Much ado about protein

I doubt the Phoenix will man up and publish my rebuttal, so I’m gonna post this here. Because it pissed me off enough that I actually wrote a rebuttal.

Morgan Hunter’s article “How much protein powder should you actually consume?” in the September 22 print edition of the Phoenix is the kind of un-verified pseudo-science I would expect to see on the Misc forum of, not in a student newspaper that theoretically has someone fact-checking their articles. [If there is no fact-checker, especially for science-type articles, maybe we need to vote them a bigger budget or something.]

First up, the things that are correct in the aforementioned article. The basic science mentioned in the second paragraph is correct, and the Dietary Reference Intake (DRI) has indeed been set by the Institute of Medicine of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences at 0.8 g/kg of bodyweight. Also, protein is indeed used by the body to help repair the muscles after a workout, and is also responsible for all sorts of magical other things that are not really relevant to this discussion.

Now, the DRI is a reasonable approximation of a basic place to start. However, the recommended values are based almost entirely on opinion, rather than actual scientific randomized controlled clinical trials [1]. So, they are at best an anecdotally derived suggestion, based on a statistical average. The main problem with that being that the average includes a large proportion of sedentary people who never lift anything heavier than a cheeseburger or a beer. Research has shown that the optimal range of daily protein intake for endurance athletes is in the 1.2-1.7 g/kg range , and for strength athletes is in the 1.2-2.2 g/kg range, with some research indicating benefits of intakes of up to 2.0 or 3.0 g/kg/day for endurance or strength athletes respectively [2].

Second, the 0.1 g/kg maximum of usable post-workout protein is a complete and utter fabrication. Sources, please? Real science done by real scientists in controlled conditions has shown that the maximum post-exercise protein absorption is 0.15 g/kg/hr [3]. That’s per HOUR kiddies, not the whole time ever after you work out. Based on a review of the relevant research, one author recommends a post-exercise protein intake dose of 0.55 g/kg (0.25g/lb) immediately following exercise (within 1-2 hours) [4]. This dose is supported by the research to stimulate the maximal net protein synthesis, and can be reduced by 50% for those not interested in maximal anabolic response, to economize total calorie intake or defer protein intake for another point. As a side note, for those requiring muscle glycogen refilling, research supports 1.2 g/kg/h for up to 5 hours post-exercise [5].

The body as pool analogy is just wrong and not in any way supported by research. Also, to quote Lyle McDonald (one of the leaders in the sports nutrition field, who happens to base all of his information on science) “the odds of protein being converted to fat in any quantitatively meaningful fashion is simply not going to happen” [6].

In summary; for optimal recovery after a hard workout, the current research suggests that one should consume 1.1 g/kg (0.5 g/lb) and 0.55 g/kg (0.25 g/lb) of bodyweight [4]. This is of course only if you are pushing hard in the gym and are actually causing stress to your muscles which requires recovering from. A good rule of thumb: if you haven’t broken a sweat during your workout, you probably don’t need very much in the way of post-workout nutrition.

Remember kiddies, nutrition is a science, and for the most part the mainstream media and other sources get it dead wrong at best, and wrong enough to hurt you at worst. Check their sources, don’t believe everything you read, including when you have read here. If you want solid, research- and evidence-based information, check out Alan Aragon’s Research Review [], or Lyle McDonald’s books and website [].

[1] Sheffer, M, Taylor, CL. The Development of DRIs 1994–2004: Lessons Learned and New Challenges. Workshop Summary, November 30, 2007

[2] Tipton, KD, Wolfe RR. Protein and amino acids for athletes. J Sports Sci. 2004 Jan;22(1):65-79

[3] Rowlands DS, et al. Effect of dietary protein content during recovery from high-intensity cycling on subsequent performance and markers of stress, inflammation, and muscle damage in well-trained men. Appl Physiol Nutr Metab. 2008 Feb;33(1):39-51

[4] Aragon, A. Alan Aragon’s Research Review. March 2008.

[5] Stephens BR, et al. Effect of timing of energy and carbohydrate replacement on post-exercise insulin action. Appl Physiol Nutr Metab. 2007 Dec;32(6):1139-47


Cheat day!

Week one of the keto diet is done, it was easier than I expected. By the last two days I was getting pretty sick of the food restrictions, but it wasn’t too hard to stick to as I knew today was going to be cheat-like-a-blond-nymphomaniac-day.

Cinnamon buns cut in half, stuffed with Nutella, dipped in french toast egg stuff, fried, and covered in vanilla icing. I think I have a new favorite guilty pleasure… makes for a not bad start to the day.

I sense a donair and a can of coke in my future today. Mmm.

I was originally planning on doing a 6 week run of this diet, but I’m getting the feeling that might not be necessary. I’m going to take things week-by-week, but if all of the future weeks go like this one did, I should be close to my goals within 4 weeks or so. Then it’s onto the “add 10-15lbs of muscle before summer” plan.

In a way, I’m glad I have my body to work on, it’s keeping me from going stir-crazy with no work and only one class this semester.

How to lose 10lbs per month and keep it off!

Using this plan I have lost about 30lbs over the past 3 months (190lbs to 160lbs), and have gone from about 23% bodyfat to about 14%. Lots of people have asked me about this diet plan so I figured I’d post it here for all to see etc.

The basic outline is here:

I buy large boxes of chicken breasts (about 4kg) from safeway (if they’re on sale) or walmart if they’re not. I cook off about 8-10 at a time, slice them up, keep them in the fridge.

I also make a black bean soup thing that I use as the base for my dinners (recipe at the bottom).

For breakfast I have two scoops of whey protein powder. If I’m conscious early enough sometimes I’ll have a ham/egg/black bean goop scramble – avoid ketchup on it if possible, it’s really not that good for you.

For lunch and my midday/after-work snack I have a 60% whole wheat pita (the safeway brand ones seem to be the best – they don’t fall apart when you roll them) with bbq sauce, lots of chicken, leaf lettuce, and jalapeno havarti cheese. (I know I shouldn’t have the cheese but I like it and don’t care about losing as much weight as possible asap – I want to be able to eat the same things and not get sick of them) Sustainable, not dramatic, weight loss is my goal.

For dinner I have some chopped up chicken breast with frozen mixed veggies topped with about a cup of the black bean soup.

I avoid all other carbs, especially refined ones, if possible. I usually have between 1600-1800cal per day – quite a drop for me, but the high protein content keeps me full all day. This range (1600-1800) would probably be good for you, but obviously tweak it if it’s not working – I don’t know how active you are etc.

I highly recommend getting a food scale for portion control and estimating calories – you don’t need to weigh *everything* you eat, but figuring out what’s in your regular meals is a good idea so you can keep a running total over the day.

Only drink water or 0 calorie drinks – but water is best. I usually have at least 1.5L of water per day, more if possible.

On sunday I eat whatever and as much as I can. I try to have a little of everything that I was craving over the previous week. I deliberately boost my calories as high as I can get them, close to 3000 if I can manage it – this keeps your metabolism from going into starvation mode. If you *have* to have something that isn’t on your plan, don’t feel guilty about it, but try to make it on wednesday if possible, and only one thing/meal if you can. A small calorie spike mid-week won’t really hurt you.

Because of the very limited nature of this diet, it’s a good idea to take a good multivitamin. If you’ve got one you like, cool. But I did a whole bunch of research and highly recommend AST Multi Pro 32x as it is designed for athletes and anyone on a limited/reduced nutrient diet. I just started taking it a week ago and I seem a little perkier in general – maybe placebo effect, but I know it’s good for me.

Also, research suggests that having a good balance of EFA (omega 3-6-9) in your diet can speed up fat loss and has other health benefits etc. I take has decent prices and shipping takes about 2 weeks.

Black Bean Soup
900ml low-sodium (if possible) chicken stock
3x 540ml cans of black beans, not drained
2x 500gr bags frozen spinach
~200ml salsa (I like hot, YMMV)

Toss the stock, salsa, and two cans of the beans in a large pot. Blend with a hand mixer or use a blender. Turn the heat onto about medium, add the last can of beans and the spinach. Reduce by about 1/5-1/4. Toss in a tupperware and throw in the fridge once it’s cooled.

You can get all the ingredients for a big batch of this at walmart for under $10. Responds well to half batches too.

1 cup of the soup is roughly 140-160 calories. It makes a great base for chicken/vegetable soups and also as a sauce type thing for broccoli/beef/black bean stir fry.