View Full Version : Protein Requirements

Robb Wolf
10-28-2006, 01:01 PM
Steve brought up a good question regarding protein needs for thee strength athlete. I think it's a great topic for several reasons. I think it brings up the issue of goals: Are you maintaining BW? Do you want to increase muscle mass?

What does the research have to say on this? Clinical/anecdotal experience? John Berardi tackled this topic a few years ago and I think he makes some interesting points.
1-Resistance training increases tissue turnover but it also increases nitrogen retention. If I remember correctly he made the point that, on a maintenance level, athletes may REQUIRE less protein than the general population. This seems counter intuitive but the literature seems to point this direction and wee have seen several thousand people doing CF and following the Zone do "very well" simply from the perspective of performance. I think a high fat diet (Athletes Zone) augments the nitrogen sparing activity of exercise and this is part of why folks are able to run pretty well on the Zone. The body is trained to be highly efficient with protein.
2-Now if we change gears and talk about muscle gain personal experience points towards a markedly greater protein need, somewhere in the realm of 2g/lb and Ido Portal has related to me he has seen people stall in progress until the numbers reach 3g/lb! Keep in mind that you need to keep the total %protein below 35-40% lest protein toxicity ensue. The research leans towards this direction with the NSCA textbook getting up as high as the 2g/lb level. Undoubtedly we are moving away from a scenario of protein efficiency as in the case of the Zone, however we are simply trying to stack as much building material (within reason) on the right side of the equation.

That's my main thought(s) on this. Any other experiences or references?

Steve Shafley
10-28-2006, 01:58 PM

Don't forget the stuff on "protein pulses". The temporal aspects of nutrition (including the intermittant fasting stuff and this protein pulse stuff) are really interesting and will probably have an impact long term on lean muscle mass. Of course, intermittant fasting basically had a protein pulse built in, which leads us back to that nifty little can of worms.

Bryan Haycock reviews the materials here, including the limitations of the studies cited:


Protein Pulse Feeding May Revolutionize the Way We Plan Our Meals

by Bryan Haycock MS, CSCS

When it comes to protein one thing is certain, bodybuilders eat a lot of it. You may have your preferences as to brand or even what source (i.e. egg, whey, casein, soy, meat, goldfish, etc.), but you will be hard pressed to find a bodybuilder or fitness competitor who isn’t constantly thinking about where his/her next protein meal is coming from.

I have had many discussions about optimal amounts of protein with my good friend Lyle McDonald. These discussions have led us to believe that despite all our efforts to alter the amount of protein we retain, few if any practices currently being employed by bodybuilders actually work. These discussions, along with some recent research, have led me to some conclusions that may surprise you.

A couple of recent studies really got me thinking. A researcher by the name of Marie Arnal out of France had the idea that perhaps you could increase 24-hour protein anabolism by using a diet that was both "high" and "low" in protein. You may ask, "How can a diet be both high and low in protein?" By a method called protein pulse feeding. Simply put, you consume about 80% of your daily protein at one sitting, the rest of the day you keep protein intake fairly low (for bodybuilding standards anyway).

Here is what she and her colleagues found. In "elderly women", nitrogen balance was more positive with the pulse feeding than with protein spread out (54 ± 7 compared with 27 ± 6 mg N/kg FFM/day).(1) Protein turnover rates were also higher with the pulse than with the spread diet (5.58 ± 0.22 compared with 4.98 ± 0.17 g protein/kg FFM/day), mainly because of higher protein synthesis in the pulse group (4.48 ± 0.19 g protein/kg FFM/day) than in the spread group (3.75 ± 0.19 g protein/kg FFM/day).

Ok, Ok, many of you are probably thinking that you have nothing in common with elderly women. Just bear with me for a moment. They did the same experiment with 26-year-old women. (2) Surprisingly they found very little effect of protein pulse feeding on nitrogen balance in these young subjects. Keep this in mind…

Finally, they found one other effect of protein pulse feeding. Protein turnover modifications induced by the protein pulse pattern for 14 days persisted at least 1 day after both young and old subjects had stopped the diet. (3) In other words, their bodies became more anabolically responsive to protein meals after utilizing a protein pulse-feeding pattern and this continued for at least a day when normal feeding was resumed.

So in summary, research has shown that in individuals who are aging, protein pulse feeding (i.e. eating most of your daily protein intake at one meal) may lead to greater gains in muscle mass over time by increasing the anabolic effect of a high protein meal, and decreasing catabolism thereafter if protein intake is reduced for the remainder of the day.

Now here is where you might be surprised, when you step back and take a look at what they found, you see that eating protein all day in many small meals, or eating a ton of protein in one big meal, made no difference in nitrogen retention in young women. This makes perfect sense with respect to how the body’s systems have evolved to ensure survival (i.e. by altering metabolism according to nutrient intake). If you eat low protein, your body conserves protein. If you eat protein all the time your body breaks it down, oxidizes it and spits it out. It could very well be that all the fuss bodybuilders make (including myself) about where and when their next protein meal is coming from might be for nothing. It could very well be that it is more anabolic to eat large amounts of protein after training (~80% of daily total) and keep protein around 10-12% of meals there after. Believe it or not, there is other research supporting this hypothesis indirectly. Up until now there has been no use in bringing it up with most bodybuilders because of the "tradition" of eating protein in a constant fashion all throughout the day. In time we will see more research on this issue and perhaps Protein Pulse Feeding will become a viable alternative to grazing on meat all day. I can already hear the nay sayers….


1: Arnal MA, Mosoni L, Boirie Y, Houlier ML, Morin L, Verdier E, Ritz P, Antoine JM, Prugnaud J, Beaufrere B, Mirand PP. Protein pulse feeding improves protein retention in elderly women. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 1999 Jun;69(6):1202-8.

2: Arnal MA, Mosoni L, Boirie Y, Houlier ML, Morin L, Verdier E, Ritz P, Antoine JM, Prugnaud J, Beaufrere B, Mirand PP. Protein feeding pattern does not affect protein retention in young women. Journal of Nutrition. 2000 Jul;130(7):1700-4.

3: Arnal MA, Mosoni L, Boirie Y, Gachon P, Genest M, Bayle G, Grizard J, Arnal M, Antoine JM, Beaufrere B, Mirand PP. Protein turnover modifications induced by the protein feeding pattern still persist after the end of the diets. American Journal of Physiology Endocrinology and Metabolism. 2000 May;278(5):E902-9.

Robb Wolf
10-29-2006, 07:15 AM
WOW! That is pretty damn interesting. I know Scotty Hagnas has had success (gained ~10lbs) with IF and he shifted many of his feedings to post workout and very high protein. This seems to be similar to what devany does as well. Great stuff Steve!

Scott Kustes
10-30-2006, 12:57 PM
Nice info Steve! I also wonder if the "2g per lb of bodyweight" stalls that Ido relates are in anyway related to protein quality. I would think that someone consuming 2g/lb from chicken, beef, other meats would assimilate more of it than the person relying heavily on powders. Any thoughts on that?

Jeremy Jones
10-31-2006, 11:53 AM
Sounds good.

I'll keep eating my two 4x4* burgers from "In 'N Out" burger post workout then:D

*4 meat paddies, 4 cheese slices.

I may start incorporating this more regularly to get some anecdotal results.

Mike ODonnell
11-30-2006, 07:49 PM
"It could very well be that it is more anabolic to eat large amounts of protein after training (~80% of daily total) and keep protein around 10-12% of meals there after."

With this kind of philosophy...I would ask:
1) What is the total protein intake on a workout day to base it off? (1g/lb, 1.5g/lb, 2g/lb)
2) What is the timeframe that is considered post workout? (30min, 60min, 2hrs?)
3) Are we talking Whey with High GI carbs? Or any protein based meal? I would assume you would also want a high carb % as well with the increased insulin sensitivity? Would this meal be no fat?
4) On rest days...are you taking out that 80% protein and keeping the daily total only 20% of training days? Would this cycling help protein efficiency on training day loading?

Anyone try this out?

12-01-2006, 08:02 AM

I'm anxious to hear how that experiment goes. It really takes courage to step out in front of the pack and use yourself for experimentation like that. ;)

Perhaps you can cycle in some animal style burgers and see what kind of effect that has.