Protein: Possibly the hottest topic in any gym or fitness center around the world. Is too much protein good for health? Who has the highest quality? Which form of protein is absorbed the fastest and yields the highest amount of muscle gain? How much protein should one consume in a day? Does eating more protein lead to faster gains in lean body mass? Keep reading to find out all these answers and more!
There is no doubt that protein is a hot topic in the fitness community, however a lot of the information out there is completely false. Specifically, the common misconception that “more is always better.” This post is going to debunk that myth using a variety of placebo-controlled studies. The average gym-goer is consuming anywhere from 1 gram/LB to 2 and sometimes even 3 grams of protein per pound of body weight. Where do we draw the line at too much?
Is Too Much Protein Good For Health?
[Everything you need to know]
What is protein?
First let’s look at what protein is and why it’s necessary to build muscle. Protein literally makes up everything in our body. Protein can be found all over the body, such as in your hair, fingernails, muscle, skin and every body part or tissue. The recommended intake of protein is generally 0.8 grams per pound of body weight, according to The Institute of Medicine. This is the recommended daily allowance for people who live sedentary lifestyles.
If you are an athlete, bodybuilder, power-lifter, model, or just your average Joe gym-goer this is not enough. Protein malnourishment leads to a wide array of adverse side effects. For us gym goers we are concerned with some of the leading effects of low protein intake which are loss of muscle mass, muscular strength and weakening of the immune system, heart and respiratory system. To put in layman’s terms consuming too little protein is not only ruining your progress, you may actually be regressing.
So, to build muscle I should just eat all the protein I can get my hands on, right?
Wrong. I actually found this out the hard way myself back when I first started working out. I was eating 3800 calories a day tracked meticulously and I was not gaining weight. (I was a “hard gainer” and started at 109 lbs. so my goal was to increase lean muscle mass.) Why was I not gaining weight? Because the body only needs so much protein and my diet were consisting of about 65% protein. I learned the hard way that more protein is not always better.
This study was done with a control group and a high protein group. The control group followed normal nutrition protocols while the high protein group consumed 4.4 grams of protein per pound of body weight. There were no changes in training intensity, programming or volume.
There were no significant changes over time or between groups for body weight, fat mass, fat free mass, or percent body fat. A high protein diet had no effect on muscle gain or fat loss.
So how much protein do I need as an athletic individual?
It is recommended that those who are athletic and follow a resistance training regimen consume between 1.2 and 2 grams of protein per pound of body weight. Everyone’s body is different and you will have to experiment to find what works for you between these ranges.
This study is not an excuse to over-consume protein
Over consumption of protein will not lead to increases in lean body mass. However, overfeeding in general could lead to increased weight gain and body fat.
References: Antonio et al. (2014) The effects of consuming a high protein diet (4.4g/kg/d) on body composition in resistance-trainer individuals. Journal of the international society of sports nutrition, 11:19, 10.1186/1550-2783-11-19