Do I Need Protein Powder to Build Muscle?

Are Protein Supplements Necessary to Build Muscle?

Man with big muscles

The answer is no, you do not need protein powder to build muscle.


If you cannot get the necessary amount of protein you need from food on a consistent daily basis, then yes, you need a protein supplement.

The definition of supplement;

Noun: “something added to complete a thing, supply a deficiency, or reinforce or extend a whole”.

This simply means that sports supplements are there to complete your nutrition, or to reinforce or extend your total nutrition plan. Supplements are needed if your normal diet is lacking in certain areas.

Protein powder is not a magic formula that is going to make your muscles grow. It merely provides your muscles with the building blocks they need to maintain and grow. Muscles must have a reason to grow, and working out and using the muscle is what is necessary to coax them into getting bigger and/or stronger.

The body and muscles in particular are amazingly complex organisms. When you workout with intensity, pushing your muscles hard and possibly harder than they have been pushed before, there are complex mechanisms and chemical reactions that respond to the stress by not only repairing and restoring the muscle, but preparing it for the next time the stress occurs by getting slightly stronger and/or bigger. This is how your body puts on muscle mass.

See my article on Advanced Training Techniques.

Man working out his muscles

In order to accomplish the task of recovery and getting ready for the next round, muscles need certain nutrients, and protein is the most important. If you want your muscles to grow as much as possible you need to be sure they always have enough protein available to do so.

How Much Protein Do I Need?

In basic terms, you need protein to grow, and if you are serious about increasing muscle mass, you need 1-1.5 grams of protein per pound of body weight every day for maximum gains.

This protein can (and should) mostly come from whole foods such as chicken, red meat, fish, etc. Whatever you cannot get from these sources can be supplemented with protein powder.

There was a time not terribly long ago that sports supplements were not readily available. When I was starting out in the early 80’s, there were only a few brands of protein powder, and most tasted like chalk. I had little money to spend, so I rarely used these supplements. I still made good progress just eating what my Mom was cooking, and probably more than my share of chocolate milk.

Lots of the bodybuilders from that era, including Arnold, grew plenty of muscle without protein powders. Do realize that even though steroids were also rampant in the upper echelon of the sport, protein is still the most important nutrient for building muscle. Steroids do not replace protein.

As you will see if you look at it, you would need to eat a boatload of meat and fish to meet your daily protein requirements. If you are a 200 lb bodybuilder, you need 200-300 grams of quality protein each day.

Chicken Dinner

One ounce of chicken provides approximately 6 grams of protein. This is equal to 96 grams of protein per pound of chicken! You would need to eat 2-3 pounds of chicken each day just to get the protein necessary for maximum muscle growth.

It is at this point that you start to realize that protein powder is a much more convenient and economical way to get your protein. Just 2-3 protein shakes per day will provide 50-75 of those grams.

What kind of protein powder do I need?

I would recommend starting with a tub of Whey protein powder such as Optimum Nutrition Whey Gold. This is the best selling protein powder for many years now due to its value and taste. I have consumed over 100 pounds of this stuff myself over the years! Start by taking a scoop with water or milk (preferred) in a shake  after every workout. Also have a scoop first thing in the morning since your body has not had any protein through the night and it is still trying to put on more muscle.

Click here for information on where to buy cheap protein powder.

So, when you ask, “Do I need protein powder to build muscle”? I say No, BUT it makes life a lot easier!

Please comment below and let me know your personal relationship with protein powder and shakes!

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