T Nation

Low Protein for Muscle Building?

I came across an article on collective-evolution citing researches that indicates that You don’t need much protein to build muscle and that high protein diet is unhealthy overall. What do You think?

I think the Dr. Fung, whom the author relied heavily on throughout the article, has zero credibility and should not be take seriously, especially in terms of building muscle and losing fat. As evidenced by quotes used in the article itself:

“Muscle gain/ loss is mostly a function of EXERCISE. You can’t eat your way to more muscle. Supplement companies, of course, try to convince you otherwise. Eat creatine (or protein shakes, or eye of newt) and you will build muscle. That’s stupid. There’s one good way to build muscle – exercise. So if you are worried about muscle loss – exercise. It ain’t rocket science. Just don’t confuse the two issues of diet and exercise. Don’t worry about what your diet (or lack of diet – fasting) is doing to your muscle. Exercise builds muscle. OK? Clear?”

Anyone with significant experience training/coaching knows that body composition is changed almost exclusively through nutrition, not exercise. A training plan can remain nearly unchanged while diet is adjusted and you’ll see muscle gains and/or fat loss. The opposite simply does not apply (keeping the diet the same and changing exercise to elicit body comp changes).

Another highlight quote from Fung:

“Exactly how much protein is needed during fasting really depends upon the underlying condition. If you are obese, then fasting is very beneficial and you will burn much more fat than protein. If you are quite lean, then fasting may not be so beneficial, as you will burn more protein. This seems rather obvious, but our body is really quite a bit smarter than we give it credit for. It can handle itself during feeding, and during fasting. How exactly the body is able to make this adjustment is currently unknown.”

No, it’s not currently “unknown” because insulin sensitivity is a thing and basal metabolic rate is a thing, both of which are often higher in lean individuals than obese people. Also kinda weird that a nephrologist is using the phrase “underlying condition” to refer to body composition, but okay.

All in all, it’s significant that the article doesn’t once mention the words “insulin sensitivity”, “muscle protein synthesis”, “satiety”, “catabolism”, or a handful of other blatantly overlooked concepts in an attempt to justify its initial position. The author’s own personal vegan preference also slipped in more than once, which is a sign of a biased author.

I didn’t see this premise actually addressed by the article. It didn’t discuss hypertrophy. It spent the overwhelming majority of time discussing protein intake on a fasted diet with a calorie deficit.

Again, I didn’t actually see it making any detailed argument that it was. However, this talked about several studies that explain why it’s a high protein intake is not “unhealthy”.

Do people need to be eating 2g protein per pound of bodyweight? Definitely not. Copious research has been done and as little as .75g per pound has been shown to be plenty for muscle growth.

Research has also been done looking at the benefits of high protein intake for fat loss and shown that, basically, more is always better. This is one of the articles discussing it.

5 Likes

Fung is a flat out idiot (sorry not as eloquent as Chris)

1 Like