Saturday, February 20, 2016

How much dietary protein can you store in muscle? About 15 g/d if you are a gifted bodybuilder

Let us say you are one of the gifted few who are able to put on 1 lb of pure muscle per month, or 12 lbs per year, by combining strength training with a reasonable protein intake. Let us go even further and assume that the 1 lb of muscle that we are talking about is due to muscle protein gain, not glycogen or water. This is very uncommon; one has to really be genetically gifted to achieve that.

And you do that by eating a measly 80 g of protein per day. That is little more than 0.5 g of protein per lb of body weight if you weigh 155 lbs; or 0.4 per lb if you weigh 200 lbs. At the end of the year you are much more muscular. People even think that you’ve been taking steroids; but that just came naturally. The figure below shows what happened with the 80 g of protein you consumed every day. About 15 g became muscle (that is 1 lb divided by 30) … and 65 g “disappeared”!

Is that an amazing feat? Yes, it is an amazing feat of waste, if you think that the primary role of protein is to build muscle. More than 80 percent of the protein consumed was used for something else, notably to keep your metabolic engine running.

A significant proportion of dietary protein also goes into the synthesis of albumin, to which free fatty acids bind in the blood. (Albumin is necessary for the proper use of fat as fuel.) Dietary protein is also used in the synthesis of various body tissues and hormones.

Dietary protein does not normally become body fat, but can be used in place of fat as fuel and thus allow more dietary fat to be stored. It leads to an insulin response, which causes less body fat to be released. In this sense, dietary protein has a fat-sparing effect, preventing it from being used to supply the energy needs of the body.

Nevertheless, the fat-sparing effect of protein is lower than that of another "macronutrient" – alcohol. That is, alcohol takes precedence over protein and carbohydrates for use as fuel. Protein takes precedence over carbohydrates. Neither alcohol nor protein typically becomes body fat. Carbohydrates can become body fat, but only when glycogen stores are full.

What does this mean?

As it turns out, a reasonably high protein intake seems to be quite healthy, and there is nothing wrong with the body using protein to feed its metabolism.

Having said that, one does not need enormous amounts of protein to keep or even build muscle if one is getting enough calories from other sources.


Nigel Kinbrum said...

Newbies can gain muscle mass at twice that rate. See What’s My Genetic Muscular Potential?

Anonymous said...

*Dietary protein does not normally become body fat, but can be used in place of fat as fuel and thus allow more dietary fat to be stored. It leads to an insulin response, which causes less body fat to be released. In this sense, protein has a fat-sparing effect, preventing it from being used to supply the energy needs of the body.*

THATS INTERESTING, as if i lower my protein, i lower my weight. does this mean not as much is being shuttled into my fat stores?

obviously, i eat a relatively high fat diet, but was eating a LOT of protein as well, and once i dropped down on the lbs of meat a day and upped the carbs and fat, i lost weight.

if you eat high protein/mod carb shouldnt it be kept lower fat, just to hormonal necessity? and if you eat high fat, shouldnt carbs/protein be kept to necessity? or maybe cycling them is better?

i do wonder... how much of an impact getting your energy through protein would have on a female, and her fertility. seems the 'starvation' response of the female body through protein energy signals infertility and a 'bad time' for reproduction.

Kindke said...

Ned have you seen

Once you realise that you can essentially consume a zero protein diet for atleast as long as any amount of time you could otherwise completely fast during you realise the daily protein requirements are very low.

From the research ive seen protein is actually very heavily recycled by the body, and excess protein from the diet is almost immediately oxidized or disposed of.

why is it that protein is so satieting? Maybe its because your body doesnt want you to eat alot of it because your body doesnt need alot of it!

Theres also a research paper out there showing that muscle protein synthesis after strength training was already maximised with only 20g ingested, with further ingested protein providing almost no additional benefit.

Glenn said...

I'm glad to see you taking up this subject. The anecdotal evidence in the bodybuilding community for substantial protein consumption (1.5 grams per lb of bodyweight, or even more) is, well, overwhelming. I'm interested to see your take on what the clinical research shows in the next post.

Ned Kock said...

Hi Nigel. I think that post by Lyle (which I’ve seen before and is very good) refers to total muscle mass gained, not muscle protein accretion. In this sense the approximation is closer to that of lean body mass gain, for which a maximum of 1.5-2 lbs per month sounds reasonable. For example, muscle glycogen stores increase significantly in response to strength training. So does water storage in muscle. Organ (e.g., liver) mass tends to increase as well.

Ned Kock said...

Hi Mal. I think a particular type of cycling makes a lot of sense: more “everything” on strength training days (SDs), after the exercise session, and fewer carbs and calories on rest days (RDs). The reason this may work quite well is that strength training provides a stimulus to the body to make protein, much more in the hours immediately after the exercise but remaining for about 36-48 h.
With this type of cycling, on SDs your body ends up synthesizing more protein AND fat due to the extra protein and calories, with glycogen also being replenished. The more “everything” on SDs should also prevent starvation hormonal responses. On RDs your body is still pushing for protein synthesis, but the calorie deficit and low carb consumption leads to more body fat use as fuel. This is a favorable form of nutrient partitioning.
The tough part is to get the amounts right on SDs and RDs. Hunger should be a good guide, at least in theory.

Ned Kock said...

Hi Kindke, thanks for the link. There is a lot of interesting information on that site, and some of the points on autophagy are good ones. In my next post I’ll talk a bit more about some related topics, and in a future post I’ll show some additional results based on the China Study II data. A low long-term intake of animal protein does not seem to maximize longevity though.

Ned Kock said...

Hi Glenn, thanks. Yes, I’ll talk a bit more about that, but mostly in the context of a few good pubs on strength training.

Vega whole food health optimizer said...

That's a rare feat in muscle building since it takes time and not some supplement magic to have it but possible.

Unknown said...

You should definitely think about how this works for newbie gains then. When I had some newbie gains I put on 13ish lbs of muscle in 6 weeks with a loss in body fat%. As a sprinter, the exercises were all heavy resistance, and less volume. So I should have built a considerable amount of actual muscle. I'm interested in your next post then!

Ned Kock said...

Hi Avishek. Another situation where you will see some major gains in lean body mass is in males who are still growing and maturing, even if at the final stages of the growth process. Was that your case during those 6 months?

David Isaak said...

"Dietary protein is also used in the synthesis of various body tissues and hormones."

And let us not forget that enzymes are all proteins as well. Our DNA does little but hold the instructions for assembling proteins--mostly enzymes--which then go on to assemble other things (including other proteins)...

Ned Kock said...

This post is a revised version of a previous post. The original comments are preserved here. More comments welcome, but no spam please!

daz said...

Could you add some refs pls.

& thanks for the post.

daz said...

hi again Ned,

re this bit "Dietary protein does not normally become body fat, but can be used in place of fat as fuel and thus allow more dietary fat to be stored"

i am guessing this was part of the 2010 post...? but anyway, do you happen to have a ref for this. if it was a study i would be interested to see the study design.

i found a more recent (i presume) 2014 study, that seems to go against the "...and thus allow more dietary fat to be stored" info in your post (at least for healthy resistance-trained individuals).
here's the link (hope it posts);
'The effects of consuming a high protein diet (4.4 g/kg/d) on body composition in resistance-trained individuals'
From the conclusion; "This is the first interventional study to demonstrate that consuming a hypercaloric high protein diet does not result in an increase in body fat"

daz said...

...& the ~same peeps did follow studies, published in 2015 & 2016, with the same sort of results;
'A high protein diet (3.4 g/kg/d) combined with a heavy resistance training program improves body composition in healthy trained men and women – a follow-up investigation'
'The effects of a high protein diet on indices of health and body composition – a crossover trial in resistance-trained men'

Ned Kock said...

Hi daz. I think we are mostly in agreement. The post linked below clarifies a few issues, and has several references.

daz said...

i'm actually starting to think,
that the high protein groups in those 3 studies i linked were Not actually hypercaloric;
possibly over reporting, possible other factors,
Because they gained no body weight...or body fat.