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Too Much Protein?

They are not athletic specialists or sports nutritionalists just the same that dieticians or licensed nutritionalists are not.

By: Randy Herring

Question:

I have read one of your articles on Bodybuilding.Com and in it you said you take in about 300 grams of protein per day. I was wandering if this is too much daily protein. I read an article on WebMD, which stated approximately .36 grams of protein per pound of body weight is enough. I weigh 200 pounds, so my intake should be around 70 grams of protein per day. You're taking 300 grams per day. Several doctors told me too much protein is a bad thing. The liver cannot break down that much protein daily, which can ultimately lead to liver failure. I was wondering what your thoughts on this issue were.

Answer:

I realize protein consumption can be confusing for a lot of people. Keep in mind that doctors are standard medical practitioners not specialists. They are not athletic specialists or sports nutritionalists just the same that dieticians or licensed nutritionalists are not. Doctors and dieticians treat patients to heal ailments and maintain health, not increase fitness or athletic performance. At 200 pounds 70 grams of protein would get you by to maintain your health but is "not realistic," not even for my scrawny 8-year old son! I have heard the same about protein and the liver and kidneys.

I first went on a weight gain diet (high everything!) when I was 15 years old and gained 50 pounds in 8 months. I will be 40 this year and I have been training drug-free for 25 years. I have had no liver or kidney complications whatsoever. Eating a lot of protein can tax the kidneys, which can go into overdrive trying to process and excrete the nitrogen in protein. To compensate for this you must drink plenty of water. Drinking lots of water keeps the body in hydrated and increases the body's recuperative ability to recover quicker. Water aids in the transport of important nutrients to where they are in demand, making the recuperative process easier, faster and more efficient.

Protein Diets

Don't confuse high protein competitive bodybuilding diets with the high protein diets advocated or opposed by certain doctors - the "experts" themselves! I am training for my first-ever bodybuilding competition for the Masters Ironman this year. A lot of factors fall into play: experience, knowledge, level of fitness, goals and individual body types of what works best and how much (protein, carbs, fat) is "absorbed" daily. Protein is primarily used to build, maintain and repair body tissues. But when it is consumed in high amounts when carbs become limited its secondary function becomes used (in conjunction with repairing body tissues) to provide energy and assist in the recovery process, second after carbs (your primary source of energy), to get more lean and hard for athletic competition readiness.

Before a training session consisting of two meals I consume on the average 120 grams of protein (mostly protein drinks), 110 grams of carbohydrates (over 80 grams from complex carbs - including 8 grams of fiber - and 30 grams from fruit) - half my carbs for the day - and about 15 grams of fat. That's over 1,000 calories before my workout to keep it fueled so my energy output is high. After my training I take in about 70 grams of protein (protein drink and chicken or tuna) and 45 grams of carbohydrates consisting of fruits and vegetables. For my needs and goal protein stays a constant 60 grams per meal for 5 meals throughout the day and carbs become limited following a training session. Nancy Clark's dictum "to eat during the day and diet at night" in her book, Sports Nutrition Guidebook is excellent advice for managing carb or energy usage!

Teaching Your Body

A recently turned pro-fitness competitor recommended I take in 350 grams of protein, 150 grams of carbs and little fat (of course). I thought this amount was astronomical, since I've been accustomed to eating 250 grams of protein - but even that is a lot, considering I used to eat under 200 grams six months ago! Consuming 350 grams of protein coupled with few carbs will no doubt get me into "contest shape" due to the exchange of energy usage but not at this time - perhaps 6 weeks out before a contest. In the meantime I am "teaching" my body and my will in that direction when the time is right.

The truth of the matter boils down to a distinction of individuals. A high protein diet is not suitable for either a habitually sedentary, active or recreational type of person ranging from the novice to the intermediate. High protein diets should only be reserved for the advance athletic bodybuilder or fitness competitor who must accomplish a short-term goal in a certain amount of time at the amateur or professional level!

Absorbing Protein

During my first 3-weeks of eating 300 grams of protein and 225 grams of carbs I have lost a substantial amount of fat and gained muscle too. Improved definition or vascularly in my chest, shoulders, arms, and legs are noticeable. I am much harder than 3 weeks ago! The "experts" also say that if your body doesn't absorb the protein it will be stored as fat or wasted through urination. And I have "read" that the body cannot "absorb" more than 50 grams of protein per meal. Not in all cases. I have proved it to myself that, yes, we are all different and our body's respond differently to what we impose on it.

The way I eat and the way I train is for a specific purpose and is for me and nobody else. Your job is to find out what works best for you. Have a plan, be consistent, workout hard, not long and have fun! Be honest and patient. If you are an intermediate or advanced type trainee evaluate your plan after 6-weeks. Alter it if it needs to be changed or leave it alone! Have a vision, a mission and a goal for yourself. Most of all have the right attitude!

Too Much Protein?

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