Hi. I was wondering how much protein I should be consuming each day to ensure I’m getting enough to support muscle growth? I lift heavy 3 times per week. And I also do cardio on an elliptical runner 3 times per week. I’m 5’ 10” and weight 225 lbs. I’m probably somewhere in the neighborhood of 14% body fat. I wouldn’t mind being a little leaner. I had one trainer tell me I should eat 562.5 grams per day, which seemed pretty high to me? Then, a different trainer told me I should stick to 337.5 grams per day? I was curious what someone of your experience would recommend? Thanks in advance.
Hey, Matt. I am not sure anyone on the planet will ever actually figure out the nitrogen retention riddle. Furthermore, researchers have fiercely debated protein requirements for decades now.
I have read many different diet theories from various experts on this topic. Whenever I’m done reading, I always seem to have more questions than answers.
Almost none of these theories take some important variables into account. I know these would significantly impact protein requirements. But, I also understand why the research excludes some of these. These variables are very difficult, if not impossible, to measure. However, the research should not ignore them.
1. Digestion Efficiency
It’s not how much protein you consume. Rather, it’s how much protein your body digests to assimilate the amino acids in that protein. We live in an age where digestive and autoimmune diseases are extremely common. It’s not unusual to find people suffering from celiac disease, Crohn’s disease, Inflammatory bowel disease, leaky gut, liver disease, gallbladder disease, pancreatic disease, or IBS (irritable bowel syndrome).
People suffering from these conditions often benefit from using digestive enzymes, probiotics, herbal concoctions, and essential fatty acids. In some cases, medications that improve digestion can help. It may also be necessary to exclude foods containing gluten or lactose.
2. Steroid Use
If you are a natural bodybuilder, never compare or base your protein requirements to bodybuilders who use anabolic drugs. I see it happen all the time. “Well, (insert name of top IFBB Pro) eats 500 grams of protein per day, so I should too!” Nope, bad idea!
Synthetic hormones, like steroids and other anabolic drugs, have a profound impact on an individual’s biochemistry and metabolism! Individuals using enhancements have a significantly enhanced rate of protein synthesis. Much greater than individuals who train without chemical enhancements. Therefore, they can add muscle mass much faster than someone training naturally.
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3. Stomach Acid
I think most of us know someone suffering from heartburn or acid reflux. They eat antacids like candy. Sure, this may bring some temporary relief. However, acid-blocking medications reduce the stomach acid needed for proper digestion and protein assimilation. Some people get relief using natural supplements, like papaya enzyme or DGL (licorice extract), instead of antacid medications.
My initial reaction to the protein recommendations these other trainers gave you is these suggestions are protein overkill! Eating too much protein can be just as bad as not getting enough. Most people do not consider the metabolic waste factors associated with diets excessively high in protein.
Protein produces both nitrogenous and non-nitrogenous waste. Nitrogenous waste would include urea, uric acid, creatinine, and hippuric acid. In high concentrations, these waste products place an exorbitant amount of stress of the kidneys.
Drinking adequate amounts of water can help flush out some of this waste. No matter how much water you guzzle, I guarantee you are not going to offset the stress 562.5 grams of protein would place on your kidneys.
Something no one ever talks about is the impact high protein diets have on hormone production. Research has brought forth some interesting information on this subject.
One of the most interesting studies I found came from Volek et al. In this study, resistance-trained subjects consumed diets with different macronutrient compositions. Then, they later examined the hormonal changes associated with each type of diet.
Researchers discovered that the higher the total protein intake, the lower serum testosterone levels dropped. The same was true with the protein/carb ratio. Increasing protein and lowering carbs suppressed testosterone synthesis. Since testosterone is the most coveted muscle building hormone around, this information is important to consider.
Many bodybuilders and fitness enthusiast believe protein is the be-all-end-all nutrient that leads to more muscle and faster gains. Unfortunately, this notion is greatly exaggerated.
Sure, you definitely require protein to make productive muscle gains. However, the actual amount is not even close to what most in the bodybuilding and fitness industry recommend. This is not surprising considering they are also usually the ones trying to sell protein in massive tubs.
I do not have anything against great quality protein supplements. However, some manufacturers tend to go overboard on the number of servings consumers should take in addition to their regular diet each day. This is especially true when you take lots of free-form branched chain amino acids.
Branched-Chain Amino Acids
One of the reasons trainers and coaches have their clients mega-dosing protein is to get higher levels of branched chain amino acids. BCAAs can increase protein synthesis to enhance muscle recovery and growth.
Your body does not need to digest free-form BCAAs the way it does with protein. Therefore, it makes sense to scale back on the protein consumption a little bit. Then, take higher levels of free-form BCAAs to minimize calorie consumption and to avoid excessive amounts of Nitrogenous waste. In fact, I carry around a container of Training Ground BCAA and a shaker cup just about everywhere I go.
In general, I suggest eating .8 grams of protein per pound of lean body mass. For me, that is about 135 grams of protein per day. I have experimented with higher amounts, only to find I feel bloated and gain more body fat.
You likely require a bit more protein than I do since you are a bigger person. At any rate, I think it is important for every individual to take careful inventory of their own unique circumstances when establishing their optimal protein requirements.
I wish you all the best of success with your training and health!
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