Can you build muscle without protein?

    First let me answer this question by asking another question! Where does the word protein come from? It originated from the Greek word “proteios” which means “of the first rank or importance”. Well, if that’s the case, I’ll bet you can start to draw your own conclusions!

   Every cell in the body is partially composed of proteins!

   The food you consume is composed of 3 macronutrients: Proteins, Carbohydrate and Fat. Although your body has the ability to use any one of these nutrients for energy, typically only 10-20% of it comes from protein in a well balanced diet. Lower carb meal plans that are high in protein will use a higher percentage.

Your body can’t make proteins out of carbs or fats

   The human body is amazing and it has the ability to convert protein or fat into glucose for energy. It also has the ability to turn excess carbohydrate into fat! This can also happen with protein but it’s a very inefficient process. What it can’t do is generate protein from carbohydrate or fat.

   Since protein is comprised of strings of amino acids, your body can convert some amino acids into other forms in the liver but there are several amino acids your body simply can’t create.

There are 8 essential amino acids
(protein building blocks)

The 8 essential amino acids that your body needs from your dietary intake are:

The 8 essential amino acids:

The Branched Chain Aminos:

  1. Leucine
  2. Isoleucine
  3. Valine

The remaining 5 essential aminos:

  1. Lysine
  2. Methionine
  3. Phenylalanine
  4. Threonine
  5. Tryptophan



A protein is classified as a “Complete” protein if it contains all 8 essential aminos acids.

You need complete proteins to build muscle!

   So can you build muscle without protein? The answer is that you NEED complete proteins to build muscle. What this also means is that if you are consuming the 8 essential amino acids, your body has the ability to manufacture any non-essential amino acids.

If you are an athlete, your protein requirements will be higher than an individual that is not involved in activites that may break down muscle tissue.

If your goal is to build lean muscle and you  follow a well structured weight lifting routine, your protein requirements will be even higher!

How much protein do you need?

   The amount you actually need is a subject of endless debate! Some nutritionists will state that you only need minimal amounts of protein but hundreds of thousands of weight lifters and bodybuilders have proven time and again that higher amounts of protein provide significant benefits to building lean muscle!

It’s much safer to error on the side of too much protein than not enough. Do you want all that hard work in the gym to go to waste?!

A good rule of thumb is 1 gram of protein per pound of LEAN body mass.

This is an EXTREMELY generalized statement and only intended to be a rough starting point! Your protein requirements are highly dependent on the type of overall nutrition plan you are following as well as specific goals.

I have personally followed a meal plan that was 2 grams of protein per pound during my final weeks leading up to a body building show! The protein intake had to be this high since my carbohydrate and dietary fat levels where very low. The calories had to be made up of excess protein.

I would not recommend consuming this much protein for extended periods of time. It’s very expensive and you will not get all the nutrition your body needs.

Now, having said that, I need to make one more statement….

There is NO scientific evidence that excess protein
is bad for your kidneys!

This is one of those rumors that simply will not die! Once false (or flawed) information has propagated, it is nearly impossible to undo it. The original study that is responsible for spreading this information involved feeding excess protein to hospital kidney dialysis patients!!

If you have normal healthy kidney function then I am unaware of any studies that prove higher amounts of protein have a negative impact….

So train hard, eat a nutritious diet and
get enough protein!