T Nation

Protein Is an Over-Hyped Nutrient

How is it babies can double their weight in 5 months and triple it in a year by being fed human breast milk which is no more than 1% protein by weight?

http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/infant-growth/AN01654

A human by weight is only 20% protein - in fact, if one were to count all the molecules in the human body they only make up .011% of it.

I contend that since the human body is good at sparing protein and can store it in various tissues the limiting factor to muscle growth is not a function of how much protein a person eats.

The rate of protein synthesis is determined by hormones and not the quantity of protein consumed. If more protein is eaten without the presence of increased anabolic hormones what cannot be converted and stored as glycogen or fat will be wasted in urine.

Am I completely off my rocker or is there some theoretical merit here?

[quote]LIFTICVSMAXIMVS wrote:
The rate of protein synthesis is determined by hormones and not the quantity of protein consumed. If more protein is eaten without the presence of increased anabolic hormones what cannot be converted and stored as glycogen or fat will be wasted in urine.

Am I completely off my rocker or is there some theoretical merit here?[/quote]

I don’t recall anything I have ever seen that indicates hormones aren’t the limiting factor.
What is the minimum protein required remains the question.

[quote]BlueCollarTr8n wrote:
What is the minimum protein required remains the question.
[/quote]

Every day is different for every person and cannot be answered without some uncertainty.

Besides, protein is not a real chemical our body uses; it uses specific amino acids in specific quantities at specific times.

If ones body is not ready to assimilate proteins they won’t be.

My only point is that more is not necessarily better - even for making fast, solid muscle gains.

For example, 1 kilogram of muscle tissue is only made up 170g of amino acids. Why doesn’t a person put on a kilo of muscle per day by eating even significantly more than that per day?

edited

[quote]LIFTICVSMAXIMVS wrote:
How is it babies can double their weight in 5 months and triple it in a year by being fed human breast milk which is no more than 1% protein by weight?[/quote]
Adults can also double their bodyweight in a few months with Mountain Dew, pizza, and Milky Way bars. There’s something to be said for the effects of providing the body with abundant calories, almost regardless of macro breakdown. Breast milk is more than 3x as calorie-dense as whole milk. That’s going to be some growin’ food, high protein or not.

That aside, rather than calling protein “over-hyped”, it might be more accurate to say it’s “over-emphasized” or maybe “over-focused on”, even though, for bodybuilding, it literally is the stuff muscle is made of, so it makes sense to use it as the cornerstone/basis of most nutrition plans. But the idea of relatively-low protein intake has been around for a long time, though it’s always been pretty confusing.

In the '40s, Bob Hoffman was advising about .5g per pound of bodyweight, but years later he suggested it be up to 30% of the day’s calories. Gironda also swung the extremes, first writing about it being unnecessary to go beyond less-than-1g per pound of bodyweight, and years later writing about the effectiveness of 2-3g per pound.

A few articles from Lowery and Meadows/Harris discussing protein intake, including discussions of around 20g per serving being ideal:


http://www.T-Nation.com/free_online_article/sports_body_training_performance_nutrition/inconvenient_truths_protein_health_and_strength_sports

A thread from earlier this year where people discussed protein cycling:

A thread from a few years ago discussing Thibaudeau’s suggestion for a once-a-week low protein day:

So, yeah, like pretty much everything else in bodybuilding or fitness, there’s not really one clear-cut 100% accurate theory that’s best for everyone. Anecdotally, it does seem more-than-obvious that the strongest and most muscular athletes shoot for at least 1 gram per pound of BW, so if less protein worked significantly “better”, you’d expect the news would’ve found its way into the spotlight to become the top recommendation.

[quote]Chris Colucci wrote:

[quote]LIFTICVSMAXIMVS wrote:
How is it babies can double their weight in 5 months and triple it in a year by being fed human breast milk which is no more than 1% protein by weight?[/quote]
Adults can also double their bodyweight in a few months with Mountain Dew, pizza, and Milky Way bars. There’s something to be said for the effects of providing the body with abundant calories, almost regardless of macro breakdown. Breast milk is more than 3x as calorie-dense as whole milk. That’s going to be some growin’ food, high protein or not.

That aside, rather than calling protein “over-hyped”, it might be more accurate to say it’s “over-emphasized” or maybe “over-focused on”, even though, for bodybuilding, it literally is the stuff muscle is made of, so it makes sense to use it as the cornerstone/basis of most nutrition plans. But the idea of relatively-low protein intake has been around for a long time, though it’s always been pretty confusing.

In the '40s, Bob Hoffman was advising about .5g per pound of bodyweight, but years later he suggested it be up to 30% of the day’s calories. Gironda also swung the extremes, first writing about it being unnecessary to go beyond less-than-1g per pound of bodyweight, and years later writing about the effectiveness of 2-3g per pound.

A few articles from Lowery and Meadows/Harris discussing protein intake, including discussions of around 20g per serving being ideal:


http://www.T-Nation.com/free_online_article/sports_body_training_performance_nutrition/inconvenient_truths_protein_health_and_strength_sports

A thread from earlier this year where people discussed protein cycling:

A thread from a few years ago discussing Thibaudeau’s suggestion for a once-a-week low protein day:

So, yeah, like pretty much everything else in bodybuilding or fitness, there’s not really one clear-cut 100% accurate theory that’s best for everyone. Anecdotally, it does seem more-than-obvious that the strongest and most muscular athletes shoot for at least 1 gram per pound of BW, so if less protein worked significantly “better”, you’d expect the news would’ve found its way into the spotlight to become the top recommendation.[/quote]

Thanks for the post.

Do you think hunger can be an accurate governor for protein needs?

[quote]LIFTICVSMAXIMVS wrote:
Do you think hunger can be an accurate governor for protein needs?[/quote]
For the most part, I’ve never really believed in or been convinced by “I’m craving X food, so it means I’m deficient in Y nutrient” or that line of thinking because it’s simply too easy for most people to misinterpret.

It takes someone with a pretty solid understanding of their body to be able to differentiate between appetite/cravings (from the brain) and hunger (from the stomach). If I’m walking around craving a huge pork burrito with guacamole and pinto beans, but I just had big lunch an hour ago, that’s my appetite. Brain-based and psychological.

If I oversleep and wake up past my usual breakfast time with my stomach grumbling and I’m already salivating over the thought of bacon and eggs, that might hold more water.

More to the point of your question, I also don’t think a “need” for protein necessarily makes the body crave it. Personally, I’ve had “low protein days” (like Christmas day) where I might have egg nog and a bagel with peanut butter for breakfast, snack on cookies and junk during the day, and have a pasta dinner at night. Having trained hard that day and the day before, my body “should” be steering me towards a protein shake, but… nope.

For what it’s worth, I feel the same way about the rate of perceived exertion/RPE. I don’t like it and I don’t use it. Self-reported methods are only as reliable as the person doing the reporting. A beginner tends to over-rate their exertion level until they actually learn through experience what a “level 9” set feels like compared to a “level 7”.

As always Chris is on the money, I’ll add a bit of my opinions as well:

  • There are many reason to have protein as a large portion of your daily macro intake, not the least of which is the amino’s it provides for building new muscle tissue like we are after. Many, many substances in your body use protein and amino’s, its not just for building big traps.

  • If you want to perform and grow optimally, it takes a certain amount of energy and nutrients. In the case of food you only have 3 option: Fat, Carbs, and Protein. You HAVE to eat something, right? Its obviously a bit more complicated than this, but its a good, crude way to look at it.

  • Of the 3 macros, Protein is far and away the most advantageous from a metabolism stand point. If memory serves me right protein has a “thermic effect” of 25-30% of its calories, while fat and carbs are around 3-5%. Meaning for every 100 calories of protein you eat, you burn 25-30 just to break it down/store it/use it, compares to only 3-5 calories for carbs and fats. Quite literally, the more protein you ingest the faster your metabolism is.

  • Protein/Amino’s are the only macro that trigger synthesis of new muscle. I believe it is optimized at 20g at a time, but that doesn’t mean that anything over 20g is a waste. Just that you arent sending a BIGGER signal after than.

  • Taking everything into account… The things body builders do are generally completely insane and are almost always geared toward eeking out a 1-10% increase in results over a LONG time period. If you told most body builders they could come in 1% more shredded on stage but the process would be 50% harder, nearly all of them would do it even though the “cost” is not anywhere near the “benefit” to a “regular person” - It doesnt matter to us, all we care about is the results.

Same reason gorillas can eat forage and get huge/ HA

Thank you all for giving me even more things to overthink.

“it literally is the stuff muscle is made of, so it makes sense to use it as the cornerstone/basis of most nutrition plans” -Chris Colucci

However I do believe in the efficiency of protein cycling.

[quote]Mike T. wrote:
“it literally is the stuff muscle is made of, so it makes sense to use it as the cornerstone/basis of most nutrition plans” -Chris Colucci

However I do believe in the efficiency of protein cycling.[/quote]

I agree that protein is what muscle is made of but it’s only 15% of the story.

From far away the forest looks like a bunch of trees but we don’t see that it’s much more complex than that until we get into it and dig around in the dirt.

[quote]LIFTICVSMAXIMVS wrote:

[quote]Mike T. wrote:
“it literally is the stuff muscle is made of, so it makes sense to use it as the cornerstone/basis of most nutrition plans” -Chris Colucci

However I do believe in the efficiency of protein cycling.[/quote]

I agree that protein is what muscle is made of but it’s only 15% of the story.

From far away the forest looks like a bunch of trees but we don’t see that it’s much more complex than that until we get into it and dig around in the dirt.[/quote]

I agree with this thinking, the aformentioned quote is akin to saying that trees are made of wood so to grow trees you require a lot of wood.

Every bodybuilder in history has apparently had it wrong. Thank you for setting the record straight. Ill got on the phone with Phil and Kai right now and let them know.

[quote]audiogarden1 wrote:
Every bodybuilder in history has apparently had it wrong. Thank you for setting the record straight. Ill got on the phone with Phil and Kai right now and let them know. [/quote]

yes because its not like they are on crazy amounts of drugs or anything.

[quote]ryan.b_96 wrote:

[quote]audiogarden1 wrote:
Every bodybuilder in history has apparently had it wrong. Thank you for setting the record straight. Ill got on the phone with Phil and Kai right now and let them know. [/quote]

yes because its not like they are on crazy amounts of drugs or anything.
[/quote]

I hear ya bro. These guys dont even have to eat, they just pump themselves full of the juice and blow up. They better be careful or all those really accomplished vegan bodybuilders are gonna start blowing them out of the water.

On that note, ill jump on the phone with the natty BB’ers right away and tell them to throw away their protein jugs, or donate them to kids in Ethiopia or something.

[quote]audiogarden1 wrote:

[quote]ryan.b_96 wrote:

[quote]audiogarden1 wrote:
Every bodybuilder in history has apparently had it wrong. Thank you for setting the record straight. Ill got on the phone with Phil and Kai right now and let them know. [/quote]

yes because its not like they are on crazy amounts of drugs or anything.
[/quote]

I hear ya bro. These guys dont even have to eat, they just pump themselves full of the juice and blow up. They better be careful or all those really accomplished vegan bodybuilders are gonna start blowing them out of the water.

On that note, ill jump on the phone with the natty BB’ers right away and tell them to throw away their protein jugs, or donate them to kids in Ethiopia or something. [/quote]

wow funny how i never said they dont have to eat. i just brought up there massive amounts of drug use is relation to their ability to utilize massive amounts of protein.

protein is an overhyped nutrient in bodybuilding. not natty bodybuilder need 400-500g of protein a day like these pros are consuming.

[quote]audiogarden1 wrote:
Every bodybuilder in history has apparently had it wrong. Thank you for setting the record straight. Ill got on the phone with Phil and Kai right now and let them know. [/quote]

How many bodybuilders that set out to compete actually succeed at it?

[quote]audiogarden1 wrote:

On that note, ill jump on the phone with the natty BB’ers right away and tell them to throw away their protein jugs, or donate them to kids in Ethiopia or something. [/quote]

I am not suggesting protein is not necessary. It’s only one small piece of the puzzle.

If all I had to do was consume protein and lift heavy weights I would have been elite 20 years ago.

[quote]ryan.b_96 wrote:

[quote]audiogarden1 wrote:

[quote]ryan.b_96 wrote:

[quote]audiogarden1 wrote:
Every bodybuilder in history has apparently had it wrong. Thank you for setting the record straight. Ill got on the phone with Phil and Kai right now and let them know. [/quote]

yes because its not like they are on crazy amounts of drugs or anything.
[/quote]

I hear ya bro. These guys dont even have to eat, they just pump themselves full of the juice and blow up. They better be careful or all those really accomplished vegan bodybuilders are gonna start blowing them out of the water.

On that note, ill jump on the phone with the natty BB’ers right away and tell them to throw away their protein jugs, or donate them to kids in Ethiopia or something. [/quote]

wow funny how i never said they dont have to eat. i just brought up there massive amounts of drug use is relation to their ability to utilize massive amounts of protein.

protein is an overhyped nutrient in bodybuilding. not natty bodybuilder need 400-500g of protein a day like these pros are consuming.[/quote]

So protein is only well-utilized by steroid users? Not sure what you’re getting at. A geared athlete’s muscles are still made of the same shit as a natty’s, and still work the same way.

I dont see how you can over-hype the most important nutrient in bodybuilding.

See what happens if you eat 500g of carbs or fats a day, every day, vs. 500 g of protein.

[quote]ryan.b_96 wrote:
protein is an overhyped nutrient in bodybuilding. not natty bodybuilder need 400-500g of protein a day like these pros are consuming.[/quote]
That’s still only around 1.5 - 2g per pound of bodyweight. That’s what I’d consider towards the higher end of the spectrum, but it’s not an absurd amount when considered in that context. A 170-pound guy trying to bulk up would be fine shooting for 300ish grams a day (1.75g/pound) as part of a high calorie diet.

[quote] LIFTICVSMAXIMVS wrote:
I am not suggesting protein is not necessary. It’s only one small piece of the puzzle.

If all I had to do was consume protein and lift heavy weights I would have been elite 20 years ago.[/quote]
And I think it’s a relatively-large piece of the puzzle. To touch back on the trees-forest-wood analogy you and Defekt brought up, it takes protein, total calories, proper training, and some other stuff to build muscle. Just like it takes seeds, sunlight, water, and some other stuff to build a tree. (I kinda can’t believe I need to oversimplify things this much when we’re outside of the Beginners forum.)

While each ingredient plays a role and the priority of each role can be argued (obviously), it’s safe to say that taking in less protein than your body needs is guaranteed to prevent muscular gains. Meaning, restricting protein intake/utilizing a relatively-low protein diet is, at best, an experiment for curiosity’s sake, and at worst, an excuse for slow progress.

There’s no clear way to tell, but like I said earlier, one thing those that do have any degree of success have in common is being sure to avoid a low protein diet.