it's the nutrient that is most commonly associated
with weight training, yet it's also one of the
most misunderstood! When it comes right down
to it, when you train with weights, your body
But when it comes
to using protein (both in supplement form and
in food), there is a lot of confusion. In this
FAQ, you're going to get common sense answers
to some of the most controversial questions
that people have about protein.
How Much Protein
Does Your Body Really Need?
At its simplest,
your body has a baseline protein requirement
that depends on a two main factors: lean body
mass (muscle) and activity (type and amount).
The more muscle
your body carries, the higher your protein requirement.
Also, the more intense, the more frequent and
the longer the activity you perform, the more
protein you need.
Studies on protein
requirements that demostrate a greater need
for protein often meet with much controversy
in scientific literature. It seems sometimes,
for some reason, that many in the scientific
and nutritional community are actually anti-protein!
In fact, you may have even witnessed a similar
prejudice when it comes to supplements as simple
as vitamins as well!
Bottom line: if
you train with weights, your body is breaking
down protein and you need to provide it with
extra protein to help rebuild. Though the exact
amounts that different sources recommend varies
widely between 0.7 grams per pound of bodyweight
(140 grams for a 200 lb person) to levels as
high as 2 grams per pound of bodyweight (400
grams for a 200 lb person), there is a solution...
yourself! Start with a moderate protein intake
of 0.7 grams per pound of bodyweight and see
how you feel and how your results are. The next
week, increase your protein intake a little,
adding about 20 to 30 grams to your daily total.
See if that makes a difference. The following
week, add a little more protein.
You may find that
you need more protein than you've been taking
or you may find that you don't need as much
protein as you think!
How Much Protein
Can The Body Digest At One Time?
There are many
who suggest your body can't digest and use more
than 30 to 40 grams of protein at a time. I've
not seen convincing research on it to say if
that's true or not.
a common sense approach, I think we need to
consider a few things.
1. Think about
what state your body is in. If your body needs
the protein (like after workout), I think it
will use and digest more of it if it's available.
Your entire metabolism is accelerated after
a workout and protein use in the body shoots
up. If protein is just eaten during the day,
smaller servings of around 40 grams may well
2. It's better
to have more than you need than not enough when
you need it. After a workout, I take in about
60 grams of whey protein, simply because, even
if my body can't use it all, I'd prefer to have
a little bit more than not have enough, which
would slow down recovery.
The same can certainly
apply during the day. A little extra protein
that your body burns up or excretes is not going
to have any appreciable negative effects. But,
not having protein available when your body
needs it can slow and stop muscle growth.
3. Protein doesn't
digest all at once, especially with meals. Think
about it this way, your stomach doesn't process
and send out everything it digests all at once.
It works on some, then sends some on its way.
This applies more to meals than protein drinks
but the fact remains, your body doesn't digest
a whole meal all at once. It digest a little
at a time. Think of it like time-release vitamin
- your body doesn't use the whole all at once
but uses it over the course of the entire digestion
4. Different people
can handle different doses of nutrients other
than protein. Does it makes sense that a 250
lb bodybuilder can only digest the same amount
of protein as a 110 lb woman at one time? Different
metabolic systems require and can handle different
Bottom line: The
limit of 30 to 40 grams of protein at once?
It could be right, it could be wrong. Just make
sure you're getting plenty if and when your
body needs it.
Will Eating Too
Much Protein Make You Fat?
The quick answer
to that question is yes. However, an excess
of ANY nutrient (protein, carbs or fat) has
the potential to make you fat. Of the three
major nutrients, protein is the LEAST likely
to do so as it's primarily a structural nutrient
rather than an energy nutrient.
A common sense
approach to answering this question would be
to break it all down by numbers.
1 gram of protein
contains 4 calories. Your body uses approximately
40% of the calories stored in protein to break
it down and digest it.
Say you eat 300
grams of protein per day and your body only
needs 150 grams. That's 150 extra grams of protein
per day. Of those 150 grams (which yields 600
calories), the equivalent of 60 of those grams
(240 calories) will be burned digesting the
This leaves you
with 360 extra calories. A pound of fat contains
3500 calories. It's going to take a LOT of excess
protein to fill up a pound of fat. Even then,
if you're training hard, excess calories are
burned to fuel activity (not necessarily from
the protein itself but also from carbs and fat).
Bottom line: the
fat-gaining effects of eating extra protein
are negligible. You're better off making sure
your body is getting enough protein when you're
Do I Need To
Take Protein Supplements?
The answer to
this question is both yes and no.
You DON'T need
to supplement with protein if you're getting
enough quality protein in your food in your
regular diet. You also don't need to supplement
if you are able to get your protein conveniently
and when your body needs it (especially after
If you can get
enough protein and get it when your body needs
it, there's no need to supplement with it! Food
sources of protein are absolutely fine and you
can build and support muscle with them.
But here's the
Food sources are
good for daily protein requirements BUT you
SHOULD supplement with protein if you're not
able to get enough quality protein in your diet
WHEN your body needs it.
The very best
example of this is after a hard workout. Protein
supplements are easily digested by your body
and very convenient to simply drink after a
workout. This is the time when your body needs
protein the most and getting it to your muscles
quickly is a top priority. Food sources of protein
are just not digested as quickly as supplements
for post-workout use. Supplements are an easy
way to make sure your body has the protein it
needs after a workout.
Also, if you have
trouble getting enough protein on a regular
basis throughout the day, a protein supplement
is ideal for keeping your muscles supplied consistently.
It's much easier to drink a protein shake than
cook and eat a chicken breast!
Bottom line: while
you don't always HAVE to take a protein supplement,
sometimes it's a very good idea to. If nothing
else, take a protein supplement IMMEDIATELY
after a workout to maximize recovery and results.
Will Eating Too
Much Protein Harm My Kidneys?
Only if you already
have trouble with your kidneys. No studies have
demonstrated damage to the kidneys with increased
protein intake unless the kidneys are already
of water can help the kidneys do their job of
processing waste products, though! Keep in mind
that there are many other variables at work
in the body as well, including other bodily
processes that could affect protein metabolism
and excretion. If you have any concerns about
protein and how your body uses it, I would definitely
recommend you consult with your physician.
answers to frequently-asked protein questions
should help you get a better idea of how you
should look at and structure your protein consumption.