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Diet Fallacy #9: “To build muscle, you need to consume a fixed amount of protein per pound of bodyweight”

August 23, 2005 08:58 AM

Do You Really Need To Pack In The Protein?
In Order To Pack On The Muscle? And If So? How, When and Why?

The Top Ten Diet Fallacies ?
Separating the Facts from the Fantasy

One of the trickiest of all fallacies is the notion that there is a fixed amount of protein per pounds of lean bodyweight required for actual muscle gain.

Yes, dietary protein is required for the build up of muscle tissues? but protein intake is only one out of several major variables that affect the body's capacity to grow. And in fact, it isn't even the most important one.

The amount of protein intake required for actual muscle gain depends on critical variables such as hormonal balance, intensity and frequency of exercise, timing of meals and the overall nutritional composition, including the protein's biological value (BV).

Since protein intake requirement can change according to the above variables, the idea of a fixed amount of protein intake is mistaken and often misleading.

Let's briefly review the major variables that directly relate to protein intake.

Hormonal balance

Our bodies require a certain hormonal balance in order to effectively build tissue. A low ratio of androgens to cortisol or a low ratio of IGF-1 to bound IGF-1, may compromise our ability to induce the anabolic state required for actual muscle gain.

If untreated, hormonal imbalance may jeopardize any chance of gaining muscle mass, even if protein intake is high.

Exercise intensity and frequency

Muscular development relates to the intensity and frequency of exercise.
Numerous studies reveal that a high intensity level?as with resistance training or ????????????sprint intervals?increases the levels of GH as well as androgens and thus maximizes the muscles capacity to adapt, gain mass and perform.

A recent study at the University of Western Ontario Canada reveals that intense pre-fatigue exercise (and not a moderate warm up) boosts VO2 max in older individuals to almost the levels found in young adults.

Overtraining can cause you to waste away?

Moderate aerobics just won't cut it?long distance runners would fail to gain total body strength and muscle mass even with a high protein intake.

Furthermore, when the frequency of training is too high and the rest time is insufficient, the body may be prone to muscle wasting.

Resent studies at the University of Alabama found that a certain hormone-like metabolite, called IL-6 may be chronically elevated due to overtraining. That can lead to a long-lasting inflammatory process, which may result in muscle tissue wasting.

Timing of meals

The body optimally utilizes protein when it is ingested in the first 30 minutes after exercise. Any delay beyond that, gradually slows down the rate of protein synthesis in the muscle. A 30g portion of protein consumed right after exercise converts to the same equivalent protein-utilization in the body as a 60g portion of protein consumed five hours later.

So meal timing is critically important. The same protein meal, for instance, that is most beneficial after exercise, may actually cause adverse affects, if consumed before exercise (See fallacy #2).

Overall nutritional composition

To be fully utilized, protein must not be ingested alone, in large amounts.

Studies by the food and agriculture organization (FAO) reveal that high calorie intake positively increases protein BV and vice verse. The higher the fat or carb intake (the higher the calorie intake) the less protein is required for effective muscle gain.

Besides being a source of energy, carbs and fat play additional important roles. Carbs are necessary for critical anabolic actions (enhancing GH and IGF-1 impact) in particular after exercise (See fallacy #5). Fat is necessary for supporting a healthy hormonal balance (see fallacy #4).

In conclusion, there is no fixed amount of protein required for actual muscle gain.

Nevertheless, protein intake is important and should be adjusted according to other variables. For instance, young individuals with a superior hormonal balance require less protein intake then older individuals with inferior hormonal balance. Higher protein BV requires less amount of protein intake than lower protein BV.

If applied correctly, small protein meals after exercise can yield the same net protein utilization as double size protein meals which were applied either too early or too late. Use your common sense. Through trial and error you'll find what works best for you.
Ori Hofmekler is the author of The Warrior Diet and Maximum Muscle, Minimum Fat, published by Dragon Door Publication. For more information on the Warrior Diet Fat Loss Program and Controlled Fatigue Training (CFT), workshops and certification seminars log onto or call 818-992-1994 (866)WAR-DIET. For personal and group training in L.A. call 818-992-1962.