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Macronutrient Breakdown, Part III

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The Truth About Protein

In our last few posts, we’ve covered a few things.  First, we talked about the combination of macronutrients—and in that post I discussed that it’s often helpful to divide meals into either “Protein + Carb” or “Protein + Fat.”  As mentioned in that post, that’s a great general rule to use to create meals because it forces you to think about the make up of each meal.

As a follow up to that, the two subsequent posts were all about carbohydrates and fat, and the make up and benefits of each macronutrient.  Both of these nutrients have been much maligned over the years, each being blamed in turn and labeled as the primary cause of obesity.

While both carbs and fat have spent the past few years being demonized or lauded by turns, no macronutrient has enjoyed the rise to prominence and popularity as our friend, protein.  Although, while protein currently enjoys the spot as the most awesome of macronutrients, that wasn’t always so.  In the early 1900’s diet gurus such as John Harvey Kellogg (yeah, the cereal guy) and Horace Fletcher rallied against the intake of dietary protein due to its “negative effects on digestion and health.”  Of course, Kellogg was trying to sell a box of carbs, so take that for what it’s worth.

Anyway, moving on.

And now, my friends, it’s time to delve in the truth about Big P.

A favorite among bodybuilders, athletes and just about any fitness enthusiast, protein is used by your body in a number of ways; to repair damaged muscle, bone, skin, teeth and hair, among other things.  Let’s get metaphorical: think of it as the mortar between the bricks; without it, the entire structure of your body begins to break down.  (Actually, that was a simile, not a metaphor.  Just sayin.)

Protein helps to create an anabolic hormonal environment (good for muscle building and fat loss); and, along the lines of the “brick” metaphor: protein provides a lot of the material used to build your muscles.

Before we get into a discussion of protein sources (the tastiest bit), we should go over protein types and their composition.

There Are Two Groups of Protein

The first is called complete proteins and other is (obviously) called incomplete proteins. Which group a protein source falls into depends on its make up.

You see, protein is comprised of smaller molecules called amino acids.  For the purposes of nutrition discussion, there are 22 amino acids which warrant attention, of which nine belong to a sub-group that can only be obtained through your food. (The remainder can be manufactured by your body).

The nine amino acids that can only be obtained from the food you eat are called essential amino acids. For those interested in such things, the essential amino acids are:

  • tryptophan
  • lysine
  • methionine
  • phenylalanine
  • threonine
  • valine
  • leucine
  • histidine
  • isoleucine

A complete protein (also known as a whole protein) is one that contains adequate portions of those nine amino acids.   By contrast, an incomplete protein is one that is lacking in one or more of those amino acids.

These amino acids also help your body create hormones that help regulate things like blood pressure and blood sugar levels, which are directly responsible for your metabolic rate and muscular growth.

In short, protein is extremely important, especially the complete proteins that are found in foods such as fish, poultry, eggs, red meat and cheese.

NOTE – yes, my vegan and vegetarian friends, I am WELL aware that I am really being a bit general here AND spinning this more towards an omnivorous readership.   You can absolutely get complete proteins without by from combining grains and beans—that’s just really beyond my experience, because I am, by and large, a meat-eater.  I’ve gone through a few veggie or vegan experiments (to be blogged about at a later date), but I don’t feel comfortable designing diets that way.

For those readers who are vegan or vegetarian and would like a comprehensive source on nutrition, check out the Easy Veggie Meal Plans.

Moving on, here’s a short list of (non-vegan) foods that provide a complete protein source.

  • Eggs are one of the best complete protein sources on the planet. Just one large egg contains 6 grams of complete protein.
  • Fish is an excellent source of complete protein. The type of fish does matter. Now I say this even though personally, I hate most types of fish—for some reason, I like sushi and sashimi, but most cooked fish just don’t do it for me.While all fish is relatively good for you, haddock, salmon, sardines and tuna are better than catfish. For example, 6 ounces of salmon can deliver a whopping 34 grams of protein to your body as well as a host of very healthy fats.
  • Poultry, such as chicken, turkey, duck, pterodactyl, quail and seagull.  Most popular among these are chicken and turkey, because they are exceptionally lean.  In fact, pound for pound, turkey is the leanest meat you can get.
  • Red Meat. My personal favorite source of protein.  As I mentioned in my blog post on fat, saturated fat is not unhealthy (as many people erroneously think) and so red meat is actually a great source of protein.I eat red meat about four days per week, and on certain days I’ll eat it twice or three times.  I happen to love grilling up some organic steaks, so I order in bulk at US Wellness Meats.  I cook a mean filet and my New York Strip is rapidly catching up.  I highly recommend them.   Because they are tasty.If you’re still concerned with saturated fat, you can always stick with Buffalo meat, as it’s incredibly lean.
  • Dairy products, such as milk are another source of complete protein, as well as a host of other vitamins and minerals, such as calcium. Just one glass of skim milk contains about 8 grams of protein. Fat-free cottage cheese is very high in protein. Just one half cup of cottage cheese contains upwards of 14 grams of high quality protein.The old school bodybuilding mentality of “squats and milk” suggests that all you need to gain quality mass and get strong like bull.  This is a bit beyond the scope of this post, but it suffices to say that I don’t think this is the best approach.  Check my blog post about it here.

As mentioned above, nearly all fruits, vegetables, nuts and seeds contain a bit of protein; however, these foods are generally lacking one or more of the amino acids necessary for your body to rebuild new muscle. Keep in mind, though; you can combine these foods with any of the foods listed above to make a great tasting meal that will meet all of your body’s protein requirements.

As for energy: protein yields 4 calories per gram.

Now, that covers the basics.  Let’s move onto something a bit more involved, and slightly controversial.

The Truth About Protein

One of the most frequently asked questions about protein is, not surprisingly, “how much?”

The interesting thing about that question is that it really encompasses two completely separate and diametrically opposed viewpoints.

The first is minimalist: how much protein do I need to eat?  Or, more succinctly, what is the minimal effective dose?

Then, there is the maximalist: how much program do I get to eat?  Which really means, how much protein can I eat before it becomes either ineffective or dangerous?”

I’ll cover both points as best I can, but this is a huge topic to cover in a single blog post.  I’ll just mention right now that if you really want to understand the truth about how much protein you do (or don’t!) need, you should pick up the book How Much Protein? by Brad Pilon.

It’s an exceptional resource in general, and more specifically destroys a lot of the myths and misconceptions about both protein and the supplement industry at large.  I definitely recommend you grab a copy.

In any event, I’d like to give you a lot of the essential information, so that you can go forward with a pretty strong understanding of protein.

First, we’ll cover the minimalist needs.

Protein Minimalism

When someone asks, “how much protein do I need?” the answer is dependent on what they need it for; which means we have to answer “how much protein do I need for optimal fat loss” and “how much protein do I need to gain muscle?”

In BOTH of these cases, the answer is A LOT lower than you’d expect.

FAT LOSS

For fat loss, you can really get away with as little as .5g per pound of lean body mass—which for most people will be anywhere between 60 and 90 grams of protein.  A remarkably low number, compared to what you’d expect to see on a fitness blog.

Now, as I said, this is a minimalist approach…and so .5g per pound of LBM should be enough to help you hang onto all of your lean mass, drop fat, and keep energy levels up.

Having said that, it’s arguable that slightly higher intake of protein would allow you to lost fat a little faster for a few reasons.  For example, the Thermic Effect of Food (or TEF), a measure of how much your metabolism increases simply breaking down the food.  Protein has the highest TEF of all of the macronutrients, and so it’s often argued that higher protein intake can lead to faster fat loss based on that alone.

Another thing to consider would be satiety – higher protein consumption leads to greater satiety after feedings, and so you’d be less hungry and that makes it a lot easier to be compliant with your eating plan.

MUSCLE GAIN

A minimalist approach to protein for muscle gain is really interesting; again, because you actually need a lot less protein than you’d imagine.

In fact, in most cases, you could get away with .5g to 1g per pound of LBM.  That’s right – assuming you are consuming adequate calories, there is some research to illustrate that provided you’re getting all essential amino acids, you can gain muscle with as little as .5g per pound of LBM.

If this seems extremely low, it’s because it is.  Nevertheless, the research illustrates that it’s accurate, and I’ve seen a few people thrive on this.

That said, I don’t really care for the minimalist approach, mainly because if we take in the minimal amount of protein and still look to have adequate calories…well, those calories have to come from somewhere; and your choices are either carbs or fat.  As I keep carbs low, we’re talking about adding in a lot of fat.  Which is fine, theoretically; speaking practically I think it creates a situation where it’s hard to create meals and you won’t be as full as you’d like.

I don’t see the need to sacrifice convenience and satiety simply to keep protein as low as possible.

Which brings us to…

Protein Maximalism

(Yes, I am aware that maximalism is not a word).

This is pretty much where I fall, and the perspective from which I approach nutrition programming for the majority of my clients.

Really, this is for those who want to know how much protein we can get away with eating before it becomes either counter-productive relative to our goals or unhealthy.

The reasoning behind this approach is simply that if we know protein is best for both thermic effect and satiety, and is also the tastiest, we should eat more of it—as much as we can without going backwards.

Given that, let’s look at where those numbers fall for each goal.

FAT LOSS

Determining the maximum amount of protein you can and should take in for optimal fat loss is entirely dependent on the type of diet you’re using.  In fact, this is primarily relevant for those who are on low carb diets.

The prevailing theory behind being on a lower carb diet is to keep insulin in check, and in many cases enter into ketosis.

As we’ve established, taking in lower carbohydrates often means taking in higher amounts of protein—but as you can imagine, there is a point of diminishing returns.

In this case, it’s lower than you might expect.

You see, if the goal is to keep insulin low and approach ketosis, too much protein can offset this due to a phenomenon called gluconeogenesis. 

This is a metabolic pathway that results in the generation of glucose from non-carbohydrate sources.  Without getting too far off topic, gluconeogenesis is actually a pretty important mechanism, as it allows us to keep blood glucose levels from dropping too low and becoming hypoglycemic when carbohydrates are not available.

In the case of survival, that can be important and beneficial, for obvious reasons.

For the purposes of fat loss, however, it means that if you’re taking in “too much” protein, the glucogenic amino acids will be broken down into glucose or substances that react very much like glucose, which in turn will impact insulin levels and prevent whatever ketogenic effect you’re attempting to achieve.

Put simply: protein becomes carb.  (Well, sort of.  But you get the idea.)

Which means this:  if you are on a diet that depends on insulin control, it is detrimental to over-eat protein.

Some studies have shown that gluconeogenesis can occur with as little as .8g protein per pound of LBM.  Using that number, I’d only need 142 grams of protein at 192 pounds and 8% bodyfat.

Now, having said that, I have experimented quite a lot with low carb and high protein diets, and I find that the more intense your weight training is, the more protein you can ingest and utilize before you have to worry much about gluconeogenesis.  This is, very probably, due to the fact that intense weight training increases levels of testosterone, which in turn increases the rate of protein synthesis and nitrogen retention.

Therefore, I would argue that even on a low carb diet, if you’re training intensely and as long as calories are still low enough to allow for fat loss, you can do exceedingly well setting protein intake at around 1g per pound of LBM as a jumping off point.

All of that, again, applies primarily to low-carb diets where insulin control is the primary goal.  There are numerous other dietary approaches that work exceptionally well, and for which gluconeogenesis is not as great a concern.

As an example, most of my clients use some form of carb-cycling (to be explained in a future post), and in this case protein intake fluctuates along carbohydrate intake.  In cases such as those I’ll often go as high as 1.25g grams of protein per pound of LBM, which I find allows for satiety without any detrimental effect on the rate of fat loss.

As a general rule, start at 1g per pound of LBM and play around from there.

MUSCLE GAIN

Even the idea of determining the “maximum” amount of protein for muscle gain sits ill with a lot of folks.  They seem to assume that, as the supplement companies would suggest, more protein will always equal more muscle.  This, of course, is not true.

Having said that, the goal of this section is simply to tell you how much you can eat before you’re going in the wrong direction.

Thankfully, the answer is “a metric shit ton.”  I know, that’s very technical.  Try not to get confused by the industry jargon.

Which is to that I haven’t seen any compelling evidence to show that eating too much protein slows down muscle gain.  And, of course, high protein intake can, theoretically, help with muscle; after all, isn’t it true that eating more protein can lead to a more anabolic environment in your body?

Well, that’s certainly what the muscle magazines would have you believe.  And, to be fair, it true—to a point.

HOWEVER – it is very important to note that once again, we’re dealing with diminishing returns.  Which means that you WILL NOT gain more muscle eating 400g of protein per day than you will eating 300g of protein per day.

For someone like me, that’s nice to know, but it’s not a deterrent.  When I’m trying to gain muscle, I usually eat well in excess of 300g, simply because I’d rather eat protein than just about anything else, and if I am looking to hit my caloric requirements I’ll have an extra steak, thankyouverymuch.

For those looking to gain muscle, and eat tons of protein, set your intake at about 1.5g per pound of desired LBM—which means that if you currently have 160 pounds of lean mass and you’d like to gain 10 pounds of muscle, just multiply 170 by 1.5 and arrive at 255g of protein per pound of LBM.  Move up from there as needed or desired.

Health Stuff

Some studies have shown that very high protein in combination with very high fat intake can lead to some issues, ranging from kidney stones and gall stones to extra arms growing out of your face.

I don’t want to dismiss this, but neither do I want to spend too much time on it.

For most people, this is not a concern—or rather, is a moot point.  I say this simply because I don’t think most people are capable of eating enough protein and fat together to do this type of damage.

Put bluntly, if you’re on a diet of any kind, that diet is going to have caloric restrictions or limitations.  Which means that if you’re coloring inside the lines, you aren’t going to be taking in enough to do damage—especially for fat loss.

For muscle gain, most of the time people are dropping fat intake and increasing carbohydrate intake, as increased insulin levels will lead to greater muscle gains.

Basically, as long as you’re not eating 500g per day alongside a stupidly high fat intake you don’t have to worry too much.

Any diet that I’d recommend to you will obviously have health taken into account (or I wouldn’t recommend it) so you’re probably in the clear, anyway.

Again, I’m not trying to trivialize any health concerns that could arise from “mega-dosing” protein; I just feel that it’s the kind of thing that auto-regulates while you’re on a structured and healthy diet.

Final Thoughts

There is fair pit of confusion about what protein really does and does not do, and a lot of controversy about how much you need.  Hopefully, this article has given you some insight as to both.

More recipes in Dave Ruel’s amazing cookbook – Metabolic Cooking 

Screen Shot 2013-06-19 at 12.14.22 PM

Make sure you grab your copy of Metabolic Cooking today.

NOTE: Here is a quick link jump to the entire series:

Roman’s Rules for Macronutrient Combinations

Macronutrient Breakdown Part I: The Truth About Carbs

Macronutrient Breakdown Part III: The Truth About Fat

About the Author

John Romaniello is a level 70 orc wizard who spends his days lifting heavy shit and his nights fighting crime. When not doing that, he serves as the Chief Bro King of the Roman Empire and Executive Editor here on RFS. You can read his articles here, and rants on Facebook.

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  • JeannieNW

    Good article and I agree that protein in very important for those of us who lift heavy and often. But what about the importance of fresh VEGETABLES!? Vegetable are carbs but not the kind of carbs that make us fat (the exception being white potatoes) and they provide us with wonderful phytonutrients only found in plants that reduce inflammation, prevent disease and send important chemical messages to our genes that help keep our metabolism functioning properly. They also contain fiber which helps make us feel full and is essential for healthy digestion. So when we ask where those extra calories should come from to meet the demands of an intense training program, extra protein can never replace the nutritional benefits we get from good old fresh veggies.

  • ChuckS123

    Ah – the “meat” of the subject. For those whose “beef” is “where’s the beef.”

    40 years ago I read that rice + beans gives all the essential amino acids. This is probably an important thing for Mexicans and others.

  • John… what about limits on how much protein to ingest “at one time”. I have been told that there are studies that suggest that anything over 36gr of protein at one time is too much for the body to assimiliate? Do you have any info, studies on that?

    Also… where do you source your pterodactyl? It’s hard to find up here in Canada!

  • KOh

    Thanks.

  • Graham Goldfinch

    Pterodactyl? I think it is an endangered species, besides, it was not a bird but a reptile!

    Over here (Britain) some gulls are considered endangered, would you believe. Personally I would like to kill the lot that live in my area although I would not eat them considering what they live off.

    Great article. All the best, Graham.

  • mikey1980

    Great write up as always Roman! One question that I always wondered about: eggs are one the best sources of protein. I LOVE eggs. But I always try to eat like 6-8 egg whites and add one normal egg (meaning w/ yolk) due to the high cholesterol that eggs have. My blood work last month was phenomenal w/ every level and ratio being either superb, ideal or desirable. However, if I start eating eggs normally that could be affected, correct? Or am I wrong on that one?

    Thank you!

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  • Zidar

    Great post, Roman!
    I’d just like to clarify one thing – in recommendation of 1g/lb of LBM what kind of protein sources is calculated? Only complete protein (from meat, eggs, fish, diary, powder, poultry) or incomplete protein sources as well?

  • A few things;
    A) as usual a really interesting and educational blog that’s easy to ‘digest’ pun intended ;)
    B) Pteordactyl ooh, where can I get me some of that?
    C) This whole weeks blogs have been some of the most interesting and informative of all the blogs I read (and I read a lot).
    As a person who has struggled for many years with weight and I am finally on the downward path, albeit extremely slowly. The information provided this week actually helps to solidify the reasoning behind why certain nutrition plans work and stupid diets that I along with most of the western world have been subjected to over the last many years don’t. To conclude – Thank you for the education and hilarity and keep them coming

  • Mayank singh

    Superb…Roman…more i read online/offline..more i got confused bout protein intake.as i reaped grt benefits frm ur superhero n FPFL routines..i turnd into ur fan.thanks..for clearing protein cloud

  • Great article Roman…too many people still don’t understand the macronutrients properly! I’ve been using this same basic formula for my protein over the past year and have had success. Tough to do after years of More is Better!

  • Allison

    This is probably an inane question, but I read this on Facebook (so it must be true!!) and it seems ridiculous to me:”
    When you have a protein shake, you are consuming a predigested form of protein, your body doesn’t have to work to break it down.”

  • ChuckS123

    Some fitness guy said that most meat eaters  should eat more veggies and most vegetarians should eat some meat.  Another one suggested going to vegetarian cooking classes and then adding meat to the recipes. Or you could get a vegetarian cookbook and add meat.

    50 years ago I read that mixing beans and rice, like Hispanics do, contains all the essential amino acids.

  • DaveHaupert

    Great article!  I am wondering if there was supposed to be a link here:

    This is a bit beyond the scope of this post, but it suffices to say that I don’t think this is the best approach. Check my blog post about it here.

  • drbarney

    Few people know what a crackpot Dr. Kellogg was. His real reason for avoiding protein was that it caused the seminal vesicles to confect the effluvia that provoked what he called “flagpoles to an early grave”. He believed that erections sucked vital nutrients out of the brain through the bottom of the spinal cord, causing massive brain cell death, feeble-mindedness and insanity. He also stored his feces in jars, pasting notes about how beautiful he found his excrement; which had to be purged with clysters every day, lest they put toxins into the blood that caused the brain to have sexual thoughts causing “flagpoles”. He slept, wearing a metal pipe, the interior of which was lined with spikes that would arrest any nocturnal “flagpoles”. He married but never consummated his marriage. Let’s face it, Dr. Kellogg was hard on erections. The public loved him. The newspapers attended dinners in which he took samples of his “beautiful” feces that was wrapped in plastic sheeting and showed them off to his admirers. He was the darling of hypochondriacs who paid top dollar to be incarcerated in his sanatorium. Never once did the men with the white coats and butterfly nets come after him.  

  • Billxedos

    Awesome article. It sure helps clarify lots of misconceptions out there.

  • Blossom61

    This subject line really grabbed my attention.  I really needed all this info in a nice succinct form so thanks!

  • Gergiev

    An interesting, clear and well-written piece. Thank you.

  • how much – depends on goals.  sources – whole eggs, nuts, seeds, olive oil, sunflower oil, salmon, flaxseed/ fish oil/ cla caps etc.

  • Nickjaa

    I don't know how much protein I eat, I just try to get some in every meal. Breakfast is oats with a scoop of sunflower seed/flaxseeds, almonds later, a lentil stew later, tofu later, 100g cottage cheese later, 3 eggs last. one day i'll calculate how many grams it is.

  • foti

    thank you for commenting on how much protein we need to lose fat and build muscle and pointing out fat sould not be consumed with carbs, please send a copy of your blog to my brother in law and mention foti belives that he will benifit thank you

  • Maggie

    I was wondering why you talk about low fat dairy, even after your blog about fat. I read in an article in eDiets that said some studies show whole fat dairy has a chemical that boosts your metabolism. That same article later encouraged using lowfat dairy products. Kinda bugs me. I'm thinking, do we stop the lowfat craze, or keep encouraging it? Just saying. The more natural anything is, the better. Raw milk (from a grass fed cow) is even better than what we get at the store after mankind has processed it to death. Most people can't handle the chunks though (lol) even though they don't taste bad.

  • carrieann

    Great article, you answered so many of my questions!

    Thanks!!!

  • Ty

    Love it.

  • Dawn

    Love the post, very informative, keep up the good work

  • Jim

    Two questions. One, you mention the amount of protein needed per day based on LBM. How does one know what their LBM is?

    Second, what is your take on Quinoa as a protein source?

  • friday

    Thanks again!

  • Richard

    Pterodactyl…

    The other white meat?

  • Erik

    I'd like to purchase a food scale to have a better idea of how much I'm eating. I have yet to see one which measures in metric shit tons. Thanks for the blog! isthis75yet???

  • Sandra Furze-Danson

    Roman,

    I have not commented on your blog before but found this quite interesting. I have been reading about protein and weight loss. You explain things so that the “normal” person can understand, thanks and I will paying more attention now.

  • Sandra Furze-Danson

    Roman,

    I have not commented on your blog before but found this quite interesting. I have been reading about protein and weight loss. You explain things so that the “normal” person can understand, thanks and I will paying more attention now.

  • Ty murds

    Excellent, I, however, don't think I would ever be able to cut down to .5 grams a day. I love eating!

  • Rachel

    “A metric shit ton” – Roman, this is just one of the many reasons I love your blogs and writing style.

    -R

  • Keith

    Another great post, Roman. Thanks! This series is worth printing and keeping!

  • friday

    Thanks for the great info and I like your writing style, too.

    I'm still trying to figure out how to build a personal program. I want to be strong but don't need to be super muscular. I do need to lose the stomach fat and have greatly reduced the carbs (especially the refined ones). I don't have a lot of time to work out.

    I'll keep reading your posts as they're helping and I guess I'll get there eventually.

    Thanks again.

  • Tuesday

    Hi John, I found the article really informative. Having been a vegetarian for many years and just been diagnosed with a serious B12 deficiency and over the last year, eating less and less and reaching 140llbs, I was fascinated with the article. I could nit quite follow how much protein I should eat, particularly as I would love to reduce to 112llbs. Any advice would be appreciated as I am widening my food choices. Thank you.

  • Anthony

    Nice post. I'm a vegetarian and it's often a pain in the ass for me to eat proteins. Plus I don't think I do well on a high protein diet. It's good to know I don't need as much as it's commonly believed.

    I'm on week 2 of Final Phase Fat Loss. Week 1 worked beautifully (didn't lose a single gram of LBM!!) so I'm confident I'll improve from week to week!! Some moves are pretty difficult and unusual, which makes guys stare at you as if you were some sort of lunatic, but it's nice to have some change.

  • luca10

    Awesome article – thanks Roman! Quick question – I worked with a nutritionist for many years that recommended a high quality amino acid supplement pre and post workout. What's your take on it? Thanks again!

  • Linda

    This is very interesting to me. I have the spare tire going on. I have always been underweight and had a flat tummy, that is until about 3 years ago. Currently I am about 20 or so pounds overweight. I am, 5'2″ and ideally for a small framed woman I should weigh between 105 and 115. I feel my best between 105 and 110. Using your calculations my LBM is 23.22 and at 129 lbs – 22 = 107. So how much protein should I eat per day to lose my tummy fat (Spare Tire). And wouldn't I need to also do something with the flab once I lost my spare tire?

  • Sean

    Great info John. I read both books by Brad Pilon and it really gets you thinking about the conventional wisdom of having to eat six+ meals a day, and that you need 1.5 – 2g of protein per # of body weight to gain muscle, etc. He also goes on to say that there is no such thing as exercising for fat loss! In fact, I just received an email from him this morning saying that exercise for fat loss is a myth! That sounds pretty crazy to me. He claims it's all based on diet. Any thoughts?

    • Brad

      Myth? No, but I do point out that exercise like endurance training and traditional cardio is highly overrated. Not useless, but overrated.

  • rajendra ponkshe

    Well researched article on vitamins you have demystified lot of myths about vitamins and proteins. Keep the good work on.

    rajendra

  • rebecca

    Love the post! I am a carnivore and do very well with a higher protein and lower carb [no no-carb] nutrition plan.

    I did a recent “field test” on myself and went vegan for 7 days as a “detox”- not for weight loss but as an aside did not drop a single ounce. My energy level was fine, I performed as usual, but was constantly hungry if I didn't do a carb+bean combo.

    Anyway, I haven't ever tracked my g/kg LBM of protein I just eat what feels right for me. Sometimes, it's a 10 oz. slab of beef or 4 to 6 oz. of chicken with a huge side of veggies. If I have starchy carbs, I don't eat it with my protein; ie, small piece of gluten free whole grain bread with flax seed and raw honey.

  • Per

    Sure, 5 tweaks are always welcome. I have a couple of weeks left on NNMB before switching to FPFL, so any tweaks there would be welcome. (Although I assume the program is already perfect as it is and non-tweakable… ;O) )

    (Why did the spam-filter object against yellow bananas, have you seen something I haven't?)

  • Nice post John. I have Brad's book on how much protein; It is a good read and makes a lot of sense.

  • martin

    good!!!

    keep it simple if you train 3-4 times a week eat one gram per pound of body weight!

    its all timing so want Muscle drink a

    protein drink within one hour after training!

    keep a protein drink in the refrigerator ready so when you wake up in the middle of the night thirsty

    injoy a muscle building drink!

    train hard train smart

    Martin

  • Sophie

    There are some very useful tips here. Thank you

  • Ness Lum

    great blog, very informative.

  • bigpooch

    Thanks, Roman, for offering a variety of views on the amount of protein we should have each day. I found it interesting that one can maintain muscle and shape on quite a low daily protein intake.

  • Sumeet

    gr8 info – tks Roman

  • Eric

    Will too much protein intake give you slow bowel movement therefore constipation. I have upped my protein intake and felt major constipation. Is that normal? And do I need to lower protein intake?

  • Valerie Gorman

    Great post on protein. As already mentioned, that was indeed a metaphor rather than a simile. AND, as a senior editor for the Oxford English Dictionary, I'll submit your new word, maximalism, for inclusion in the next quarter's new words and you can say you've coined a word :-) keep 'em coming, John.

  • Pats

    Incredible post Roman, easy to understand, to the point and most important, unbiased.

    It really removes a lot of stress since you now know that eating as little as 70g of protein will allow you to keep your muscle.

    I just wish you had mention one more thing, that the body doesn't work on a 24h cycle (like most people think) and that eating one day 200g of protein and the next 100 is almost the same as eating 150g on both. I fast 24h once to twice a week (Eat Stop Eat is just awesome) and it's nice to not worry about muscle loss.

    Again, thanks for the awesome post (and for the others before).

  • KAJ

    I never know how many calories I should really take?! I am basicaly on high protein diet most of the time but can't beat the choco addiction so have some everyday. Mind you, I never go crazy having the whole 200g pack. That would last me about 3 to 4 days. I am female,49 year old and have hashimoto disease and though I am careful I keep gaining 2kg every now and then. During the last 3yrs I have gained 10kg. So, how many calories for me? I don't do exercise and no matter how much I tell myself I should do some I just can't. I'm 167 pounds and 165cm

  • Tony Roe

    Learned a lot with this post. Bookmarkplzkthx!

    Where can one find pterodactyl filet? I've scoured all the reputable sites I could find Halp!

  • Hayden

    Great stuff!

  • andrew_live

    So when I get these people saying: Too much protein is bad for you. I should be able to adequately shut them down. Also good use of the non-word 'maximalism' bru!

  • Marc

    Thanks, I've worried a little about this lately as I generally have 2 to 2.5 grams/lb a day just to get my calories in without an insane number of carbs or fats. I weigh about 155 and for some reason need around 4000 cal/day just to maintain, and I'm trying to gain muscle. Good to be able to relax about that number more.

  • Well, as I said, .5 is the minimum. If you're trying to lose fat and are training hard, I'd say set it to .8g or even 1g per pound LBM.

    Let's split the difference and put you at 90g. That equates to 360 calories.

    Now, 75g carbs will put you at 300 calories.

    Taken together these are 660 calories.

    If you're taking in about 1400 calories, that means 740 calories from fat, or 82g.

    That's how I'd set it up.

  • Wendy

    Ok, so looking at parts, I, II, III:

    Protein + fat = cool

    Protein + carbs = cool

    Carbs alone = not so cool

    Carbs + fat = not so cool

    Protein: We actually need less (in general) for fat loss than the 1 lb per body weight (or sometimes LBM) that's quoted in diet info. I should aim for approx .5 per lb of LBM

    Carbs: Less than 100 grams a day. Anywhere from .5 – .75 per lb of LBM

    Easy enough to figure out. I am approximately 100 lbs (103, but easier to figure rounded down) LBM, so my intake should be 50 grams?? That's less than the RDA. Are your figures geared toward men? Carbs would be 50-75 (let's say 75). So, total calories so far are 500. I lift weights 3 times a week (mostly compound exercises w/ a few unilateral ones thrown in), 2-3 HIIT sessions a week (never the same day) and 1 hike or something fun like that that is more enduring. So, would the balance of my intake be 900-1000 calories of fat? That's 100 grams on the low end of things, which I used to do.

    Just wondering. By the way, I love, love, love your blogs!!!!

  • Harmony

    “Some studies have shown that very high protein in combination with very high fat intake can lead to some issues, ranging from kidney stones and gall stones to extra arms growing out of your face.”

    Yep

  • rocky

    Awesome blog man. I'm one of those guys that loves protein and I'm currently on a fat loss meal plan and am losing about a lb and a half a week but I kill the protein. I have like 230 a day and I only weight 145. Cutting backs gonna be hard but ill try to bring it down to like 180ish this week. Do you think that would speed up the fat loss?

  • Patrick

    Good stuff! Learned a few new things… Thx!

  • Christopher

    Great blog with a lot of good info. I've been steadily losing just under 2 pounds a week for the past few months while building muscle on a lean and healthy 2000 calorie a day diet and drink whey protein shakes daily just to help myself get enough calories. It's a quick and easy 200 calories. Do you think this is a fair use of a protein supplement?

  • The occasional low protein day is one of those things that is potentially beneficial and definitely not detrimental.

    The same can be said of a low calorie day.

    That said, I prefer a full fast day or the application of some form of intermittent fasting, which allows use to tackle both at once.

  • I think you mean “I'm NOT sold on that yet.” And, I'm not either. However, that's a pretty interesting study. I appreciate you chiming in, Mike, this is great stuff.

  • Thanks Mike, appreciated. I'll do my best to keep the content coming in as direct and entertaining way as possible.

  • Jake

    Thanks for the info, Roman. Always happy to see a new blog post from you pop up in my inbox. Keep the info comin'! It's been helping a ton. Thanks!

  • Alas, my grammar-Nazi friend, you are incorrect. A simile is a comparison which used “like,” “as,” or “than.” Given that I used “as” this is a simile, not a metaphor.

    I appreciate the comment, though =)

  • Reka,

    I am not Roman, but there are some studies looking at diets low in the amino acid methionine as they may promote longevity.

    The theory is that you can keep calories and even protein higher as long as methionine is low.

    I am sold on that yet, but here is one study below

    Aging Cell (2005) 4 , pp119–125 Methionine-deficient diet extends mouse lifespan, slows immune and lens aging, alters glucose, T4, IGF-I and insulin levels, and increases hepatocyte MIF levels and stress resistance Richard A.

    Miller,Gretchen Buehner, Yayi Chang,

    James M. Harper, Robert Sigler

    and Michael Smith-Wheelock

    I open to thoughts from others

    Rock on

    Mike T Nelson PhD(c)

  • Lar Toscano

    Thanks for the great info..Keep it up my man

  • Kia

    Thanks for this very informative blog… a great read.

    It was good to find out what actually happens when you eat too much protien.

  • Kim

    Awesome article very informative

  • Peggie

    Very informative. Thanks for all the great information.

  • Nat

    Just an issue with protein from dairy food. I am led to believe that pasteurisation kills the enzyme, lactase, in the milk. This is the enzyme necessary to digest the protein content and we humans stop producing lactase as pre schoolers. Only raw milk and raw milk products contain lactase and are therefore the only dairy products that should be consumed.

  • Chad

    Man I love this stuff! Thanks for all your good info. I cant imagine the time and effort you put into these articles . I couldn't agree with you more. Great guidelines for protein consumption. I have found that i tend to eat a little more proteins and fats . I like the feeling of satiety and it helps me keep my body fat % low,Thank you

  • Hi Roman.

    Thanks for the info. I am currently doing FPFL and it is really working me hard ;-). The protein intake you refer to is that amount per meal or the total per day ??

    Regards

    Jaco

  • Is the amount of protein per meal or per day ??

    Regards.

  • Dana

    Well sometimes I get depressed reading this stuff… kinda like this guys stuff works but your works but not so good… sounds crazy and yeah Im probably .. Hey I'm loosing weight and feeling better, not perfect but happier.. hope this is all in your book.. Have a great day in Jesus…

  • Reka

    Oh another great one, I never really understood the amino acid part :D

    I read in the 4 hour body that incorporating a very low protein day can promote longevity similarly to intermittent fasting. Another muscle program (dont remember which one) says that by having some very low protein days we scare the body which in turn becomes super effective in utilizing the protein, giving incredible results when we switch back to our normal intake.

    Is this true?

    Do you recommend having a low protein day from time to time, in order to use the protein more effectively?

    When should these days be located, compared to the cheat day?

    Thank you for the great post!

  • anne

    Good writeup on protein and its calculations. Recommend that you mention if a person has “proteinuria” it would NOT be a good idea to ingest a lot of protein. This intake could aggravate the kidneys even more.

  • LOVE this blog! It's nice to see a sensible, moderate, factual approach to protein consumption! (as opposed to the two camps of “eat nothing but protein, and lots of it” vs. “too much protein is the devil”. It is especially encouraging for me, as my experience has taught me that too much protein causes weight gain FOR ME. (I am the only person I have ever known to GAIN weight on Atkins AND South Beach.) I also don't enjoy the taste or texture of meat or poultry, and there's only so much fish, eggs, and dairy one can eat until getting sick of them too. But 60-90 grams? THAT I can manage! PS I love your writing style and voice. Seriously, great job, and thankb you for this blog!

  • Shelley

    Great info, as always! I'm going to do my calculations now….

  • Kell

    interesting post. I am 51 and gained a lot of wt after an accident. I have 20 left and as we get older it is definitely harder to lose. Increasing protien has been a huge help. As a vegan, this has been difficult but worth the results. It was very good to have you give a min/max guideline since I'd never known how much was enough. Thanks!

  • R Smith

    Interesting that you covered this question. I've been wondering how low is “safe.”

    RS

  • Blade

    Good post. I just read 'Eat Stop Eat' and 'How Much Protein' by Brad Pilon and the first thing that comes to mind is that there is so much conflicting info out there about nutrition and exercise. He claims that all of his findings are backed up by legitimate studies. One muscle building study showed that creatine had the highest effect on adding lean muscle, not protein (a low protein group using creatine gained as much muscle a a high protein group using creatine also). In 'Eat Stop Eat' he also claims that fasting once a week will help you lose fat without losing muscle and that strength training during the fast is okay (in fact it is encouraged). There are so many “experts” out there claiming that the most important meals of the day are the pre and post workout meals (I happen to agree with them). But, my point is, who do you believe?… Or is it just another “trendy” program to get people to buy into so that the author can make a living..?

    • Brad

      It’s just a trendy program ;)

  • Tammie

    Thank youvery much this information was very interesting & informative.

  • Jorma

    I'm with you, Roman;

    Gimme an extra steak!

    Thanks for very simple explanations. Reading your recent post on macro-nutrients I understand better what my body needs and what it's going to do with that I give it. And no longer will I be confused by the fad diets or “only (or never) eat this and live forever” trends.

  • Very informative! Thank you so much for your blog Roman! However i always think that the best approach is individual and the desired ratio of your diet components will eventually come up after checking your personal response by adding or removing different elements to your diet rather than blindly following given numbers…Its important to listen to your body and recognize its needs.

  • John

    Actually, that was a metaphor, big R. If you'd said protein was “like” the mortar, then it would be a simile.

    *doffs Grammar Nazi hat*

    Great post, as always. Lots of good informations, presented in a well organized and entertaining fashion.

    Now if you'll excuse me, I've got to go check on my grilled pterodactyl, which I'll be dicing up and serving over a bed of cardboard…

  • Terri

    You mention eating a lot of fat. Can you elaborate – how much, what sources? You mention being able to eat more protein without negative effect due to increased testosterone production with weight lifting. Does all of this work for women? My weight lifting is mostly Crossfit with strength bias.

  • Thanks Roman for the good info!

    I would disagree a bit about protein during fat loss and hedge my bet towards 0.75 grams protein per pound of body weight. I do agree with the 1gm/lb of bodyweight as good starting point.

    I do agree that it is not quite as much as some may think and more protein is not really “bad” per say and has other benefits that you mentioned.

    I view gluconeogensis as a GOOD thing since it is an essential task that the body needs to perform. Without it, you will be in a world of hurt on a very low carb diet.

    The big monkey wrench is strength training since it is a VERY powerful stimulus for the body to hold on to muscle, even during times of low protein and low calories.

    Agreed that insulin is key and low levels of it push the body toward fat metabolism. Insulin is the “fuel selector switch” in the body

    Low insulin = fat metabolism

    High insulin = carb metabolism

    Ideally we want to do BOTH, but at the right times (Metabolic Flexibility).

    I am open to any other data you have too on protein levels during low calorie periods since there are only a handful of good studies on it (I listed a few of them below).

    1) Layman DK, E Evans, JI Baum, J Seyler, DJ Erickson, RA Boileau. Dietary protein and exercise have additive effects on body composition during weight loss in adult women. J Nutr. . 2005; 135(8):1903-10.

    2) Mero AA, H Huovinen, O Matintupa, et al. Moderate energy restriction with high protein diet results in healthier outcome in women. J Int Soc Sports Nutr. . 2010; 7(1):4.

    3) Mettler S, N Mitchell, KD Tipton. Increased protein intake reduces lean body mass loss during weight loss in athletes. Med Sci Sports Exerc. . 2010; 42(2):326-37.

    4) Walberg JL, MK Leidy, DJ Sturgill, DE Hinkle, SJ Ritchey, DR Sebolt. Macronutrient content of a hypoenergy diet affects nitrogen retention and muscle function in weight lifters. Int J Sports Med. . 1988; 9(4):261-6.

    Keep up the great work and I look forward to the next post!

    Rock on!

    Mike T Nelson PhD(c)

  • alan

    OK, since I get to use it once, fucking great post!!!! Now that we've got that out of the way… I've always wondered about the minimum amount of protein neccessary to maintain muscle when dieting. This helps clear up a lotof the misleading info out there. Also, didn't know about too much protein. As usual, very informative. Thanks, and keep 'em coming.

  • John

    thanks this explains protein very well.

  • Laura M

    Once again, great info. From your article I've gathered that my protein intake is right in the zone for fat loss. Thanks!

  • Don

    As a diabetic, I've heard and read much of what Roman stated, but Mike hit it on the head: Roman puts it together in a way that's easy to understand. I've also been hearing for a few years that we all eat way more protein than we should or need. Great job!

  • Daniel

    Wow, fantastic post Roman. Interesting to see that a very low amount of P already covers the basic needs. Keep it up! :)

  • Mike

    That was actually very very good. The reason why I say actually is because 99% of fitness blogs that attempt to do a blog post on protein ( or carbs or fat) end up repeating the same thing that's been said a thousand times and even more often take a biased stance. You managed to produce what I consider to be a definitive guide for anyone and everyone. Bravo!

  • cryx

    This was very informative! Now I know that eating too much protein is not that effective to what I thought it was. Damn, this is really interesting!

  • Weddell

    Interesting stuff. Getting enough protein always seems to be a concern for me, especially since I stopped eating meat (for health reasons. I still eat seameat). It's reassuring to hear about the low end of protein consumption from someone this good-looking.

    Any tips for getting in the protein when you don't have access to a kitchen? (Other than protein shakes, derp). I'm going to be stuck in a room with a small fridge and microwave for the next 4 months. The tradeoff is that it's on a tropical island, but I'm not sure how I'm going to microwave enough fish to hit the 90g.