Here is some really interesting research for you on the subject of protein and muscle growth. If you're serious about maxing out your gains in size and strength, this is one you'll definitely want to read.

First, a bit of background.

The study looked at the effects of different levels of protein intake in a group of soldiers competing for a place on the All Army Combatives Team.

The lead researcher (Jennifer Case) had actually competed in professional MMA, and was the winner of the Fatal Femmes World Middleweight Title in 2007. She wanted to know what the optimal diet was for athletes needing to decrease their weight, but still perform at optimum capacity.

The soldiers taking part in the study had an average body fat of 15%. So they were in reasonably good shape, as you’d expect in a group of soldiers, but a long way from cover model status (normally under 10% body fat).

The training programme involved six weeks of hand-to-hand combat training (10 hours of supervised physical training each week). During the training camp, the soldiers were assigned to one of three groups:

1. Control diet: No special combination of nutrients.
2. High protein diet: 30% protein, 40% carbs and 30% fat.
3. High carbohydrate diet: 15% protein, 65% carbs, and 20% fat.

This was a pretty rigorous training programme. In fact, 17 of the original 30 soldiers who signed up for the training camp had dropped out by the end of the 6-week trial.

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So which group got the best results?

  • In terms of weight loss, the high carbohydrate lost the most weight.
  • However, the men in the high protein group lost the most fat.
  • The control and protein groups gained muscle, while those in the high carbohydrate group actually lost muscle.

No surprise there. But here’s where things get interesting...

Soldiers in the protein group, who were taking in 2 grams of protein per kilogram of bodyweight, gained around 0.8 kilograms of muscle.However, the control group ended up eating around 3 grams of protein per kilogram of bodyweight (1.4 grams per pound of bodyweight). This led to an impressive 2-kilogram (4.4 pounds) gain in muscle mass. All in just six weeks.

Here’s what Dr Peter Lemon - better known by some as “Dr Protein” because of his extensive research on the subject of protein and muscle growth - had to say in an interview when he was asked how much protein is optimal for muscle growth:

“We did a series of studies through the 1980′s and 1990′s showing that the needs for bodybuilding athletes not taking any anabolic agents were on the order of about 1.6 to 1.8 grams per kilogram of body mass. However, a number of people that we studied were taking 3 or 4 grams per kilogram per day and certainly were seeing large increases in hypertrophy. I would say that certainly in the range of 2 grams per kg is where you should start. But, it might be higher than that and we just don’t have the science to answer that question definitively.”

Bottom line, a protein intake of 2 grams per kilogram (0.9 grams per pound) of bodyweight is really the minimum to aim for if you’re serious about building muscle.

But if you really want to pack on the size, try experimenting with a higher protein intake of around 3 grams per kilogram (1.4 grams per pound). I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised with the results.

Editor's Note: Although it’s possible to get 3 grams of protein per kilogram of bodyweight from your diet, it’s not easy. One of the best ways to boost your protein intake is with a high quality whey concentrate, WPC Precision.