Evidence for Protein Supplements

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NeilFann
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Evidence for Protein Supplements

Postby NeilFann » Thu Jul 15, 2010 11:10 am UTC

Hi All,

Question: What scientific evidence can you point me to for the effectiveness or otherwise for taking protein suppliments to gain muscle mass?

I'm aware of the received wisdom of 1-2g of protein per kg but that seems to have been influenced by biased sources i.e. the supplement industry. I'm interested in proper research by people without a product/book to sell.

FYI I'm currently at 95kg of which prob about 13kg is additional muscle. I'm training heavy 4 lunchtimes per week. What I'm doing seems to be working but my current box of powder is about to run out and I want to be rational in my decision to replace it or not. Advice welcome!

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Re: Evidence for Protein Supplements

Postby bbq » Thu Jul 15, 2010 12:45 pm UTC

1g per kg is pretty low. I try to get at least 1g per lb, which is about 2.2g per kg. As far as I'm aware, this is one place where a biased industry has got it right- That much protein is pretty important.

Protein powder is just another way of getting more protein in you - I don't really buy them, lots of milk and chicken satisfies my protein needs. I'll go find some scientific evidence.
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Re: Evidence for Protein Supplements

Postby shocklocks » Thu Jul 15, 2010 12:46 pm UTC

Quoted from http://www.johnberardi.com/articles/nutrition/proprejudice.htm

In calculating the exact amount of protein they might recommend to maintain nitrogen balance, a 200lb athlete who trains consistently would find that they only need a measly 59g of protein to prevent nitrogen losses and protein malnutrition.

So, for those of you who staunchly believe that you're only required to eat enough protein to meet your needs,go right ahead and reduce your protein intake from 2.0g/kg to 0.65g/kg. In the meantime, I'll be encouraging everyone else to actually increase his or her protein intake beyond the current 2.0g/kg recommendation.

If this recommendation seems excessive, it's because you have a narrow view of how protein fits into one's dietary strategy. You're looking at protein in the same narrow way that people used to look at vitamin C; essential at a specific dose but conferring no additional benefits with a higher intake.
With vitamin C, we all know it's important to consume enough of it (at least 10mg/day) to prevent scurvy. However, it's also commonly known there are a host of health benefits associated with much higher doses (200mg/day or more) including a reduced risk of cancer, increased HDL cholesterol, reduced risk of coronary artery disease, and a reduced duration of cold episodes and severity of symptoms.

Like vitamin C, instead of thinking of protein as a macronutrient that provides no benefit beyond preventing protein deficiency, we need to recognize the benefits of eating protein (at any dose).

Increased Thermic Effect of Feeding — While all macronutrients require metabolic processing for digestion, absorption, and storage or oxidation, the thermic effect of protein is roughly double that of carbohydrates and fat. Therefore, eating protein is actually thermogenic and can lead to a higher metabolic rate. This means greater fat loss when dieting and less fat gain during overfeeding.

Increased Glucagon — Protein consumption increases plasma concentrations of the hormone glucagon. Glucagon is responsible for antagonizing the effects of insulin in adipose tissue, leading to greater fat mobilization. In addition, glucagon also decreases the amounts and activities of the enzymes responsible for making and storing fat in adipose and liver cells. Again, this leads to greater fat loss during dieting and less fat gain during overfeeding.

Increased IGF-1 — Protein and amino-acid supplementation has been shown to increase the IGF-1 response to both exercise and feeding. Since IGF-1 is an anabolic hormone that's related to muscle growth, another advantage associated with consuming more protein is more muscle growth when overfeeding and/or muscle sparing when dieting.

Reduction in Cardiovascular Risk — Several studies have shown that increasing the percentage of protein in the diet (from 11% to 23%) while decreasing the percentage of carbohydrate (from 63% to 48%) lowers LDL cholesterol and triglyceride concentrations with concomitant increases in HDL cholesterol concentrations.

Improved Weight-Loss Profile — Brand spankin' new research by Layman and colleagues has demonstrated that reducing the carbohydrate ratio from 3.5 - 1 to 1.4 - 1 increases body fat loss, spares muscle mass, reduces triglyceride concentrations, improves satiety, and improves blood glucose management (Layman et al 2003 — If you're at all interested in protein intake, you've gotta go read the January and February issues of the Journal of Nutrition. Layman has three interesting articles in the two journals).

Increased Protein Turnover — As I've discussed before in my article Precision Nutrition, all tissues of the body, including muscle, go through a regular program of turnover. Since the balance between protein breakdown and protein synthesis governs muscle protein turnover, you need to increase your protein turnover rates in order to best improve your muscle quality. A high protein diet does just this. By increasing both protein synthesis and protein breakdown, a high protein diet helps you get rid of the old muscle more quickly and build up new, more functional muscle to take its place.

Increased Nitrogen Status — Earlier I indicated that a positive nitrogen status means that more protein is entering the body than is leaving the body. High protein diets cause a strong positive protein status and when this increased protein availability is coupled with an exercise program that increases the body's anabolic efficiency, the growth process may be accelerated.

Increased Provision of Auxiliary Nutrients — Although the benefits mentioned above have related specifically to protein and amino acids, it's important to recognize that we don't just eat protein and amino acids — we eat food. Therefore, high protein diets often provide auxiliary nutrients that could enhance performance and/or muscle growth. These nutrients include creatine, branched chain amino acids, conjugated linoleic acids, and/or additional nutrients that are important but remain to be discovered. This illustrates the need to get most of your protein from food, rather than supplements alone.

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Re: Evidence for Protein Supplements

Postby Victoria Maddison » Thu Jul 15, 2010 1:00 pm UTC

"Athletes in sports such as weightlifting and shot putting, in which muscular strength is the dominant motor ability, need at least 2 g of protein per kilogram of bodyweight. In superior athletes during periods of stress training, when the training load is extremely high, the protein demand is up to 3 g per kilogram of bodyweight a day." Science and Practice of Strength Training. Vladimir M. Zatsiorsky and William J. Kraemer.

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Re: Evidence for Protein Supplements

Postby NeilFann » Thu Jul 15, 2010 10:41 pm UTC

Cheers guys, this is all good stuff.

It may be worth continuing for the placebo effect alone, crazy as it sounds. The act of making the shakes each day means you're "living it" which makes you put in the extra reps in the gym. That is not to be discounted. None-the-less please keep the hard science coming!

I should specify that my sport is Rugby and position Flanker which makes muscle and bulk important and useful although less so than purer strength events like shot put. Also, I am a LONG way from any kind of elite standard. More like 3rd team and vets!

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Re: Evidence for Protein Supplements

Postby fooliam » Fri Jul 16, 2010 4:05 am UTC

Well...some evidence against amino acid supplementation...
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12093449
That article relates specifically to whether or not amino acid supplementation increases growth hormone production, finding no results. I'd say that's an argument against amino acid supplementation.

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12433852

This article is a meta-analysis, and concludes that protein supplementation does not have enough evidence to support an increase in lean mass with strength training.

https://www.thieme-connect.com/ejournals/abstract/sportsmed/doi/10.1055/s-2007-1021044

This article examines L-carnitine supplementation, and finds that while there is an increase in serum carnitine increased (duh, you're supplementing it...), there was no change in performance.

In Exercise Physiology by Brooks, Fahey, & Baldwin (I refer to it as my big black physiology brick), the conclusion is that increased protein supplementation, even up to 2.0 g/kg/day can still leave an athlete in negative nitrogen balance if total energy balance is negative. It is also stated that 1.0 - 1.5 g/kg (IE RDA or just slightly above) is sufficient to maintain nitrogen balance provided that a net zero or positive total energy balance is achieved. In other words, it would seem that so long as you are eating enough food in a well-balanced diet, you'll be getting enough protein to increase lean body mass (IE muscle mass).

To add to this...

http://jap.physiology.org/cgi/content/abstract/64/1/187
This article finds that bodybuilders (IE people with a lot of lean mass to maintain) require only slightly more protein than a sedentary person of the same weight, while endurance athletes required significantly more.
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Re: Evidence for Protein Supplements

Postby Victoria Maddison » Fri Jul 16, 2010 1:05 pm UTC

fooliam wrote:http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12093449
That article relates specifically to whether or not amino acid supplementation increases growth hormone production, finding no results. I'd say that's an argument against amino acid supplementation.

That's a strawman argument.

fooliam wrote:http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12433852
This article is a meta-analysis, and concludes that protein supplementation does not have enough evidence to support an increase in lean mass with strength training.

This meta analysis is based on poorly designed studies. It even claims that the rate of lean mass gain is unaffected by training status which is so easily demonstratively false that the studies it cites are worthless.

fooliam wrote:https://www.thieme-connect.com/ejournals/abstract/sportsmed/doi/10.1055/s-2007-1021044
This article examines L-carnitine supplementation, and finds that while there is an increase in serum carnitine increased (duh, you're supplementing it...), there was no change in performance.

This article is on swimming not mass gain and it investigates supplementing with 2 grams of L-carnitine not raising gross protein levels.

fooliam wrote:In Exercise Physiology by Brooks, Fahey, & Baldwin (I refer to it as my big black physiology brick), the conclusion is that increased protein supplementation, even up to 2.0 g/kg/day can still leave an athlete in negative nitrogen balance if total energy balance is negative.

This is the only accurate statement in your post, yes, protein requirements will increase if you're not getting enough calories.

fooliam wrote:It is also stated that 1.0 - 1.5 g/kg (IE RDA or just slightly above) is sufficient to maintain nitrogen balance provided that a net zero or positive total energy balance is achieved. In other words, it would seem that so long as you are eating enough food in a well-balanced diet, you'll be getting enough protein to increase lean body mass (IE muscle mass).

That doesn't follow. Maintaining nitrogen balance is not the same as achieving maximal positive nitrogen balance. It isn't a stretch to go from 1.5 g/kg protein for maintenance to circa 2 g/kg for optimal mass gain.

fooliam wrote:http://jap.physiology.org/cgi/content/abstract/64/1/187
This article finds that bodybuilders (IE people with a lot of lean mass to maintain) require only slightly more protein than a sedentary person of the same weight, while endurance athletes required significantly more.

No the article in question shows that bodybuilders can survive for 10 days on insufficient protein intake without losing mass, useless information.

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Re: Evidence for Protein Supplements

Postby Solt » Sat Jul 17, 2010 9:27 am UTC

NeilFann wrote:I'm interested in proper research by people without a product/book to sell.


This is just anecdotal and thus slightly off topic but I'd like to say that my personal experience with protein supplementation has been highly positive. I started weight training as a skinny teenager after reading "Weight Training for Dummies" to minimal results. I made some gains in what I could lift but hit a wall of fatigue fairly soon and gained no weight. I now realize my diet was terrible in that what I thought was sufficient (1, maybe 2 really big meals a day) wasn't nearly so. I gave up but a few summers later tried everything again but this time I read and believed all the hype on a body building website regarding protein powders and decided to just try. Same equipment, same reference book, same diet and routines just with the protein supplements added? I gained 15 pounds that summer IIRC. A few years later I tried again and gained another 15 though I changed up everything else that time. Still, I would be no where without protein supplements, I am convinced of that.
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Re: Evidence for Protein Supplements

Postby fooliam » Wed Jul 21, 2010 8:46 pm UTC

In response to Victoria Maddison, since I'm too lazy to go back and quote everything...

1st part) I wouldn't say thats a straw man argument. If you're using protein supplementation to increase hypertrophy, than the influence of protein supplementation on anabolic hormones is relevant. While that study does not address a complete protein supplement, many commercial protein supplements are based on providing large amounts of specific amino acids, such as lysine. As such, that oral administration of lysine and other amino acids prior to resistance training did not affect concentration of GH would be informative in making a decision as to what supplements would be worthwhile to purhcase. For example, supplement A costs twice as much as Supplement B. If that seems to be because Supplment A has several times the concentration of specific amino acids (such as lysine or arginine), it would be helpful to know that a greater result would not be found by Using supplement A over supplement B, allowing a person to more effectively spend their money.

2nd part) You misunderstand the meta-analysis. The meta analysis found that there were almost no well-designed studies, and as such, the conclusions from those studies are suspect. The analysis concludes that very few supplements have been rigorously tested, and as such, claims of their efficacy are suspect.

3rd part) You're right in that the article doesn't address mass gain, but I think physical performance is important, especially when we're speaking about benefits of supplementation. Deal with it.

4) You're ignoring that a large positive nitrogen balance isn't sustained within the body. large amounts of excess nitrogenous compounds are excreted through sweat and urine. As such, having an excessive positive nitrogen balance is essentially pointless. If you're paying for supplements to have a large positive nitrogen balance, you're literally pissing away your money.
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Re: Evidence for Protein Supplements

Postby Victoria Maddison » Wed Jul 21, 2010 10:48 pm UTC

What a waste of my time. I'm not going to indulge your sophistry anymore.

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Re: Evidence for Protein Supplements

Postby fooliam » Wed Jul 21, 2010 11:04 pm UTC

Solt wrote:
NeilFann wrote:I'm interested in proper research by people without a product/book to sell.


This is just anecdotal and thus slightly off topic but I'd like to say that my personal experience with protein supplementation has been highly positive. I started weight training as a skinny teenager after reading "Weight Training for Dummies" to minimal results. I made some gains in what I could lift but hit a wall of fatigue fairly soon and gained no weight. I now realize my diet was terrible in that what I thought was sufficient (1, maybe 2 really big meals a day) wasn't nearly so. I gave up but a few summers later tried everything again but this time I read and believed all the hype on a body building website regarding protein powders and decided to just try. Same equipment, same reference book, same diet and routines just with the protein supplements added? I gained 15 pounds that summer IIRC. A few years later I tried again and gained another 15 though I changed up everything else that time. Still, I would be no where without protein supplements, I am convinced of that.


It could also just be that as you matured, your hormone balances changed and thus were able to put on mass a lot easier regardless of the protein supplements. It's not uncommon for males to have problems putting on mass, even into their late teens. Anecdotally, I weighed 145 pounds the end of my senior year of highschool...by the end of my freshman year of college I weighed around 170 with little change in diet or exercise habits. I just started "filling out" so to speak.
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Re: Evidence for Protein Supplements

Postby fooliam » Wed Jul 21, 2010 11:05 pm UTC

Victoria Maddison wrote:What a waste of my time. I'm not going to indulge your sophistry anymore.


:roll:
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Re: Evidence for Protein Supplements

Postby NeilFann » Thu Jul 22, 2010 9:15 am UTC

What a perfect illustration of the best and worst of the internet. People, I really appreciate those who have tried to help and add to the discussion and just wish that we could reach a consensus where

<I disagree with the point you just made> != <I disrespect you and everything you stand for>

Anyway, I'm begining to suspect that the best designed and most academic studies I've read come down against the efficacy of protein suppliments BUT there are significant reasons to believe the opposite too. I think the suppliment industry has played a significant role in creating the "recieved wisdom" of grams of protein per kg required. As a disciple of Ben Goldacre I should be very sceptical.

BUT I've bought a big thing of protein suppliment. Why?

I do feel that now I'm training hard, even with the vast amount of quality food I normally eat I'm still hungry. That's my body talking, quite literally a gut feeling.

I can afford them and given the amount of time I'm dedicating to the cause it feels safer to take them in case they work (I feel a hypocrite for this kind of thinking but hey).

Placebos work. Even if you know they're placebos.

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Re: Evidence for Protein Supplements

Postby TheSkyMovesSideways » Thu Jul 22, 2010 9:43 am UTC

NeilFann wrote:Anyway, I'm begining to suspect that the best designed and most academic studies I've read come down against the efficacy of protein suppliments BUT there are significant reasons to believe the opposite too.

Which studies are you referring to?
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Re: Evidence for Protein Supplements

Postby Solt » Thu Jul 22, 2010 9:23 pm UTC

fooliam wrote:Anecdotally, I weighed 145 pounds the end of my senior year of highschool...by the end of my freshman year of college I weighed around 170 with little change in diet or exercise habits. I just started "filling out" so to speak.



That's a big lifestyle change to undergo without any changes in diet and exercise.
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Re: Evidence for Protein Supplements

Postby fooliam » Thu Jul 22, 2010 11:36 pm UTC

Solt wrote:
fooliam wrote:Anecdotally, I weighed 145 pounds the end of my senior year of highschool...by the end of my freshman year of college I weighed around 170 with little change in diet or exercise habits. I just started "filling out" so to speak.



That's a big lifestyle change to undergo without any changes in diet and exercise.



Eh not so much a lifestyle change at all. I trained for track the whole time, and didn't experience much change in overall body composition, though that last part is kind of an estimate as I never had access to body composition measurements in HS. I just know I was lean but had very little muscle in HS, and by the end of my freshman year of college I was still pretty lean but had a lot more muscle.
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Re: Evidence for Protein Supplements

Postby philsov » Sun Oct 09, 2011 8:33 pm UTC

necro~

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2129168/

Comparison of protein intakes on strength, body composition and hormonal changes were examined in 23 experienced collegiate strength/power athletes participating in a 12-week resistance training program. Subjects were stratified into three groups depending upon their daily consumption of protein; below recommended levels (BL; 1.0 – 1.4 g·kg-1·day-1; n = 8), recommended levels (RL; 1.6 – 1.8 g·kg-1·day-1; n = 7) and above recommended levels (AL; > 2.0 g·kg-1·day-1; n = 8). Subjects were assessed for strength [one-repetition maximum (1-RM) bench press and squat] and body composition. Resting blood samples were analyzed for total testosterone, cortisol, growth hormone, and insulin-like growth factor. No differences were seen in energy intake (3,171 ± 577 kcal) between the groups, and the energy intake for all groups were also below the recommended levels for strength/power athletes. No significant changes were seen in body mass, lean body mass or fat mass in any group. Significant improvements in 1-RM bench press and 1-RM squat were seen in all three groups, however no differences between the groups were observed. Subjects in AL experienced a 22% and 42% greater change in Δ 1-RM squat and Δ 1-RM bench press than subjects in RL, however these differences were not significant. No significant changes were seen in any of the resting hormonal concentrations. The results of this study do not provide support for protein intakes greater than recommended levels in collegiate strength/power athletes for body composition improvements, or alterations in resting hormonal concentrations.


tl:dr - when you're already at a caloric surplus, there's no gains to be had by going from 1g/kg to 2g/kg
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Re: Evidence for Protein Supplements

Postby Nath » Sun Oct 09, 2011 11:50 pm UTC

Interesting study, but I don't see how you came up with the TL;DR version.

  • They were far below the recommended calorie intakes for athletes.
  • The 2g/kg group got 63% stronger in the squat and 35% stronger in the bench than the 1g/kg group.
  • They also gained slightly more lean body mass, though nobody gained much because of the lack of calories.
  • Although the differences look pretty large in percentages, they are statistically insignificant because they had a whopping 23 datapoints.

TL;DR: yet another exercise science study that's too small to draw any conclusions from. Don't throw out your whey yet.

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Re: Evidence for Protein Supplements

Postby nightbird » Mon Oct 10, 2011 7:32 am UTC

EVERYBODY who's interested in sports nutrition should read Brad Pilon's works, IMHO.

http://jasonferruggia.com/how-much-prot ... t-per-day/

http://ericwongmma.com/how-much-protein ... ld-muscle/

For building an appreciable ammount of body mass, overall calories are far more important - people seem to forget that, quite often, all those added protein shakes just give them more calories. On the other hand, there are skinny guys who barely eat at all but swallow 50g of whey protein every day hoping it will make a difference - it won't unless the rest of your diet and training are in check.
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Re: Evidence for Protein Supplements

Postby Victoria Maddison » Mon Oct 10, 2011 11:03 am UTC

nightbird wrote:EVERYBODY who's interested in sports nutrition should read Brad Pilon's works, IMHO.

Pilon's book is a poor survey of the scientific literature with badly drawn conclusions. I'd advise against it.

nightbird wrote:For building an appreciable ammount of body mass, overall calories are far more important - people seem to forget that

The number one response to a skinny person complaining that they can't gain weight, is that they're not eating enough.

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Re: Evidence for Protein Supplements

Postby nightbird » Thu Oct 13, 2011 7:06 am UTC

Victoria Maddison wrote:
nightbird wrote:EVERYBODY who's interested in sports nutrition should read Brad Pilon's works, IMHO.

Pilon's book is a poor survey of the scientific literature with badly drawn conclusions. I'd advise against it.


Could you elaborate on that?
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Re: Evidence for Protein Supplements

Postby Victoria Maddison » Thu Oct 13, 2011 9:02 am UTC

nightbird wrote:Could you elaborate on that?

Sure. Pilon doesn't actually present any compelling evidence to support his claim for a protein intake of 70-120 g/day. Instead he lines up straw man arguments such as that because you can gain muscle rapidly as a novice lifter without any thought to protein intake that it must be insignificant. Or that because anabolic steroids can promote large amounts of muscle gain on little protein that non-steroid users should also use little protein because it was enough to build significant muscle in the former group. He also cherry picks "studies" funded by supplement companies claiming wild numbers to critique instead of examining legitimate papers. The list goes on.

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Re: Evidence for Protein Supplements

Postby Visceroid » Tue Nov 15, 2011 11:49 am UTC


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Re: Evidence for Protein Supplements

Postby jabib » Wed Nov 23, 2011 4:42 pm UTC

I've put myself through dietary experiments for fun (not recording hard evidence or anything, this is personal afterall) but I attempted a Paleo diet at one point, and the Atkins diet at another. I worked out regularly during each, and could say that based on what I was eating, I saw a considerable change in my body composition (fat monitor scale at my gym) especially with Atkins. When the weight you lose is less than the weight of fat you lose, you're gaining muscle.

i'm not saying I recommend these for muscle building, but diet is key. Consider looking into a Zone diet instead (40% carbs, 30% protein, 30% fat by calorie count) and you should be fine. If you supplement in excess of the protein, take away from the carbs if anything, or use the protein to help reach that nice ratio. Your body functions well at this macronutrient ratio especially when paired with exercise.

When it comes to building muscle mass, realize that high reps/low weight isn't going to give you as rapid of gains as high weight/low reps, but your goal for fitness may make that difficult to facilitate.

FWIW, i use protein suppliments because I don't think I get enough in the rest of my diet, and I definitely notice a difference in my recovery when I don't take it. Just my 2 cents!

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Re: Evidence for Protein Supplements

Postby Fossa » Fri Nov 25, 2011 6:46 pm UTC

Since this has been necroed:

The upper functional limit according to the ACSM's recently revised guidelines is 1.7g/kg and that's for high performance athletes.

In purusing the NASM guidelines I found the following:

Sports nutrition research suggests that endurance athletes need 1.2 - 1.4g protein/kg body mass/day and strength-trained athletes may require up to 1.7g protein/kg/day, although this is far above the RDA for protein of .8g/kg body mass/day.


Considering the ACSM and NASM represent the two largest governing bodies for sports medicine and personal training in the United States, I'm inclined to the believe them. I have yet to find a study that found an intake over 1.7g/kg to be beneficial where I trust the methodology and the study isn't sponsored by someone selling something.


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