Is Protein Overrated? The Protein Myth
How Much Protein Per Day You Really Need To Build Muscle, Lose Fat And Be Healthy
The fitness industry has evolved a lot in the last few years. We have seen a rise in more functional and performance based training with the likes of group based classes and strength and conditioning under the lens this year. There has been a shift from the majority training for solely aesthetic purposes to the majority training with a purpose and a more performance based approach. One thing that hasn’t evolved quite so much is the understanding of nutrition that accommodates this. If you picked up a fitness magazine or book today, it would almost certainly still tell you that a low carb high protein diet is best for your fat loss quest but we know that this isn’t strictly true so is protein overrated? In this article, we will talk about the protein myth.
Everybody loves protein. It’s the most popular, most exciting macronutrient and for good reason. It provides you with amino acids to aid the recovery of your muscles and deliver the sweet gains you have been working so hard in the gym for. But do you really need as much as you are consuming? Most sources will tell you that you should consume at least 1g of protein per lb of bodyweight (or 2.2g per kilogram of bodyweight). For example, a 200 lb man would have to consume 200g of protein each day. If this sounds familiar or you are even thinking that this sounds a little low, you are eating too much protein.
THE VIDEO: Is Protein Overrated? The Protein Myth
Don’t you think that it’s a bit of a coincidence that the “perfect” protein consumption is exactly 1 gram per lb of bodyweight? Yeah, me too. Let’s have a look at the research and see what the science says.
A recent meta-analysis, a systematic review of all available literature on a subject matter, published in the British Journal of Sports Medical Science written by a collaboration of the leading sports nutrition and sport scientists in the world reviewed 49 studies with 1863 participants. The authors conclude the review by highlighting that high protein diets do in fact significantly increase muscle mass and strength gains during continued resistance training but found that protein intakes at amounts greater than 1.6g/kg per day, 0.82g/lb, resulted in no further muscle mass or strength gains. The impact of augmented protein intake actually reduced with increased training age, this means that the more advanced you are, the more efficient you are at synthesizing protein and the less you need to consume.
Less is More
In some instances, more does equal better but in others too much can be a problem. If you are aiming to consume 1g/lb of protein and you are on an energy controlled diet, you will have to forfeit calories consumed from other macronutrients. High protein, low-carb and low-fat diets may give you a short-term fat loss benefit but they aren’t going to do you any good in the long run especially, if you are an athlete training for performance. There is a long list of complications associated with prolonged low carb diets including bad breath, dizziness, chronic fatigue, migraines and digestive problems.
You shouldn’t be compensating with protein because you want to keep your fat and carb intake low, that makes no sense. A calorie surplus will make you gain weight whether your diet is comprised of mainly protein or not, it’s all energy. The protein that your body doesn’t synthesise is converted to glycogen, the glycogen you don’t use is stored as fat, it’s as simple as that.
Covering all bases
You may think “I’ll eat more protein, just to make sure” but again, you would be wasting your time, the 1.6g/kg per day value is already marked up upon the highest protein intake that provides any benefit for improving muscle mass. The studies involved in the review included full time weightlifters and professional bodybuilders that train multiple times a day. If you think you need more protein than these athletes, you are kidding yourself.
The 1.6g/kg/day value holds true even when in a calorie deficit. Many of the studies include groups on a calorie controlled diet. If you are aiming to lose weight but you fear losing your sweet gains due to a decreased protein intake, don’t fret, 1.6g/kg/day of protein has got you covered.
Is protein overrated?
No, not at all. Protein is still all it’s cracked up to be. It is an essential macronutrient that contains the building blocks for human growth. But the research suggests that you probably don’t need as much as the supplement industry is leading you to believe. If you are trying to lose weight, 1.6g/kg of protein is more than enough to maintain your muscle mass whilst in a calorie deficit. Swapping out a percentage of your protein intake for some tasty carbs and fats isn’t going to hinder your progress. Another issue that you might consider is the cost of protein sources compared to carbohydrates or fats. If you can get away with eating less protein and more carbs or fat within your diet, it gives you more money to spend on those new trainers you’ve had your eye on.
I have created a template for a nutrition diary that you can download and use to monitor your nutrition habits. With each meal, write down the macronutrients then grab a calculator and total your protein for the day, divide this value by your bodyweight in kilograms. If your number is above 1.6, you are over-consuming your protein.