Most youngsters ask this question, “Does protein build muscle without workout?”
If you want to build strong and healthy muscles, pay attention to your protein intake. Protein is not only essential for your body’s functions but also for your muscle growth and recovery. This article will explain how protein and muscle are related, how much protein you need, the best protein sources, and some common myths about protein and muscle.
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Does Protein Build Muscle without Workout?
Protein is one of the most essential nutrients for your body. It is the building block of your muscles, organs, skin, hair, and nails. But can protein build muscle without a workout? This article will explain how protein and muscle growth are related.
What is protein?
Protein is a macronutrient consisting of amino acids. Amino acids have various functions in your body. Your body can produce some amino acids, while others need to be obtained from food. These are called essential amino acids.
Protein can be found in animal and plant sources. Animal sources include meat, eggs, dairy, and fish. Plant sources include beans, nuts, seeds, and soy. Protein can also be consumed as supplements, such as protein powders, bars, and shakes.
What is muscle?
Muscle is a type of tissue that is made up of muscle fibers. Muscle fibers are long cells that can contract and relax to move. Muscle fibers are organized into Fascicles held together by connective tissue. Your body has three types of muscle: skeletal, cardiac, and smooth.
Skeletal muscle is the type of muscle that you can control voluntarily. It is attached to your bones and helps you move your limbs and body. Cardiac muscle is the type of muscle that forms your heart. It contracts rhythmically to pump blood throughout your body. Smooth muscle is the type of muscle that lines your internal organs, such as your stomach, intestines, and blood vessels. It helps you digest food, regulate blood pressure, and perform other functions.
How do protein and muscle relate to each other?
Protein and muscle have a close relationship. Protein provides the amino acids needed by your body to build and repair muscle tissue. Without enough protein, your body cannot create new muscle fibers or replace damaged ones.
Your muscle fibers get microscopic tears when you exercise, especially when you lift weights. It is called muscle damage or breakdown. It triggers muscle protein synthesis (MPS), which is when your body uses amino acids from protein to repair and rebuild your muscle fibers. It makes them stronger and bigger over time. It is called muscle growth or hypertrophy.
The role of protein in muscle growth
Protein is essential for muscle growth. It helps your body repair the muscle damage caused by exercise and stimulates MPS. It also prevents muscle loss or atrophy, which can happen when you don’t exercise or eat enough protein.
How much protein do you need to build muscle? The answer depends on age, weight, activity level, and fitness goals. However, a general guideline is to consume 0.8 to 1.6 gm of protein per kg body weight per day. So, if you are 70 kg (154 lbs), you would need 56 to 112 grams of protein daily.
Can protein build muscle without a workout?
The short answer: No.
The long answer: Protein can help maintain your muscle mass, but you can only build new muscle with exercise. It is because MPS is not only dependent on protein intake but also on mechanical stimulation. Mechanical stimulation refers to the physical stress you put on your muscles when exercising.
When you exercise, you activate a signaling pathway called mTOR (mammalian target of rapamycin). mTOR is a protein regulating cell growth and metabolism. It senses the mechanical stress on your muscles and triggers MPS. Without exercise, mTOR is not activated, and MPS is not stimulated.
Therefore, eating protein without working out will not result in muscle growth. It will only provide amino acids for your body to use for other purposes or store as fat.
What happens if you eat protein but don’t work out?
Eating more protein than your body needs for maintenance and repair will be used for energy or stored as fat. Excess protein can be converted into glucose by your body through gluconeogenesis. Glucose is the primary source of energy. However, if your glucose levels are already high or you consume more calories than you burn, your body stores the excess glucose as glycogen or fat.
Therefore, eating protein without working out will not help you build muscle but may make you gain weight.
The benefits of working out with protein
Working out with protein has many benefits for your health and fitness. Working out helps your body build new muscle fibers and increase their size and strength. Protein helps your body repair the damaged muscle fibers and stimulate MPS.
Together, working out and eating protein can help you achieve the following benefits:
- Increase your lean body mass.
- Improve your body composition.
- Enhance your physical performance.
- Boost your metabolism
- Prevent muscle loss and sarcopenia (age-related muscle loss)
- Reduce your risk of injury and illness.
- Support your immune system.
- Improve your mood and mental health.
How to build muscle with protein and exercise
To build muscle with protein and exercise, you need to follow these steps:
- Eat enough protein. As mentioned earlier, you need to consume 0.8 to 1.6 gms of protein/kilogram body weight per day. A protein calculator can estimate your protein needs based on personal factors. You may use a food tracker app to monitor your protein intake and ensure you meet your daily goal.
- Lift weights. Weight lifting is the best type of exercise for building muscle. It creates mechanical stress on your muscles and activates mTOR and MPS. It would help if you aimed to lift weights at least 2 to 3 times per week, focusing on compound exercises that work for multiple muscle groups simultaneously, such as squats, deadlifts, bench presses, rows, and pull-ups. It would help if you also varied your intensity, volume, frequency, and rest periods to optimize muscle growth.
- Get enough rest. Rest is crucial for muscle growth. It allows your body to recover from exercise-induced muscle damage and rebuild muscle fibers. You should get at least 7 to 9 hours of sleep per night and avoid overtraining or exercising the same muscle group on consecutive days.
Tips for getting enough protein
Getting enough protein can be challenging for some people, especially if they have dietary restrictions or preferences. Here are some tips for getting enough protein:
- Eat lean protein sources. Lean protein sources have a high protein-to-calorie ratio and low-fat content. They include chicken breast, turkey breast, lean beef, tuna, salmon, egg whites, low-fat dairy, tofu, tempeh, and seitan.
- Spread your protein intake throughout the day. Instead of eating most of your protein in one or two meals, try to distribute it evenly across all your meals and snacks. It can help you maximize MPS and prevent muscle breakdown throughout the day. Aim to eat at least 20 to 30 grams of protein during each meal and 10 to 15 grams per snack.
- Use protein supplements. Protein supplements are a convenient and effective way to boost your protein intake. They come in various forms, such as powders, bars, shakes, and cookies. You can use them as a snack or a meal replacement when you need more time or access to whole foods. However, you should rely on something other than them as your primary source of protein, and you should always check the ingredients and nutrition facts before buying them.
Common myths about protein and muscle growth
Many myths and misconceptions about protein and muscle growth can confuse or mislead people. Here are some of the most common ones:
- It would help if you ate a lot of protein to build muscle. While protein is essential for muscle growth, overeating it will not make you gain more muscle. As mentioned earlier, the excess protein will be used for energy or stored as fat. The optimum protein for muscle growth is 0.8 to 1.6 gms/kg body weight per day.
- It will help if you eat protein immediately after a workout. While eating protein after a workout can help your body repair and rebuild your muscle fibers, rushing it or consuming it within a specific time window is unnecessary. If you eat enough protein throughout the day, you can stimulate MPS and support muscle growth.
- It would help if you ate animal protein to build muscle. Animal protein is not superior to plant protein in building muscle. Both types of protein can provide all the essential amino acids your body needs. However, plant protein tends to have lower bioavailability (the amount of protein absorbed and used by your body) than animal protein. Therefore, you may need to eat more plant protein or combine different plant protein sources (such as beans and rice) to meet your daily goal.
Protein is essential for muscle growth but cannot build muscle without exercise. To build muscle, eating enough protein is a must, along with lifting weights regularly. It will help you increase your lean body mass, improve your body composition, enhance your physical performance, and enjoy many other health benefits.