Whatever your fitness goals are, you have probably thought about protein powder at some point. After all, protein is the building block that muscles are made of, so you want to make sure you are getting enough. If you are struggling to get enough in your diet, protein powder is a great place to turn.
But how effective is protein powder at building muscles? First, let’s look at how protein works to build muscle in the first place.
How do I build muscle?
In order to build muscle, you have to work them first! Resistance training, or lifting weights, causes hypertrophy, which are basically little tears in your muscle fibres. So by lifting weights, you are literally tearing your muscles apart and building them back up. That’s pretty cool, hey?
In order to repair your muscles after your workout, your body needs protein to build them back up again. Your body makes protein from amino acids, which are also contained in protein shakes. There is a whole bunch of science behind this, but that’s the basics.
Does protein powder help build muscle?
A high protein diet is essential for building muscle, and protein shakes make it easier to increase your protein intake. However, it is possible to get enough protein from your diet alone, making protein shakes necessary. Use our protein calculator to work out how much protein you should be having per day.
If you are having trouble hitting your protein requirements from food alone, then a protein powder could be the best way to go. Studies have shown that supplementing your diet with whey protein and exercising results in more lean muscle mass than just exercising alone.
What’s more, there are studies that suggest that protein shakes can help retain muscle and even promote muscle growth during periods of weight loss.
Is protein powder enough to build muscle?
Protein powder works, as long as you do! That’s the easy answer, however the long answer depends on what your goals are. Many men who are trying to build muscle are also trying to lose fat at the same time. This is all well and good, but sometimes these goals can be at odds. They’ll take plenty of protein, but cut down on their overall calories. This means that a lot of that protein is being burned off as fuel rather than being used to build muscle. So if you are trying to build muscle, make that your focus and be sure to consume plenty of calories.
If your goal is to lose weight, swapping one of your snacks for a protein shake can cut down your overall calories and help you preserve your lean muscle mass. Check out our article on protein powder for weight loss
Just keep in mind that protein shakes are not the only way to follow a high protein diet. A high protein diet by definition includes more than 0.8g of protein per kg of bodyweight per day. It is possible to achieve this through high quality foods like fish, chicken, eggs, meat and soy. However, if you find that difficult to maintain, then protein powders are a great way to go.
How much does protein powder help build muscle?
In terms of building muscle, protein powder will help by boosting your overall protein intake. As we mentioned before, they are also available for your body to use quicker than eating protein rich food. What makes protein powders so fast absorbing is that they have a smaller particle size than food proteins, meaning they are easier to digest. The downside of this is that they won’t keep you as full for as long as food will. So before you go chugging shakes 24/7, make sure that you balance a good quality protein shake with healthy food sources of protein too.
Another crucial element of protein intake is timing. Our bodies don’t have an efficient method for storing protein. So making sure you get your protein in when you need it is important. You should aim to have a good hit of protein within an hour of your workout. For some people, this makes protein shakes the ideal way to make this happen.
Does protein powder help build muscle faster?
The benefit of protein powders for muscle gain is that they are absorbed quickly, meaning the protein is available for your body to use quicker. So if you drink a protein shake straight after your workout, then the protein will be available for your body to use quicker. In this situation the best protein is a Whey Protein Isolate, the fastest absorbing protein on the market. This kind of protein is ideal for post workout recovery, to maximise those gains that you worked so hard for.
So whilst it is important to get enough protein in your diet, and consume protein at the right time, consuming too much protein won’t make you build muscles any faster. Sorry.
What’s the verdict?
So, to summarize, yes, protein is essential for building muscle. However, that protein does not necessarily need to come from protein shakes. You should aim to get as much protein from food as possible. However, protein shakes using a high quality protein powder can help get you over the line. Just remember: protein is not the be all and end all of good nutrition. Make sure you are getting plenty of nutrients from your fruit and veg too.
The best thing if you are looking to up your protein intake and get stuck into your training, hit up our collection of protein powders and find the right one for you. And depending on you fitness goals, you may want to consider a pre workout or a fat burner to help you push that little harder in the gym.