
ISOLATE VS. BLEND
For both animal and plant-based proteins, the question is often whether you should go with an isolate or blend. More often than not, a blend will be the way to go.
An animal-based protein blend may contain a mixture of whey concentrate, hydrolyzed whey, egg-based, and casein, a slower digesting protein. When you are building muscle, you may also want to use an isolate as it provides an instant supply of amino acids for muscle recover.
For plant-based protein, in order to form complete proteins, you must have a blend. The best ingredients are pea, brown rice, hemp, chia seed, and pumpkin seed.
HOW MANY GRAMS PER SERVING?
Ideally, your whey protein supplement will have between twenty and twenty-five grams of protein per serving. Before selecting a protein, check the label and look for added branched chain amino acids such as taurine, glutamine, and creatine. This is called nitrogen spiking, which is when companies will add in amino acids to artificially inflate the grams per serving.
TIMING THROUGHOUT THE DAY
Spacing out your protein consumption allows for ideal digestion as well as amino acid assimilation. Try to eat protein with each meal. If you want to maximize building muscle, twenty to thirty grams of protein every two to four hours is a great goal to have.
If you are vegetarian or vegan, the same rule still applies. Eat protein-heavy plant foods such as lentils, pumpkin seeds, and black rice.
SUPPLEMENTS TO TAKE WITH PROTEIN
If you are lactose intolerant or your stomach has a hard time with plant foods such as dark leafy greens, you may have a difficult time properly digesting protein without realizing it.
A digestive enzyme blend supplement will drastically improve your body’s ability to digest and assimilate nutrients with an emphasis on amino acids from protein. In fact, many protein supplements now have a digestive enzyme blend built in. Check the label when buying.
WERE YOU MAKING ANY OF THESE COMMON PROTEIN MISTAKES?
Did you change any of your protein-focused habits? Has it made a difference? If you want to build more muscle, how’s your progress going? Let us know on our Instagram.
- L B Bauer, L J Reynolds, S M Douglas, M L Kearney, H A Hoertel, R S Shafer, J P Thyfault, H J Leidy. A pilot study examining the effects of consuming a high-protein vs normal-protein breakfast on free-living glycemic control in overweight/obese ‘breakfast skipping’ adolescents. International Journal of Obesity, 2015; DOI: 10.1038/ijo.2015.101
- Te Morenga Lisa, Mallard Simonette, Mann Jim. Dietary sugars and body weight: systematic review and meta-analyses of randomised controlled trials and cohort studies BMJ 2013; 346 :e7492
- Phillips SM1, Van Loon LJ. Dietary protein for athletes: from requirements to optimum adaptation. J Sports Sci. 2011;29 Suppl 1:S29-38. doi: 10.1080/02640414.2011.619204.