The Top 4 Protein Questions I Get
Protein. Some make it sounds out like the greatest nutrient of all time, while others tell you to avoid it or you will get kidney damage! To clear a few things up, let's take a look at the information behind some of the common misconception and myths around protein.
High-protein intake causes kidney damage
The research that was originally linked to protein intake and kidney damage had a pretty large asterisks next to it – the fact that all subjects had pre-existing kidney conditions! These conditions were exacerbated by a high protein intake, however the protein intake did not cause the original damage. More recent evidence shows no detriment to kidney function from a high protein intake.
Protein contains amino acids, which have a nitrogen base. When the amino acids are broken down, the nitrogen must be excreted, which occurs via the kidneys. The idea was that a high protein intake cause excessive stress on the kidneys, causing a decrease in kidney function.
There is still an anecdotal association between kidney damage and high protein intake. However, you should be wary of linking protein intake to kidney damage, particularly in overly muscular individuals. Performance and image enhancing drugs, recreational drugs and alcohol abuse are defined causes of kidney damage, independent of protein intake.
22 grams only
There is research that indicates a 22g serving of protein in maximal for activation m-ToR and muscle protein synthesis. Intake above this level was shown to have no additional benefits to the activation of m-ToR and MPS.
So does this mean anything above 22g is waste – as you might have been told?
Protein requirements vary significantly between individuals, with muscle mass, weight and activity levels being important factors in determining needs. Everyday, protein is continually being turned over in every cell in body. Therefore, the larger the individual, the more protein that is required to be available for regeneration.
22g is the amount needed to maximally promote the pathways, but more may be required to adequately maintain and then build muscle mass. Even though this amount will maximally stimulate m-ToR and MPS in both 60kg and 120kg males, the 120kg will need a considerably larger protein intake to meet their body's requirements!
Whey too much, whey too little?
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All protein is equal
Protein is made up of different amino acids. Aside from the whole complete and incomplete proteins - which I’m sure you have already heard of – another consideration is the amino acid composition of proteins.
Complete proteins can have various compositions of amino acids. Provided they have all of the essential amino acids, they will still be considered a complete protein. However, the amino acids in chicken v pork will be quite different, and subsequently have different usages and
For example protein sources that are high in leucine are beneficial for the stimulation of muscle protein synthesis. Subsequently, these are well-suited around exercise. Tryptophan is an amino acid that can aid sleep and intake in the evening can help with dosing off!
Granted, these are not the biggest nutrition concerns in the world, however they are factors that can be considered when optimising an individual’s nutrition intake or trying to achieve a specific outcome.
How much per day?
Current guidelines indicate 0.82g per kilogram of bodyweight per day to be a sufficient intake of protein. Based on the research I have read, clients I work with, and practical experience, I would say this is too low for many individuals.
I will advise a higher protein intake for my clients with body recomposition goals such as muscle gain, fat loss and performance improvements. These clients have greater protein turnovers and requirements, which a 0.82g/kg intake will not meet.
I consider these low protein recommendation is a combination of two things – a preference for dietary carbohydrates and a fear of kidney damage. The best thing to do is follow best-practices and experience, which often includes progressively increasing protein intake to support training, performance and recovery.
I often advise 1.4g/kg per day as a starting point and find this to work well for body recomposition goals. This will vary between individuals depending on their goals, nutrition intake and experience.
Protein intake is a popular, yet often misunderstood topic. I hope this article has shed some light on protein intake and answered the question you had!