Protein works—plain and simple. If you want to maximize muscle growth, you need to eat well over 1 gram of protein per pound of body weight daily, even hitting a good 1.5 grams—and up to 2 grams—per pound of body weight. The fewer carbs you consume, the closer you need to be to 2 grams per pound.
When considering protein intake—not to mention any number of other topics—don't just trust one source of information. What I mean is: Look at the research, but don't just take every protein study at face value, because so many of them contradict each other. As a scientist, I've learned how to interpret data, taking into account the physical state of the subjects (ie, trained versus untrained), the type of training program followed during the experiment, and a host of other important details and limitations in a given study.
In addition to the research, consider actual results you've experienced personally as well as results achieved by others. So many "experts" in this field won't take any results seriously unless they're published in peer-reviewed journals. Trust me, I like the journals. I subscribe to them, I've been published in them and I'll continue to support them.
But when I bump my personal protein intake from 1 gram per pound per day up to 1.5 grams per pound per day and see great results in size, strength, and fat loss, I take that into account. And when I get the exact same feedback from hundreds of thousands of individuals bumping up their protein the same way and getting bigger, stronger, and leaner as well? I'm sold.
In the case of high protein diets—specifically 1.5 grams per pound daily—the debate is over. Research proves it works, and so do the results we see every day by hard-training individuals following this recommendation.
Taking in 1.5 grams not only works better than 1 gram for building size, but it also helps burn more fat. Case closed.
Everyone knows my stand on protein: The more the better, to an extent. I'm a firm believer in the fact that those who weight train need at least 1.5 grams of protein per pound of body weight per day. Let me rephrase that: Those who follow MY training programs need this level of protein intake to maximize results.
After all, muscle is made up of protein, so it should make sense that to build more muscle you need more protein. Since it's difficult for the body to convert protein into fat, focusing on eating more protein is a smart plan for keeping your gains as lean as possible. And if you've followed my advice, you know it's effective. In fact, I have data from hundreds of thousands of men and women who have bumped up their protein intake to these levels while following my training programs. It works!
Despite the fact that many dieticians will tell you that anything over 1 gram per pound of body weight per day is WAY too much protein—funny how none of those experts have any real muscle mass—several research studies support my concept of eating this much protein:
Despite these studies, many dieticians, doctors, and misinformed scientists still believe that protein requirements for those who weight train are not that much different than for sedentary people who do little to no exercise. And the reason for this is that there is research showing that increasing protein intake during a weight-training program has little impact on muscle growth or strength gains. Of course, as you might expect, there are problems with these studies.
The most recent review study on protein intake and weight training comes from the University of Utah and was published in 2012 in the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition. The researchers suggested that many studies do not show a benefit of increased protein intake due to the fact that protein intake was not increased enough from their baseline diets and/or protein intake was not increased enough compared to the lower protein group. However, when you look at studies that increase protein intake by almost double the subjects' baseline intake and/or increase protein intake by at least 50% of that consumed by the lower protein group or control group, high protein intake does lead to significant gains in lean muscle mass and muscle strength.
Research plus real-world results prove it: 1.5 grams of protein per pound per day is ideal for both size and fat loss.
I get tons of pushback from so-called “nutrition experts” for this recommendation: 1.5 grams of protein per pound of body weight daily, which equates to 300 grams of protein per day for a 200-pound individual. This is what I recommend for maximizing both muscle mass and fat loss.
My critics say that’s way too much protein, that anything over 0.75 to 1.0 gram per pound of body weight daily is overkill. Believe it or not, they say that 1.5 grams per pound per day won’t even help you gain more muscle. They call me crazy for recommending this!
Now, more is not always better, and you can certainly have too much of a good thing. I’ll give them that. But too much of a good thing does NOT start at 1.5 grams of protein per pound, much less 1 gram. Not when you’re a hard-training guy or girl with serious goals to build muscle, get stronger and maximize fat-burning.
I know this because I’ve been prescribing 1.5—and as much as 2—grams per pound for many years, with feedback and actual data from hundreds of thousands of individuals who have experienced remarkable results from this level of protein intake. Aside from that, scientific studies performed by others support this position. And not just one study—several studies, dating back to at least 2001, as listed above.
One of the two most recent studies backing up my high protein recommendations comes from lead researcher Jose Antonio in a 2016 issue of the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition. (The other brand new study, also published in 2016, is covered below.)
In the study, trained subjects were given one of two daily protein intake levels—1 gram per pound of body weight or 1.5 grams—while following an 8-week training program. Because of the higher protein intake, the 1.5-gram group also consumed around 500 calories more per day, which makes sense.
The results of the study showed similar muscle gain between those consuming 1 gram of protein per pound daily and those consuming 1.5 grams—both groups gained an average of about 3 pounds of muscle over the eight weeks.
But here's the key results from the study: The 1.5-gram group lost an average of 5 pounds of body fat during the eight weeks in addition to gaining muscle, while the 1-gram group showed no significant fat loss. Let me repeat these facts for emphasis: The group consuming 50% more protein and 500 more calories per day lost an average of 5 pounds more body fat.
This proves that bumping up your protein intake is not only good for adding muscle, but also stripping body fat for a leaner, more defined physique. Not that this should be a shock to anyone who's followed the research and implemented high protein diets with thousands of individuals. Higher protein intake boosts metabolic rate. Studies have shown that people consuming a high protein meal have about a 20% increase in energy expenditure (metabolic rate) than those consuming a high carbohydrate meal.
A high-protein diet isn't just beneficial for experienced lifters—a new study shows that overweight individuals should be bumping up protein as well.
Just about every JYM Army member should be aware that consuming higher amounts of protein not only helps to build more muscle, but also helps to increase fat loss. Above, I discussed a 2016 study that further drives the point home. And now, yet more compelling evidence...
Researchers from McMaster University had obese young men follow a 4-week training program that involved lifting weights and HIIT cardio six days per week while following a calorie deficit diet. They split the subjects into two different groups. Although both groups consumed the same amount of calories, one group received 1 gram of protein per pound of body weight per day and the second group consumed only 0.5 grams of protein per pound.
At the end of the 4-week program, the group consuming more protein lost more body fat than the lower protein group—nearly 5 pounds more! Plus, the higher protein group gained 3 pounds of muscle while the lower protein group didn't gain any muscle at all! That’s right, despite being on a calorie-deficit diet the subjects consuming more protein were still able to build muscle while also dropping over 10 pounds of body fat!
Am I surprised by this study? Not at all. I’ve known for years that high-protein diets can allow for both muscle building and fat loss. In fact, if the researchers in this McMaster study included a truly high protein group consuming 1.5 grams per pound of body weight, muscle mass gains would have been even better and fat loss would have also been improved (again, see the study referenced above comparing 1.5 to 1.0 grams of protein).
The McMaster researchers were surprised that the higher protein subjects did not gain significantly more strength than the lower protein group, despite the increase in lean muscle mass. I’m not as surprised as they are. These were essentially obese beginners, with little to no weight-training experience. The strength gains that beginners make during the first few months of training are mainly neurological adaptations; higher protein wouldn't influence the changes that take place in the motor nerves that innervate the muscles. Beginners tend to make similar strength gains regardless of their diet and supplementation.
This study just confirms what we in the JYM Army already know: That high protein works. Now let’s hope the rest of the world finally starts catching on!
Longland, T. M., et al. Higher compared with lower dietary protein during an energy deficit combined with intense exercise promotes greater lean mass gain and fat mass loss: a randomized trial. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, in press, 2016.
Antonio, J., et al. The effects of a high protein diet on indices of health and body composition - a crossover trial in resistance-trained men. Int Soc Sports Nutr 13:3, 2016.
Cribb, P. J., et al. Effects of whey isolate, creatine, and resistance training on muscle hypertrophy. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2007 Feb;39(2):298-307.
Candow, D. G., et al. Effect of whey and soy protein supplementation combined with resistance training in young adults. Int J Sport Nutr Exerc Metab 2006, 16:233–244.
Burke, D. G, et al. The effect of whey protein supplementation with and without creatine monohydrate combined with resistance training on lean tissue mass and muscle strength. Int J Sport Nutr Exerc Metab 2001, 11:349–364.
Witard, O. C., et al. Effect of increased dietary protein on tolerance to intensified training. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2011 Apr;43(4):598-607.
Bosse, J. D. and Dixon, B. M. Dietary protein to maximize resistance training: a review and examination of protein spread and change theories. J Int Soc Sports Nutr. 2012 Sep 8;9(1):42.