Food & Drink

More protein doesn't ensure more muscle

What's the best way to eat to build muscle?

The answer may surprise you.

Muscle is primarily protein, so it's natural to assume that if you want more muscle, you should eat more protein. In fact, that's partly true.

We need amino acids, the building blocks of protein, to repair, maintain and build muscle. But we don't need a lot.

Not more than 10 percent to 15 percent of the calories in your diet should come from protein. Since meat is muscle, it's rich in protein. So are eggs, cheese and milk. Animal products are concentrated sources of protein, but they also contain artery-clogging saturated fat and cholesterol, which most of us get in excess in our diets.

Other good sources include beans, seeds and nuts. Breads, cereals and vegetables also contain protein, as well as complex carbohydrates and fiber. These plant sources are the best for overall good health.

If you want to build stronger or larger muscles, though, there's a much more important ingredient: Work. When you engage in strenuous, weight-bearing exercise, small tears occur in your muscle tissue. Amino acids from protein are used to make repairs, and the resulting muscle tissue is stronger.

Most of us need about a half gram of protein per pound of body weight each day, or a total of 60-80 grams.

Flooding your body with extra protein from supplements doesn't provide any advantage. In fact, it can cause harm. Byproducts of protein breakdown have to be filtered from the bloodstream, increasing the workload on your kidneys.