Put Down That Steak: You're Eating Too Much Protein
How much protein should a strength athlete eat? I’ve heard recommendations ranging from 1-1.5 grams per pound of body weight per day. But that’s a huge range, and putting down that much protein is no easy task. So what’s the ground truth? What is actually required?
Two researchers from the U.K. reviewed the scientific literature to find out and published their findings in this month’s issue of the Strength and Conditioning Journal. Their conclusion: we’ve been eating way more protein than we actually need.
Their review of research shows 0.55 grams per pound of body weight per day is adequate for advanced trainees and 0.77 grams per pound of body weight per day will satisfy novice athletes. If you find this tough to swallow, you’re not alone, but the authors’ review was pretty thorough. They cite five different independent studies for this recommendation.1
The authors describe the importance of essential amino acids (EAAs) in muscle protein synthesis. Ensuring you get plenty of EAAs in conjunction with your protein can almost double the anabolic effect. That’s pretty potent. You can also ensure your protein gets converted to muscle by mixing it with carbohydrate in the time immediately before, during, and after exercise. Finally, eating both fast and slow absorbing proteins contributes to muscle building more than fast proteins alone. The classic example is milk, which contains both whey (fast) and casein (slow). This combination is more potent than a fast absorbing protein like soy.2
Finally, the authors reiterate that even if you consume “unnecessarily high protein intakes” like 1.3 grams per pound of body weight per day, this still isn’t a risk to your kidneys unless you already had kidney disease. I’m glad we’ve finally got that myth behind us.3
So are you ready to put down the steak? I’m not sure I am. But the studies cited show that with the right combination of EAAs, and fast- and slow-absorbing proteins, we really don’t need that mythical one gram per pound per day. Perhaps consistently consuming the right combination of each component can be tricky, and we’ve learned to overcome that through eating more, more, more instead. What do you think?
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