There’s so much news about protein for weight loss and performance, I thought it was time to revisit the topic and provide a post that provides some of our best pieces on protein in one post.
Protein Myths vs. Facts
To help athletes build a stronger body—whether that’s to compete in an IronMan or the CrossFit Games—we turned to one of the foremost protein and performance researchers in the world, Kevin D. Tipton, Ph.D., Professor of Exercise and Sports Sciences at the University of Stirling in Scotland.
Here, he sets the record straight on common protein myths based on the latest protein and human performance research.
Myth: Protein’s Performance Benefits are Limited to Muscles
Fact: Protein is essential for muscle growth, but Tipton’s latest study, reported in Medicine & Science and Sports & Exercise, shows protein may benefit muscle & mind.
In the study, experienced road cyclists did one week of normal training, followed by a week of intense training designed to bring on significant fatigue, followed by a recovery week. Each cyclist did this three-week cycle two times, following one of two diet interventions during each three-week intervention. One diet provided 1.5 grams protein/Kg body weight and the other intervention consisted of twice as much protein (3 grams/Kg Body weight). During each intervention, carbohydrate intake remained stable at 6 grams/kg/day.
“When cyclists followed the high-protein diet, they experienced improvements in mood and outlook during and there were modest performance benefits, measured by time trial performance.”-K.D.T
Fact: There are thousands of pricey protein supplements claiming to have proprietary muscle-building formulas, but you may not need one. According to Tipton, there is no research that suggests supplements provide a performance benefit to the same amount of food-based protein.
“Food sources of protein stimulate anabolism to the same extent as supplemental protein.”-K.D.T
Fact: Protein is equally important for strength and endurance athletes. Endurance athletes need somewhere between 1.2-1.5 grams/kg body weight, but some studies are showing benefits of even higher amounts of protein for endurance athletes when they may be at peak training.
A study with strength training athletes found the optimal amount of protein for anabolism was 1.4 grams protein/kg body weight. When strength athletes ate 2.4 grams protein/kg body weight, researchers found no additional benefits from the additional protein. What’s more, several studies have shown that strength training increases the efficiency of use of protein, which reduces dietary protein requirements. The USOC recommends 1.2 – 1.7 grams protein/kg body weight for strength athletes.
“There is a limit to the amount of protein that will effectively increase the anabolic response.”-K.D.T.
Myth: A Hi-Pro Diet Is Best for Weight Loss
Fact: To investigate whether a high-protein calorie-reduced diet is better than a moderate-protein, calorie-reduced diet, Tipton put weightlifters on a diet that was carb-controlled and reduced their normal calories by 40 percent.
On the calorie reduction, half of the subjects ate their normal protein intake of 1 gram protein/kg body weight (or 15% of total calories) and the other half ate 2.3 grams protein/kg (35% of total calories form protein).
Both groups lost about the same amount of fat, but those on the moderate protein diet lost more lean mass. The hi-pro dieters lost only .66 lb muscle mass compared to nearly 3.5 pounds of lean tissue lost by mod-pro dieters.
“If maintaining muscle is crucial with weight loss, a higher protein diet might be best.”-K.D.T
Myth: Protein Should Be Eaten Within an Hour or Two Post Exercise
Fact: Tipton’s research shows that our body is primed to build muscle for at least 48 hours after intense exercise. And other research shows that any protein consumed within a 24-hour period after intense training increases muscle protein synthesis increases. The notion that there is a window for optimal muscle protein synthesis post workout does not appear to be the case.
“The optimal amount of protein to have at one time is about 20 grams. More is not better. The interaction between protein and exercise lasts for at least 24 hours.”-K.D.T