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Too Much Protein

I am a hard gainer. I’ve read that I need a lot of protein, more than other people, to gain muscle. Is too much protein harmful to the body? I have heard from people who claim they are “experts” that too much protein can be bad because the excess protein can be turned into fat. I try to take 1 gram of protein for every pound I weigh.

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(Couldn’t resist paraphrasing from an old Frye & Laurie comedy sketch…)

Q: Is too much protein harmful to the body?

A: Of COURSE too much protein is harmful to the body. Too much of ANYthing is harmful to the body. Too much WATER is harmful to the body. That’s precisely what “too much” means: “that quantity which is excessive.” Geez!

(But seriously…)
Go to the home page of T-Mag, scroll down to the Article Library (blue section), click on “Round Table Discussions” and then scroll down near the bottom where you’ll see the “Protein Roundtable.” All you need to know is there, with data to back it up. Enjoy!

I’d be careful with that “hardgainer” label; I think many trainee consider themselves “hardgainers” and then have an excuse for making poor or no gains at all. Instead of looking for ways to improve nutrition or training, they simply resign themselves to making little or no progress year after year.

As for the solution, here are a few tips you might want to try out.

First, try keeping a food log. It’s a royal pain in the *ss, but until you do, you don’t know how many calories and prot/fat/carbs you’re taking in. I know the first time I did it, I was very surprised at how my calorie count would fluctuate from day to day and how often my proteins were way too low.

Once you’ve got that under control, make sure you’re getting at least 1g of prot/pound of bodyweight and if you’re not gaining, work your way up to 2g/pound of bodyweight.

Now, that’s a lot of protein, so make sure you’re not taking that in two or three sittings, as you’ll probably be wasting most of it (farting all day like a mexican bull on ExLax is a good indicator). Eating 5-6 meals a day makes a big difference in both muscle gain and fat loss.

Finally, you might also be overtraining. In fact, I think most “hardgainer” are actually overtrainers/undereaters. Work on getting the weight up on the big lifts. Keep a workout journal and make sure the weight go up from month to month. You’re benching 225 now? Plan to bench 275 by the end of the year. Make sure that you’re moving towards that goal month after month. Do the same with squats, chins, bent rows, etc.

Cut out dumbell work, most arm work; you want to work you tris? Bench and dips. Your biceps? Chins and supine grip rows.

You must “train” you body, not destroy it. When I was training in a gym, I’d see guys doing 5-6 sets of bench, then another 4 sets of incline bench, then some decline bench; flyes and pec-deck. That’s ridiculous. Most of the effort and time is wasted.

Find one of Chad’s excellent program on the site and do it exactly as described, no “tweaking” because you really like curling and working quads is hard.

Also cut out most cardio; keep it to a max of 3 30-45min sessions per week.

Measure yourself every week. Weight, tape measure, bodyfat caliper if you can and pictures too. Use those numbers to make sure that your lean mass is increasing; bodyweight by itself doesn’t mean much. If your lean bodyweight isn’t moving for a week or two, increase calories and proteins and make sure the workouts are brief and hard. And if you’re trying to gain, don’t worry too much about fat, you can lose it later. And please, please don’t try to gain muscle and cut up at the same time. These are two opposing goals and you’ll get nowhere trying to do both at the same time. Chasing two rabbits and all that…

Finally, drink a lot of water and get your sleep. Don’t underestimate sleep; you won’t see much progress on 4-5 hours a night.

Now, if you do all of this; and keep at it for at least a year and still make no progress; then you might want to consider yourself a hardgainer. But not before, m’kay?

A crude rule of thumb is that you need a gram of protein per pound of body weight to maintain muscle. To gain muscle you need 1.5 grams protein per pound of body weight.

Charles Poliquin tests the people coming to him for nitrogen retention. He then ups the protein if they are in negative retention. He has had some hard gainers to the point that they had more than 2 grams of protein per pound of body weight to get to positive nitrogen retention.

The truth is you need carbs, protein and fats. If you are low on carbs the body may trigger the liver to convert the protein to glucose.

Read the protein rountable discussion.
Read Dr. John M. Berardi’s articles.