As one of the most popular and controversial supplements known to the fitness industry, protein powders are a thing of beauty. Gym goers, bodybuilders, and athletes alike take these protein-packed powders to hopefully gain something out of their workouts. They spend countless amount of dollars a year for their shakes to stay in peak condition. Without protein powder, all their muscles would crumble away slowly, right? However, have you ever thought to yourself, “do I need protein powder to build muscle?” This is a very common question asked around by society, and written this article lies the answer, and it may surprise you.
How Does One Build Muscle?
This should be cleared up first and foremost before diving any further into this article. If you don’t know the real science behind building muscle, it’s safe to say a protein shake won’t do you jack. You must set your foundation straight before attempting to add any supplementation. Through countless amount of research done by professionals and researchers, and me, of course, it has been concluded the two forms to build muscle. They are metabolic stress/progressive overload on your muscles causes them to grow. One on its own, or a combination of the two, leads to muscle hypertrophy, the increase in muscle mass volume. I swear this will all make sense in just a minute.
For metabolic stress to occur, along with progressive overload, you must be performing weight resistance exercises. This is just another term for lifting weights. I’m talking bench press, squats, curls, pull-ups, deadlifts, and the millions of other exercises. What differentiates metabolic stress and progressive overload are the repetitions. This type of exercise requires not the heaviest weight, but the highest amount of reps. It puts your muscles into continuous tension until you feel a burning sensation. Why is that?
Well, to keep our muscles from fatiguing, your body needs to supply oxygen to them at a rapid pace. Since you’re using lighter weights at longer reps, oxygen is eventually going to run out for your muscles. At that point, glucose is ramped up even higher to provide your body with energy, begin the process of glycolysis. You don’t need to know all that much about glycolysis, click here if you want to learn more, but it produces lactate or lactic acid. The fast build-up of lactic acid is what causes such a burning sensation in your muscles, forcing you to stop eventually. This is just one form of building muscle.
This side of muscle hypertrophy could be classified as almost the complete opposite of metabolic stress, but with the same results. Progressive overload involves lower amount reps, but heavier weight. It’s wanting to put more weight on the bar to place even more tension on every set. It’s classified as a sure-fire way to build muscle when working out since you’re putting more stress on your muscles each in every time. But why is stress and tension so important for your muscles?
You see, when your muscles fibers and tissues get lots of tension, they get damaged, needing repairs as soon as possible. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to guess that. You may be thinking to yourself, “damage to my muscle fibers sounds like a bad thing.” Well, actually, you want that to happen. Only through wear and tear can your muscle fibers grow bigger and stronger. Your muscles don’t crumble under tension, they strive for it. But who does the repair for them?
How Protein Comes Into Play?
It’s time to describe how the most filling macronutrient protein comes into the equation of building muscle. As the by far most important nutrient in growing muscle, you won’t go very far without. But it isn’t exactly the protein itself that helps you build the muscle, it’s the amino acids inside the protein. These guys are the repair mechanism for torn up muscle fibers and tissues. From the digestive system, amino acids are placed into your bloodstream to be transported to areas where you’re body needs them. The whole process of your stomach breaking down protein is quite interesting, if you’d like to know more about it, click here for an article I wrote about it.
However, you can’t be eating just any type of protein and expect your muscles to suffice with it. It needs to be of high quality and a complete protein. Your high-quality proteins include your chicken breast, steaks, salmon, tilapia, eggs, and a bunch of others, complete list here. When I refer to a complete protein, I’m referring to a protein that contains the 11 essential amino acids are bodies need to consume to survive. There are 20 amino acids in total, and 9 of them our bodies can produce on their own. The other 11 need to be consumed, whether that be through dietary protein or supplements. If a protein those not contain all the essential amino acids, it is not considered a complete protein.
Do I Need My Shake Then?
Now that we got why we need protein out of the way let’s talk about the supplement that provides the best protein; protein powders. Do I need protein powder to build muscle? The answer is straightforward here, not at all. This may come as a surprise to many people, especially to those who have taken protein powders for much of their lifting careers. That’s the truth, you can get protein from so many different other sources, too many to count really. However, it’s still nowhere near a waste of money. Protein powders cans still be very useful.
The main reason why people spend money on protein supplements is for convenience. I can say without a doubt that protein shakes are the most convenient source of protein. You can argue down in the comments below, but tell me, what other protein source gives you 25 grams of protein just by dropping a scoop of powder into a cup of water? There’s nothing simpler than that, accessible, high-quality, and complete protein in a shake. That’s why lifters take them, it makes their diets a whole lot easier to stick to. Not to mention, it fills them up quicker, could potentially spark their metabolism, and it just tastes good.
In conclusion, do I need protein powder to build muscle? The answer is no, they are not a necessity to build muscle. The sources of protein out there are enough to hold you over to build muscle. However, protein powder is a very convenient source of protein for many people who are looking to gain muscle. It’s a quick and easy drink, serving around 25 grams of protein per scoop.
Got any questions? Leave them down below, along with any comments you may have!