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How much protein should I eat if I am strength training?

Protein is a hot topic in the exercise space – particularly when it comes to strength training. Reasons for the protein hype generally circle around its role in promoting muscle growth. More protein more gains, right?

Well, no.

Something to remember is the main facilitator of muscle growth is the training itself. You could eat all the protein in the world, but if you aren’t training, you won’t see any muscle growth.

This isn’t to say dietary protein isn’t important for strength training - it is. Consuming protein strategically can enhance the muscle growth benefits we see from strength training.

When looking at optimising your protein intake to complement your training, here are some things to consider:

  1. Your training routine, as well as your fitness and performance goals

  2. Total daily protein requirements

  3. Amount of protein at each meal

  4. The distribution of protein throughout the day

Your training routine and your performance goals

Performance goals are a big one – they affect every part of your training routine and nutrition plan. Strength training to improve running distance looks very different to strength training to prepare for a weightlifting comp and your nutrition needs will vary accordingly. Likewise, your protein requirements on heavy training days will differ to your protein requirements on rest days. A dietitian can help you tailor your protein intake to suit your training and performance requirements.

Total daily protein requirements

In general, daily protein requirements depend on many things including weight, age, illness/injury and the amount and type of exercise you do.

For strength training, your protein requirements do increase but not as much as you may think. The average person doing strength training a few times a week may only need 1.0-1.2g of protein per kilogram of bodyweight each day. This translates to an 80kg male who strength trains 4 times a week needing somewhere between 80- 96g protein each day. It is important to note that those who are new to strength training appear to have higher protein requirements compared to those with experience in strength training.

Daily protein requirements need to be considered alongside the amount of protein you consume at each meal and throughout your whole day.

Amount of protein at each meal

To enhance muscle growth from strength training, the timing and amount of protein you eat both at one meal or snack occasion is just as important to consider as your protein intake over the course of the entire day.

Approximately 30g protein post-training is recommended. Most people think this has to be eaten within the hour post workout, but actually, you’ll get a similar benefit if you eat this protein up to a day post training. In general, more protein does not equal more muscle growth. Once you’ve had your 30 grams post workout, there is no additional benefit to eating more than that. It is important that you meet your total protein requirements at other meal or snack times during the day if you are having 30 grams of protein after your strength training.

Meal or snack ideas containing approximately 30 grams of protein: - Smoothie with milk, high protein yoghurt (e.g. Chobani, Yo-Pro) and peanut butter - Tinned tuna and cheese on Vita-Weats - Omelette (with three eggs and your choice of add ins – we love tomato, capsicum and a sprinkling of cheese) with 2 slices wholegrain bread - Stir-fry with ½ chicken breast, mixed vegetables and rice

The distribution of protein throughout the day

When thinking about meeting daily requirements, including protein at each mealtime over the course of the day is preferred, rather than eating all of your protein at one meal.

Taking our 80kg male from earlier as an example, to meet his daily protein requirements of 80-96g, he could eat approximately 30g of protein at each main meal (a total of 90g protein daily). This might look like:

Breakfast: 2/3 cup oats + 1 cup milk + high protein yoghurt

Lunch: Sandwich on wholegrain bread with small tin of tuna + slice of cheese + mixed salad

Dinner: 150g roast chicken with roast potato and mixed vegetables

When it comes to strength training, being strategic about your protein intake is just as essential as total intake to optimise muscle growth post-training. If you want more advice around this, come and see us for a personalised plan!


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