Monthly Archives: October 2016
Protein is my favorite macro.
Because steak is awesome, protein shakes are the greatest invention of the 20th century, and I like building muscle.
So naturally, I get a little frustrated when people spread falsehoods about my favorite macro.
Related: 43 Easy High Protein Recipes!
Now, seeing that I am a scientist and I value the truth, I think I should stand in on behalf of protein and defend it against some of the popular myths about it.
1. PROTEIN WREAKS HAVOC ON YOUR KIDNEYS
“Go easy on the protein shakes bro, you are going to wreck your kidneys.”
If I had a dollar for every time I heard or read that protein was going to hurt my kidneys…. well… I would probably be retired and blogging full time.
Recently, Dr. Jose Antonio did a study to answer the following question, “Basically, if we stuff you full of protein (like 4g/kg a day) what happens to your kidneys and your blood tests?”
Well it turns out that if you take healthy young men and cram them full of protein and have them lift weights, their kidneys are just fine and it had no effect on their blood work1.
These people ate about 270 grams of protein a day for 8 weeks and their kidneys and blood were just fine.
This myth really, really needs to die.
2. PROTEIN MAKES YOUR BONES BRITTLE
For some reason some doctors and scientists got some nonsense in their heads about protein making your blood acidic and that it caused calcium to be “leached” from your bones to buffer out your blood, effectively making your bones brittle and weak. Turns out, that is entirely untrue, the hypothesis has been refuted by several lines of evidence.
First, a study directly addressing this question found that a diet high in protein had no change in biomarkers of bone resorption or formation, indicating that a high protein diet has no adverse effects on bone health2. This evidence supports the notion that high-protein diets are not detrimental to bone health.
Second, we know that high-protein diets actually increase calcium absorption in the digestive tract, and increased blood calcium elicits calcitonin release from the thyroid and promotes calcium deposition in bone tissue. To this point, there have been several studies supporting the idea that increased intestinal calcium absorption due to high-protein diets may actually improve bone health3,4,5.
3. HIGH PROTEIN DIETS MAKE YOU GAIN WEIGHT
I thought of a lot of clever ways to put this, but to quote one of the most prolific high protein diet researchers in the field (Dr. Jose Antonio):
“You gain weight. No shit. If you lift weights and eat a bucketful of protein, you will likely gain lean body mass. But here’s the kicker. If all you did was overeat on protein (i.e., in our study, subjects overfed on whey protein), you would likely lose weight. And not muscle mass my friend. You’d lose fat”.
Your body works hard during training. An intra-workout supplement that contains a high concentration of amino acids maximizes those efforts and accelerates your progress.
How? Intra-workout supplementation takes effect at the exact time your body needs it. During exercise, blood flow to your muscles and nutrient absorption are at an all-time high.
When consumed as an intra-workout supplement, amino acids promote muscle building and fights muscle breakdown. This means you’ll see improvements in both performance and recovery.
But creating the best intra-workout supplement is a matter of individual goals, preferences, and priorities.
Here, we’re breaking down the different types of amino acids, their sources, and dosage guidelines, so you have all the information you need to build your optimal intra-workout supplementation plan.
Even as healthy adults, our bodies cannot make the nine classified essential amino acids (EAAs) so we need to rely on our diets to get them. Included within these nine EAAs is the branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs)—leucine, valine, and isoleucine.
If you’ve done any reading on the topic, you’ll find plenty of conflicting information about whether you should take just the BCAAs or the full spectrum of all nine EAAs.
Related: Why Intra-Workout Supplementation Works
BCAA advocators believe that athletes already consume plenty of protein, whether it’s from food or supplements, so additional EAAs are not necessary. They support only taking the BCAAs, particularly leucine, during workouts.
But EAA advocators question this stance, wondering why BCAA advocators recommend taking the other two BCAAs (valine and isoleucine) at all if leucine is the key amino acid responsible for stimulating protein synthesis (muscle building). Using leucine alone yields the same stimulus results as taking all three BCAAs, so a middle-ground stance of taking just the three BCAAs doesn’t make sense.
Here are the facts: Research has found that taking all nine EAAs may allow for a longer stimulus on protein synthesis than just taking the BCAAs alone. To gain the largest and longest protein synthesis, include all nine EAAs in your supplement. Based on scientific research, this approach will maximize the benefits of your intra-workout supplementation.
Let’s face it, the times are changing in the fitness and nutrition industry. Broscience, pseudoscience, and anecdotal lore are giving way to the white lab coats and data driven decisions.
So to search for new, effective supplements, we should turn to the scientists.
The mammalian target of rapamyocin (mTOR) is what all skeletal muscle scientists dream about. Why? It’s one of the key components of turning training into lean muscle tissue. If we boil it down to the basics, mTOR activation = muscle growth* and there is a newer supplement being utilized because it is a known activator of mTOR.
*Yes, this is a vast oversimplification but it is generally the right picture.
Phosphatidic Acid, which we will lovingly call PA for this article, is one cool molecule. It does a lot of really important things in the body, but the one I care about is that it is a well-known activator of mTOR. This means PA has some serious potential for aiding in muscle growth.
PA is actually a type of lipid (aka fat) that is often derived from lecithin (which is also used to make other supplements like phosphatidylserine).
One of the important aspects of PA as a supplement is it is actually really well absorbed. When you take it, it actually shows up in your blood. The same can’t be said for a lot of supplements1.
THE RESEARCH ON PHOSPHATIDIC ACID
Anytime you start looking at new supplements, you can actually use muscle cells, grow them in a lab, and give them the supplement and see how they respond. One of the first studies done on PA showed that giving muscle cells did increase the “grow” signal for muscles.2
Normally, short-term inflammation is a natural process that plays an important role in healing and cellular repair when you’re injured or sick.
However, it can also be bad, very bad, depending on the cause and duration.
This is known as chronic low-key inflammation, and plays an integrative role in diseases such as Arthritis, Obesity, Cancer.
It’s roots are often based in poor nutritional choices or other unhealthy lifestyle decisions.
Inflammation is a very serious issue. Some researchers even state it as the key cause of diseases1,2,3.
WHAT CAUSES INFLAMMATION?
There are a host of lifestyle factors that can combine to cause inflammation. Here are things to watch out for:
Elevated Blood Sugar Levels: Numerous studies have shown when your ability to handle carbohydrates and blood sugar levels is impaired, cell damage can results from constantly high blood sugar levels. This causes an increase in inflammatory-associated genes and increased inflammation4.
Related: Carbs Aren’t Making You Fat – The Truth About Insulin
Processed Food: Increased intake of processed foods, sugar-sweetened drinks, sweets, candies and baked products are associated with higher levels of C-reactive protein (CRP), a pro-inflammatory marker used to measure inflammation 5.
Body fat: Increase in body fat levels and obesity can elevate pro-inflammatory markers and contribute to chronic inflammation6.
Food Allergies: Eating foods that you are allergic to leads to rapid increases in inflammation.
Food Intolerances: Although you’ll know if real intolerance occurs, eating foods you are only slightly intolerant to can be a serious issue. Since the side effects are more mild (bloating, stomach cramp, gastrointestinal stress etc), you may continue to eat these foods, which can contribute to chronic inflammation.
Disrupted Gut: Bacteria or fungal infections, leaky gut or disruptions to your healthy gut bacteria can shoot your immune system into overdrive and inflammation7, 8.
Cortisol & Stress: Cortisol, the stress hormone, can lead to whole body systemic inflammation, with studies noting large increases in CRP or pro-inflammatory cytokines9.
Environmental Toxins: Toxins from BPA plastics and containers, fragrances, unfiltered water, air pollutants etc. can contribute to low-grade inflammation.
HOW TO KNOW IF YOU HAVE CHRONIC INFLAMMATION
To get an accurate indicator of your inflammation levels it requires expensive blood tests. However, some common signs or symptoms you experience daily may be linked to chronic inflammation. These include:
- Long-term joint pain
- Gut or Digestive Issues
- Regular Fungal or Viral infections
- Acid Reflux
- Arthritis or similar disease
- Chronic Pain
- Blood Sugar or Metabolic Issues
Consuming enough protein for muscle growth remains the number one priority for all bodybuilders from the beginner to an Olympia contender.
Every pro knows that protein is an essential bodybuilding nutrient. It’s basically the first real lesson every dedicated lifter learns on their quest for head-turning size and shape.
So why is it that so many dedicated trainees fail to consistently get enough of this second-to-none mass builder? There are several reasons:
- The kind of basic nutrition that gets results is usually the first casualty once the novelty of a new training program has worn off.
- Life gets in the way and you begin to wonder if getting your one gram of protein per pound of bodyweight is really all that important when faced with the task of weekly meal prep. Lifters lose sight of the bodybuilding fundamentals that got them where they are in the first place.
- Consuming enough protein can be tiring and all-consuming; pounding down six full-fledged protein-rich meals per day takes time, effort, and dedication.
It’s easy for many iron devotees to miss one or more of these meals – one of the biggest mistakes a gains-focused lifter can make.
Fortunately an increasing emphasis on protein supplementation has made life a lot easier for today’s muscle-hungry bodybuilders. With an array of protein products to offer, reputable companies are keeping bodybuilders well-nourished, anabolic, and less likely to deviate from their recommended protein intake.
Whether whole foods dominant, supplement-heavy, or a combination of both, a protein rich diet is a non-negotiable bodybuilding requirement.
If a bodybuilder begins slipping on their protein intake for any of the above reasons, you can be sure that limited gains will shortly follow. Here are three major reasons why serious iron athletes must get their daily protein quota.
ESSENTIAL FOR MUSCLE BUILDING
Protein is simply a long chain of amino acids all connected together. Once digested, these muscle-enriching amino acids flood the body. The body then reassembles these amino acids into the specific proteins that build muscle.
Given the body can only process a certain amount of dietary protein at a time (30-50 grams every 2.5 to 3 hours depending on an individual’s size and activity level) the protein needed for muscle repair must be of the highest quality. Vegetable and soy proteins, for example, cannot replace those of a higher biological value such as eggs, chicken, fish and whey protein isolate.
Related: 43 Best High Protein Recipes Anyone Can Cook
The muscles are in a constant state of reinvention; either shrinking or growing depending on the degree of stimulation during resistance training. Enough aminos from digested protein will result in protein synthesis and muscle growth. Protein synthesis is enhanced whenever a protein-rich meal is consumed. But, not just any old protein source will do.
Of the 20 aminos needed for protein synthesis (9 essential, which must be ingested, and 11 non-essential, which can be synthesized in the body), the branched-chain amino acid leucine is most anabolic of all 5.
To fully enhance muscle anabolism, a recommended 2-3 grams of leucine per meal must be included. While a 300 gram serving of chicken provides 2 grams of leucine, a scoop of whey protein provides the full 3 grams 5. Even though both protein sources are of a high biological nature, it is clear that not all quality proteins are created equal.
The muscle amino leucine is so important that many bodybuilders supplement with\ leucine to stay anabolic for even longer.