How Much Protein to Build Muscle?

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People often ask me “How much protein to build muscle?”. Arnold Schwarzenegger, who many consider to be the “king of bodybuilding”, even labels protein as the most important element of building muscle. Below are several expert opinions on how much protein is needed to build muscle, plus real life examples which suggest protein might not be needed to build muscle after all.

Charles Poliquin

ANSWER: 1 gram per lb of body weight

Charles Poliquin is regarded as one of the best strength coaches around. He has trained various Olympic medalists, ranging from 17 unique sports. In an interview with T Nation, Poliquin recommends eating 1g of protein per lb of body weight. Thus, if you are 160lbs, then you would need 160 grams of protein for optimal muscle growth.

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This protein should be from high quality sources. Read: Top 5 High Protein Foods on the Planet for more information on this. Poliquin recommends splitting your total protein amount over the course of 6 meals. So, if you weigh 200lbs and your goal is 200 grams of protein, you would roughly eat 35 grams of protein with each meal.

Mike Mentzer

ANSWER: 1 gram per 2lbs of body weight

Mike Mentzer is considered one of the best bodybuilders of all time, with him rising to fame in the 70’s, competing against the likes of Arnold Schwarzenegger. He very much took a scientific approach to training, with many believing Mentzer the smartest bodybuilder ever. This is because he could spend a fraction amount of time in the gym, compared to his rivals, yet build muscle at the same rate.

In Mike’s book, “The Mentzer Method to Fitness”, he recommends, as a rule of thumb, to consume 1 gram of protein for every 2lbs of body weight. He adds that supplements aren’t needed to help you reach your protein goal, and a well balanced diet is more than suffice. He recommends protein sources consisting of: meats, fish and dairy.

Arnold Schwarzenegger

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ANSWER: 100-150 grams

In Schwarzenegger’s book “Arnold’s Bodybuilding for Men” he only recommends protein of 100-150 grams each day. This is less than the common census of 1 gram of protein per lb of body weight each day.

He continues saying that bodybuilders protein intake is excessive, and implies that more protein doesn’t necessarily mean bigger muscles.


Is Protein Even Needed at all?


Gorillas are among of the strongest and biggest animals. Their diet consists of leaves, stems and fruit. These food sources are far from high in protein and goes against the advice set by today’s experts on building muscle. Gorilla’s are the closest relatives to humans, and they have no problem maintaining their huge muscular frames with little protein, albeit animals.


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Prisoners often complete incredible transformations when inside. So much that their friends, often do not even recognise them when they come out. For more information on how prisoners get big in prison, take a read of How to Get Ripped With High Frequency Training. Prisoners cannot afford to be picky with their diet. Instead they are served average sized servings with minimal amounts of protein. However, some report being able to get their hands on protein powder, but it doesn’t sound too common.


Although there is some insight into how it is possible to build muscle with minimal amounts of protein, a high protein diet is still recommended when trying to build maximum muscle mass. After all, who would argue with Arnold?

With high protein intakes recommended by the experts, it is often hard to get all of this from real food. This is where protein shakes are crucial. Is each protein shake equal, which one should you choose? Take a read of my – Top 3 Protein Shakes on the Market Post

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