For decades, bodybuilders preparing for competitions consumed very high quantities of protein, while reducing calories into a negative caloric deficit, in an attempt to maintain (and even increase) lean muscle will dropping significant body-fat. Over that time, researchers and sport scientists have been skeptical of this approach, suggesting it’s far too much protein than is needed to promote effective weight loss. The research seems to be catching up to a time-tested, traditional strategy used in the bodybuilding community.
A new study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition compared the effects of two hypo-caloric diets on fat loss and lean muscle in people training regularly; one diet contained double the standard recommended daily protein intake and the other triple the recommended dose. The results were impressive. The group consuming 3x the daily requirements or 2.4g/kg bodyweight daily of protein had the greatest fat loss, as well as lean muscle gains, while consuming a hypo-caloric diet. (1)
One of the most common questions I get asked by clients trying to lose weight, after I suggest they increase their protein intake (sometimes dramatically), is whether it’s safe for their long-term health. We’ve been told for so long by doctors, dieticians and media to be weary of high protein diets because of suspected damage it might cause your kidneys and subsequently your health. These myths get repeated so often they seem real; however in this case, nothing could be further from the truth.
Dr. Stuart Phillips from McMaster University and world expert on protein metabolism has repeatedly stated that in healthy functioning kidneys, there are absolutely no adverse impacts on your kidney health. New research shows people consuming up to 3.0g/kg (well above the 2.4g/kg in the aforementioned study) of protein daily for an entire year show with no negative impacts on kidney function.(2) To summarize, a high protein intake is not bad for your kidneys, end of story.
So, how can you get started implementing this into your routine?
First, don’t be intimidated by the total amount of protein, For example, a 176-lb. (80kg) male would have to aim for 192g of protein per day, while a 150-lb. (68kg) female would shoot for 163g daily. For most people, that’s a lot of protein. Start with the first meal of your day and increase the protein you eat at breakfast; add another egg or two to your omelets, or another scoop of protein to your morning smoothie. Once you get accustomed to this, you can increase your portion sizes at lunch and dinner, or add higher protein snacks between meals, like grass-fed jerky, natural protein bars or shakes.
If weight loss or getting leaner is your goal this year, take a lesson the bodybuilding community has known for decades, significantly increasing your protein intake is a fantastic way to burn fat and build muscle. Don’t be afraid of protein. In combination with exercise and hypo-caloric diet you’ll be lean and looking great in no time.
Dr. Marc Bubbs ND, CISSN, CSCS