The topic of protein intake for active individuals has always been a point of much confusion and debate.

If you’re interested in getting the most from exercise, improving your health and your physique, you’d better hold onto your hat. I'm going to present the very latest research-based information and blow all the myths, inaccuracies and fallacies right out of the water.

It's now clear that the methodologies and research techniques used previously to determine dietary protein recommendations were riddled with error. Consequently, the restrictive views that many health-care professionals have about protein intake are in fact, completely unfounded.

To optimize muscle recovery, and results from exercise, progressive scientists and researchers in this field now caution that the “old-school” recommendations are way off the mark, a long way off.

Protein Recommendations for active people looking to improve their body composition are way off - experts say.

There are a number of pertinent facts that are often overlooked by “well-meaning” health care professionals that advise active people on dietary requirements. In this article I'm going to explain these, present the latest information and hopefully, shed some much-needed light on the topic of protein requirements to optimize health and results from exercise training.

The lies….
The reason for the controversy surrounding protein requirements for active people originates from two aspects. Firstly, this is an extremely complex topic. A lot of health care professionals do not have a sound knowledge of the analytical measures used to assess nutritional requirements. Most professionals are not trained to examine the research (scrutinize study design and methodologies used). Aside from not having the skills to scrutinize the research correctly, a lot of health care professionals don’t have the time, so they rely on hear-say and what their colleagues tell them—without examining the facts themselves.  

As a consequence, inaccurate and sometimes completely false  recommendations perpetuate until they filter down to athletes, sports organizations and the public—people that really need clear, honest answers. Let me provide you with a few key insights and you’ll see what I mean.

Most people exercise because they want to look better. Improving body composition (building muscle and shedding fat) is the only non-surgical way to improve body shape. Despite what health care professionals may tell you, the research shows clearly that the type, timing and quality of protein you consume every day can make a big difference to results from exercise training. When deciding on your daily protein requirements to improve health and accelerate muscle recovery, consider the following.

• Current laboratory measures used to assess protein requirements are not concerned with optimizing health, improving body composition or enhancing physical performance.

• Many of the assays used to determine the effectiveness of a dietary protein source involved young, rapidly growing rats, not humans, and definitely not athletes.

• Protein requirements for human populations have been based almost entirely upon nitrogen balance studies. Yet many protein metabolism experts now acknowledge that this method is seriously flawed. The nitrogen balance technique overestimates nitrogen (protein) intake and underestimates nitrogen losses. This is due to the difficulty in assessing nitrous gas losses after colonic microflora, nitrogen losses through the skin (urea) and expired air (ammonia) and the nitrate content in food and urine which is not measured.

• The basic recommendation for daily protein intake is 0.8 grams per kilogram of body mass. For instance, a 68 kg person would consume around 54 grams a day. However, this recommendation is only to prevent a deficiency. It has nothing to do with optimizing health or results from exercise.

Increase in protein intake for safe & effective weight loss? You bet, just ask Chell Williams

Are high-protein diets safe? Some physicians believe that a high protein intake cause kidney dysfunction.

This is FALSE according to everything science now knows to be true. This presumption suggests that if you take a healthy person and put them on a high protein diet, the protein will somehow negatively influence the kidney, damage it and cause renal disease. Absolutely no data suggests that a high protein intake causes the onset of renal (kidney) dysfunction in healthy people. There aren’t even any studies that suggest this may happen.

Studies that suggest a relationship between renal dysfunction and protein intake involve those with some type of diagnosed, pre-existing renal disease like diabetic nephropathy, glomerular lesions, etc.

Clearing up the confusion
As a personal trainer, how do you combat all of the conflicting information about this topic to give your clients the best possible service?

Personal trainers that are part of the Metabolic Precision network have access to a comprehensive, fully referenced document on this topic. Armed with this type of information, the trainer is able to establish a more professional (informed) relationship with their clients and other health care professionals. This is just another reason why Metabolic Precision ensures an unprecedented level of quality and service in personal training.

The fact is, a high intake (2 to 3 times the basic allowance) of protein  (low-fat sources) does not promote any adverse effect in healthy people. In fact, research shows the opposite; increasing the proportion of protein in the diet is a strategy will promote better health.

Protein and fat loss

Of all the macronutrients, protein is the most effective at promoting satiety— a feeling of satisfaction from eating less food. Protein-rich meals also stabilize blood sugar levels to promote sustained energy and reduce sugar cravings. These are two key components essential to fat loss. Additionally, in comparison to carbs and fats, protein also promotes thermogenesis  (calories released as heat.) This means a higher degree of fat utilization and less calories are stored as body fat. The bottom line is, a higher ratio of protein in the diet builds a stronger, leaner, healthier body.

In light of these benefits, protein metabolism experts (scientists that have devoted their careers to this area of research) have recently urged health care professionals to change their restrictive (senseless) views on protein intake. These experts provide three important reasons why.

1) We know very little about the important functions of various amino acids at both the mechanistic and quantitative level. Our knowledge on protein requirements to improve health is very limited.

2) Based on poor analysis techniques, previous recommendations are probably well short of the mark.    
3) As no evidence suggests that increasing protein intake will cause harm, when healthcare professionals caution healthy, active people about the perils of a high protein diet, it’s ignorance of the worst kind. This is misinformation that may contribute to poor health. 

No matter what age, placing more focus on your protein needs will improve how you look, function & feel - Dianne Cullane

Scientists leading the way in this field now admit that protein requirements to optimize health and results from exercise, may be much higher than previously suspected.           

Yes! The real experts are urging us to get more protein into our diets.

How much do we need?

Individual goals, energy (calorie) intake and exercise intensity, duration and type, as well as training history, gender and age all shape a person’s protein needs. Consider the following guidelines.

Recent scientific evidence on physically active individuals indicates that regular exercise increases daily protein requirements by at least 100%, that’s double the basic recommendation.
Energy restriction
For almost 50 years, studies have shown us that energy (calorie) restriction leads to increased dietary protein needs. Additionally, the less carbohydrate that is available for energy, the greater the breakdown of muscle tissue during and after exercise. That means, people that train intensely and restrict their energy and/or carb intake need more protein!

Exercise frequency, type and intensity

Any increase in exercise intensity or frequency also causes an increased need for protein. Any time you up the intensity or frequency of your  exercise program, protein requirements will increase.

Additionally, people who are unaccustomed to intense training will breakdown greater amounts of lean tissue. Therefore, the protein needs of a novice are probably even greater than that of a veteran exercise enthusiast.

Resistance training
Research has shown that blood amino acid levels decline dramatically after a workout, even in athletes that consume a relatively high protein intake (double the basic recommendation). When blood amino acid levels drop, the muscle recovery process is short-circuited. 

Conversely, small but frequent protein-rich meals create and maintain high blood amino acid levels that maximize the body-shaping benefits of resistance training.

Battle of the sexes
Although men and women have similar dietary protein requirements (relative to body mass), there appears to be one important gender difference.

Females show a distinct inability to increase protein intake adequately with fitness training requirements. Physically active females often under-eat relative to their energy expenditure, and this can lead to a variety of nutrient deficiencies. Failing to meet nutrient requirements over a prolonged period of time can have disastrous consequences to a female’s health (such as menstrual and hormonal irregularities and osteoporosis). Active females need to be very aware of this physiological difference, and make sure their training demands for protein are met, every day.

Getting old
As we age, we lose the capacity to preserve muscle mass. Over the average adult lifespan each of us will lose 7kgs of muscle and pack on 15kgs of body fat. These changes in body composition have disastrous repercussions, they set the stage for type-2 diabetes and heart disease. Research shows us that ageing also appears to diminish the anabolic (muscle-building) response to exercise.

Conversely, when older adults consume a high protein diet, including supplements, they are able to restore this anabolic response similar to that seen in young adults. Clearly, the older you get, the more important  protein intake becomes. Great results from exercise require frequent, protein-rich meals every day. Every feeding should contain a source of first-class protein. A first-class source of protein is one that is low in saturated fats and contains all the essential amino acids.

To optimize recovery and body composition changes during exercise, the clinical trials I have completed have shown me that somewhere between 2 to 3 times the basic recommendation, divided into six small meals, is a very good start. However, quantity is just a part of the story.  Various protein sources provide a different impact whole-body protein metabolism, and muscle nitrogen retention and therefore, have the potential to influence results from exercise quite dramatically.
The take-home message is this; experts now acknowledge that protein recommendations for optimizing health and body composition changes during exercise have been grossly underestimated. Aside from quantity, the research shows us that the type and timing of protein consumed in the diet can influence recovery and adaptations to exercise.

Metabolic Precision gives you many clear advantages. One is, key insights about the type, timing and quantity of protein required to accelerate recovery, muscle gains and fat loss. Learn more about our life-changing certifications here.


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