T Nation

Extra Protein: Really Necessary?


#1

I'm 48 and in the middle: more dedicated to lifting than for general fitness, but not a body builder. I drink a PWO shake and try to have a protein shake every day. But I've been reading a lot lately about how protein supps are a scam -- the RDA for protein, these articles say, is basically a piece of meat and a glass of milk or two -- and that too much protein can in fact make you gain (fat) weight and have other adverse effects.

So, for the sake of a good T-Nation discussion: are protein sups indeed useful if you're not a TOTAL bodybuilder? Why not just have an extra pork chop if you need more protein?


#2

WalkerMan62 -

Here's a few condensed thoughts:

  • I don't put much stake into anything the government comes up with. Remember the wonderful food pyramid? Eggs = bad? Meat = bad? Everything corn = good?

  • re: Protein shakes are a 'scam'. Well, no, protein shakes, in fact, deliver "protein". The only way it's going to "make you fat" is if you're eating in caloric excess, probably assisted by not exercising enough. Protein shakes, in fact, are in my opinion one of the greatest things to ever come along for those who want/need extra protein delivered fast. Today's shakes taste great as well.

I'm on the road a lot. A container of protein powder saves my ass every time. I can't travel around with 3 pounds of pork chops wherever I go.

  • You've kind of answered your own question-- if you don't need the extra protein, then just eat a pork chop. If you do need some, have another serving. Better a pork chop than a bowl of ice cream.

If you're just an average guy, lifting average weights, living an average lifestyle, then chances are you have average protein requirements, so eat average amount of pork chops.


#3

It's been my personal experience that strength and size gains come much quicker when the body has enough protein and total cals to fuel recovery. For me that something like 6-8 5 oz servings a day. Quantity and quality of food is probably what is holding back most of the trainees out there. This is yet another area where popular media has successfully brainwashed the general public. Don't be a sheep!


#4

Other then suggesting op is a troll.

Not to contradict SteelyD. This area is rather well studied, except for longevity effects.

Actually, it is not really "extra"..
There is growing evidence that protein intake has little downsides. Some statistical evidence that plant sources are better from a longevity standpoint. More and more evidence that carbs that elicit insulin spikes are a serious concern for both health and longevity when muscle tissue is not glycogen depleted...

Problem with the protein shakes is the simple carbs which are designed to elicit an insulin spike, facilitating the intake of the protein into your cells. They are more accurately described as post/pre work out shakes (PWO). There is evidence that show better protein metabolism both pre and post work out. 20-40 minutes after workout are well documented to increase protein synthesis/inclusion into muscle tissue provided rapid absorption proteins (think whey). However, it is likely the insulin spike with simple carbs and rapid absorption protien will most likely encourage storage in fat if ingested when muscles are not depleted.

There is considerable evidence supporting 1/2 gram protien per body in people with "normal" activity. Any additional load increases suggested protein. Other evidence suggests that older people are less efficient processing protien (why was not discussed) and that increases gram per pound "requirements".

There is evidence suggesting that whole food sources of protien are significantly better outside of workout windows as it digests over time, providing a stream of proteins instead of protien being withdrawn from muscle tissues.

The RDA is about not getting sick in the relatively short time, not healthy (however you define healthy) nutrition.

The food pyramid is more about feeding a population, food production, and marketing then nutrition, IMHO.


#5

Thanks for your thoughtful reply. You know what you're talking about.

I'm trying to figure out how to rate myself, i.e., am I "average" and thus are bodybuilding supplements a waste for me. I do the New Rules of Lifting program and lift 4Xweek, run 45 minutes 2x week. My sense is that this is more than the average 48 year old does, but it's not mega bodybuilding.

Another question I have that's somewhat related is: should I do the testosterone enhancement/estrogen inhibiting supps. Part of me thinks it'd be an interesting experiment with some potentially useful benefits even other than bulking up a bit; antoher part of me is loathe to fuck with delicately calibrated hormonal levels and biochemistry.

I'd appreciate your thoughts on that as well.


#6

Null- I'm not sure what you wrote contradicts anything that I wrote... ?

To be clear, not all protein shakes are loaded with sugar. Just check out our forum sponsor's line of products..

The question was, do you need protein shakes to get your required protein for the day. Without getting into studies and numbers down to the 4th decimal place, the answer is probably "no" if you're not pushing your body's limits (ie if you're average). Probably very easy using 'regular food' like meat, chicken, fish, and legumes.


#7

WTF?!? For asking a question I'm a troll?

I get the role of protein, which your post helpfully explains. And I do a PWO shake and a protein shake (and will probably continue these). The question is: do non-hard-core bodybuilders need protein supplementation. I had simply read in several different places that a glass of milk after a workout is just as good for most people as a protein powder shake...I was curious how experienced lifter (like SD) would reply.

Over and out. The TROLL


#8

Canada_K has the results to prove it...


#9

Sorry WalkerMan, saw your other posts...
A lot of times questions like this are used by people with no real interest except conflict. "Functional strength" is one of those terms, as is protien kills the kidneys...

Milk is a "complete protien", it's where the whey for protien shakes comes from, but also contains significant casein. Whey is digested fast, casein slow... Also the insulin response to milk is way higher then it's glycemic index suggests. Skim has about 128 grams per gallon. I get about 1/8 gallon per glass, so that's like 16 grams, some of it quick absorption.

"Squats and Milk" is a traditional strategy. Builds strength and size pretty quickly.

SteelyD:
Only contradiction is that normal people need like 2-4x what normal people get, even with normal exertion levels... But then they'd have to cut their fructose intake.


#10

Welcome to T-Nation, where you are presumed troll until proven otherwise. It started a few years back with that dude and his shoe. This place has never been the same since. I am surprised no one has pointed you to the search button here yet. People are slipping.

To your original question, you don't "need" protein shakes if you can get the protein you need from whole foods and are happy with that. Protein shakes are great if you need convenience or just don't feel like cooking another steak/chicken breast/pork chop/what have you. I only use protein powder (Metabolic Drive specifically) for a dessert pudding thing consisting of said protein powder (2 scoops), 2/3 cup of coconut milk (in a can) and some walnuts. Works better than the ice cream too.


#11

When my farts start to come on strong and come often, then I know I'm getting enough supplemental whey protein. Usually around the 125g mark.


#12

My wife would probably tell you I've been getting way more than enough protein, if this is the criteria...


#13

Very unscientific opinion (yeah, I know). If you're able to eat enough daily to support your goals, no need for a protein shake. What do I mean by support your goals. Hold steady and not start shrink rapidly, above average amount of protein. Continue growing at our age (55 here)? I have to put in a lot of extra protein. Just don't think our older bodies use it as efficiently as before. Also it's almost impossible for me to get in 3 good meals a day, much less 5 or more. I would be real careful on my choice of protein drink, though. Some I've seen are basically soda with some protein thrown in. Personaly, and I'm not be paid (should be though) I feel I get the most benefit from Surge recovery, an after workout drink, with not as high a protein count. My 2 cents.

PS, increase your protein, increase your fiber, or you'll explode.


#14

Personal opinion from trial and error is that you do need more protein than the average dude.

I would prefer to not have to eat as much protein, and have experimented with lower levels - and each time found that I was not gaining mass, maintaining mass, or keeping my body composition where I wanted it to be.

This last point may be the more relevant for you. Extra protein isn't going to make you fat, extra calories will. See the difference? If you were to raise your protein intake 50 grams, you'd also want to lower your carb and or fat intake to match.

And what I'm saying is, it's easier to stay athletic, strong and lean with a higher ratio of protein (to carbs and fats)- even for the average joe.

All that being said, the requirement might not be quite as high as some recommendations. I would say somewhere around 1 gram per pound of bodyfat is decent - but this could change a little bit depending on what your lean body mass actually is.


#15

Personal opinion from trial and error is that you do need more protein than the average dude.

I would prefer to not have to eat as much protein, and have experimented with lower levels - and each time found that I was not gaining mass, maintaining mass, or keeping my body composition where I wanted it to be.

This last point may be the more relevant for you. Extra protein isn't going to make you fat, extra calories will. See the difference? If you were to raise your protein intake 50 grams, you'd also want to lower your carb and or fat intake to match.

And what I'm saying is, it's easier to stay athletic, strong and lean with a higher ratio of protein (to carbs and fats)- even for the average joe.

All that being said, the requirement might not be quite as high as some recommendations. I would say somewhere around 1 gram per pound of bodyfat is decent - but this could change a little bit depending on what your lean body mass actually is.


#16

I've learned the hard way to pump the protein into my body. For years, I ate just what the 'experts' insisted I needed and couldn't grow at all. Went to a doctor to see why my body was twitching so much when tried to sleep. He gave me a complete physical, blood work, the works, and couldn't figure it out. So he put me on sedatives. About a year later, accidentally ate a lot of meat at a meal and slept like a baby without the meds.

Ever since, tried to get enough meat down my throat. Started regular protein shakes almost 2 yrs ago, and finally started to get some strength. It's an egg protein, with almost no carbs. I keep a jar at work, very convenient.

My current doctor has told me to cut down on the protein shakes - I think he's referring to the discredited study that protein blows up the kidneys. I keep it down to 3 or 4 a day (in addition to several meat heavy meals and snacks), but if my body starts showing signs of trouble, I go straight into the kitchen and grab one. He's a nice guy, but I've learned doctors don't always know what they're talking about.


#17

I've been go from this board for awhile so it's good to see the guy with the shoe is still making headlines! that was a funny thread to read


#18

Walkerman -

I'm not familiar with "The New Rules of Lifting" program, so I can't really comment. I guess it's one of those things that the answer depends on your goals. If you're goal is to gain some muscle, you certainly can't go wrong eating meats, fish, chicken, etc. A lot of numbers you hear from 'experts' is 1-2g of protein for each pound of lean mass. Fill in the rest with carbs/fats in a ratio depending on how you handle carbs.

Probably can't go wrong with that.

I try to eat as much whole food proteins (steak/chicken/fish/eggs) as I can and supplement with protein shakes. Then again, my goal is to gain size, so I'm looking at 400g protein per day. That's hard to eat.

I have a friend who is late 40's. He does the P90x lately and runs a lot of 5-10k races. He says he eats maybe a turkey sandwich at lunch and usually chicken at dinner depending on what his wife makes. Usually heavy with vegetables. He looks lean. Looks like he exercises and runs and maybe hits the gym. No one would mistake him for a bodybuilder. He seems to get the protein he needs without shakes.

re: test/estrogen supps --- I have no idea how to answer that as it's waaaay out of my league. Honestly unless your "test/estrogen supplements" are coming from a doctor, I'd be wary. I don't put a lot of stock in OTC testosterone boosters. Others swear by them.

One thing is for sure, though, if I was going to spend money on ONE thing to supplement my diet, it would be PROTEIN.

Hope that helps... Good luck!


#19

If you have reasons to be concerned about Test levels, please consider getting tested.
There's a GREAT forum here that has done a world of good for me.

Biggest risks on low T, are massive increase in Cardio-Vascular risk: heart attacks and strokes. Look up Harvard study, basically shows increases in risk for low T. It only examined up to physiologic levels.

There is better support for adding T, then things like Lipitor, even if only for blood lipid levels. However, it is rarely pursued due to distorted incentives and ignorance.