Category Archives for "Protein Intake"
During my competitive bodybuilding years I, just like everyone else in this particular field, was mainly interested in increasing my muscle size. This is no longer the case. Still, the science of inducing Muscle Protein Synthesis (MPS) and counteracting the Muscle Protein Breakdown (MPB) fascinates me a lot. It still applies to what I do, if not for any other reason, at least for the fact that being careless in this matter might result in losing muscle mass – and from there diminishing athletic performance. And, I care a lot about optimal athletic performance.
While I was researching my post on the methods for calculating protein intake, I stumbled on a meta study. In this post I want to examine this meta study alone. It’s quite interesting and, even more importantly, it is written in a language that a layman like me can easily understand. I encourage you to read the paper if you have time.
The name of the paper is, “A Brief Review of Critical Processes in Exercise-Induced Muscular Hypertrophy” and it could be found here. Of course, the paper includes references to other papers, based on which it draws its conclusions (in case you’re interested in the sources).
My notes are below. I’ve capitalized a few words here and there for additional emphasis. I did this only in places where the conclusion drawn ran counter-intuitive to popular belief (and counter-intuitive to many industry publications and the advertisers in them), or I didn’t know about it at all.
In my last article I wrote about the different dietary protein needs in general. I also expressed that although it is clear who needs baseline protein levels (current RDA), who needs more than that and who needs less, it is still not very clear how to determine the exact needs for each individual.
In order to determine exactly how much dietary protein an individual needs, IDEALLY, we need to know and be able to use ALL of the following:
Unfortunately, after some serious time spent looking for official papers I was not able to find the type of research that could help me devise an exact daily protein intake for a particular individual, based precisely on the points of inquiry I described above. At the very least, this does not seem possible without using a very sophisticated lab (I can only guess).
Nonetheless, there is enough information that can at least provide us with a good starting point, which can represent a level of dietary protein intake that, with some perhaps minor adjustments and fine-tuning, could allow us to arrive to a relatively precise (for the particular time in one’s life) daily dietary protein intake levels.
These are the general numbers that can provide a starting point. Examples below.
(Tip: Use the instant kilograms to pounds converter at the bottom right if you don’t know your body weight in kilograms)
Not sure how to interpret “top athlete”. The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines “athlete” as “A person who is trained in or good at sports, games, or exercises that require physical skill and strength”. If I have to work with this definition and adapt it to “top athlete” it would probably be something in those lines: “A person who is trained to have superior abilities at sports, games, or exercises that require physical skill and strength”. A top athlete – for the purposes of establishing total dietary protein requirements – would be someone who trains intensely at least 5-6 times a week.
My personal suggestions for additionally modifying the baseline daily protein intake (o.8g/kg/day), based on activity level and intensity:
Subject: Female top athlete
Weight: 125 lbs (57 kg – using the converter – bottom right)
Subject: Male, sedentary lifestyle
Weight: 175 lbs (79 kg)
There is an alternative way to determine the dietary protein levels. It’s based on total daily calories intake:
The rest of the calories, after total daily protein is calculated, go toward total carbohydrate and fat intake.
Total daily calories: 2000
Subject: Sedentary individual (15 percent):
2000×0.15=300 (calories from protein)
Subject: Very active individual (30 percent):
2000×0.3=600 (calories from protein)
I do not personally prefer the second method – it is far more general and less specific than the first method. However, the second method is easier to put to use.
Additionally, in my personal view the first method would be more accurate if it is used to determine the dietary protein intake for persons of normal body weight (not overweight or obese). I do not see a reason why one should provide extra protein by accounting for large quantities of fat as a part of total body mass. Fat is far less metabolically active tissue than muscle tissue and it does not need much protein at all.
So, how do you tell if you are of normal body weight?
Normal body weight is when the body fat levels are 20-25 percent for women and 10-17 percent for men. Essential fat (must have to be healthy.. and alive) for women is about 10 percent and for men is about 5 percent. So, we are talking about 10-15 percent above this essential fat level for women and 5-12 percent above for men (On the ‘Net you will find sources offering different numbers as to what’s a normal body fat percentage for women and men. The numbers above are my rounded up approximations, based on my experience as a heavy individual and as an extra lean competitive athlete. Also they are based on my personal observations of populations on two continents.)
The subject is a male, sedentary, body weight=225lb (102 kg), body fat percentage=30%.
Weight of fat tissue alone: 67 lbs (30.6 kg)
Weight of fat tissue above normal weight levels (at 17 percent body fat): 29 lbs (13 kg)
225-29=196 lbs (89 kg)
If protein requirements were calculated using the initial 225 lbs body weight, the total protein would come out to 81.6g/day
If protein requirements were calculated with the correction for excess body fat, the total protein would come out to 71.2g/day.
That’s more than 10g of extra protein a day – and more than 40 Calories extra a day – that the body simply doesn’t need.
So, when calculating total daily dietary protein requirements using the first method, I’d suggest that, if necessary, you make a correction of the total body weight and equate that to ‘normal’ total body weight.
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If this article has any omissions or inaccuracies, please use the comments below to let me know. I will research and update the article accordingly.
Protein, as opposed to carbohydrates, is an essential macro nutrient – meaning you must have it in your diet because you can’t live without it – not for very long.
Different people have different demands for the amount of protein they should consume.
Earlier today I listened to a podcast by Chris Kresser. Chris discussed a topic that isn’t often discussed even in the nutrition and diet circles – ‘Should you eat more protein in your diet’.
I urge you to head over to Chris Kresser’s website and listen to this podcast.
The take-away points of his talk – the way I understand it – are:
This is all good info, but the question that remained unanswered for me is: ‘If a person requires more protein in their diet how much exactly should that person eat? How much is too little? How much is just enough? And, how much is too much?
These are questions that I want to find answers to. I am trying to practice and master extreme calisthenics (still an amateur, but..) and these bodywegith workouts could be very, very demanding.
And, there are subtleties, too. For example, if you eat more protein (and calories) than you need you gain too much mass and become too heavy. If you eat less you don’t recover well and your performance suffers.
So, I am personally interested in knowing exactly how much protein should I eat daily, based on my personal activities and lifestyle so that I recover well enough but don’t gain even an ounce of non-efficient mass (fat).