So in this video, I’m answering a question that I get quite often, which is how much protein do you need to build muscle, naturally? When I say naturally, I mean, without drugs. So, the standard idea as to how much protein you need to build muscle today stands at one gram of protein per pound body weight.
That’s pretty much the universally accepted, bro-science idea as to what you need, if you want to be serious about building muscle. I’m here to say that that’s completely false. You don’t need that much protein, nowhere near. I was able to go from 125 pounds to 198 pounds consuming an average of 120 grams of protein per day, which is far less than one gram of protein per pound of body weight.
And in this video, we’ll talk a little bit about that and how this idea that you need so much protein to build muscle came about. So, stick around, we’ll talk more about this.
The Popular Protein Requirement of 1 gram of Protein Per Pound Body Weight for Muscle Growth
So in this video, I’m talking about how much protein do you need to build muscle naturally. That’s the important word there, naturally! Without drugs. So before I go any further, I’d like to thank everyone for tuning. I really, and truly appreciate the tremendous support I’ve had so far for this channel.
And I’d also like to acknowledge those people who have taken the time to talk about the fact that they think that we should have a larger viewership. Thanks so much. So be sure to like and subscribe, hit that bell, so you get the new content as it comes out and know also that I’m working tirelessly to constantly produce as much content as I can.
So, today, we’re tackling protein. How much protein do you really need to build muscle? Now, as I said before, the standard bro-science idea is one gram of protein per pound of body weight. And I can’t tell you how many people have come to me and said that they really want to build muscle. They’re really interested in, you know, either being natural bodybuilders or just wanting to have a little more muscle to look good on the beach.
And they feel that it’s something that they can’t do without having to take protein shakes or protein bars. And some of them are vegetarian, some are vegan. And these numbers, one gram per pound of body weight seem to be such that it makes them feel that it’s impossible for them to realize their goals of building muscle and we really just shouldn’t try in the first place.
That’s completely false. It’s completely false because it’s based on a narrative that’s designed to sell protein shakes and designed to sell protein bars and all manner of supplements.
Minimum Dose Reality: If people without drugs consuming in far less protein routinely build muscle, the higher protein intake recommendation is flawed.
But here’s the problem. And I call it the minimum dose reality. If it is possible for someone without using any drugs whatsoever to build muscle on far less protein, if you’re consuming a lot of protein, yes, you will see results. But you will see results, not because your consuming so much protein, you’ll see results because you’re getting enough protein and that you’re exceeding your needs.
My Drug Free Muscle Gains Protein Intake: How I went from 125lbs to 198.5lbs in natural bodybuilding contest shape with 40% less than the recommended standard.
Now let’s talk about my story. My story, which you probably know by now if you’ve been following along, and if you don’t, I started off as a skinny six foot tall kid who weighed 125 pounds when I walked into the gym and I’m not a user of supplements either.
Early in my career, I couldn’t really afford supplements or when I did, it was really sporadic. But when I started at 14 years old to when I left Trinidad at 20 years old, I went from 125 pounds to 198 ½ pounds in contest shape, not 198 pounds boxed up. We’re talking about cut down.
That’s a total of 73 and a half pounds, more or less of muscle put on over that period of time, without drugs. Now, most natural bodybuilders don’t put that much muscle on over the course of their career, mainly because most natural body builders don’t start off being severely underweight as I was.
Now, I was six feet tall when I started off and I was still six feet tall when I ended. So, it’s not like I had a growth spurt. And you know, you could say that, you know, I put on some bone mass as I got older. I didn’t, I maintained the same height. In fact, unfortunately I’ve been six feet tall since I was 14 years old, and I really would like to be taller because everybody else with my family is much taller than I am, but let’s not go there.
Bottom line is averaging about 0.6 grams of protein per pound of body weight, I was able to put on a significant amount of muscle mass. You could look at that and we could go into the error of small numbers and say, well, maybe Kevin was genetically predestined to be someone who puts on a lot of muscle, but it’s not an isolated incident.
Calories Might Matter More Than Protein Intake For Muscle Growth
I’ve worked with and had the honor of working with so many athletes over the course of my 30 year career, all over the world. I’ve worked with athletes in places like Haiti. I’ve worked with athletes in places like Mali. I’ve worked with athletes in the Ivory Coast. I’ve worked with athletes in Kenya. I’ve worked with athletes in, uh, parts of Ethiopia. I’ve also worked with athletes in India. And one of the things that always struck me was the fact that many of them would consume far less protein than you would expect.
Yet, they had remarkable physiques, as long as their caloric intake was adequate and they weren’t in a place where they were getting less calories than their body needed over the course of the day. They seemed to be able to build muscle and significant muscle at that.
In fact, I think that the world needs to know and be a little bit more aware of the fact that if you’re not living in a Western country, most people don’t have the type of finances to be able to afford, to eat tremendous amounts of protein because protein foods are inherently expensive. It’s not cheap at all to follow a
“regular body building diet.” And, for some, especially in other parts of the world, it could be almost impossible.
My Early Career Protein Foods
I know for a fact, as a student growing up in Trinidad, it was impossible for me to be able to even come close, to be able to afford that much protein. And so, I did what I could with what I had. But the protein I did take came from eggs, it came from chicken breasts and it came from, later in my career, beef. I would buy one pound of beef and cut that into seven equal strips and have one strip per day. And of course, very important, peanut butter. Peanut butter made up a very, very large component of my protein intake. But look at what I was able to do.
Natural Bodybuilding on Just One Meal A Day: The remarkable story of Kenyan natural bodybuilder, Fred Sanya.
And let’s look too at what some of my friends have be able to do. My friend, Fred Sanya from Kenya. You can see here, tremendous, amazing physique. And he ate not more than one meal day. And I’m pretty sure that one meal day, Fred did not have one gram per pound of body weight of protein.
And there are other competitors who I’ve worked with over the years with tremendous physiques as well. And most of them were eating three meals a day and were probably at or around that 0.6 grams of protein per pound body weight, and very similar as to what I was using. Now, there’s one more piece of information I can add to this conversation that will help you get some insight as to protein requirements. It’s a tale of two clients.
A Tale Of Two Clients: A study of two clients with radically different protein intakes but the same muscle gains over a 9 month period.
Over the course of my career I’ve had people come to me who wanted to build muscle. Now keep in mind. Most of my clients coming to me are interested in building muscle while also losing body fat. But, especially earlier on, I’d have, were coming to me who were only interested in building muscle. That’s all they wanted. Naturally and without any drugs whatsoever, just like me. And they both had really radically different diets in terms of their protein intake.
One decided that the protein intake that I was recommending was way too low and he was going, slightly over. I think he was going for 1.2 grams of protein per pound of body weight. And the other client I had was listening to what I was saying. And he was consuming somewhere around between 0.6 and 0.7 grams of protein per pound of body weight, actually, probably close to 0.6 grams of protein per pound of body weight.
Really close to what I was doing when I was younger. They both were equally committed in the gym. They both gave everything they had. So, we have some consistency there and you’d expect the results to be different. But over the course of, let’s say a nine-month period, with both of them, the results that they got were remarkably similar.
One was pretty much fine. One had to eat every three hours, like on a clock, to get all that protein in. The other didn’t really have to be as, um, meticulous. And they both had pretty much, muscle mass size, the same results. Muscle strength wise, about the same as well. They were both the same height, which was, you know, a good visual reference for me.
And the fact that they were both training at the same time was one of those instances where it gave me an opportunity to say, hey, wait a minute, this is an opportunity. H for me to see what’s gonna happen. And I’ll be honest. I did still think that the client I had who was consuming more protein might have had slightly better results than the one who was consuming less.
Even though I was the one who gave the other one, that diet, I will say it somewhere in the back of my head. Like maybe I’m wrong, maybe higher protein does equal more muscle mass. But that’s not what happened. And so how did this idea that you needed so much protein come into fruition?
How Misconceptions Come About: Dieting natural bodybuilders who have higher protein requirements are often mistakenly used as examples of how much protein you need to build muscle naturally
It comes from some misconceptions. It comes also from, like I said before, marketing. But there’s also a difference between trying to build muscle and trying to maintain muscle. You see, if you are restricting your calories and trying to minimize your body fat, you need a tremendous amount of protein in order to maximize the amount of muscle mass that you’re able to retain as you cut down.
Bodybuilders, natural bodybuilders, tend to eat a lot of protein. Somewhere around one gram per pound of body weight when they’re cutting down or to maintain muscle mass, because muscle mass can be very easily lost. As you restrict your calories.
People see that. They say, all right, that guy’s in great shape. Look how much protein he’s eating. That’s how much you need in order to put muscle on. But that’s not how much was required to get there. That’s how much was required to go from being on the bulked-up side to cutting down. Now I don’t bulk up ever, and I’m always at the same level, so it’s a little bit different.
Understanding Survival-Based Adaptation: Why the bigger you get the LESS protein your body needs to maintain muscle mass.
And there’s one more thing that we don’t talk about as far as protein intake, which is the bigger you get and the more muscle you put on, as long as you’re getting enough calories, the less protein you need. I’m gonna say it again. The bigger you get, and the more muscle you put on, as long as you’re getting enough calories, the less protein your body needs, because our body tries to maintain what’s called equilibrium. Homeostasis.
It tries to stay exactly where it is at all times. So, if over the years you’ve put on a certain amount of muscle mass, it’s going to do its best to try to maintain that equilibrium of having a certain amount of muscle mass and try to be as efficient as possible with the food and the intake coming in to maintain it.
So, putting on muscle mass requires slightly more than maintaining muscle mass, in that, I could probably eat and have eaten less than 0.6 grams of protein per day. And as long as I was getting enough calories, I didn’t see any change in my muscle mass. I didn’t lose any weight. Now it’s not how I eat at all, but I have done it and nothing happened.
I didn’t magically wilt away. I didn’t magically fade away. And I think it’s important we talk about this because especially those who are vegan and vegetarian, who are trying to put muscle on, they tend to feel that it’s impossible because even if you’re eating animal proteins, it’s hard to get in a tremendous amount of protein.
And if you are not then it’s even more because the sheer bulk amount of food, you’d have to congest to get one gram of protein per pound of body weight, it can be overwhelming. It is overwhelming and it’s unnecessary. And if you think about it, at no point in time of our being on this planet from what we went from working on all fours to walking, you know, on two feet, did we have access to 30 grams of protein every three hours.
Never happened. I don’t know how people envisioned imagining a time in our ancestral past where that was, but that’s not how our bodies evolved. Our bodies evolved to do what it can do under very harsh conditions and harsh circumstances. That’s why I’ve said, and that’s why I understand and it makes total sense that people who have extremely limited supplies of protein, but get just enough calories to get by are able to put on a significant amount of muscle mass.
But there’s one more thing I’d like to talk about that’s not talked about as well in that, it’s about how hard you train.
How training intensity may be even more important than high protein intake for building muscle.
Every single one of those people who I worked with and who I spoke with who were in other countries and who were just like me, didn’t have access to that much protein. We all trained exceptionally hard, not just hard, exceptionally hard. And I can tell you from experience as well, when it comes down to it, it’s really a matter of how hard you’re training. Moreso than a matter of how much protein you’re taking in, to a degree.
The Steroid Perspective Problem: How the popularity of drug using athletes places them in the position of setting the standards for protein intakes and bodybuilding nutrition information in general, when their intakes are not applicable to the general public.
We have to bear in mind as well that people who use steroids, one of the primary effects of anabolic steroids is increased protein synthesis. So, someone who ingests one gram per pound of body weight of protein, who is using steroids, is going to use a lot more of that protein than someone who is naturally consuming one gram protein per pound of body weight.
But because athletes who use drugs are the ones talking about what the standards are, are the ones in the magazines are the ones who get the most coverage. You’ll almost never see a natural bodybuilder, in fact, you won’t, with a ridiculously high social media following. You won’t see them in the magazines, no one even really covers natural bodybuilding competitions. And so, the information out there about bodybuilding tends to be perpetuated by those people who use steroids.
And they say what they’re doing. And they also have this strange way of thinking that somehow what they are doing is applicable to people who don’t use drugs, it’s not. There’s no comparison whatsoever. It’s apples and oranges. And I think it’s important that we start looking at the fact that too much of our information when it comes to nutrition is coming from people who are on steroids, especially from those who are on steroids and who don’t say they aren’t steroids. That’s part of the dangers as well.
So, I hope this video helps gives you some perspective when it comes to protein intake and also takes away this burden idea that you need to take protein shakes and supplements and protein bars to get this high amount of protein into your body to grow because you don’t. If you’re not using steroids, you don’t need that much protein.
Your body will do just fine, but it does take a little bit of a leap of faith. It’s hard when everyone around you is doing something different. It’s hard when everyone around you is saying, use more protein, use more protein, use more protein, because I’ve been there. But, give it a try and I’m sure you’re gonna be surprised by the results.
Thanks again so much for tuning in and most importantly, Excelsior.
🇺🇸 Celebrity Trainer/Nutritionist 🇹🇹
🏆Natural Bodybuilding Champ
🏋🏿 High Intensity Training ⬇️