Make no mistake, heavy weight-training greatly increases protein requirements. The leading researchers who study protein requirements for athletes like Dr. Peter Lemon and Dr. Mark Tarnopolsky and leading sports nutrition experts like Dr. Mauro Di Pasquale have clearly shown that the protein needs of athletes are higher than those of ordinary folks(1,2,3). But remember, don’t get caught up in the mindset that you should only eat as much protein as you “need”. If you eat more than that the only consequence is that you will get leaner or possibly it might decrease your appetite too much.
Ideally, a 200 pound hard-training athlete or bodybuilder should eat at least 30 to 50 grams of protein at each of five or six small meals each day. 50 grams of protein is equivalent to one full chicken breast or two and a half small hamburger patties (there are tons of websites that give protein and calorie values for various foods that allow you to track your food intake).
Most top bodybuilder’s never allow more than 3 or 4 hours to go by without eating protein and they eat at least six meals a day. Their daily intake might include two to four protein shakes or meal replacement drinks since it can be difficult for even the most dedicated athlete to get adequate protein or an adequate number of meals from regular food.
This may seem slightly excessive but remember, you cannot expect dramatic results unless you dramatically improve your diet. You will never have big muscles or be able to see your abs unless you get your diet just right! If you eat like a regular guy, you will look like a regular guy! One quick tip to remember about protein is that it should always be the cornerstone of your diet. If you want to gain weight, keep altering your carbs and fats upwards until you are gaining 1 to 3 pounds per week. If you are trying to lose weight, keep altering your fat and carbs downwards until you are losing 1 to 3 pounds per week.
Many mainstream nutrition professionals would ridicule such high amounts of protein but those are real-world figures, based on what professional bodybuilders and athletes have found over decades of trial and error to be effective. Mainstream nutrition professionals are rarely familiar with the research on nutrition for athletics. Unless sports nutrition is their main focus, they are unlikely to have a full grasp of recent research in this field. I used to work with the world’s biggest bodybuilder – 30-stone, Greg Kovacs – he used to eat as much as 800 or more grams of protein per day!