Given that the first dietary change most people make when they start doing strength training is to eat more protein, it’s a relief to find out that scoffing more protein does indeed help build bigger muscles.
A review of 49 studies covering a total of 1,863 people who regularly undertook resistance training has found that those who consumed more protein – either in the form of shakes and other supplements, or normal food – put on more lean muscle mass and got stronger muscles than those who didn’t increase their intake.
All the participants were healthy adults doing at least two sessions of resistance training a week. That’s important to remember – the work comes before the protein.
The benefits of protein were more pronounced in young adults and those who were new to working out. The most common source of added protein in the research was whey protein supplements, and participants across the studies increased their protein intake by between 4g and 106g per day.
However, increasing the amount of protein you eat will only help up to a point. Once participants hit 1.6g of protein per kg of bodyweight per day, the researchers found that there were no extra benefits.
For a 75kg adult, 1.6g of protein per kg bodyweight works out at 120g of protein a day. If you’re struggling to think of ways to hit that total without using supplements, try our guide to foods with a high protein content. There’s some really good news for fans of parmesan cheese in there.
It’s generally advisable to get your protein from food, rather than supplements, because it will then come with a handy serving of other valuable nutrients. It’s also important to remember that protein shakes are meant to be used as supplements to a balanced diet, rather than as meal replacements.
However, if you’re training regularly and need a convenient hit of protein, protein supplements can be incredibly useful and there is little risk to using them.
RECOMMENDED: The Best Protein Bars