Monday, April 27, 2009

Protein

THE bodybuilding expert

There's a lot of misconceptions about protein. Most people think the more you eat the better you are and the more muscle you'll gain. Interestingly, that's not really the case.

The World Health Organization recommends eating 0.45g to 0.8g of protein per kg of body weight per day to maintain muscle mass. For endurance training, 1 to 1.2g is what the WHO recommends.

Strength training athletes need a bit more. How much more is often debated--I've seen bodybuilding sites and the big tough guys at the gym talk about how they need 150+ g of protein daily. Basically, the mentality is "I always need more protein." Everyone uses the "this is what (famous bodybuilder/fitness trainer) said he does so I'll do it, too"--it's all anecdotal. The medical facts are a bit harder to find since they're not incredibly well documented.

Looking online for some nutritional facts to help someone with their diet, I found this medical study from 2006 about protein intake:
Comparison of protein intakes on strength, body composition and hormonal changes were examined in 23 experienced collegiate strength/power athletes participating in a 12-week resistance training program. Subjects were stratified into three groups depending upon their daily consumption of protein; below recommended levels (BL; 1.0 – 1.4 g protein per kg of body weight; n = 8), recommended levels (RL; 1.6 – 1.8 g protein per kg of body weight; n = 7) and above recommended levels (AL; > 2.0 g protein per kg of body weight; n = 8)
...
The results of this study do not provide support for protein intakes greater than recommended levels in collegiate strength/power athletes for body composition improvements, or alterations in resting hormonal concentrations.
(Looking at the charts listed, those eating more than 2g of protein per kg of body weight had gains of 3 lbs more than those who didn't--11 lbs increase vs. 8 lbs increase, so while there were differences, they were not significant.)
...
For strength trained individuals to maintain a positive nitrogen balance it appears that daily protein consumption should be between 1.6 to 1.8 g protein per kg of body weight per day.
...
Recommendations of a greater protein requirement for resistance-trained athletes have been based on studies that have primarily examined recreationally-trained individuals and not competitive athletes. This may suggest that the protein requirements for experienced resistance trained competitive athletes may be even higher than what is presently accepted. Since protein supplementation is considered to be one of the more common nutritional supplements used by collegiate athletes, it is likely that many competitive athletes have daily protein intakes that exceed the recommended daily allowances. Whether daily protein intakes greater than what is presently accepted (> 1.8 g protein per kg of body weight) is efficacious for strength/power athletes is not well understood. Unfortunately many competitive athletes using nutritional supplementation often go by the 'more is better' philosophy, causing many athletes to make uneducated decisions regarding their supplementation habits.
So, there you have it.

1.6-1.8 grams of protein per day per kilogram of weight is all you really need when training.

That is, that's all you need to maintain that weight. Men's Health has often reported that you should eat for the weight you want to be at, so if you weight 60kg and want to weigh 75kg, eat for 75kg. If you weight 100kg and want to weigh 80kg, eat for 80kg.

But then, that's just common sense.

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