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 bodyweight 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:
- Most recently, two recent studies (both published in 2016) have shown 1 gram and 1.5 grams (respectively) per pound of bodyweight per day to produce impressive results in both muscle size and fat loss. I cover these studies in more depth in Part 2 and Part 3 of this article series.
- Victoria University (Australia) researchers had weight-trained men consume about 1.5 grams of protein per pound of body weight per day or 0.75 grams per pound during an 11-week weight-training program. The higher protein intake was achieved by supplementing with whey protein. The researchers reported in a 2007 issue of the journal Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise that the men getting the higher protein gained significantly greater strength and muscle fiber protein in the quadriceps than the control subjects.
- In a 2006 study, Canadian researchers had male and female subjects supplement with either whey protein or soy protein bump up their daily protein intake to about 1.5 grams per pound of body weight per day during six weeks of weight training. The control group consumed about 0.75 grams of protein per pound. They found that the subjects getting in the greater amount of protein, regardless of the source, had significantly greater gains in muscle strength and growth.
- In a 2001 study, researchers in Nova Scotia bumped subjects’ protein intake up to 1.5 grams per pound per day during six weeks of weight training with whey protein, while control subjects consumed 0.5 grams of protein per pound. At the end of the six weeks the subjects getting the extra protein gained significantly more strength and muscle mass.
- A 2011 study from the UK showed that high protein intake is even effective for endurance athletes. When endurance athlete subjects doubled their protein intake to close to 1.5 grams per pound of body weight per day when training intensity increased, they recovered better and maintained better performance.
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.
Jim’s Take-Home Point:
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.
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.
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.