You need protein to build muscle. This article is about how to use protein supplements in an intelligent manner to build muscle without wasting your money.

The Theory Behind Using Protein Supplements

The word supplement refers to something taken in addition to your regular meals.

Any diet should have sufficient protein at any given meal. The concept of protein supplements came about through the idea that you never want to be without readily-usable protein in your digestive system.

This is so that your body always has the building blocks to build muscle. If it those building blocks aren’t around – like say you haven’t eaten for 5 hours – then muscle building stops.

Protein supplements are a way to constantly make protein available to your body.

Protein Supplements Are Not Meant To Be Meal Replacements

So let’s say that your main goal is to build muscle. You don’t need a “Meal Replacement Shake.” You just need a meal.

Due to different people on different diets and a ton of confusing marketing, some people start to think that you can’t build muscle unless most of what you eat is from powder. This is wrong.

Even if you are on a diet, you can lose weight from eating normal food, too.

How Should Protein Supplements Be Used To Build Muscle?

This is the key question to ask. And the answer is simple.

You use protein supplements in between meals or before, during or after workouts so that your body is never lacking the raw materials with which to build muscle.

Think of it like a bricklayer who’s got no bricks. Your job is to make sure he’s got a constant flow of bricks, otherwise the wall won’t get any bigger.

Getting the Timing Right

Your body can only absorb about 20-25 grams of protein at one time. It obviously may vary more than that depending on if you’re a 100 pound girl or a 240 pound guy. But that is apparently the average range.

Now, that takes about 1.5-2 hours to get through your system (obviously depending on how big of a meal you eat). So you want to take a look at your eating schedule and workout schedule to time these appropriately.

The simple way to go about it is to take it right about halfway between your meals. No magical calculations. If you eat lunch at 12:00PM and dinner at 6:00PM, then drink your shake at 3:00PM.

Then… if you don’t have any digestion problems from it, drink a shake before you go to sleep.

Okay, this brings me to a secret trick.

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Slow-Release Protein at Night

Different types of protein actually get digested at different rates. Casein – the kind of protein found in eggs – is one of these. It comes in a powder, just like your other forms of protein.

I have used casein protein successfully in the past to gain muscle along with whey protein.

The simple diet program I’ve followed and put other muscle-gainers on is:

  • Breakfast
  • Protein shake – whey protein
  • Lunch
  • Protein shake – whey protein
  • Dinner
  • Protein shake – casein protein

This ensures that you’ve got a round-the-clock supply of protein.

Protein Supplements Help You Avoid Catabolism

Part of the constant need to snack with muscle builders is that they don’t want to fall into the dreaded catabolic state.

This is a state where your body needs energy (i.e. you’re hungry) and instead of getting energy from the food you eat, it just starts breaking down muscle and fat to get it. It also completely halts any muscle rebuilding that was going on.

Why Not Just Eat Meat?

We can get protein from eating the meat (the muscles) of other animals, so why don’t we just eat meat?

It is usually a matter of convenience. Not always easy to carry some dead cow or chicken around with you due to the fact that it spoils so fast.

Protein can be good for a while so long as it is dry.

The other reason is that protein powder gets to your muscles a bit faster. Not a whole lot faster, but a bit faster. And the only time this really matters is if you work out in the morning before you’ve had a meal and you want to slam that protein shake right after your workout.

The Standard After-Workout Shake

It was always “common knowledge” that you should have your protein shake right after you exercise.

But studies show that it kind of makes no difference if you’ve had a recent meal (since you’ve already got protein in you). In fact, from what I have read, it seems to be better if you ingest protein before the workout. But you’ve got to be careful because if it is an intense workout, you may get sick.

So, yeah, the standard after-workout shake is debunked. Unless you haven’t eaten that day or if it has been several hours and you don’t want to eat a real meal.

How To Waste Your Money on Protein Supplements

Ways to waste your money on protein:

  • Take massive amounts (60 grams) at one time
  • Eat it with a meal that already has plenty of protein
  • Buy pre-made shakes. These can be 5x the price of protein powder.

From my own survey, most people waste their money on protein supplements, which is why I’m writing this.

As a side note, everything I write about is to answer questions I’ve repeatedly been asked or things I’ve had to clarify because the general think on it is wrong.


Key points:

  • Protein supplements are necessary for building muscle fast or recovering from a period of intense workouts.
  • You don’t have to buy protein powder, you could just eat things high in protein.
  • Most often, money is wasted on protein supplements.
  • When done right, they can really work.

I don’t want to discourage anyone from buying protein powder.

I just don’t want you to waste your money on protein powder when you can be spending that on a trainer or a gym membership or other, more important things in your life.

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