What is the optimal protein intake and food for building muscle?

Are we protein deficient?

Protein: the food marketing, health and fitness industries tell us that more is better. Everywhere you look now there are more and more products being marketed by how much protein they have in them. It’s as if everyone is walking around with a protein deficiency.

However, have you ever heard of anyone who is protein deficient? Does too much protein have any health consequences? Are there nutrients just as important as protein for health and building muscle?

Protein is an essential component of every cell in the body and is made up of 22 building blocks called amino acids. The recommended daily allowance of protein from the World Health Organisation is around 0.8g per kg of bodyweight.

Most people in the western world eat significantly more than this which has been shown to have negative health consequences. For example, it has been shown to put more stress on the liver and  kidneys.

What’s the optimal intake for muscle growth?

Plant protein was shown to be as effective as animal protein for muscle growth

The more active you are the more protein would benefit you, especially if strength training. However, what is the optimal intake? The largest meta-analysis study on this topic analysed nearly 50 studies and aimed to determine how protein consumption affected muscle growth, strength and mass. The result was that 1.6g per kg of bodyweight was the optimal amount. It was also found that the timing of protein consumption was of no real concern i.e. immediately after a workout or hours after.

Furthermore, it was also concluded that the type of protein consumed didn’t have any impact on muscle growth. Therefore, it doesn’t matter whether the protein was from an animal based source or plant based source.

It’s important to note that muscle grows in recovery. The best way to speed up recovery is to eat anti-inflammatory foods. Plant foods are are naturally anti-inflammatory and therefore the best sources of recovery foods.

The REAL nutrient deficiencies

With regards to our health, we have 99 problems but protein ain’t one.

Protein is so ingrained in our brains. We have been conned by the food and fitness industry and clever marketing that promotes protein as the most important nutrient. While protein is an essential nutrient, so to are many micronutrients (vitamins and minerals) and fibre to ensure we have optimal health.

However, the statistics show that there are high levels of micronutrient deficiencies in the UK. The four most common are calcium, vitamin D, magnesium and iron. We are also deficient in fibre with the UK National diet and nutrition survey highlighting a staggering 72% men and 87% women do not get the recommended 25g of fibre per day.

The best way to increase your micronutrient and fibre intake is to increase your consumption of whole plant based foods.


  1. Don’t be conned by marketing, food and fitness industry saying that more protein is better and that you need to consume it immediately after exercise
  2. 1.6g per kg of bodyweight is the optimal protein intake if you are strength training, otherwise it’s around 0.8g per kg bodyweight
  3. The type of protein you consume (animal products or plant based) doesn’t impact muscle growth
  4. Muscle grows in recovery and the best way to recover is consuming anti-inflammatory foods found naturally in plants
  5. Many people are deficient in key micronutrients and fibre. The best way to increase your intake is to eat a whole plant foods diet


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