Increase Muscle Mass: Optimise Protein Intake

Increase Muscle Mass: Optimise Protein Intake

Today we bring you one of the most important and delicate topics: nutritional strategies to increase muscle mass.

One of the most appreciated factors in strength training is muscular hypertrophy. Athletes should try to optimise their nutritional and dietary resources.

Composition of Muscle Tissue

The muscle tissue is composed of 70% water and 22% protein , with the remaining percentage corresponding to fat, glycogen and mineral reserves.

An increase in muscle mass is therefore accompanied by an increase in body water, so an additional amount of energy and a positive nitrogen balance is needed to be able to synthesise more muscle tissue.

Muscle tissue

Adjusting Protein for Sport

Depending on the sportsperson’s expenditure and energy intake, daily protein intake usually amounts to 10-15%.

However, it is necessary to calculate the amount of protein required per kg of body weight of each athlete and also taking into account the sporting discipline.

Adjusting Protein for Sport

Protein to Maintain and Increase Muscle Mass

If our objective is to maintain muscle mass, we should consume 1.2-1.8 g of protein/kg/day, and to increase it, 1’6-1’8 g of protein/kg/day must be ingested.

Empty muscle and liver glycogen stores increase protein needs to maintain muscle mass.

Maintain and Increase Muscle Mass

An excess of protein intake (2 g/kg/day) with depleted glycogen reserves can cause an increase in the concentration of ketone bodies and urea, which can lead to dehydration of the athlete.

Proteins as an Energy Resource

Proteins perform a wide variety of physiological functions such as

  • Forming the structural basis of muscle tissue;
  • Main component of muscle enzymes;
  • Basis of the immune system; e
  • They have a great influence on physical performance.

In resistance sports

Proteins can be an important energy resource, as the immediate energy reserves are usually made up of muscle and liver glycogen deposits.

In the intense strength-resistance training

The protein energy requirement is very low, as most of the energy in this case comes from muscle glycogen.

Avoid dehydration

However, recent studies have shown that an increase in protein in post-exercise drinks increases muscle glycogen stores more than if only carbohydrates are ingested.

Amino-acids in Resistance Sports

Los amino-acids can also be a great resource for providing energy in long lasting sports, because when you exercise until exhaustion the process of proteolysis is activated and that is where amino acids are released which can enter the energy pathways as is the case with leucine.

In addition, branched amino acids can play an important role in long-lasting endurance sports when muscle glycogen stores are low, as they can provide energy directly to the muscle.

Amino-acids in Resistance Sports

Protein Supplements in Athletes

It is very important to determine what is the adequate amount of proteins and amino acids in sportsmen or athletes to be able to perform to the maximum and that there is no loss of muscle mass in this case.

Some studies claim that in addition to diet, eating additional protein in the form of amino acid supplements or protein isolates is necessary for optimal performance.

Protein Supplements to increase muscle mass

Protein for Recovery

Post-exercise protein intake is necessary to speed up recovery, for example when doing eccentric work where there is a lot of muscle damage. To improve recovery, protein intake is necessary immediately after the session.

Factors determining Protein Needs

The minimum recommended protein requirements vary according to the intensity and/or type of training , as it is not the same as aerobic or strength work.

In addition, the body composition must be taken into account (using anthropometry) to determine the amount of protein to be ingested, as the % of muscle mass influences the amount of protein to be taken, as a higher % of muscle mass will require a higher protein intake.

High intensity training to increase muscle mass

Nutritional Strategy for Increasing Muscle Mass

As mentioned above, to increase muscle mass you need a protein intake of 1.6-1.8 g/kg body weight.

These quantities could be obtained through a well-planned diet, however, athletes who train regularly find it very difficult to obtain the right foods on a daily basis, so a good strategy would be to consume protein supplements and carbohydrates.

Carbohydrates after training

Taking Protein after Training

The optimal time for protein synthesis begins right at the end of training, during the first 2 hours and continues until the following 6 hours, as during this time the protein exchange is increased.

But in addition to protein, during these 2 hours it is also important to ingest carbohydrates to promote the resynthesis of muscle glycogen.

Protein after Training

Taking Carbohydrates after Training

It is also important to consider ingesting after-training supplements containing simple sugars or high glycemic index carbohydrates in order to restore glycogen stores and facilitate your recovery to continue training well in the next sessions.

Table of Protein Requirements by Objective

Resistance Sports1.2-1.4 g/kg.
Strength Sports1.6-1.8 g/kg.
Muscle strength gain1.7-1.9 g/kg.
Fat loss1.4-1.8 g/kg.
Sedentary0.8 g/kg.
Physically Active1.0-1.4 g/kg.
Maintenance of Muscle Mass1.2-1.4 g/kg.

Amount or daily intake of protein (taking into account type of exercise, physiological state, sex, age and body composition)

Where can you Get Protein?

The Sources of Protein we will obtain them from:

  1. Optimal combination: vegetable origin + animal protein.
  2. Supplements: creatine, leucine, branched-chain amino acids, protein hydrolysates.


  • To stimulate protein synthesis and increase muscle mass, it is important to take into account the amount and type of carbohydrates, protein intake and time of consumption.
  • Depending on the expense and energy intake of the athletes, protein intake is calculated by taking into account the amount of protein required per kg of body weight and according to the sporting discipline.
  • It is important that the muscle glycogen reserves are not empty, as this causes an increase in the protein requirements for maintaining muscle mass.

Bibliography Sources

  1. Morifuji M, Kanda A, Koga J, Kawanaka K, Higuchi M. Post-exercise carbohydrate plus whey protein hydrolysates supplementation increases skeletal muscle glycogen level in rats. Amino Acids. 2010; 38:1109-15.
  2. Tipton KD, Rasmussen BB, Miller SL, Wolf SE, Owens-Stovall SK, Petrini BE, et al. Timing of amino acid-carbohydrate ingestion alters anabolic response of muscle to resistance exercise. American Journal Physiology Endocrinology Metabolism. 2001; 281:197-206.
  3. Tipton KD, Elliott TA, Ferrando AA, Aarsland AA, Wolfe RR. Stimulation of muscle anabolism by resistance exercise and ingestion of leucine plus protein. Applied Physiology, Nutrition and Metabolism. 2009; 34:151-61.
  4. Willoughby DS, Stout JR, Wilborn CD. Effects of resistance training and protein plus amino acid supplementation on muscle anabolism, mass, and strength. Amino Acids. 2007; 32:467-77.
  5. Andersen LL, Tufekovic G, Zebis MK, Crameri RM, Verlaan G, Kjaer M, et al. The effect of resistance training combined with timed ingestion of protein on muscle fiber size and muscle strength. Metabolism. 2005; 54:151-6.
  6. Ratamess NA, Kraemer WJ, Volek JS, Rubin MR, Gomez AL, French DN, et al. The effects of amino acid supplementation on muscular performance during resistance training overreaching. The Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research. 2003; 17:250-8.
  7. Hoffman JR, Ratamess NA, Tranchina CP, Rashti SL, Kang J, Faigenbaum AD. Effect of a proprietary protein supplement on recovery indices following resistance exercise in strength/power athletes. Amino Acids. 2010; 38:771-8.
  8. McCleave EL, Ferguson-Stegall L, Ding Z, Doerner P, Wang B, Kammer L, et al. Effect of a low carbohydrate-moderate protein supplement on endurance performance in female athletes. International Journal of Exercise Science: Conference Abstract Submissions. 2010; 2:345-56.
  9. Nemet D, Wolach B, Eliakim A. Proteins and amino acids supplementation in sports: are they truly necessary? The Israel Medicine Association Journal. 2005; 7:328-32.
  10. Willians M. Nutritional supplements for strength trained athletes. Sports Science Exchange. 1993; 6:1-6 – Hoffman JR, Ratamess NA, Tranchina CP, Rashti SL, Kang J, Faigenbaum AD.
  11. Effect of protein-supplement timing on strength, power, and bodycomposition changes in resistance-trained men. International Journal of Sport Nutrition Exercise Metabolism. 2009; 19:172-85
  12. Koopman R, Wagenmakers AJ, Manders RJ, Zorenc AH, Senden JM, Gorselink M, et al. Combined ingestion of protein and free leucine with carbohydrate increases postexercise muscle protein synthesis in vivo in male subjects. American Journal Physiology Endocrinology Metabolism. 2005; 288:645-53.
  13. Kraemer WJ, Hatfi eld DL, Volec JS, Fragala MS, Vingren JL, Anderson JM, et al. Effects of amino acids supplement on physiological adaptations to resistance training. Medicine & Science Sports & Exercise. 2009; 4:1111-21.
  14. Stock MS, Young JC, Golding LA, Kruskall LJ, Tandy RD, ConwayKlaass JM, et al. The effects of adding leucine to pre and postexercise carbohydrate beverages on acute muscle recovery from resistance training. The Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research. 2010;24: 2211-9.

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About Paloma Sala
Paloma Sala
Paloma Sala is an athlete in continuous training to give the best of herself, who has been practising and competing in athletics for more than 20 years.
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