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  1. #1
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    This is a long one. Someone I'm coaching sent me this article after we discussed their dietary requirements.

    The myth of 1 g/lb: Optimal protein intake for bodybuilders

    I chop up the above article and quote it in bold. They asked if they should really eat 1g protein per lb of bodyweight. I'm wondering how I might have improved my response? Is any of what I said misleading, redundant, or just wrong? I sent them the following response:


    "Protein. It's every bodybuilders favorite macronutrient and for good reason. Protein is extremely essential, super satiating and amazingly anabolic."

    We are not bodybuilding, we are strength training. The main goal of programs centered around bodybuilding are to increase muscle hypertrophy. There are 2 types of hypertrophy, sarcoplasmic hypertrophy, and myofibrillar hypertrophy. They are interconnected and they occur simultaneously. They do not occur in equal volumes. The style of your training will dictate to what extent one happens compared to the other. The former results from an increase in organelles responsible for generating and utilizing ATP during more aerobic type exercises, water, and energy substrates in the cells. Basically, the muscle you have grows slightly larger to accommodate the production and removal of waste products. In the latter type of hypertrophy, the body increases the number of contractile units in each bundle of muscle. This kind of hypertrophy increases the cross sectional size of muscle less than it's counterpart. This is the main reason that bodybuilders aren't very strong when compared to STRENGTH athletes of a similar weight. Our mission is to increase the force that you can produce with your body, because strength is the most universal, important, and useful of the general fitness attributes. Your muscles will increase in size as a result of getting stronger, not because the goal of our training is to make your muscles bigger.

    "Tarnopolsky et al. (1992) observed no differences in whole body protein synthesis or indexes of lean body mass in strength athletes consuming either 0.64g/lb or 1.10g/lb over a 2 week period. Protein oxidation did increase in the high protein group, indicating a nutrient overload."

    A 2 week period is not sufficient to draw ANY conclusion about the efficacy or importance of a training variable.

    "Walberg et al. (1988) found that 0.73g/lb was sufficient to maintain positive nitrogen balance in cutting weightlifters over a 7 day time period."

    Again, too short of a period to draw a conclusion.

    "Tarnopolsky et al. (1988) found that only 0.37g/lb was required to maintain positive nitrogen balance in elite bodybuilders (over 5 years of experience, possible previous use of androgens) over a 10 day period. 0.45g/lb was sufficient to maintain lean body mass in bodybuilders over a 2 week period. The authors suggested that 0.55g/lb was sufficient for bodybuilders."

    Again. WAY too short a time span

    " Lemon et al. (1992) found no differences in muscle mass or strength gains in novice bodybuilders consuming either 0.61g/lb or 1.19g/lb over a 4 week period. Based on nitrogen balance data, the authors recommended 0.75g/lb."

    You guessed it, not enough time.

    "Hoffman et al. (2006) found no differences in body composition, strength or resting hormonal concentrations in strength athletes consuming either 0.77g/lb or >0.91g/lb over a 3 month period."

    3 months is a considerably longer time frame than any of the other studies. This one falls short for a couple of different reasons.

    1 - Exercise selection: Participants underwent a 12 week strength training program comprised of a 4 day split alternating between Workout A and B. Workout A is centered on the upper body, Workout B on the lower body. The only exercises used in this study that our program includes are the "Squat" and the bench press. I quote the squat because they do not specify what kind of squat they are doing. Not to mention the fact that they have not laid out parameters for what they consider a "Squat". How deep is it? Where does the bar go on the back. or is this a front squat? Does the femur need to stay in line with the feet? Should the feet be turned out or straight ahead? Most of the exercises used in the program are isolation style (Using 1-2 joints and very little muscle mass) and would fail to stress the body systemically, a primary driving force for strength development. They also fail to quantify the quality or style of coaching these athletes received, something that is basically impossible to do in the way that a study like this would require in order to be recorded, but is very much an important factor regardless.

    2 - Use of the term Competitive "Recommendations of a greater protein requirement for resistance-trained athletes have been based on studies that have primarily examined recreationally-trained individuals and not competitive athletes."

    "Competitive" is being used subjectively here. This study did not use competitive athletes, because competitive athletes are generally unwilling to alter the training so that the effects of their program can be studied. Their program is working, thats why they're competitive athletes. They do not care if the scientific method can validate their training or not, that's what the competition is for. If you are having success with your training, why would you alter it so that someone else can "prove" that it is working?

    3 - Strength Measures: "During each testing session subjects performed a one-repetition maximum (1-RM) strength test on the squat and bench press exercises. Each subject performed a warm-up set using a resistance that was approximately 40-60% of his perceived maximum, and then performed three to four subsequent attempts to determine the 1-RM. A 3-5 minute rest period was provided between each lift."

    They performed one warmup set. One. Then they attempted a "1 Rep Max". One warmup is insufficient to prepare the nervous system for a true maximum effort attempt. Not to mention the implications of the muscles, connective tissues, fascia, and joints not being warm enough to demonstrate maximum power. These are the problems I found before I got halfway through reading the study itself.

    Effect of Protein Intake on Strength, Body Composition and Endocrine Changes in Strength/Power Athletes - PMC (The study that was quoted in the article)

    I stopped reading here because I feel that those reasons are sufficient to disqualify this study from consideration, but I'm sure there are a few more below. The article ends with the following quote.

    "There is normally no advantage to consuming more protein than 0.82g/lb (1.8g/kg) of total bodyweight per day to preserve or build muscle for natural trainees. This already includes a mark-up, since most research finds no more benefits after 0.64g/lb."

    Part of the reason that I selected what should be the best, longest, and most comprehensive study to dissect was to reveal some of the inescapable flaws of "Exercise Science Literature". The method that we use is based upon the experience of hundreds of coachs who have spent many hundreds of thousands of hours helping thousands of people get stronger. Our goal is to make you strong and doing so is actually much simpler than it is made out to be. If something works every single time, is a study necessary for proving that it works?

    So, the answer to your question is maybe. The reason that we select 1 gram per pound of body weight is that it is CERTAIN to be enough protein based not only on the literature but on the equally important experience of people that actually train athletes, not just the findings of "Exercise scientists" who have probably not gone through the process of becoming strong themselves. If you would like to experiment with different protein intakes, that is fine. We can absolutely see what impact different ranges have on your performance. However, I would say that in the first 90 days it would be particularly beneficial to eat both a surplus of calories and protein. You will find that body composition changes in spite of any weight you might gain. You will get heavier, but it will be the kind of weight you like, and it will be in the places it should.

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    I would not have been able to guess this was intended for a client had you left out the context and I don't think that's a good thing.

    Quote Originally Posted by Roy Thomas View Post
    We are not bodybuilding, we are strength training. The main goal of programs centered around bodybuilding are to increase muscle hypertrophy. There are 2 types of hypertrophy, sarcoplasmic hypertrophy, and myofibrillar hypertrophy. They are interconnected and they occur simultaneously. They do not occur in equal volumes. The style of your training will dictate to what extent one happens compared to the other. The former results from an increase in organelles responsible for generating and utilizing ATP during more aerobic type exercises, water, and energy substrates in the cells. Basically, the muscle you have grows slightly larger to accommodate the production and removal of waste products. In the latter type of hypertrophy, the body increases the number of contractile units in each bundle of muscle. This kind of hypertrophy increases the cross sectional size of muscle less than it's counterpart. This is the main reason that bodybuilders aren't very strong when compared to STRENGTH athletes of a similar weight. Our mission is to increase the force that you can produce with your body, because strength is the most universal, important, and useful of the general fitness attributes. Your muscles will increase in size as a result of getting stronger, not because the goal of our training is to make your muscles bigger.
    Was including this really necessary? Is the distinction between bodybuilding and strength training relevant to the protein requirements and is that discussion something your target audience should concern themselves with? It's seem unimportant to me, yet you decided to lead with this.

    Quote Originally Posted by Roy Thomas View Post
    "Tarnopolsky et al. (1992) observed no differences in whole body protein synthesis or indexes of lean body mass in strength athletes consuming either 0.64g/lb or 1.10g/lb over a 2 week period. Protein oxidation did increase in the high protein group, indicating a nutrient overload."

    A 2 week period is not sufficient to draw ANY conclusion about the efficacy or importance of a training variable.

    "Walberg et al. (1988) found that 0.73g/lb was sufficient to maintain positive nitrogen balance in cutting weightlifters over a 7 day time period."

    Again, too short of a period to draw a conclusion.

    "Tarnopolsky et al. (1988) found that only 0.37g/lb was required to maintain positive nitrogen balance in elite bodybuilders (over 5 years of experience, possible previous use of androgens) over a 10 day period. 0.45g/lb was sufficient to maintain lean body mass in bodybuilders over a 2 week period. The authors suggested that 0.55g/lb was sufficient for bodybuilders."

    Again. WAY too short a time span

    " Lemon et al. (1992) found no differences in muscle mass or strength gains in novice bodybuilders consuming either 0.61g/lb or 1.19g/lb over a 4 week period. Based on nitrogen balance data, the authors recommended 0.75g/lb."

    You guessed it, not enough time.
    This bit could have been shortened to a single sentence, but more importantly you should figure out how debunking the data cited fits into what you're trying to accomplish, first.
    You also didn't state why it's too short a time frame.

    Quote Originally Posted by Roy Thomas View Post
    The method that we use is based upon the experience of hundreds of coachs who have spent many hundreds of thousands of hours helping thousands of people get stronger.
    There is no connection between this and your critique of the studies. You're not giving me the impression this is important to you when all I've read up 'till now is you pointing out flaws in studies. My expectation while reading was for you to cite better studies (yes, they exist). To me it sounds like your message is: "The studies you provided are wrong. Just trust me bro".

    One thing to keep in mind is, why did your client link you this study? Do you really think he looked deeply into the studies cited? Did confirmation bias come into play and why would that be? Is he too lazy, does he not want to eat animals, is he scared because of kidney failure? Is he a fan of the author/website? What's his background? Depending on the answers here, you could have saved yourself a lot of time.

    The reason I'm saying this is that if your client has a science background and had looked into it deeply enough to care, he'd have noticed the same cursory flaws you have. So I'm guessing he doesn't give a shit about the studies and there's other things at play, meaning your approach:

    Quote Originally Posted by Roy Thomas View Post
    I chop up the above article and quote it in bold.
    might not be the best one, at least not as the core of your argument. I don't think going chronologically is effective either. I'd rather you have went with what's most important or the most convincing refutation.

    Quote Originally Posted by Roy Thomas View Post
    I stopped reading here
    What if the material for the most convincing rebuttal was provided there? This is an excuse for you not to finish, which maybe indicates you went about things the wrong way. Regardless, always delete crap like this.

    Always structure your writing consciously. Who is your audience, what is your goal, etc.
    Take a look at Rip's approach:
    The Problem with “Exercise Science” | Mark Rippetoe
    Notice how he highlighted the the idiotic "squat on unstable surfaces" study, (presumably to get the penny to drop), but then also mentions researchers whose methodologies are sound, which serves another specific purpose. I get that you're not trying to write an article, but these considerations carry over to other communication.

    So for sake of argument. Lets say you send this to your client and he responds with a different article citing different studies coming to the same conclusion (that 1g/lbs is BS). What would that tell you? More importantly, why are you expecting the approach you've taken to work?

    -----------------------
    To dig into the substance a bit:
    Does "sarcoplasmic hypertrophy" require more protein than myofibrillar hypertrophy?
    If so, it would have some implications for the protein demands of bodybuilding vs strength training discussion mentioned at the start, if you could agree on a definition for "bodybuilding" and assume it's more successful at accomplishing sarcoplasmic hypertrophy.

    A lot of "ifs" I know, but it has got me thinking.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Ham View Post
    I would not have been able to guess this was intended for a client had you left out the context and I don't think that's a good thing.
    No, it probably isn't a good thing.

    Quote Originally Posted by Ham View Post
    Was including this really necessary? Is the distinction between bodybuilding and strength training relevant to the protein requirements and is that discussion something your target audience should concern themselves with? It's seem unimportant to me, yet you decided to lead with this.
    The dietary requirements are quite similar. That might be a discussion that is relevant once he isn't a novice, but he is. I see the point you are making.

    Quote Originally Posted by Ham View Post
    This bit could have been shortened to a single sentence, but more importantly you should figure out how debunking the data cited fits into what you're trying to accomplish, first.
    You also didn't state why it's too short a time frame.
    I see that now. I'm basically just filling page space with quotations. My goal was to remove some of his fear of gaining weight in addition to convincing him that the protein intake we've advocated for is necessary in the process of getting stronger. This shows me that I don't understand why it is too short a time frame.

    Quote Originally Posted by Ham View Post
    There is no connection between this and your critique of the studies. You're not giving me the impression this is important to you when all I've read up 'till now is you pointing out flaws in studies. My expectation while reading was for you to cite better studies (yes, they exist). To me it sounds like your message is: "The studies you provided are wrong. Just trust me bro".
    That is a fair analysis. I feel like that's exactly what I did. I said "That's all shit" and then didn't provide anything that WASN'T shit either because I didn't take the time to go find it or I expected critique of those studies to be sufficient proof for me own argument. It's obviously not enough. I did lay out some reasons that Hoffman et al. (2006) was not adequate though.

    Quote Originally Posted by Ham View Post
    One thing to keep in mind is, why did your client link you this study? Do you really think he looked deeply into the studies cited? Did confirmation bias come into play and why would that be? Is he too lazy, does he not want to eat animals, is he scared because of kidney failure? Is he a fan of the author/website? What's his background? Depending on the answers here, you could have saved yourself a lot of time. The reason I'm saying this is that if your client has a science background and had looked into it deeply enough to care, he'd have noticed the same cursory flaws you have. So I'm guessing he doesn't give a shit about the studies and there's other things at play, meaning your approach might not be the best one, at least not as the core of your argument. I don't think going chronologically is effective either. I'd rather you have went with what's most important or the most convincing refutation.
    Re reading this reminds of some powerpoint lectures I've had. I'm just rambling through bullet points for no other reason than to say I said it. He sent me this because he likes the author and was looking for something to validate the idea that he might not have to eat as much as I want him to. This whole thing is really just me coming at it backasswards.

    Quote Originally Posted by Ham View Post
    What if the material for the most convincing rebuttal was provided there? This is an excuse for you not to finish, which maybe indicates you went about things the wrong way. Regardless, always delete crap like this.
    I felt that there were so many things wrong with the study that it wasn't worth reading further. They've already failed to quantify what they are counting as a "squat" and as such it's going to be hard to apply their findings to our training where we do quantify what counts as a squat.

    Quote Originally Posted by Ham View Post
    Always structure your writing consciously. Who is your audience, what is your goal, etc.
    Take a look at Rip's approach:
    The Problem with “Exercise Science” | Mark Rippetoe
    Notice how he highlighted the the idiotic "squat on unstable surfaces" study, (presumably to get the penny to drop), but then also mentions researchers whose methodologies are sound, which serves another specific purpose. I get that you're not trying to write an article, but these considerations carry over to other communication.

    So for sake of argument. Lets say you send this to your client and he responds with a different article citing different studies coming to the same conclusion (that 1g/lbs is BS). What would that tell you? More importantly, why are you expecting the approach you've taken to work?
    I guess I was thinking I would try and disprove those too. I was thinking that the burden of proof was with him. If I can explain why he's wrong, I guess I don't have to explain why I'm right. The polar opposite of what I should do. This is why I posted this and I am thankful for you helping to pull my head out of my ass.

    Quote Originally Posted by Ham View Post
    To dig into the substance a bit:
    Does "sarcoplasmic hypertrophy" require more protein than myofibrillar hypertrophy?
    If so, it would have some implications for the protein demands of bodybuilding vs strength training discussion mentioned at the start, if you could agree on a definition for "bodybuilding" and assume it's more successful at accomplishing sarcoplasmic hypertrophy.

    A lot of "ifs" I know, but it has got me thinking.
    Agreeing on that definition might be a challenge. What would you define it as?

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    Quote Originally Posted by Roy Thomas View Post
    Agreeing on that definition might be a challenge. What would you define it as?
    From what I've observed you can definitely get more 'swole' from bodybuilding type workouts in the short term, rather than putting in a lot of effort to add 2 kilos to your bench. provided you are not a novice. Biggest biceps on youtube talks about it here: Optimal Training for Hypertrophy?? - Andy Baker
    Intuitively I doubt that the swelling discussed here somehow demands more protein than the bloke that spent 4 weeks adding 2 kilos to his bench (and we both know which is harder and the least popular)
    So probably not.

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    While I understand why you posted this in the Coaching forum, it might get more traction in the Nutrition forum, and benefit from Santana's knowledge.

    I don't have much to add, although on the question "does sarcoplasmic hypertrophy require more protein than myofibrillar hypertrophy" I would guess, no, since sarcoplasmic hypertrophy is driven by glycogen storage, correct? Regardless, the two don't happen in isolation from each other.

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    The first thing to ask is, did those studies utilize novice lifters trying to maximize the novice effect with appropriate training, or "athletes" who are just doing whatever they do at whatever level of advancement they happen to be at? Why might a novice, who is basically trying to create a dramatic physiological remodeling in a short time frame, benefit from much higher levels of protein consumption than some study shows "athletes" require? Think about it. You're gonna need a lot more building materials if you are tearing down an entire house and putting up a much better one, vs just redoing some part of it that you want to improve.

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    Quote Originally Posted by CommanderFun View Post
    The first thing to ask is, did those studies utilize novice lifters trying to maximize the novice effect with appropriate training, or "athletes" who are just doing whatever they do at whatever level of advancement they happen to be at? Why might a novice, who is basically trying to create a dramatic physiological remodeling in a short time frame, benefit from much higher levels of protein consumption than some study shows "athletes" require? Think about it. You're gonna need a lot more building materials if you are tearing down an entire house and putting up a much better one, vs just redoing some part of it that you want to improve.
    I like this analogy. In the case of the "Athlete" who has already done most of his building, he still requires a high amount of material to keep what has built. Not to mention everything he needs to keep the lights on, the house warm, and make improvements to the thing.

    Quote Originally Posted by Matt James View Post
    I don't have much to add, although on the question "does sarcoplasmic hypertrophy require more protein than myofibrillar hypertrophy" I would guess, no, since sarcoplasmic hypertrophy is driven by glycogen storage, correct? Regardless, the two don't happen in isolation from each other.
    They both happen in response to training, but how you train will skew the adaptation in the favor of one. To what extent this skew occurs is probably at least partially a function of training advancement. For a novice this is pretty much an irrelevant consideration based on experience, the article Ham posted above, and the SS books. So me rambling about all that shit to someone who has dabbled briefly in CrossFit and is returning from a long layoff was not productive. It seems intuitive that creating new contractile components is somehow MORE difficult for the body than adding organelles and fluid to the muscle. This also seems to be clear when I ask myself what kind of workout I would "Enjoy" more. Generally speaking, your body doesn't "Enjoy" doing hard shit and it would rather do easier shit if provided the choice.

    Quote Originally Posted by Ham View Post
    Intuitively I doubt that the swelling discussed here somehow demands more protein than the bloke that spent 4 weeks adding 2 kilos to his bench (and we both know which is harder and the least popular)
    So probably not.
    I think you're right on the money. That article was a good read, thank you. Strength work takes more balls than a set of 12 does and I think this applies all the way from mentality down to physiology.

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    starting strength coach development program
    For years I've read claims that protein fills your stomach and does so for a long time. However, this is not true for me. If I don't eat potatoes, beans, rice or lentils, for example, and just eat a leafy salad and a large amount of meat, I feel hungry very soon afterwards. I can do without carbs, but I'm constantly hungry and my stomach is rumbling.

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