How To Use Protein & Build Muscle


How To Use Protein & Build Muscle

Gaining muscle is not something only bodybuilders need to worry about. It’s a goal we should all have at the top of our to-do list.

Those with a decent amount of muscle mass have decreased injury risk, age slower and are less likely to die from cardiovascular disease.

It goes without saying you need to train your muscles in order to grow, but many forget that you also need to provide them with the right fuel.

You wouldn’t expect a car to run on an empty tank and you can’t expect your muscles to grow without sufficient protein.

girl with nzprotein shirt holding dumbells

If you’re in the dark about protein requirements for muscle growth, then read below to get in the know.

How much protein?

The ideal protein intake depends on your individual circumstances and body composition. Nutrition foundation New Zealand say the average adult needs at least 45-64 grams of daily protein.

It is important to note that this figure is the bare minimum required to avoid deficiency as opposed to a recommended optimal intake.

The International Protein Board argues that current recommendations should be reevaluated based on more recent sports nutrition literature.

Those who are ageing, growing, breastfeeding or ill will also need significantly more protein than the average person. If you are an active adult, your protein requirements will be much higher than a mere 46 grams per day.

man in squat rack stock image

Research suggests that anywhere from 1.6-2.2g of protein per kg body weight is ideal for increasing muscle mass.

However if you are eating fewer calories in a bid to shed body fat, then your protein intake should be between 1.8-2.7g daily. Protein matters more when you are in a calorie deficit because you are at higher risk of losing muscle.

A high intake will also help you feel satiated and optimise body composition.

If you are overweight or obese then these recommendations will be too high. Alternatively you could aim for 1g of protein per cm in height. So if you are 170cm tall, you would aim for 170g of protein per day.

This recommendation is easy to calculate and gives you a more realistic target. Once you have a daily protein goal, you can work on breaking that down meal by meal.

How much per meal?

The easiest way to figure this out would be to decide how many meals you have per day, then divide your total protein by that number. For example if your protein goal is 160g per day and you plan to have four meals, you must have 40g per meal.

Most studies agree that you should never have less than 20g of protein in a meal if your goal is to build muscle. This is because without enough protein, you won’t stimulate muscle protein synthesis (a biological process that leads to the formation of muscle).

There is controversy around how many meals one should have in a day. I’m sure you’ve heard before that more meals is better for your metabolism.

woman squatting barbell stock image

Some studies suggest four meals daily is the optimal number. But the correct answer is it depends. You might prefer three meals a day because it works well with your schedule.

Alternatively you might like six smaller meals because it suits your digestion better. Anywhere from two to six meals daily is fine for muscle building provided you are hitting your daily protein target.

What is leucine and where do I get it?

Protein is made up of amino acids. Nine of these amino acids are essential and leucine is the most important for muscle growth. Without enough leucine, muscle protein synthesis will not be stimulated.

Studies show that 3-4g of leucine per day is optimal for muscle growth. This amount is quite easy to achieve.

You could get your daily leucine from 29g of whey protein, 36g of soy protein, three cups of yoghurt or 120g of chicken breast.

bags of nzprotein powder

If you need other ideas to help you hit your protein targets then here is a helpful table.


Protein (g)

100g NZProtein Pancake Mix


135g Lean Beef Fillet Steak


107g Grilled Chicken Breast


1x NZProtein Mug Cake


122g Baked Hoki


100g Tuna in Springwater


1x NZProtein Proats


1x NZProtein Jelly


1x NZProtein Mousse


1x NZProtein Ice Cream


2x Cups Trim Milk


100g Tofu


1x Egg



You know the saying “more money, more problems”? Well the inverse is true when it comes to more muscle. Building muscle is beneficial for everyone.

You might not be particularly concerned with looking shredded now but your 75 year old self will thank you for all your efforts to prevent sarcopenia.

Make sure to train hard at the gym and recover harder with sufficient protein.