How much protein?

October 10, 2018


TLA wants each client to achieve the best of combo’s: results, feeling good day in day out+ leading an athletic lifestyle. Often this feel good factor can start with the types of food we eat. Though this post is long I would go as far as to say it is an essential read. Included is a couple of very recent studies to any client or would be TLA client interested in creating an athletic lifestyle and feeling fantastic.

Study 1

People who would like to become physically stronger should start with weight training and add protein to their diets, according to a comprehensive scientific review of research.

The review finds that eating more protein, well past the amounts currently recommended, can significantly augment the effects of lifting weights, especially for people past the age of 40. But there is an upper limit to the benefits of protein, the review cautions.

On the other hand, any form of protein is likely to be effective, it concludes, not merely high-protein shakes and supplements. Beef, chicken, yogurt and even protein from peas or quinoa could help us to build larger and stronger muscles.

It makes intuitive sense that protein in our diets should aid in bulking up muscles in our bodies, since muscles consist mostly of protein. When we lift weights, we stress the muscles and cause minute damage to muscle tissue, which then makes new proteins to heal. But muscles also will readily turn to and slurp up any bonus proteins floating around in the bloodstream.

Knowing this, bodybuilders have long swallowed large amounts of gloppy, protein-rich shakes after workouts in the expectation of adding greater bulk to their muscles than the lifting alone.

But the advantages of added dietary protein for the rest of us have been less clear. Past studies have indicated that, in general, people will gain more strength and muscle mass while weight training if they up their intake of protein than if they do not. But many of those studies have been relatively small or short-term and often have focused on only one kind of person, such as young men or older adults, or one kind of protein, such as whey shakes or soy.

Whether everyone, including women, benefits similarly from consuming added protein while weight training and just how much protein is ideal, as well as what that protein should consist of and when it should be eaten, are all open questions.

So for the review, which was published in the British Journal of Sport Medicine researchers from McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario, and other institutions decided to aggregate the results from the best past studies of weight training and protein.

Using databases of published research, they looked for experiments that had lasted at least six weeks, included a control group and carefully tracked participants’ protein intake as well as the eventual impacts on their muscle size and strength.

They wound up with 49 high-quality past experiments that had studied a total of 1,863 people, including men and women, young and old, and experienced weight trainers as well as novices. The sources of the protein in the different studies had varied, as had the amounts and the times of day when people had downed them.

To answer the simplest question of whether taking in more protein during weight training led to larger increases in muscle size and strength, the researchers added all of the results together.

And the answer was a resounding yes. Men and women who ate more protein while weight training did develop larger, stronger muscles than those who did not.

The impacts of this extra protein were not enormous. Almost everyone who started or continued weight training became stronger in these studies, whether they ate more protein or not.

But those who did ramp up their protein gained an extra 10 percent or so in strength and about 25 percent in muscle mass compared to the control groups.

The researchers also looked for the sweet spot for protein intake, which turned out to be about 1.6 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight per day. In practical terms, that would amount to about 130 grams of protein a day for a 175-pound man. (A chicken breast has about 45 grams of protein.)

Beyond that point, more protein did not result in more muscle benefits.

That number is considerably higher, however, than the protein levels called for in the current federal recommendations, which suggest about 56 grams of protein a day for men and 46 grams a day for women.

“We think that, for the purposes of maximizing muscular strength and mass with resistance training, most people need more protein” than is advised in the recommendations, says Rob Morton, a doctoral student at McMaster who led the study.

That advice holds especially true for middle-aged and older weight trainers, he says, almost none of whom were getting the ideal amount of protein in these studies and who, presumably in consequence, tended to show much smaller gains in strength and muscle size than younger people.

On the other hand and conveniently, any type of and time for protein was fine. The gains were similar if people downed their protein immediately after a workout or in the hours earlier or later, and it made no difference if the protein was solid or liquid, soy, beef, vegan or any other.

“We obviously need more studies,” Mr. Morton says.

Source: NY Times/ Gretchen Reynolds/ Lift weights, eat more protein/ Feb 7 2018


Study 2 (for those hitting middle age and beyond)

You might be relieved to hear that the creeping weight gain of middle age – a pound or two (0.5 to 1 kilogram) a year starting in your 20s, on average – eventually grinds to a halt. By the time middle age hits, specifically around age 50 you’ll typically start slowly shedding weight.

Don’t celebrate yet, though. There’s a good chance that the weight you’re losing is muscleprecisely what you need to hang onto to stay metabolically healthy and independent. The scientific term for this age-related loss of muscle, strength and physical function is “sarcopenia,” a condition that’s often overshadowed by the more urgent battle against obesity – and that oversight, according to a new review paper by Canadian researchers, has potentially serious consequences.

The causes of sarcopenia are complex and multifactorial, but one key factor is that muscle cells in older adults no longer respond as strongly to the muscle-building signals triggered by exercise and protein intake, a phenomenon known as anabolic resistance. That means protein guidelines optimized for middle-aged adults may not be adequate as you get older.

In a forthcoming issue of the journal Applied Physiology, Nutrition, and Metabolism, Oliveira and her colleague Carla Prado, along with Isabelle Dionne of the University of Sherbrooke, argue that current Canadian nutrition and exercise guidelines are inadequate for preventing sarcopenia and don’t reflect the latest research on the topic. Guidelines for protein intake were last updated in 2005, while physical-activity guidelines date from 2011.

Current guidelines call for a daily intake of 0.8 grams of protein per kilogram for adults. Most Canadians hit that threshold with ease; for example, a Quebec study of older adults called Nutrition as a Determinant of Successful Aging (NuAge) found an average intake of 1.0 g/kg/day. But even that may not be enough, Oliveira says: In another similar study found that older adults eating 1.2 g/kg/day of protein lost 40 per cent less muscle over a three-year period than those eating the recommended 0.8 g/kg/day.

It’s not just how much you eat. There’s some evidence that spreading your protein across three meals triggers more muscle growth than just downing a massive steak at dinner. And protein quality matters too, with certain amino acids such as leucine playing an outsized role in muscle growth. That means animal proteins such as meat, fish, eggs and dairy tend to pack a bigger punch than plant proteins, although Oliveira emphasizes that variety is also important.

So what should revised guidelines recommend for older adults? Estimates in recent studies range from about 1.0 to 1.5 g/kg/day, but more research is needed to provide a reliable estimate, Oliveira and her colleagues argue. Crucially, any new guidelines should tailor advice for different groups: Older women, for example, lose muscle more rapidly after menopause and may have higher protein requirements than older men.

For physical activity, current guidelines for older adults focus on a goal of 150 minutes of moderate or vigorous aerobic activity every week, with a vague suggestion to do “muscle- and bone-strengthening activities” at least twice a week. Since resistance training plays such a crucial role in muscle maintenance, the researchers argue that guidelines should give more prominence to advice about exactly how much and what type of resistance training is needed.

The overall picture from existing research is that full-body resistance training with loads that get progressively harder over time, two to three times a week, is optimal for older adults. One study published in 2017 found that two harder workouts plus one easier one produced the best results, perhaps because older strength-trainers simply couldn’t recover quickly enough to do three hard workouts each week.

Source: Globe & Mail/ Alex Hutchinson “we need better guidelines to deal with age related muscle loss.” October 8 2018.