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ULTIMATE Guide to Protein for Building Muscle

Are you a guy in his 30s that wants to build more muscle? Protein is one of the three main macronutrients that you’re familiar with (carbs and fat being the other two; alcohol is actually a fourth macronutrient). Even if becoming huge and super buff isn’t your end goal, protein is going to play a major role in gaining more muscle mass and preserving that muscle mass as you age.

If you’re feeling like there’s a lot that you’re not clearly understanding about protein, you shouldn’t feel bad because it can get pretty complicated. Today, my goal is to answer some of the questions you might have about protein, so you could make better decisions in your eat and supplementation, and start seeing yourself with more muscle!

Protein Supplements

When you’re a guy in his 30s looking to build muscle, how much can you trust protein supplements? Remember this — supplements are not required to be reviewed by the FDA, which means manufacturers can pump out their own products to the market without scrutiny until something seriously bad happens, and you never know if you might be the person getting injured by bad supplements. Studies have exposed manufacturers for failing to include some of the active ingredients listed on their labels, sometimes including illegal ingredients that have cost athletes their careers. With protein supplements, brands really do matter, where respected brands regularly have their products tested by third parties. As for those cheap brands you’ve never heard of and that appear in your Amazon search— risky is an under statement.

How can you be sure a protein supplement is high-quality? The highest quality supplement manufacturers are those that voluntarily submit their products to independent quality testers, which, in many cases, have even more stringent standards than that of the FDA when it comes to testing pharmaceutical drugs! When a supplement carries the USP- or NSF-certified logos on its label, that’s a good indication that you’re carrying a very high quality product.

How do you know if taking a protein supplement is right for you? When it comes to muscle hypertrophy (building muscle), the research indicates consuming 1.6-2.2 grams of protein per kilogram of lean mass (that’s your weight in kilograms minus the fat mass) as the ideal range. For at least three days, use a food diary app, such as MyFitnessPal or FatSecret, to track your current food intake as these apps make it easy for you to get a good estimate of your daily protein intake. If your protein intake is within the aforementioned range, you don’t need to supplement, and if you’re short, that’s where you can make up the difference with protein powder.

Protein Quality

When you’re a male that’s looking to grow more muscle, here’s what you should know about protein and amino acids. Amino acids, when put together, are what forms protein. For human protein, it’s nine essential amino acids and 11 nonessential amino acids. Basically, the difference between an essential and nonessential amino acid is that you have to acquire the essential amino acids from food or supplementation, meanwhile your body can make nonessential amino acids by itself.

Every man that wants bigger muscles needs to understand protein quality to optimize his goal’s success. A “perfect protein” is a high quality protein that mirrors human protein, such as egg whites, in which there is almost no excess nor shortage of amino acids when completing the protein. Think of amino acids as LEGO blocks and protein as the car you intend to build. Just because you have the right LEGO pieces doesn’t mean you’re going to complete your car because you also have the right number of each piece. If you’ve got a shortage of certain LEGO pieces and surplus of others, you might still have yourself a car, but it won’t look like the one on the box, and this is an example of “low-quality protein”.

Here’s what everyone needs to know about essential amino acids and protein. When you’re missing just one essential amino acid, this means that your body is incapable of completing the protein, so until you finally acquire the missing amino acid, you can’t use the protein. It’s like building a bomb shelter and forgetting to install the door — totally useless.

BCAAs and How Much Protein is Needed

Are you considering to take BCAA supplements? BCAA (branched-chain amino acids) supplements are comprised of three  essential amino acids — valine, leucine, and isoleucine — which are widely associated with muscle hypertrophy. Does this mean that taking these supplements will get your muscles exploding in size? Not necessarily. Remember this — BCAA supplements are only three of the nine essential amino acids your body needs to complete a protein, and if that protein is incomplete, it’s not going to help you at all.

How much protein does someone who wants to gain more muscle mass need to consume? According to Schoenfeld & Aragon (2018), consuming 1.6-2.2 g/kg of protein is the most effective range for growing muscle mass. When you’re consuming this much protein, then you’re definitely getting all of the three BCAAs that you need, especially if eggs and other animal products are consumed. For those on more restrictive diets, such as vegans and vegetarians, then it would make more sense for these folks to supplement with BCAAs, but this should be determined after a close assessment of their eating habits.

Are BCAA supplements the key to building muscle for men in their 30s? This really depends on the diet because that’s what is dictating if the right quantity of each essential amino acid is acquired. Varying your consumption of protein sources can help close potential gaps, which is what I highly recommend over relying upon supplements. Also, the cheap, imported protein powders you find on Amazon are often loaded with useless fillers and fail to have the right quantity of essential amino acids, meaning you might have to use two or even three scoops to equal that of one scoop from a respected brand.


In conclusion, you already know that protein consumption is going to play a major role in reaching your goals. However, in order to successfully build the muscle mass, you first have to know how much protein you need (1.6-2.2 g/kg), how amino acids dictate protein quality, and whether protein and BCAA supplements are right for you. Once you gain a full understanding of these, adopting a diet that helps you build muscle will come easy.


Coach Julio is an expert in fitness and nutrition, having helped hundreds of busy office professionals and parents in their 30s, 40s, and 50s be healthy, as well as offering nutritionist counseling services. He works out of El Paso, Texas, but also offers remote nutritionist counseling and online personal training. Coach Julio’s expertise is backed by over nine years as a personal trainer and a Master’s degree in Nutrition.

For information about working with Coach Julio for online personal training and nutritionist services, you can email him at


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