Excess Protein Won’t Help or Hurt You


Marketing science majorly influences people’s dietary habits of protein consumption.  In the world of strength training, more protein is often considered better.  Many upplement companies suggest mega doses (60 grams of protein 2x per day).  Studies have shown that most people can only process about 20-30g in a 2-3 hour window.    If a person is adequately consuming protein the questions remains: is more better? 

Before you go out and buy your next batch of protein powder, you might want to read this article.  As consumers we are constantly being fed the message that more is better.  In the case of protein consumption this might not be true.

In a study in the Journal of International Society of Sports Nutrition (JISSN) titled “The effects of consuming a high protein diet (4.4 g/kg/d) on body composition in resistance-trained individuals”, the authors investigated if hyper consumption of protein would have any effect, good or bad, on body composition. The subjects of this study were already consuming protein amounts recommend for physically active individuals (1.4 to 2.0 g/kg/day).

The individuals recruited to the study where also relatively serious lifters.  In all, 30 people completed the study and ate on average 307 grams of protein +- 69 compared to their 138 grams of protein +- 42 baseline consumption rates.  In other words, they almost doubled what they were already consuming, which was already double the USDA recommended dose of .7g/kg/day protein.  That’s 5.5x US guidelines and 2x their pre-trial consumption habits.  The results were interesting.

Despite consuming an excess of 800 calories per day, the subjects did not gain any fat mass.  However, contrary to what you might expect, they did not significantly increase lean mass.  It is important to note that the subjects maintained the lifting and exercise routine they had been doing prior to the study.  What this suggests is there is no need to over-consume protein, even if you are trying to gain weight. But if you do, it won’t necessarily adversely effect body fat.  It also begs the question: if the subjects had significantly changed their workout routine, would there have been lean mass gains?

This study shows a few cool things.  First, when it comes to protein consumption, just hit your minimums and you will be fine.  There is no need to waste your time or money on more protein.  Second, if you do over consume protein, you don’t really need to worry about gaining fat mass; that likely will be the result of variance in carb or fat consumption.  Third, if you are already eating enough protein, eating more alone will not help you get gains in lean mass.  This study however does not rule out that switching up training regimens would not elicit a response in conjunction with increased protein intake.

With all of that being said, getting adequate protein from good sources is a critical backbone to any type of training program.  The US recommendations for protein consumption are probably on the low side for physically active individuals.  Shoot for about .7 g per pound of body weight.  For a 150 lb male that would be about 100g.  Thats about 25 grams per meal, which is the optimal amount for protein absorption rates.  If you can’t manage 4 meals per day, just increase the amount per meal to over 30.  To try to get much more than that would be a challenging and according to the study discussed in this article, unnecessary.  Don’t be affraid to load up at night either.  While conventional wisdom indicates a 25g protein per 2-3 hours synthesis rates, new data is supporting that two massive servings of protien will ilicit similar absortion rates.

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