I have no problem with protein. I eat it every day. In fact, I had a hearty bowl of goat's milk yogurt for breakfast, but I gotta say, protein-pushers drive me nuts. Long story short, if you're looking to increase mass, massive protein piling just doesn't work. Yes, if you're trying to promote a little ketosis and burn fat, that's one thing, but the notion of 1-1.5 grams of protein per pound of body weight to build muscle? I have yet to read a compelling article or study that proves this.
The correct numbers, according to every piece of scientific evidence I have ever read ever, ever, ever, are .8 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight for plebs, 1.5 gram per kilo for athletes. Why did people switch those kilograms to pounds, which would approximately double intake? My theory is that 50% of America just can't grasp the metric system and the other 50% exploits the measurement-impaired first half to sell protein powder.
Case in point, this article from Bodybuilding.com about the importance of nitrogen balance. I'm not going to wade through the whole article here, but I will quote this key point:
A nitrogen balance study of bodybuilders demonstrated an increased protein need relative to controls and estimated the RDA for bodybuilders to be 1.7 g/kg total.Okay, noted. There's a also a little calculator in the article telling me that at 165 pounds, I should eat 263 grams of protein per day. Lots! Now, let's skip down the article's references:
In another study, impressive strength gains of 5% and size of 6% were seen over several months of strength training in world-class weight lifters when they increased their dietary protein from 1.8 to 3.5 g/kg of body weight per day.
Both these studies underscore the greater need among strength athletes, for a higher protein consumption. For the average, non-pro, bodybuilder, it is best to err on the side of caution and consume more than the one-gram-per-pound guideline, to ensure maximal nitrogen retention.
Fritz, B.(1991). Balance: What Growth is all About. Muscle and Fitness. December, 1991.The link is mine. While the article offered plenty of links to various amino acids it sells, it did not link to these references. I suppose that's understandable - a lot of commerce sites avoid external links. The problem is, the links are all completely bogus, so not linking to them smacks of misdirection.
Lemon, Peter, "Do athletes need more dietary protein and amino acids?" International Journal of Sports Nutrition, S 39-61, 1995
Tarnopolsky, M, Evaluation of protein requirements for trained strength athletes." Journal of Applied Physiology, VOl 73, No 5, pgs 1986-1995, 1993
And for the record, none of the references above mention the study showing "impressive strength gains" due to heavy protein use. If you're going to mention a study like that, you probably want to include it in the references. Just sayin'.
Wait. I take that back. I'm not 100% sure of that because I couldn't find that article by B. Fritz. I have no idea what it says, but seriously, when you're throwing down heavy science like this, is it really appropriate to mention an article - not even a study - from an obscure, 20-year-old magazine? I have a copy of the July 1992 Australian edition of Field and Stream stating that claims shoving soft-boiled eggs up your butt combats gout.
Do you believe me?
From there it gets better. I wasn't able to find that second reference either. I did, however, track down a hell of a paper trail from its author, Dr. Peter Lemon, who apparently spent the better part of the 90s on a quixotic quest to lance the protein windmill, ending with a 2000 article in the Journal of the American College of Nutrition stating the following:
A variety of factors interact to increase dietary protein needs of individuals who exercise regularly. Although future study will need to determine precise recommendations, current research indicates that as long as energy intake is adequate a daily protein intake of 1.2–1.4 g/d for individuals participating in regular endurance exercise and 1.6–1.8 g/kg for their counterparts involved in strength exercise should be sufficient. To ensure these increased needs are met, care should be taken to consume a diet containing adequate energy and a selection of high quality protein foods, i.e., dairy products, eggs, meat, fish and soy products. Select populations may be at increased risk of not consuming sufficient protein due to increased requirements for a variety of other reasons, i.e., unbalanced diet (vegetarians), inadequate energy intake (dieters or athletes with high energy expenditure, especially women), higher baseline requirements (those who are growing or the elderly) and so on. More study is necessary before all of this can be untangled.In other words, this is a study from the guy who wrote the phantom study sourced in the Bodybuilding.com article dated five years later stating "1.6–1.8 g/kg for their counterparts involved in strength exercise should be sufficient."
And here's another article from Dr. Lemon in 1992 stating that "during the early stages of intensive bodybuilding training, PRO needs are approximately 100% greater than current recommendations but that PROIN increases from 1.35 to 2.62 g.kg-1.day-1 do not enhance muscle mass/strength gains, at least during the 1st mo of training."
Finally, I did find a link to the third reference in the Bodybuilding.com article. Here's the abstract:
Leucine kinetic and nitrogen balance (NBAL) methods were used to determine the dietary protein requirements of strength athletes (SA) compared with sedentary subjects (S). Individual subjects were randomly assigned to one of three protein intakes: low protein (LP) = 0.86 g protein.kg-1.day-1, moderate protein (MP) = 1.40 g protein.kg-1.day-1, or high protein (HP) = 2.40 g protein.kg-1.day-1 for 13 days for each dietary treatment. NBAL was measured and whole body protein synthesis (WBPS) and leucine oxidation were determined from L-[1-13C]leucine turnover. NBAL data were used to determine that the protein intake for zero NBAL for S was 0.69 g.kg-1.day-1 and for SA was 1.41 g.kg-1.day-1. A suggested recommended intake for S was 0.89 g.kg-1.day-1 and for SA was 1.76 g.kg-1.day-1. For SA, the LP diet did not provide adequate protein and resulted in an accommodated state (decreased WBPS vs. MP and HP), and the MP diet resulted in a state of adaptation [increase in WBPS (vs. LP) and no change in leucine oxidation (vs. LP)]. The HP diet did not result in increased WBPS compared with the MP diet, but leucine oxidation did increase significantly, indicating a nutrient overload. For S the LP diet provided adequate protein, and increasing protein intake did not increase WBPS. On the HP diet leucine oxidation increased for S. These results indicated that the MP and HP diets were nutrient overloads for S. There were no effects of varying protein intake on indexes of lean body mass (creatinine excretion, body density) for either group. In summary, protein requirements for athletes performing strength training are greater than for sedentary individuals and are above current Canadian and US recommended daily protein intake requirements for young healthy males.As I read it, strength trainers need more protein than sedentary people, but a high-protein diet (2.40 g protein.kg) is too much. Therefore, a moderate protein diet (1.40 g protein.kg) is ideal for weightlifters.
So, to sum up, how on earth are we supposed to take an article seriously when its references are either impossible to find or completely contradict the key points?
It's enough to make the yogurt curdle in my stomach. I'm having carbs for lunch.