If You’ve Been Loading Up on Protein to Build Muscle, You May Want to Rethink That

Portrait of a happy woman eating a protein bar at the gym after exercising - healthy lifestyle concepts

You’ve probably heard that eating plenty of protein is key to building lean muscle and generating strength. And while it’s important to eat enough of this macronutrient for muscle gains, it’s not the only macronutrient you should be focused on. In fact, it’s not even the most important.

To build muscle, registered dietitian and personal trainer Jim White, RDN, ACSM, owner of Jim White Fitness and Nutrition Studios, said to eat about 0.5 to 0.8 grams of protein per pound of bodyweight. So if you weigh 150 pounds, you should shoot for 75 to 120 grams of protein a day, which can be spread out among meals and snacks.

But while protein is important, there’s another macro that should actually take up most of your diet: carbs. “Carbs give us energy, and the more energy we have, the more we can push to have stronger workouts and have a better chance of increased muscle mass,” Jim told POPSUGAR. Have you ever gone on an extremely low-carb diet and found yourself so fatigued, you’re barely able to make it through your workout? It’s not uncommon with people who drastically reduce their carbs.

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And it’s not just the energy to crush it in the gym; carbs help your body process the protein that’s necessary for muscle growth. Jim explained that when you eat in an extreme carb restriction over an extended period of time, your body doesn’t have a chance to break down and use the protein for your muscles.

What Your Macro Breakdown Should Be For Muscle Gain

In terms of your macronutrient profile, carbs should be the focus of your day. “A diet that is higher in carbohydrates, and lower in protein and fat, is ideal,” Jim explained. To build muscle, he recommends a general macro breakdown of 55 percent carbs, 25 percent protein, and 20 percent fat.

So go ahead and enjoy that whole-wheat pasta or quinoa with dinner, throw a banana in your protein shake, and don’t be afraid to enjoy a slice of whole-grain toast with your eggs.

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