How Much Protein Do Resistance Training Athletes Need?

by Michael T. Nelson, PhD, CSCS,*D
Personal Training Quarterly January 2019
Vol 3, Issue 5


Consumption of dietary protein by athletes is a common intervention to maximize gains in muscle and strength, and to improve body composition. The purpose of this article is to analyze the current research on the optimal amount of dietary protein for resistance training athletes.

Paywall block issue

This article is not configured properly for members or paid content.
isMemberOnly: {{isMemberOnly}} | isPaidContent: {{isPaidContent}}
spc: One or more parts of the product SPC is missing.

Read the full article

View the video

Login to view more

{{discountDesc}} Valid thru {{discountEnds}}

This {{ogType == 'video.other' ? 'video':'article'}} is available with a NSCA membership

This {{ogType == 'video.other' ? 'video':'article'}} can be purchased for {{prices}}
Price includes membership pricing and promotions

Purchase this {{ogType == 'video.other' ? 'video':'article'}}. Price range: {{prices}}
Price range includes membership pricing and promotions

Become a Member Add to Cart Login

This article originally appeared in Personal Training Quarterly (PTQ)—a quarterly publication for NSCA Members designed specifically for the personal trainer. Discover easy-to-read, research-based articles that take your training knowledge further with Nutrition, Programming, and Personal Business Development columns in each quarterly, electronic issue. Read more articles from PTQ »



1. Anthony, JC, Anthony, TG, Kimball, SR, and Jefferson, LS. Signaling pathways involved in translational control of protein synthesis in skeletal muscle by leucine. The Journal of Nutrition 131(3): 856s-860s, 2001.

2. Areta, JL, Burke, LM, Ross, ML, Camera, DM, West, DW, Broad, EM, et al. Timing and distribution of protein ingestion during prolonged recovery from resistance exercise alters myofibrillar protein synthesis. The Journal of Physiology 591(Pt 9): 2319-2331, 2013.

3. Atherton, PJ, Smith, K, Etheridge, T, Rankin, D, and Rennie, MJ. Distinct anabolic signalling responses to amino acids in C2C12 skeletal muscle cells. Amino Acids 38(5): 1533-1539, 2012.

4. Biolo, G, Maggi, SP, Williams, BD, Tipton, KD, and Wolfe, RR. Increased rates of muscle protein turnover and amino acid transport after resistance exercise in humans. The American Journal of Physiology 268(3 Pt 1): E514-20, 1995.

5. Breen, L, and Churchward-Venne, TA. Leucine: A nutrient ‘trigger’ for muscle anabolism, but what more? Journal of Physiology 590(9): 2065-2066, 2012.

6. Chesley, A, MacDougall, JD, Tarnopolsky, MA, Atkinson, SA, and Smith, K. Changes in human muscle protein synthesis after resistance exercise. Journal of Applied Physiology 73(4): 1383-1388, 1992.

7. Churchward-Venne, TA, Burd, NA, and Phillips, SM. Nutritional regulation of muscle protein synthesis with resistance exercise: Strategies to enhance anabolism. Nutrition & Metabolism 9(1): 40, 2012.

8. Crozier, SJ, Kimball, SR, Emmert, SW, Anthony, JC, and Jefferson, LS. Oral leucine administration stimulates protein synthesis in rat skeletal muscle. The Journal of Nutrition 135(3): 376-382, 2005.

9. Cuthbertson, D, Smith, K, Babraj, J, Leese, G, Waddell, T, Atherton, P, et al. Anabolic signaling deficits underlie amino acid resistance of wasting, aging muscle. The FASEB Journal 19(3): 422-424, 2005.

10. Drummond, MJ, Dreyer, HC, Fry, CS, Glynn, EL, and Rasmussen, BB. Nutritional and contractile regulation of human skeletal muscle protein synthesis and mTORC1 signaling. Journal of Applied Physiology 106(4): 1374-1384, 2009.

11. Drummond, MJ, Miyazaki, M, Dreyer, HC, Pennings, B, Dhanani, S, Volpi, E, et al. Expression of growth-related genes in young and older human skeletal muscle following an acute stimulation of protein synthesis. Journal of Applied Physiology 106(4): 1403-1411, 2009.

12. Escobar, J, Frank, JW, Suryawan, A, Nguyen, HV, Kimball, SR, Jefferson, LS, et al. Physiological rise in plasma leucine stimulates muscle protein synthesis in neonatal pigs by enhancing translation initiation factor activation. American Journal of Physiology Endocrinology Metabolism 288(5): E914-21, 2005.

13. Kato, H, Suzuki, H, Mimura, M, Inoue, Y, Sugita, M, Suzuki, K, et al. Leucine-enriched essential amino acids attenuate muscle soreness and improve muscle protein synthesis after eccentric contractions in rats. Amino Acids 47(6): 1193-1201, 2015.

14. Layman, DK, Evans, E, Baum, JI, Seyler, J, Erickson, DJ, and Boileau, RA. Dietary protein and exercise have additive effects on body composition during weight loss in adult women. The Journal of Nutrition 135(8): 1903-1910, 2005.

15. Mero, AA, Huovinen, H, Matintupa, O, Hulmi, JJ, Puurtinen, R, Hohtari, H, et al. Moderate energy restriction with high protein diet results in healthier outcome in women. Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition 7(1): 4, 2010.

16. Mettler, S, Mitchell, N, and Tipton, KD. Increased protein intake reduces lean body mass loss during weight loss in athletes. Medicine and Science in Sports Exercise 42(2): 326-337, 2010.

17. Moore, DR, Phillips, SM, Babraj, JA, Smith, K, and Rennie, MJ. Myofibrillar and collagen protein synthesis in human skeletal muscle in young men after maximal shortening and lengthening contractions. American Journal of Physiology Endocrinology Metabolism 288(6): E1153-1159, 2005.

18. Morton, RW, McGlory, C, and Phillips, SM. Nutritional interventions to augment resistance training-induced skeletal muscle hypertrophy. Frontiers in Physiology 6: 245, 2015.

19. Norton, LE, and Layman, DK. Leucine regulates translation initiation of protein synthesis in skeletal muscle after exercise. The Journal of Nutrition 136(2): 533s-537s, 2006.

20. Norton, LE, Wilson, GJ, Layman, DK, Moulton, CJ, and Garlick, PJ. Leucine content of dietary proteins is a determinant of postprandial skeletal muscle protein synthesis in adult rats. Nutrition & Metabolism 9(1): 67, 2012.

21. Phillips, SM, and Van Loon, LJ. Dietary protein for athletes: From requirements to optimum adaptation. Journal of Sports Science 29(Suppl 1): S29-38, 2011.

22. Phillips, SM, Tipton, KD, Aarsland, A, Wolf, SE, and Wolfe, RR. Mixed muscle protein synthesis and breakdown after resistance exercise in humans. The American Journal of Physiology 273(1 Pt 1): E99-107, 1997.

23. Phillips, SM. A brief review of critical processes in exercise-induced muscular hypertrophy. Sports Medicine 44(Suppl 1): S71-77, 2014.

24. Phillips, SM. The impact of protein quality on the promotion of resistance exercise-induced changes in muscle mass. Nutrition & Metabolism 13: 64, 2106.

25. Rasmussen, BB, Tipton, KD, Miller, SL, Wolf, SE, and Wolfe, RR. An oral essential amino acid-carbohydrate supplement enhances muscle protein anabolism after resistance exercise. Journal of Applied Physiology 88(2): 386-392, 2000.

26. Rennie, MJ, Edwards, RH, Halliday, D, Matthews, DE, Wolman, SL, and Millward, DJ. Muscle protein synthesis measured by stable isotope techniques in man: The effects of feeding and fasting. Clinical Science 63(6): 519-523, 1982.

27. Schoenfeld, BJ, and Aragon, AA. How much protein can the body use in a single meal for muscle-building? Implications for daily protein distribution. Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition 15: 10, 2018.

28. Walberg, JL, Leidy, MK, Sturgill, DJ, Hinkle, DE, Ritchey, SJ, and Sebolt, DR. Macronutrient content of a hypoenergy diet affects nitrogen retention and muscle function in weight lifters. International Journal of Sports Medicine 9(4): 261-266, 1988.

29. Wolfe, RR. Branched-chain amino acids and muscle protein synthesis in humans: Myth or reality? Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition 14: 30, 2076.

About the author

Michael T. Nelson, PhD, CSCS

Contact Michael Nelson

Contact Michael Nelson

Your first name is required.
Your last name is required.
Your email is required.
Your message is required.
Your reCaptcha is required.

Your email was successfully sent to Michael Nelson

Mike Nelson has spent 20 years of his life learning how the human body works, specifically focusing on how to increase the use of both fats and carboh ...

View full biography
#NSCAStrong #NSCAStrong

has been added to your shopping cart!

Continue Shopping Checkout Now