We all know if we want bigger muscles we need protein. What we don’t all know though, is how much protein while bulking do we actually need? It’s usually the first question I get asked by guys looking to pack size. Other than “how much can you bench?”. Most guys have this idea that they’ll need 500g of protein a day.
As usual I’ll give you the answer now, then il explain why. So you can make a better informed decision.
Aim for a daily total of 1.6g of protein per kg of bodyweight. If you want to go higher, no problem. My only word of caution is, if you go too high on protein, that means you’ll have less carbohydrate calories in your day. When bulking you need to train well and carbs are the best source of energy, so you don’t want to compromise on them.
Split that protein intake into 0.4-0.5g per kg of bodyweight, 3-6 times a day.
So if you weight 85kg, that may look like a daily total of 136g go protein, split into 4 meals of 34g of protein.
You might have noticed these figures are very similar to protein amounts for cutting.
Why we don’t need tonnes of protein while bulking
1.6g of protein per kg, might seem a lot compared to the UK recommended of 0.8g of protein per kg. But compared with what most guys assume, it isn’t much.
Long story short a bunch of smart guys, pulled together 49 studies. They done some mathematical magic and worked out from all the studies. That 1.6g of protein per kg is where peak muscle growth happened. Anything above 1.6g per kg made little to no difference.
Think of it like this. If you brush your teeth. You only need a small amount of toothpaste. You wouldn’t use the whole tube. If you did, it wouldn’t damaged your teeth, but it would be very wasteful. It’s not bad, but there’s no benefit either. That’s why I say if you want to have more protein, go ahead, but dont be expecting anything magic to happen.
Does the quality of protein matter?
Yes to an extent. I wouldn’t be worrying about the absorption rate or bioavailability. But I would be making sure the majority of those protein came from complete sources.
Complete protein sources are sources that come from animal products. Meat, dairy, eggs, whey powder etc. Vegan protein powder and soy are also complete sources.
Incomplete proteins are plant sources, such as beans, vegetables, grain and legumes. You need to eat different sources of plants, to mimic a complete source of protein.
A complete source has all 20 amino acids. Amino acids are the small building blocks that make a protein. Your body needs all 20. Foods that come from animals have all 20. Foods that come from plants don’t.
This is the analogy from my article comparing broccoli to protein to steak protein.
Imagine 2 cars having a race. If broccoli was a car. It would be a car that’s missing certain parts of it. So you may have the shell of a car, but it’s missing its engine. Where as steak is the complete car.
Steak is like a super car with all the interior, as it’s a complete protein. Broccoli’s protein is incomplete, so it’s like a car, but missing the engine. A car without all it’s parts can’t function properly. Same with proteins
How does protein build muscle?
Like how it preserves muscle when cutting. When you train you break down the muscle tissues. It signals to your body that it needs more protein to help grow and repair it.
But when bulking you have more energy than when you are cutting. This means when weight training, you can lift more volume. This means the muscles need to adapt to the extra stimulus it’s getting. This means your muscles signal to the body to give it more protein. Because it,needs to grow to withstand the extra stimulus.
Il be honest it’s a very technical process that still isn’t 100% known. I’ve simplified it down to how I’d explain it without unnecessarily confusing someone.
Final thoughts on how much protein is needed whilst bulking
Like cutting, how much protein is needed whilst bulking is 1.6g per kg.
So instead of overthinking what protein powder is needed. If it needs to be consumed straight after your session. Nail the simple basics.
Get enough each day. Split it into a manageable amount. Eat in a small calorie surplus and increase volume when lifting weights. It’s a slow boring process, but well worth the investment in time.
Josh is a Registered Associate Nutritionist, with the Association for Nutrition (AFN). He completed his degree in Nutrition at the University of Roehampton in 2021. He passed with a First Class with Honours.
Josh is also a tutor for up-and-coming Personal Trainers, where he teaches a Level 4 Advanced Nutrition course. This is for Personal Trainers looking to upskill their nutrition knowledge. This is done at Norfolk Health & Fitness.