Want To Build Muscle? Don't Make These Protein Mistakes

Protein pitfalls:

Protein is one of three essential macronutrients – carbohydrates, fats, and proteins – that provide energy, help you function throughout the day, and support your fitness goals. The most important of the three for muscle building is protein. There are many misconceptions about protein, including how much you should take, when you should take it, and how often. Let's look at the most common protein mistakes for muscle-building and the proper way to use protein to achieve your muscle-building goals.


Whether you want to build muscle or burn fat, skipping a protein-packed breakfast is not recommended. Studies show that those trying to lose weight were more successful when they ate a healthy breakfast with a large protein serving. What's more, your muscles need the amino acids from protein for recovery and growth. (1) Focus on a breakfast rich in protein, complex carbohydrates, and healthy fats, such as a few whole eggs, a cup of broccoli, and one cup of quinoa.


Many protein shakes in a can or bottle seem convenient, but check the label. You'll often find that the sugar content is higher than the protein itself. While simple sugars may be beneficial for post-workout consumption to replenish glycogen stores, it is not doing you any good throughout the day. Simple sugars in the diet have been linked to weight gain and cardiovascular issues. Buying a large tub of no-sugar or low-sugar protein and making your own shakes at home is healthier and more economical. (2)


Regardless if your goal is weight loss, muscle mass, or better eating habits, cutting protein is one thing you don't want to do. Dietary protein has been shown to maintain and build lean muscle tissue. The more muscle you have, the more calories you burn while at rest. Dietary protein has also been shown as a key tool for promoting fat burning in the body. (3) If there is any macro-nutrient you should consider limiting, it's simple carbohydrates such as sugar-based snacks and drinks.


If there is one time of the day that you should not skip your protein serving, it's following a workout. Thirty to forty-five minutes after your workout is prime time to provide your muscle tissue with the nutrients it needs to repair, maintain, and grow. A whey protein isolate is the easiest way to take that muscle-building protein. Shoot for twenty to thirty grams of protein up to one hour following a workout.


Protein before bed has the advantage of promoting muscle building, activating a higher level of protein synthesis, and supporting fat burning. All three are critical if you're goal is to pack on lean muscle tissue. For those trying to lose weight, a protein shake before bed helps curb hunger pangs. You'll also wake up without feeling terrible cravings for unhealthy foods. Want to build muscle? Drink one serving of casein protein one to two hours before bed. Want to burn fat? Try a serving of a whey protein blend one to two hours before bed. With the common protein mistakes out of the way, let's clear up a few more misconceptions about protein supplements for muscle building.


Selecting the right type of protein-based on your goals and lifestyle is important. A Quality whey protein will be your best friend if you are trying to support muscle building and fat loss. Suppose you are trying to improve your overall eating habits or have dietary restrictions such as following a vegan or vegetarian lifestyle. In that case, a great plant-based protein might be best for you.


The question is often whether you should go with an isolate or blend for both animal and plant-based proteins. More often than not, a blend will be the way to go. An animal-based protein blend may contain a mixture of whey concentrate, hydrolyzed whey, egg-based, and casein, a slower-digesting protein. You may also want to use an isolate when building muscle, as it provides an instant supply of amino acids for muscle recovery. To form complete proteins, you must have a blend of plant-based proteins. The best ingredients are peas, brown rice, hemp, chia seed, and pumpkin seed.


Ideally, your whey protein supplement will have between twenty and twenty-five grams of protein per serving. Before selecting a protein, check the label and look for added branched-chain amino acids such as taurine, glutamine, and creatine. This is called nitrogen spiking, when companies add amino acids to artificially inflate the grams per serving.


Spacing out your protein consumption allows for ideal digestion and amino acid assimilation. Try to eat protein with each meal. If you want to maximize building muscle, twenty to thirty grams of protein every two to four hours is a great goal. If you are vegetarian or vegan, the same rule still applies. Eat protein-heavy plant foods such as lentils, pumpkin seeds, and black rice.


If you are lactose intolerant or your stomach has a hard time with plant foods such as dark leafy greens, you may have difficulty properly digesting protein without realizing it. A digestive enzyme blend supplement will drastically improve your body's ability to digest and assimilate nutrients with an emphasis on amino acids from protein. In fact, many protein supplements now have a digestive enzyme blend built in. Check the label when buying.


Did you change any of your protein-focused habits? Has it made a difference? If you want to build more muscle, how's your progress going? Let us know on our Instagram.


  1. L B Bauer, L J Reynolds, S M Douglas, M L Kearney, H A Hoertel, R S Shafer, J P Thyfault, H J Leidy. A pilot study examining the effects of consuming a high-protein vs normal-protein breakfast on free-living glycemic control in overweight/obese 'breakfast skipping' adolescents. International Journal of Obesity, 2015; DOI: 10.1038/ijo.2015.101
  2. Te Morenga Lisa, Mallard Simonette, Mann Jim. Dietary sugars and body weight: systematic review and meta-analyses of randomised controlled trials and cohort studies BMJ 2013; 346 :e7492
  3. Phillips SM1, Van Loon LJ. Dietary protein for athletes: from requirements to optimum adaptation. J Sports Sci. 2011;29 Suppl 1:S29-38. doi: 10.1080/02640414.2011.619204.