Protein – Are you getting enough to get big?

‘How much protein should I be eating if I want to build muscle?’ It’ss one of the most common questions I get asked and the area where most people are going wrong in their attempts to build extra mass.

In all probability you’re not eating as much as I would recommend. In all the years of working with over 500 professional rugby players I’ve only come across a handful who were eating as much as I advise.

There are lots of MYTHS and UNTRUTH’s surrounding protein consumption one of the most common I come across is that the body can only digest 30 grams in any one serving, this has been doing the rounds since the 1970’s. There’s no scientific evidence to back this up.
Are there any risks of consuming too much protein?

There are some purported adverse effects of consuming too much protein but these have been overblown and many review documents have pronounced excess protein consumption as having no adverse effects.  No studies have ever reported of liver or kidney damage in healthy people from consuming excess protein. I’m a  fan of the paleolithic diet that proposes that from an evolutionary stand point our digestive system is more attuned to the hunter gatherer style of eating that we’ve had over the hundred’s of thousands of years of human existence.  Can you imagine our pre-historic ancestors saying ‘You better not eat any more of that woolly mammoth as all that extra protein is going to harm your health’.   In my opinion from an evolutionary stand point I don’t think we have evolved like that

There are a couple of proviso’s however with ‘excess’ protein consumption make sure you remain well hydrated and you should consult your Doctor if you have any kidney disease or have a family history of kidney problems.
Protein-The Muscle building Cornerstone

There are many facets involved in building muscle in fact when I consult with clients and professional athletes my Regenerate system includes 25 different supplements. However consuming the right volume of protein should be the cornerstone of every muscle building program.

The figure that I’ve settled with after monitoring the performance of the athletes that I work with and recommend in a Muscle Building anabolic phase is 3.5g Protein per Kg Body weight, so a 100 Kg athlete would eat 350 g of protein. It’s a lot of protein to get through, you’re be looking at the equivalent of about 13 cans of tuna.  Having to eat this volume of food is why protein powders are so popular!

The level of 3.5kg is slightly higher than some professional bodies recommend however it’s the level that I’ve found get’s the best results with my athletes.

I’d only recommend this amount for short periods of time when you are involved in high intensity weights based training. For day to day I’d suggest 2.2g / kg. For endurance based sports it would be less than this. We’ll talk more about the exact amounts you need depending on your sport in another article coming soon.

Two other tips I recommend are to:

Include protein with every meal it helps keep you from slipping into a catabolic state. It slows down the digestion of the carbohydrate you are eating and Protein is more thermogenic than carbohydrate which means your body requires more calories to process it, so it helps keep you lean.  If your struggling for time you can use a whey shake on the side.

Include protein from 3 different sources in each meal e.g. don’t just eat 2 or 3 chicken breasts in one go have less chicken and have a serving of cottage cheese and an omelette and maybe a whey shake on the side.  Or if you are having a whey shake then add some cottage cheese or yoghurt with it or maybe some liquid egg whites.
In my next article I’ll talk about the pros and cons of the different types of protein and how to match them to your training goals.

Matt Lovell has been the Sports Nutritionist for the England Rugby Team since 2003.He also currently works with 4 Premiership Teams as well as individual athletes from a wide variety of sports. He runs a popular Sports Nutrition website and has developed a Muscle Building Program and a Fat Loss Program

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