What is the best protein dose to build muscle?

Protein supplements are a staple in many athletes’ diet program. But how much do you need to keep you in the muscle-building mode? Researchers wanted to test this idea and determine the best postworkout protein dose to maximize muscle protein synthesis. 

They had highly trained resistance athletes perform a bout of resistance exercise on five separate occasions. In order to test the effects of a protein dose, they had the athletes consume one of 5 different doses of egg protein after exercise. The drinks contained no protein (control) or 5g, 10g, 20g and 40g of protein. Specific measures of muscle protein synthesis were then determined for the next 4 hours.

The control group (no protein) increased protein synthesis, indicating that exercise alone has a positive effect on muscle protein synthesis. There was a further increase after the 5g dose of protein and yet a further increase after the 10g protein dose. When the dose was bumped to 20g, there was almost a doubling of muscle protein synthesis. When the highest dose of 40g of protein was consumed, there was very little further increase in protein synthesis, indicating the effect plateaus somewhere near 20g.

These results indicate a dose-response relationship between the amount of protein ingested and stimulation of protein synthesis after resistance exercise up to about 20g of dietary protein. Consuming more than 20g per serving results in a marked increase in burning of protein as fuel instead of as a source of protein synthesis.

The take home message: a minimum of 20g of high-quality protein providing 9g of essential amino acids is the ideal amount of protein to consume after resistance exercise to maximize protein synthesis.

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