How Much Protein You REALLY NEED

Brad Pilon used to be a big dog in the research department of  one of the top supplement companies in the world. He used to give them the information that was over marketed and over hyped. Well not anymore. Brad’s here in a JST Preimum interview discussing how much protein you REALLY NEED.

Q: I know you were heavy into protein research for some major supplement brands at one time and are still a research nut. Do we really need to eat 1 gram of protein per pound of bodyweight in order to build lean muscle?

The trick is the word “need”. Protein is obviously required to build muscle, but how much do we actually NEED? The minimum is probably in the 40 gram per day range (Depending on your height)…but minimum doesn’t mean optimum.

We are really talking about a rate…It’s not how much muscle you are going to build, it’s how fast are you going to build it. A guy eating 60 grams of protein and a guy eating 120 grams of protein are eventually going to build the same amount of muscle if everything else (genetics, workout, etc) are the same.

The question is: Will the guy eating 120 grams of protein get their sooner? Probably not (at least not in a way that we can measure yet) but that being said it’s not like he’s going to stunt his growth either.

The bottom line is this – The rate at which you build muscle is largely dependent on things OTHER than your protein intake, like your height, your age and training experience. So if you’re a young guy who’s just starting out then knock yourself out with protein (I’ve never seen any evidence that eating high amounts of protein will prevent muscle growth), so go for 1 gram per pound of bodyweight if you want to.

But if you’ve been in the game for a while (and it’s been about a decade since your age ended in ‘teen’) then you are more than likely wasting a lot of money if you are eating more than a gram of protein per pound of body mass. In fact, most of us are going to do just fine in the 70-150 gram range (which is actually a ‘high’ protein diet by clinical definition). But remember, these aren’t daily requirements either, they are rolling averages – so don’t freak out if you have the occasional low protein day.

Q: Many nutrition gurus advise us to eat protein every 2-3 hours or we run the risk of losing muscle? I heard you say that’s not true, really?

I find this idea laughable. I mean really? We are still digesting our last meal 2-3 hours later we put down our fork.

Muscle turns over VERY slowly…and it’s much more dependent on your exercise program than your diet.

Spend two weeks in bed with your leg in a cast, you are going to lose muscle in that leg, no matter how much protein you are eating.

Spend two weeks training hard but only eating protein once per day? You’ll be fine.

This is simply regurgitated nutrition-voodoo.

Q: Branch Chain Amino Acid supplements have become the norm again and from the outside, the research abstracts look pretty convincing. You were saying the other day that you don’t believe it? Why?

BCAA’s and Anabolic Pathways make for amazing marketing. And I should know considering I helped create and market the latest generation of “mTOR activating’ supplements.

And the research does look sound, when taken in context.

We know from looking at protein synthesis data that eating protein increases protein synthesis for a short period after the meal in a clinical setting.

And, we know that you can remove the non-essential amino acids and only feed people the essential amino acids and get the same responses.

And we also know that from the essential amino acids you can remove everything but the Branched Chain Amino Acids and still get the same response.

But let’s not confuse exciting clinical research with actual muscle growth…

For one, most of the studies are NOT exercise training studies, and they do NOT measure muscle growth.

They are acute studies measuring acute effects on possible markers and surrogate end points that may be linked to protein synthesis which may be linked to muscle growth.

But if you are not measuring muscle growth, then you can’t say whether or not muscles have actually grown.

Add this to the fact that there is a growing body of research that is working on figuring out the disconnect between things like mTOR and Pax9 and actual muscle growth and we begin to see the emperor’s not really wearing any clothes – We all thought we had it figured out, and we see things like mTOR and AKT being activated, but what we don’t see is actual long term muscle growth.

In other words – Things that may ‘indicate’ muscle growth in a one-off 24 hour study simply do not seem to pan out over the weeks and months it takes to build muscle…something happens further ‘downstream’ or over the course of days that slows muscle growth, or at least controls it.

The bottom line is that it’s the work and effort that you put in at the gym that builds muscle. Sure a little bit of extra protein may help, and I certainly don’t think a little extra protein is going to hurt… BCAA’s, protein, creatine, they all have their place…but really, there’s only two things that cause you to BUILD muscle, and that’s hard and consistent training in the gym, and performance enhancing drugs.

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