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Super Protein: Making Sense Of The Mess! Part 2

The Testosterone Gurus dig into protein products and tell you what seperates the myths from the truth...


To check our part one, click here.

Oh, Those Nebulous Protein Requirements

JOHN: There are many factors that influence protein needs. I believe, for various reasons, that people striving for muscle need at least 1 gram-per-pound of bodyweight even though official RDA (recommended daily allowances) suggest that .55 to .80 grams-per-pound is optimal. There is solid research literature in the Romanian weightlifting program suggesting 1.6 to 1.8 grams-per-pound for those in very intense, frequent training.

EDITOR'S NOTE: Protein researcher, Dr. Peter Lemon, backs John. Dr. Lemon has found that this amount or even much more protein is required to shift hard-training bodybuilders/athletes into positive nitrogen balance.

CY: I agree. As a minimum, 1 gram-per-pound is necessary. But, I'll go up to 1.25 to 1.50 grams-per-pound, but not necessarily based on training load as much as metabolic rate. Those with fast metabolisms need more protein. Calories are very important. Assuming proper training, calories and protein determine muscle gain. In low calorie situations, research suggests that a higher amount of protein actually leads to a decrease in fat with increased protein stores.

LONNIE: You know, there's no consensus or even a single human study to my knowledge that protein beyond .8 grams per kilogram of bodyweight does any measurable damage to healthy kidneys. Most of the scare tactics are extrapolations from end-state renal patients. These unfortunate individuals end up with rapid loss of kidney function even on normal protein diets. There is a leap of faith bullshit when applying this data to normal subjects. I think there are advantages to overfeeding protein! And by this I mean up to 1.5 grams-per-pound. I don't believe that a calorie is a calorie in the way that the body operates metabolically as opposed to strict heat measurements.

Protein has to be processed through the liver urea cycle. There are costly endothermic energy processes associated with protein metabolism and much less so with carbohydrate and fat metabolism. To boot, protein metabolism kicks up glucagon which antagonizes the fat storage effects of insulin. I use an analogy, "By hitting the weights and taking anabolic supplements, you just hired the brick layer. But now you have to give him some bricks to lay!" Research shows a correlation - the higher protein ingested the more protein retained.

Scarfing Down The Chow!

CY: In the real world, many guys easily consume 40-90 grams of protein in one meal. There may not be a single number, ascribable to everyone, as to the optimum amount of protein at a serving, but 40 grams is a standard figure. Amino acids do much more than assist in building muscle. They also make up hormones, enzymes, neurotransmitters and other structural, tissue, bone, and blood constituents within the body.

EDITOR'S NOTE: Amino acids can also be used for energy via the Cori Cycle. Since well over 50% of the chemical reactions of the liver have as their prime purpose the conversion of protein to glucose.

CY: I believe that most protein should be consumed immediately upon rising and before going to bed at night.

JOHN: There is ongoing research to try to get a handle on the 1-4 hours of post-meal absorption of varying types and mediums of protein, but I agree there's a lack of data on this topic.

LONNIE: For years there's been talk about using bromelain and papain, so-called digestive enzymes, to increase protein digestion. But the truth is, digestion/absorption of most forms of protein average over 90%, so I doubt this would help unless someone was deficient in gastric and intestinal enzymes. Here's some advice, if you don't want to assault the porcelain, drink more fluid with your protein. Solid food provides bulk and no one wants a thick, osmotic nightmare of nutrients dragging out their backside.

EDITOR'S NOTE: I once met a girl who looked like a thick, osmotic nightmare dragging out someone's backside, but then again, it was Halloween.

Which Protein?

CY: From all that I have seen, casein reigns supreme in terms of overall muscle tissue increases and decreases in fat. It increases anabolism to a moderate extent and decreases catabolism to a very large degree. It's absorbed slowly, providing steady state amino acids into the blood. Casein is best to use at bedtime and at breakfast. Now I know many regard whey as having higher biological value, but whey is out-performed by casein because whey is absorbed too fast.

In studies, as its absorption increases so does its oxidation to an energy substrate. With whey, net protein balance does not change which ain't good. Whey might match casein if it was combined with a low-glycemic carbohydrate, a little fat and was continually ingested every two hours. But then whey becomes a big pain in the ass and wallet. Okay, that all being said, a perfect protein is a combination of casein and whey.

JOHN: Well, I'm not ready to drop my salmon and beef for cottage cheese yet.

EDITOR'S NOTE: 30-60 years ago, pre-steroids, all bodybuilders who wanted muscle strength and size practically lived on cottage cheese? It's loaded with casein and glutamine.

Casein is winning a lot of battles, but it has not won the war. Look, I tend to agree, casein seems superior when it comes to body composition (muscle), especially when it is a supplement to a normal diet, but what is normal? Casein for mass, but then adding some whey is good too since at least one study suggested that it assisted anaerobic workload. The mainstay of protein ingestion must be food that is chewed! I say bring on the dead animals.

LONNIE: There you go John! Humans evolved to eat animal flesh, not re-constituted powders. I think that meat, egg, casein, whey and even soy are all valuable in their own way. Consider soy for a second. The isoflavones in soy can bind estrogen receptors inducing an anti-estrogen effect. Look, I eat soy and I am a muscular, hairy, balding, lean, grainy-skinned man, baby! Whoo-hoo!

EDITOR'S NOTE: Oh no - we have a muscular, hairy, balding, lean, grainy-skinned man with a thick, osmotic, nightmare of nutrients dragging out his backside. The horror, the horror!

You know, I think many people forget that, if they mix whey with milk, they get whey, whey and casein. So, drink a mixture of whey with skim milk after training and you'll get a fast-acting whey and a long-acting casein. When we compared gel-filtered whey, ion-exchange whey, casein, soy and maltodextrin we found ZERO differences in increasing muscle or size over six weeks. However, the casein group did show more gains in flexed arm size.

CY: I have a different perspective with foods versus powders. Many don't have time or the patience to eat or prepare solid foods. Powders yield cost and time efficiency. So, maybe add some fat-free cottage cheese to your plate! In the casein-versus-whey study, the protein was added to calorie-restricted diets. Calorie restricted diets can't be considered normal.

It's The Timing Stupid!

LONNIE: I like to eat two meals of 50 grams of protein plus 50 grams of high-glycemic carbohydrates at interrvals of 30 and 90 minutes after training. The rest of the day I eat fibrous grains, vegetables and fruits, but I try to get four more meals of 30-50 grams of protein of meat, eggs, whey, casein and soy. I feel this pattern manages insulin well. Insulin is the ultimate anabolic hormone and it must be potentiated the optimum way to help accomplish muscle growth and NOT to store fat.

EDITOR'S NOTE: ALL bodybuilders and strong men continue to eat eggs and egg whites? In spite of all this BV-pseudo-chemical mumbo-jumbo it may just turn out that egg white is still the "KING" of proteins because of its absorption!

JOHN: What I recommend is a big slug of casein at bedtime to deliver aminos all night long to slow that eight hour catabolism thing. Mixing proteins might be like the glycemic index in that by itself, the glycemic index of a food is important but when foods are mixed, it becomes largely irrelevant.

EDITOR'S NOTE: Unless you just mix chocolate cake, jam and cookies.

Until we actually know more, I'd also recommend casein at bed, but I recommend whey, post-workout.

CY: Wait a minute, why only whey, post-workout? Whey is a big pain in the ass. After a workout you want to increase anabolism but also cut catabolism. Having to constantly ingest 30-40 grams of whey every 1-2 hours sucks. Amino blood levels go up and then crash - drop right back to baseline. You want some slow release protein post-workout too. Fat absorption rates actually are correlated with LESS muscle.

JOHN: Hold on - the researcher, Biolo, showed that an immediate rise in plasma amino acids after exercise was more anabolic than when protein was ingested later. I think whey should be ingested right after a workout for absorption because intra-muscular demand may be so high that whey won't be oxidized for energy.

In studies, whey pushes up blood amino acids fast and as compared to casein, they were higher two hours after the workout. So, perhaps one might take whey right after the workout then 2 hours after that, take casein. But I suppose, it even makes more sense to take a post-workout of casein and whey. I drink a 50 gram whey shake right after training. Then drink another shake 60-90 minutes later, I eat 50 grams of cottage cheese with carbs.

EDITOR'S NOTE: It sounds like these protein warfare experts prefer solid foods first, then suggest that a multiple protein species, one with casein, whey concentrate and egg, should be used at ALL supplemental times!

Remember, when protein enters the mouth or even the stomach it doesn't immediately lock on to ribosomal messenger RNA for cell induction and synthesis. Even in the BEST-case scenario, for ingested protein to modulate any cell response, it takes about 3-4 hours. Thus, the protein you eat ONE HOUR before and right up to your workout may be equally or even more important than what you eat afterwards.

I have always recommended 30-60 grams of multi-species protein with ample carbs BEFORE a workout assuming the workout lasts 50 minutes or less. The idea that one should not do this because precious blood flow is diverted to the gut and not the working muscles is nonsense. Do you really think your body, having evolved over millions of years, is not prepared to send extra blood into contracting muscles if there is a piece of masticated catfish in your belly?

Nonsense or Logic?

JOHN: Ever since one study on elderly women where protein retention was increased when 80% of their protein was eaten at one sitting, some muscle-heads have gone off the deep end and have been gorging at one meal. This is stupid. The study was not replicated with younger women. I like to eat three really big protein meals (80-100 grams each) and three smaller meals of 30-50 grams. My big nitrogen-fests are breakfast, post-workout and bedtime. Each meal includes some low GI carbs and healthy fats.

CY: I want to leave, as a final impression, something Lonnie addressed earlier and that is the nonsense that protein damages kidney function. Limiting protein intake is a consideration for some metabolic conditions, diabetes and diseases affecting kidney function, but healthy athletes should have no concerns. Of course, higher protein intake commands adequate fluids and calcium.

EDITOR'S NOTE: Soy protein has actually been found to improve kidney glomerular filtration rate in one study.

JOHN: I'd like to add that this sport by its nature attracts extreme people. Athletes should not listen to any one expert and automatically take that advice to the extreme. Don't forget eggs, chicken, turkey, lean beef, dairy and fish. Remember to mix it up since you should be eating 5-6 meals each day. Even though we go to extremes, in the end it's still all about balance.

Protein Warfare With The Gurus

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Cy Willson contributes to Testosterone Magazine. His areas of research include physiology, endocrinology and pharmacology. At 6'2", 230 lbs and 8% body fat, he sort of commands attention.

Lonnie Lowery is a college nutrition professor. His doctorate is in exercise physiology. Lonnie also punishes the iron and at 5'8" 210 lbs, he also holds 8% body fat. To relieve the tension caused by gawking at coeds, he does sets of squats with 500 lbs.

John Berardi is a biochemist, studying with the world's authority on protein, Dr. Peter Lemon. John, a former NABBA Mr. USA, is an avid contributor to T-magazine and holds 5% body fat at 5'8" and 190 lbs.

Jeff Everson is the owner/editor of Planet Muscle and holds about as much body fat as the above three authors added together.