Protein is a widely discussed nutrient vital to human health and the normal functioning of the body and as we know, crucial to muscle building and effective weight loss. And these days, everybody seems to have their own loud opinion about protein and how it should be consumed. But how much of the things we know about protein are truths, and how much are merely hyped myths we have unselectively picked up around the gym or on the Internet?
#1. The RDA Protein Suggestions Are Adequate for People Who Train
The Recommended Dietary Allowance for protein is a modest 0.45g/lb (0.8 g/kg) of body-weight per day. Do you really think that people whose only physical activity is walking to work every day and people who perform resistance training regularly have the same need for protein?
The RDA serves to describe the amount of a nutrient you need to meet your basic nutritional requirements. The key word is basic. In other words, it’s the amount a healthy, moderately active individuals need to consume in order to maintain nitrogen balance, which is the amount of nitrogen coming into the body from dietary protein vs. the amount being lost. So if you are consuming more protein than you’re losing, you’re in positive nitrogen balance, while if you’re losing more than you’re consuming, you are in negative nitrogen balance.
However, since lifters and athletes who are looking to improve their performance, gain strength or build muscle, RDA protein recommendations are too low for them. People who have very active lifestyles with frequent bouts of intense training need a lot more protein to maintain their muscle mass or stimulate new muscle growth.
So how much protein should you actually consume?
To answer this question, we’ll bring in a few recent studies into play. For example, in one review published in the International Journal of Sports Nutrition, the authors came to the conclusion that people who perform strength training need to consume 0.8-0.9g/lb (1.6-1.7g/kg) of protein, while those who’re involved in endurance training need around 0.6-0.8g/lb (1.2-1.6g/kg) of protein per day.
Another review, published in the International Journal of Sport Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism that tried to pinpoint the effects of dietary protein on body composition in resistance-trained athletes made an even more dramatic conclusion:
“The range of 1.2g/lb to 1.6g/lb (2.3g/kg to 3.1g/kg) of FFM (fat free mass) is the most consistently protective intake against losses of lean tissue.”
Therefore, deciding upon the ideal protein intake is ultimately up to your own body and unique goals. But regardless of what type of training you perform, you’d most likely benefit from significantly increasing your protein consumption.
#2. Protein, Carbs and Fat Have the Same Thermic Effect
The thermic effect of food represents the energy required for digestion, absorption and disposal of the nutrients that were ingested, i.e. the energy your body has to expend in order to digest food.
This is also known as diet-induced thermogenesis or postprandial thermogenesis and it produces the increase in metabolic rate that occurs after ingestion of food. As a result of the thermic effect of food, by consuming calories you actually increase the rate at which your body burns calories, which is why nutritionists recommend eating clean, whole foods with a high thermic effect instead of starving your body in order to lose weight. When it comes to losing fat and building muscle, eating less is not the answer to getting lean because it slows down your metabolism.
Many people, however, make the mistake of assuming that protein, carbs and fat all have the same thermic effect in the body when actually, protein ranks highest. More specifically, the consumption of protein requires an expenditure of 20-30% of the calories derived from protein, while diet-induced thermogenesis from carbs is 15-20% and 2-5% from fat.
Therefore, it’ll cost you more calories to digest and absorb protein than it would cost you to assimilate fat and carbs, which is why high protein intake has been shown to significantly boost metabolism and increase the amount of calories you burn. One study found that people who consume a high-protein diet can burn up to 300 more calories per day than people who consume a low-protein diet, which is the equivalent to one hour of moderate-intensity exercise per day.
#3. Protein Is Equally Filling as Carbs
Many studies have clearly showed that protein is more satiating than both fat and carbs. For example, in a study published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, Weigle et al. showed that an increase in dietary protein from 15% to 30% of energy and a reduction in fat from 35% to 20% produces a sustained decrease in appetite and calorie intake and results in significant weight loss, and other researchers have gotten similar results when comparing protein and carbs in terms of satiety.
We still don’t know how exactly protein increases satiety, but some studies have suggested that protein has an important beneficial influence on the secretion of CCK (cholecystokinin), the hormone responsible for acting as a satiety signal, and ghrelin, the main hunger hormone in our bodies.
One review published in Nutrition & Metabolism concluded that protein-induced thermogenesis also has a major effect on satiety, so protein-rich diets can help body weight regulation through satiety caused by the thermic effect of protein.
Another study, published in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism that compared the effect of different proteins and carbs on indicators of appetite concluded that acute appetite gets more significantly reduced after consumption of lactose, casein or whey than after consumption of glucose.
Therefore, it’s safe to say that a high-protein diet has the potential to promote healthy weight in most individuals. The exact mechanisms by which increased dietary protein regulates body weight are complex and multifactorial, but when considered together, there’s no doubt that a moderate increase in high-quality protein consumption in association with increased physical activity will encourage fat loss.
Protein is used in every single cell in our body and is critical for supporting neurological function, enhancing digestion and helping to balance hormones. In addition, protein foods are especially beneficial for preventing unwanted weight gain because they make us full, require more work to be digested and release a steady flow of energy into the organism. Protein consumption is also crucial for muscle building because it plays a major role in the rebuilding of damaged muscle tissue.
Therefore, if you want to increase your lean muscle mass, aim to increase your consumption of protein from good quality sources such as grass-fed beef, organic dairy, eggs and fatty fish