More Protein, More Muscle? Science may Disagree.

Protein Supplement, Protein Powers, Musclebuilding, big muscles

Check this out, the New York Times reported that, in 2008—amidst an economic recession—fitness supplements were still a $2.8 billion industry (Roosevelt)!

Well, what does this mean? Walk into any fitness supplement store, and one word in particular seems to jump out over the rest: protein.  As protein is a major player in the fitness supplements market, it’s worth taking a closer look at what consuming more and more protein—particularly in one sitting—does.  The benefits of taking protein have long been established: protein repairs the breakdown of muscular tissue caused by lifting, lengthens muscle fibers and, eventually, helps lead to increased strength.

When it comes to actually consuming protein, however, scientists aren’t sold on consuming excessive quantities—particularly at one time.  A recent University of Texas study suggests that “consuming 90 grams of protein at one meal provides the same benefit as eating 30 grams” (Steimen).  So then, what would happen if you were to take protein past this thirty gram-breakdown-threshold?

Think of it like this: your body has contracted union builders (your cells) to build a mighty, mighty brick house (or muscles).  These contractors are working hard, but they can only stack so many bricks (or proteins) before their coffee break.  The extra supplies just lie around (as extra calories), until they’re eventually tossed in the dumpster, burned off as energy, or stored for another project (as fat).

If that isn’t convincing enough, consider this: supplements aren’t cheap.  If a recommended serving size is three scoops at 60 grams, halving the intake will double the amount of time necessary between purchases.

This doesn’t mean 90 grams of protein per day is a bad thing—depending on your fitness goals, it may not be enough.  Sure, the CDC recommends an average adult male consume approximately 56 grams of protein daily . . . but that’s the average.

The National Strength Training and Conditioning Association recommend individuals that frequently lift weights consume about 1.5 to 2 grams of protein per kilograms of body weight daily (Ross).  Whoa.  Not a math guy? No worries.  Bodybuilding.com has an online calculator you can use to estimate your recommended protein consumption.

Got the number you’re shooting for? Great, now try breaking up when you take your protein over 3-4 hour periods.  Still have doubts? Hey, at the very least, it’s worth a shot.