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Protein - How much is too much?

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My husband started working out with a trainer in hopes of putting on a little more muscle. People keep telling him he looks too thin since he lost 35 lbs (eating a nutritarian style vegan diet) but I swear the 35 lbs he lost was all belly fat. He still has a little, so I know he's not underweight. In fact he's super fit. At 55 he can run and exercise more than most men half his age.


The trainer (an omnivore) told him he needs 180 grams of protein a day to get results from weight training. Ed is 140lbs and 5'8". That sounds to high to me.


He's already improved his muscle tone and increased his size somewhat over the last several months, but he thinks it's not happening fast enough. I don't want him to consume unhealthy amounts of protein in an attempt to gain size. What is the right amount of protein if you are weight training?

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There really isn't a "right" amount of protein to consume, since some people get by fine with weight training on moderate amounts while others fare better with higher amounts.


180g/day is on the higher side, but not unreasonably high (I've known people who were taking in 300g/day or more at nearly the same bodyweight) - if he's not weight training or doing a lower-carbohydrate diet for fat loss, there's no reason to cram down that much protein, but if he's doing plenty of intense weight training that benefits from additional protein for muscle repair, then it should be fine for a while.


Many people go with the general guideline of around 1g of protein per lb. of bodyweight (sometimes slightly less @ 1g per lb. of lean tissue), but sometimes, people do find more is better for reaching their goals more quickly. Again, it depends on the person. I can fare well with less, but know plenty who say they can't reach their goals without protein by the truckload.


Unless your husband has any pre-existing issues with not being able to take in high amounts of protien or unless he has pre-existing kidney concerns, there's little to be concerned with by having a high protein diet for a period of time that can be months or even a few years. Like I always say, if high protein diets were guaranteed to cause health issues, pretty well every bodybuilder who has consumed loads of protein for years on end would be guaranteed to be on dialysis at some point due to kidney failure. Since we know that's not the case, it should make you feel a bit more comfortable about higher protein not being too scary when done for a certain period in conjunction with hard training

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  • 2 weeks later...

my best ever training results came while I was following an abreviated weight training routine, and eating 80g of protein per day.

I managed to add weight to the bar and solid weight to my frame while eating just 80g

I have fell for the more is better trap before, and all I added was extra bodyfat due to the extra calories.

Most of the high protein advice for athletes comesd from people selling protein powders etc

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Max amount of protein you can digest at once = 30gr. That's why all protein shakes have 30gr scoops inside them. More than 30gr at once = overloading the kidneys, urea in your blood, generally not nice. It won't kill you on the spot but it can cause damage on the long run.


Recommended daily protein intake:


doctors recommend: 1.5 gr/kg (men); 1 gr/kg (women)

bodybuilders recommend: 1.5 - 3.3 gr/kg (men); 1 - 2.5 gr/kg (women)


As you can see, there margin is wild! Some pro bodybuilders take as high as 3.3 gr/kg, which IMO (and according to the doctors) is too much. Note that they are on a heavy steroid intake. Some athletes recommend 1.5 gr/kg, which is (IMO) more suitable for endurance athletes who don't lose so much nitrogen during their workout. Nitrogen = what protein is made of.


The protein myth!


What you need to gain size is a steady supply of glycogen, some protein and the respective conditions in the body (minerals, ATP, hormones, whatever). The growth process is triggered by ... training!!! not by eating (muscle growth, not belly growth). If you train properly, your body will utilize any food it can in order to recover and become stronger.

Muscles are built of protein. Every cell is built of protein. Even the plant cells. When you work out, you do some (minimum) damage on the very cell. That's why you need protein to recover. However, you do not need too much protein. You only need some protein to repair the damage and even less to overrepair the damage. The workout however eats up the muscle's glycogen supplies. Then you need to replenish the muscle fuel - glycogen. The more glycogen you have, the more energy you will have and the more anabolic conditions in the muscle. So that is why many top pro bodybuilders are 'high carb dieters' - for example Lee Haney and Jay Cutler.

Lee Haney used the 60/30/10 diet even in his pre-contest period. All year, no change of the percentages. What does this mean?

This means that 60% of his daily calorie intake came from carbohydrates, 30% came from protein and 10% came from fat. One gram of protein is 4 calories, one gram of carbs is 4 calories, one gram of fat is 9 calories.

I personally am amazed by Dr. Douglas Graham's '80/10/10' vegan, raw food, fruitarian diet. I did put some muscle on it and I was recovering like crazy. Sadly, the summer is over and my supply of fresh fruit is gone but I will revert back to it as soon as I can afford to buy more food (rather than use the one from the family farm). Buying a bigger car first!

So if we put your husband on the 60/30/10 diet and we assume that he weighs 63 kgs (I converted the pounds) and we want to give him 2gr of protein per kilogram of body mass, this would mean 120-130 grams of protein daily (from supplements and food together). 180 grams is nearly 3 grams of protein per kg which is too much for someone who is not on steroids and at the Olympia. Make sure the carbs he eats are 'good' carbs - with low glycemic index and as much fruit if possible.

Actually, it doesn't matter how much protein you eat but WHEN you eat it - make sure you are loaded during the workout and that you take some immediately after the workout (that's the most crucial time, usually when the protein shake comes in). Maybe some during the night, depending on your diet. Have enough carbs, enough vitamins... The rest - just eat good vegan delicious food and work out like an animal!

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While I do respect other positions on protein consumption, I do think that there's going to have to be a agreement to disagree on some points.


I don't believe everyone is the same and that only 30g protein is usable at any one time by every person (too much evidence of personal experience and that of others I know to believe it as across-the-board truth), so I think that the jury will always be out on that one for being in agreement. I have met people whose key to making better progress with their weight training goals was as simple as increasing protein from a moderate level to a higher one.


I'm a big proponent of considering individual differences and experimenting with different nutrient ratios until you discover what works best. It's just too across-the-board to note that everyone will benefit from the same nutrient ratios and general protein intake. There's nothing to worry about with trying a high-protein plan for a while to see if it is ideal or not. Worst case, it was a waste of protein for a few months, best case, it proves to be ideal. Not much more of an issue than that!

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