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Protein or Total Calories for Muscle Growth

I read an article where you should ingest between 30 and 50 grams of protein per meal four times a day to increase muscle growth. But doesn’t total calories also play a big role? Which is more important? Thanks

Go for 1.6-2.2 grams of protein per kilo of bodyweight, no need to ingest more than one gram per pound of body weight (in pounds) of protein.

Start off with 16 times your bodyweight in pounds as far as calories go, and increase caloric intake if your scale weight isn’t moving on a weekly basis. If you know that you have a very active lifestyle (physical job, work out 5-6 days a week, and maybe play some sports on the side for fun) then you could start with maybe 18 times.

So, let’s say you weigh 190 pounds (roughly 86 kilos) then take in,

  • 138-190 grams of protein per day
  • 3000-3400 calories a day.

The rest of your caloric intake should come from fat and carbs, get at least 0.8 grams of fat per kilo of bodyweight, continuing the above example that would be about 70 grams to maintain proper hormonal function (I rounded up).

Edit: reference https://www.t-nation.com/diet-fat-loss/the-complete-guide-to-bulking-and-cutting

And there are several high quality articles on T-nation regarding the same subject.

Diet strategy: https://www.t-nation.com/all-articles/tags/diet-strategy
Protein: https://www.t-nation.com/all-articles/tags/protein

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Both play a role.

If you are in a deficit (slight) you can still build muscleif your protein intake is high, but the process will be much slower.

If you consume low protein you can still build muscle when you are in a caloric surplus, but the process will be much slower.

Building muscle is about increasing protein synthesis; specifically increasing protein synthesis above protein breakdown.

Consuming protein provides the bricks to build the house, but you still need motivated employees to do the job. You also need the bricks to make it to the construction site.

Proteins are the bricks

Insulin/IGF-1 are the truck that bring the bricks to the yard (increase nutrients uptake by the muscles)

mTOR is the salary that motivates the employees to work (activate protein synthesis)

mTOR can be activated by training but also by ingesting a significant amount of calories/nutrients, mostly carbs and some amino acids. YES mTOR can thus be activated by ingesting protein (but your protein-source needs to be rich in leucine, at least 4-5g) but if you are in caloric deficit will be harder to activate mTOR. And if the deficit is too large you will go to the AMPK system which will inhibit mTOR… which is why if you are natural you cannot build muscle when you are in a large caloric deficit even if protein is high.

And if calories are low, IGF-1 will also be lower, making you less anabolic. If your carbs are too low, both insulin and IGF-1 will be low, decreasing your potential to build muscle.


Thank you for this response! Do you have any articles on tnation or thibarmy that talk about nutrition for the natural to build muscle mass or example diets / meal plans for the natural? I have the training part down from your previous articles. But need this part to take my gains to the next level.
Thank you for the help!

Coach I would like to ask you about your ideas to amount of nutritions per sitting. I watched all your videos on Thibarmy and read articles here. In some article you wrote that you are “high-carb” eater now, in one of your videos you descripte you are binge eater ect. Is it possible to share with us your thoughts about max. amount of nutritins? I mean, you wrote that you eat around 300-400g (maybe more) a day and you eat 2-3 meals + some shake. If you had time, could you please tell us what do you think about eating what is max “high carb meal” per one meal, what is the maximum amount of fat per meal in general way of course.
Thank you

As an experiment…try eating lots of chicken breast. yes the dry sterotypical bodybuilder staple protein (use hot sauce or cook with yogurt/curry to make tender).

Lots as in 2-4 big juicy breasts a day. Will almost guarantee a visual change in phsyqiue (more muscle/less fat) in one week.

The same didn’t work when i replaced it in equal amounts with protein powder. Beef is good as well but can get fattrer. Tilapia is great for very lean/shred. But something about chicken breast just piles on lean muscle (assuming good training/sleep).