It Takes More Than Just Protein to Build Muscle

If you were to ask most people what it takes to build muscle, they’d probably say that you just need to eat protein, protein and more protein.  Protein is important, to be sure.  After all, your muscles are made of protein, and your body requires adequate protein in the diet in order to have the building blocks it needs to build up muscle mass.  But protein alone won’t do.  You need to pay attention to the rest of your diet as well.

Essential Nutrients to Build Muscle

A lot of men who are trying to bulk up are also trying to lose body fat at the same time.  But sometimes the approaches they use to meet those goals are at odds with each other.  They’ll take in plenty of protein, which, when coupled with a strength training routine, should lead to more lean mass.  But they may also cut their total calories back too far in an effort to get “shredded.”

That can be a problem.  If you cut your calories too much, some of the protein that you eat is going to be burned for fuel, rather than being used to support muscle development.  So, to effectively build muscle mass, you want to ensure that you have enough calories to support your activity, and the right balance of nutrients, too.

Both plant and animal sources provide the necessary building blocks for MPS.  “Fast-digesting” proteins are high in the amino acid leucine, found in a range of both plant and animal proteins.  This includes soy, poultry, fish, nuts, seeds and beans, all of which stimulate MPS.  And more slowly digested proteins, such as egg and milk proteins, may help to prolong the MPS process.

At this point, there’s nothing to suggest that “fast” proteins are better than “slow” proteins, or vice versa.  What’s more important to know is that protein needs can be met from both plant and animal sources.  With careful planning and attention to total intake, even vegetarians or vegans can consume enough protein to support muscle development.

Susan Bowerman, M.S., RD, CSSD, CSOWM, FAND –Sr.Director, Worldwide Nutrition Education and Training

Susan BowermanM.S., RD, CSSD, CSOWM, FAND – Sr. Director, Worldwide Nutrition Education and Training

Susan Bowerman earned a B.S. in biology with distinction from the University of Colorado, and received her M.S. in food science and nutrition from Colorado State University. She is a registered dietitian, holds two board certifications from the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics as a certified specialist in sports dietetics, and a certified specialist in obesity and weight management, and is a Fellow of the Academy.