The Protein Bible
The First 5 Voices
If there’s one topic that consumes bodybuilders, it’s protein. Protein is the essential building block of the bodybuilder’s diet, and we discuss it, dissect it, dissolve it and devour it. We read protein supplement labels as thoroughly as a prenuptial agreement. We time our meals and activities so that our protein is consumed with the regularity of a stopwatch. We spend as much time discussing the relative merits of protein rating systems as we do the qualities of our President.
Proteins are chemical compounds that contain carbon, hydrogen, and oxygen —the same parts found in carbohydrates and lipids —but also contain nitrogen. Nitrogen is the key word in protein, for 2 reasons: Because nitrogen must attach to 3 other atoms, it introduces a complexity to the amino acids, which form proteins; nitrogen balance is important to bodybuilders in that we want to keep a positive nitrogen balance within our bodies to produce more useable protein.
The protein absorption process is fairly straightforward. As described in Whitney and Hamilton’s text, Understanding Nutrition, the basics are easy to understand:
We chew and crush protein- loaded food in our mouths, mixing protein-rich foods with saliva;
in the stomach, acids unravel protein strands and activate stomach enzymes: The combination of pepsin and hydrochloric acid results in smaller polypeptide chains; in the small intestine, these polypeptide chains are split into dipeptides, tripeptides and amino acids through the intestinal enzymes of pancreatic and intestinal proteases. “Then the enzymes on the surface of the small intestinal cells hydrolize these peptides and the cells absorb them.” They’re hydrolized into intestinal di- and tri- peptidases and the amino acids are absorbed. (Paraphrased description courtesy of Understanding Nutrition, Fourth Edition, by Eleanor Noss Whitney and Eva May Nunnelley Hamilton. IBSN #0-314- 24247-3. Copyright 1987. West Publishing Company, St. Paul, Minnesota.)
The amino acids which make up the proteins sources we ingest, and the ones we internally produce, vary widely in their chemical complexities. It’s generally agreed that there are 28 amino acids, but that includes cystine and ornithine. Of these, there are 8 which are called essential amino acids: We need all of these 8 within us to produce a complete protein internally. The remaining are called non-essential amino acids. In the past few years the term “conditionally essential” has popped up to describe non-essential amino acids which are thought by some to be inadequately produced by the body for sufficient maintenance of muscular mass by the bodybuilder, usually taurine and glutamine.
Beyond these generally accepted conditions, the role of protein and the amino acids and their effects on the bodybuilder are widely and vigorously debated. It’s rare, outside of politics and religion, to find the arguments so vehemently and hotly contested. These arguments stem from beliefs, and some of these beliefs are validated by current science, and some are not. But anecdotal evidence sometimes predates scientific validation, making these beliefs worthy of attention and description.
In this edition of The Protein Bible, The First 5 Voices, we’ve strived to include a number of opinions. Like the rest of Max Muscle Bodybuilding and Fitness News, these opinions are not necessarily ours, and we disagree with some of the information. But they are the current and strong voices of experts in the field. As such, they deserve a forum. Each piece is a valuable lesson in applied science and belief. In that sense, the information presented and the responses from readers echoes the dynamics surrounding the “real” Bible. We welcome your response and opinion.
Mike Falcon, Editor
Interview: Peter Lemon, Ph.D.
The World’s Primary Protein Assimilation Expert
Peter Lemon Ph.D. is considered one of- often the- leading authority on protein intake and its effects on athletes and performance. His seminal research, widely published in respected academic journals, has been used as the launching pad for numerous expert opinions, studies, and observations. He is Chairman of the Exercise Nutrition Department at The University of Western Ontario (Canada). In this interview, using Dr. Lemon’s research as a departure point, Max Muscle editor Mike Falcon and Dr. Lemon discuss the quest for determining optimum protein intake.
MM: In looking over a number of the pieces of research regarding optimal protein intake, I’ve noticed that’s there’s been a gradual increase in protein intake recommendations. Perhaps the most quoted piece for protein intake has been your piece for the American Physiological Society, Protein Requirements and Muscle Mass/Strength Changes During Intensive Training in Novice Bodybuilders (Journal of Applied Physiology, 1992; 73: p767-775). The funny thing I’ve noticed is that even the people opposed to higher protein for athletes may take out selected portions of your research to support their arguments. But you’re clear about recommended protein intakes for both beginning body builders and advanced bodybuilders, which are rather high compared to what many others have suggested, even when they use you as a resource. You’ve suggested 1.4 to 1.6 grams of protein per kilogram of bodyweight per day (.6 to .73 grams of protein per pound) as an overall template. Your friend and sometime research partner Tarnopolsky, suggests that even higher amounts seem useful for elite weightlifters when he studied advanced lifters who were taking 2.2 to 3.5 protein grams per kilogram of bodyweight per day (editor’s note: using this as an example, abbreviations hereafter will be 2.2 – 3.5 pg/k [protein grams per kilogram of bodyweight]; to get the grams of protein per pound, divide the number of grams of protein per kilogram by the 2.2 pounds contained in each kilogram. For example, 2.2 to 3.5 grams of protein per kilogram of bodyweight equals 1 to 1.6 grams per pound [2.2 divided by 2.2 =1; 3.5 divided by 2.2 = 1.5909, or 1.6]). So what we’re getting is that the latest research seems now to support anecdotal information related by elite bodybuilders and powerlifters: That somewhere in excess of a gram per pound of body weight is substantiated and optimal.
Dr. Lemon: Well, yes. We have collaborated with Mark Tarnopolsky, and our data clearly suggests that protein requirements are greater for active individuals —whether they’re bodybuilders or other athletes —than the official dietary recommendations in either Canada or The United States. But, if you look at these requirements, they were derived from people who were essentially sedentary. In other words, the existing requirements were derived from a different population than we’re talking about now. We need to look at the data for active people that has come out recently, and that’s what both Mark and I have been doing. We’ve used a couple of different techniques. One is the nitrogen balance technique, which is what’s used to determine the requirements classically, and also some newer techniques that involve metabolic tracers which allow you to follow where a labeled amino acid goes when you give it to an individual, either through injection or through diet. You can then make estimates of the rate muscle is developing by measuring protein synthesis. It’s kind of interesting, because if you give more amino acids or more protein in the diet than is necessary what happens is the excess is not stored in the body as muscle, but is oxidized: used by the body as energy, and so you can tell when you have exceeded the amount that an individual needs. When we do those studies with bodybuilders we come up with numbers that exceed existing recommendations by about 100%. The current recommendation is .8 grams per kilo of bodyweight for all adults, but we’re coming up with 1.5 -1.7, depending on the study and the technique used. So, I think at this point there will be some debate, relative to the exact amount required, but there is a greater need for protein for these types of individuals. A few years ago I visited McMaster University, where Mark Tarnopolsky is, and we conducted several experiments. One involved giving differing amounts of protein and studying the amount of protein synthesis using these metabolic tracers. The athletes received .9 pg/k bodymass; 1.4 pg/k; and 2.4 pg/k. The interesting thing was when the bodybuilders went from .9 to 1.4 there was actually an increase in their rate of protein syntheses. So, in other words, their muscle development was adversely affected by the .9 pg/k.
MM: But not by the 1.4 pg/k ?
Dr. Lemon: Exactly. Their protein synthesis rate was higher at the 1.4 pg/k level. This would indicate 1.4 pg/k was closer to what they need to consume than the .9 pg/k, which has been the universal recommendation. So this would clearly suggest that if you consume the current recommendation and you’re a bodybuilder, your results are going to be sub-optimal.
MM: What happened when the consumption went from 1.4 pg/k to 2.4 pg/k?
Dr. Lemon: That’s really interesting, because protein synthesis did not increase further. This suggests that at least in that population, the 2.4 pg/k exceeded the optimal amount of protein. So, we concluded that somewhere between 1.4 pg/k and 2.4g/k would be optimal. That fits in with some of the other work we’ve done with other measures, such as the nitrogen balance technique that indicates an intake of about 1.6 pg/k to 1.7 pg/k is optimal. If that’s all correct —and you’ll get a debate from some people because some of this work is fairly new —then it means that bodybuilders may be correct in their interpretation that their protein needs are higher, but they’re not as high as they think they are. As you mentioned earlier, many of them consume diets in excess of 2 grams per kilogram, which would appear to be excessive. I’m not sure exactly why that would be the case, but I have 2 possible explanations. One is that if you were taking other substances that were anabolic —and certainly some bodybuilders do that, taking substances and drugs that might enhance protein synthesis —then the higher protein intakes may be advantageous under those conditions. That’s one possibility. Another possibility is that there is some sort of feed forward system if you’re on a high protein diet for a longer period of time than we’ve studied. Then that stimulates muscle growth. These studies that we do are typically over a few weeks or perhaps a month, That’s because the controls we need are difficult to maintain for that time or longer. But athletes clearly train for years. But you put some one on a 3 pg/k diet per day for years and there may be some long-term changes, so it’s going to take a while to sort all of this out. But I’m convinced that these individuals benefit from higher than recommended intakes. Currently I’m recommending 1.6 pg/k to 1.8 pg/k because I think that’s optimal, based on what we’ve seen so far. Also, protein is expensive, and if you’re simply excreting the excess, there’s no need to take in so much. Until we get data suggesting that 2.5 pg/k or 2.7 pg/k is beneficial, I’m not going to make that recommendation.
MM: You talk about wondering why they would perhaps increase their protein intake, and what has been demonstrated to be optimal, and I think you hit on 2 really interesting points: One is the use of steroids, or prohormones or androgens to up the muscle mass. The second, which I see as going hand in hand with many bodybuilders, is that we’re almost in an obsessive compulsive disorder where we would prefer to err on the “safe” side; the “safe” side being taking in enough protein to handle our muscle-building needs. This may not be safe at all.
Dr. Lemon: You have to remember that this response may be linear, as many bodybuilders assume. Increasing dietary protein may improve muscle growth up to some point, and then there may be a ceiling point or plateau. Beyond that there may actually be some adverse effects. I know what you mean: if 1.6 pg/k or 1/.7 pg/k is good, then 2.5 pg/k or 3.0 pg/k must be better. Right? In fact, it may not be. It may be good to go from .9 pg/k to 1.8 pg/k or so —whatever that optimum is —but after that there may be no more gain, with this possible exception: Unless you’re ingesting another anabolic agent that may allow you to benefit from more protein. But we have not done those types of studies. However, some of the studies from the former Soviet Union and Eastern Europe have shown some benefits from very high protein intakes.
MM: Just how high are we talking about?
Dr. Lemon: We’re talking about going from 2 grams to over 3 grams. Some of these studies are not translated very well, and some are almost anecdotal in their style, so we don’t know how accurate they are. But that’s where a lot of the bodybuilders get their information, because that’s where strength athletes were very, very successful. I’m not sure all of that is factual; certainly we haven’t seen benefits to protein intakes that high in individuals training and consuming a normal diet.
MM: That seems to be almost a universal lament, that these reports tend to be so heavily anecdotal, or using samples groups that are either very small or leave out the influences of many variables, and are really anecdotal in methodology.
Dr. Lemon: A lot of it was secretive. They were obviously using it for their own benefit. But I think they also used it as a technique to confuse people in the West. Rumors would intentionally or unintentionally surface, and they would make no attempt to refute them. They just let you believe that. There’s no reason to believe their science is any better than ours; in fact, ours is much better than theirs ever was, because we have devoted so much more money to this research and technology. But they certainly applied the knowledge that either they obtained, or we obtained, to their athletes much better than we did —perhaps to the detriment of the individual athletes themselves.
MM: You mentioned the downside of excess protein intake, and foremost in my mind is kidney damage. Let’s say that a bodybuilder wants to err —if indeed it is erring —on the side of increased protein intake. What can they do to protect or minimize potential adverse effects of excess protein?
Dr. Lemon: Most of the adverse effects cited routinely, and kidney damage is certainly near the top of the list, I believe is overstated in the healthy individual. Certainly, if you look at research literature that deals with people with abnormal renal function or disease, high protein intakes can be hazardous. But I’m not aware of any data —and I’ve looked throughout the literature —suggesting that a healthy kidney cannot handle the type of protein loads we’re talking about. The major concern (of excessive protein intake) would be from a dehydration standpoint. In order to metabolize, say, 2 grams of protein per kilogram of bodyweight per day, a lot more nitrogen needs to be excreted from the body. And that gets excreted primarily in the urine. Typically, what happens when you dramatically increase your protein intake, is that the urine volume goes up substantially. We’ve measured increases of 2 to 4 times on a high protein diet. If increased water loss goes on routinely and one doesn’t attempt to compensate for it, one would become progressively dehydrated. This could become a problem, particularly for athletes who have excessive fluid losses due to sweating. One of the things that you commonly see recommended for individuals on high protein diets is increased fluid intake. There’s also concern about calcium losses, and it’s affect on osteoporosis, which is a serious bone debilitating disease, primarily in women. But there have been some studies that have shown protein supplements in high dosages can increase calcium loss in the urine, and that calcium loss will come, eventually, from bones and affect bone density. So I think the jury is still out on the potential of that problem. However, this concern may also be overemphasized, because the studies that showed this seemed to involve people who took protein supplements, rather than those who increased protein intake via food sources. So it may have something to do with the composition of the protein that was consumed. Certainly, because of the problem of osteoporosis, which is huge in the older population, we need to study this, because I would hate to see 20 or 30-year-old bodybuilders in 2 or 3 decades having bone problems due to high protein intake.
MM: What about offsetting this by taking in additional calcium in the diet?
Dr. Lemon: Possibly. Certainly it’s something that should be investigated. But we should make sure it’s actually a problem related to high protein supplementation. High protein foods may differ from protein supplements, because you may end up with micronutrient imbalances. This could be what caused this calcium loss, and perhaps other imbalances as well. One thing we need to keep in mind with supplementation is that we can get large amounts of single nutrients that it’s difficult to do with food. Creatine is a good example of this. I don’t see a lot of adverse effects from taking creatine, based on our work so far. However, the point I’m trying to make is that you can consume creatine on a daily basis in amounts that would be impossible to consume from food. You could get the amount of creatine contained in 10 pounds of meat fairly easily. We’re having people do some things that they couldn’t do in the past, and many of these products hit the market before there are clinical trials to determine exactly whether they’re safe or not. Worst case scenario? We could have large numbers of people in North America suffering from adverse effects years after because we haven’t done any long-term studies. That’s the problem I have, not only with protein, but with any of these products. Even beneficial compounds taken in large quantities could potentially lead to problems.
MM: You mentioned the amount of protein for elite bodybuilders, as opposed to beginners. I’m wondering, if there isn’t a relationship as well, between the lean muscle mass of elite bodybuilders and the increased percentage of bodyfat in beginning bodybuilders, as well as the general population. Wouldn’t it appear, that while the bodyweights of 2 240-pound men would appear on the surface to be similar, that the person with 22% bodyfat and the guy with 3% bodyfat may have different protein requirements because they carry enormously different amounts of muscle mass that need to be maintained.
Dr. Lemon: In the study we talked about earlier, in addition to the bodybuilding group that went from .9 pg/k to 2.4 pg/k, there was also a control sedentary group that ingested the same protein intakes, and as you might guess, when the sedentary group went from .9 pg/k to 1.4 pg/k they did not increase their protein synthesis. They simply oxidized the increased protein. So you can’t simply increase your muscle mass by ingesting more protein. It would be nice if it were possible, but clearly people that are active in exercise are different from those who are sedentary. Likewise, people who have different body compositions, whether they are sedentary or active, have different metabolic rates and may use any food source differently. If I’m an athlete, training regularly, and I’m consuming a certain amount of carbohydrate, I’m going to store that in my body as carbohydrate. If I’m sedentary I’m going to store that as fat because I haven’t been using the carbohydrates in my body and don’t need to replenish those stores. Any nutrient we eat can be stores as fat in the body if we eat enough of it and are sedentary enough.
MM: You mentioned the amino acid uptake, and one of the trends we’re seeing now in elite bodybuilders is the reliance on L-Glutamine. The argument for L-Glutamine centers on its being the amino acid with the highest concentrations in human muscle, and that because of this, ingesting additional amounts might assist in both protein syntheses and faster repair of the muscle. This is something we hear anecdotally all the time. We hear that ingesting 2 to 10 grams of L-Glutamine per day helps repair and prevents muscle soreness. What’s your take on this?
Dr. Lemon: I haven’t actually studied L-Glutamine myself, but I have studied some of the literature, and theoretically what you’re saying is possible. There are not a lot of good studies that have shown that, though. This is simply a problem of the anecdotal reports being ahead of the science. The problem with anecdotal reports is that there is a number of things that could cause those effects. Just because you’re taking L-Glutamine and these things happen doesn’t mean that it’s due to L-Glutamine. You need controlled studies to investigate that. But there is some interesting information about the immune system. Glutamine is an important fuel for the immune system. And there is some indication that the immune system may be weakened in athletes that exercise on a regular basis. This may be a symptom of overtraining, but a lot of athletes get upper respiratory infections and it may be that there is competition for the amount of Glutamine that is available for the muscle and the immune system.
MM: That’s a fascinating point for me, because I see otherwise healthy bodybuilders that do seem to have a fairly high incidence of common colds and longer recovery periods. David Johns still sticks in our minds: here was an otherwise healthy bodybuilder at the peak of his game who died from Valley Fever, which usually strikes down only the old or weak. And he succumbed rather quickly. This begs the question of how hard we push the repair of our bodies when we subject it to long-term intensive weight-training.
Dr. Lemon: It’s an interesting problem that needs to be pursued, but we can’t make the connection now, to say we have to supplement certain amounts of Glutamine, but certainly there’s the possibility it may be beneficial. I’m concerned that severe exercise may affect the immune system. There are individuals who suggest that even very severe health problems may occur in athletes who train and come into this overtraining zone. People point out the incidence of cancer in some very elite athletes. It seems to be higher than you would expect. There’s certainly no causal relationship as yet, but it’s interesting. Perhaps there is some connection, and we need to find that if it’s the case, but there’s been a fair number of athlete athletes who have succumbed. I don’t know if there’s any connection —there’s certainly no evidence of that —but it’s crazy to believe that exercise is good in all situations. It may be that here’s a downside too. Certainly, there are many bodybuilders out there who train harder than they need to. And maybe taking some supplements or drugs that have adverse effects contributes as well.
MM: You touched upon that there can be differences between athletes, and that one of these differences may be their ability to absorb and utilize protein. One of the things that intrigues me most about these studies is the magic number: that over a period of about 2 hours the body can digest 42 grams of protein. I’m wondering where that came from, and if it isn’t really a continuing enzymatic process that varies widely.
Dr. Lemon: My guess is that this comes from some theoretical calculations. Frequently people will make calculations about how quickly you can develop muscle and their divided that into an hourly basis and how much dietary protein would need to be absorbed to provide that. I think that’s where that comes from.
MM: Then there are theories about what types of proteins you should take at what time of day.
Dr. Lemon: If there is a window of time following a weight-training session, then there needs to be studies where individuals are fed during that time period and get evaluated, instead of reporting theoretically what might be the best. Wee need to get that data.
MM: Well, one of the big things now is to ingest high protein and high carbohydrates shortly after working out.
Dr. Lemon: I suspect that’s advantageous, because the carbohydrate and protein would stimulate insulin production, the most anabolic steroids you have. And we know that following weight training there is a period of increased protein synthesis, so one would speculate that additional protein and energy during that time period would enhance the process. However, there is not a lot of data in support of that. There is some, and it’s starting to come in now, but again the theories are out there and are being tried by athletes, in the hope that they might work.
MM: The effective protein utilization is paramount to them, which brings up HMB. You mentioned that protein is a relatively expensive energy source, and this brings up the cost effectiveness of HMB. I have this question in the back of my mind: if we’re spending this money to prevent protein catabolism, why don’t we just take in a little more protein, which would cost less than HMB.
Dr. Lemon: That’s an interesting point, but we might think of examining the catabolic process itself as well. I think that is what stimulates the anabolic phase. I haven’t tested this, but if you do something to chemically minimize the catabolic phase, you may minimize the anabolic phase and make the process counter-productive.overall.
MM: That’s a unique take: What prompted that theory?
Dr. Lemon: For years. Bodybuilders have thought the process, simplistically, is that you tear the muscle down and then the body’s reaction to that is to rebuild the muscle, and over enough times doing this, it rebuilds bigger and better. Then you repeat it; it’s like building a wall a little bigger each time, adding brick by brick. And that may be exactly what happens. Tearing down and damage certainly occurs —you can look microscopically at muscle and see the damage that occurs —maybe that’s the stimulus. And nobody knows exactly what stimulates muscle to grow after exercise. And then the body’s reaction to compensate for that, and it’s an overreaction. If that’s the case and you somehow minimize the damage, you may somehow minimize the response and it could be a counterproductive strategy. People thing simplistically that’s there’s a breakdown phase and a buildup phase, and if you minimize the breakdown then the buildup will be better. And I’m not sure that’s the case. We need to study fundamentally how muscle grows before we start making suggestions. Relative to HMB, the data’s very sketchy on that. There’s some data out of Iowa State and that’s primarily where it’s coming from. We need studies that replicate those results from other areas and lands. But again, it’s being sold and people are making a lot of money. It may be beneficial, but I’m not convinced yet. These are animal studies and while there are parallel, there are limits as well. It’s much more difficult to control variables in human studies. In animals you can control virtually every variable, but in humans no matter how rigorous it is they’re free to do other things. It’s not unusual to get great data from an animal study and get questionable data in a clinical trial. It’s not easy to do that, but it needs to be done. I’m concerned about supplement studies that are done quick and dirty and conclude these fantastic results, when the results may have nothing to do with the supplements, but could be a function of the way the study was done. Because the average person doesn’t know enough to interpret that; they just see the conclusions and say, “well this stuff must be great.” We need to be careful, especially in the early stages of a product, that, in fact, it does what you think it does. And that there are not other possible explanations for the results that you got.
MM: When you’re talking about the 1.4 to 1.7 pg/k being optimal for bodybuilding, I see studies on the web journals that cite your study and yet suggest far less protein. There seems to be some reluctance to pull these numbers up.
Dr. Lemon: We’ve also said we don’t see a problem going up to about 2 grams of protein per kilogram of bodyweight. These 1.5 pg/k to 1.7 pg/k figures are not exact values. They’re estimates based on the data we get, and there is room for variables here, subject to subject. We’ve had people who have done slightly better or slightly poorer; that’s the average of the group and there is variability around that.
MM: We’ve also noted that the protein proportion could be influenced by lean mass weight and percentages; a larger muscular mass on a 240-pound man with 3% bodyfat might indicate a need for more protein than a 240-pound man not training who has 28% bodyfat. When meals are ingested, and how large the meals are, seems to have some effect.
Dr. Lemon: Smaller and more frequent meals are advantageous. There’s probably some advantage to consuming protein and energy following the workout. Whether that’s an hour to 3 hours that’s probably advantageous. I’ve heard of people waking themselves up and eating well just before turning in. But catabolism may be part of the overall process. The idea of looking for the magic bullet…maybe here isn’t anything. You can do very well with eating a variety of foods, a lot of foods, and training hard.
MM: That echoes what both the country’s leading strength trainer, Boyd Epley from Nebraska, and a very successful top-level contender, Shawn Ray say: Shawn says that simply by being in close contact with his body —the internal feedback he receives and is sensitized to —that he has an almost instinctual awareness of what’s going on, and what his needs are.
Dr. Lemon: Perhaps it’s a lot simpler than we think.
WHY WHEY? SOY IN YOUR FACE!
Written by Derek Cornelius
You’re probably asking, “What the heck does he mean by that?” The title will become evident once you see the big picture of what is going on in the supplement industry regarding protein powders. Do you remember many years ago, when weight gainers were the big thing and protein powders were out? Then, in like a storm, came the low calorie weight gainers (yeah, right!), the criticizing of the high calorie diet, and the inundation of whey protein. These marketing cycles are easy to discern:: promote something, then dispel it, promote it again, then dispel it. This way, the supplement companies always have something “new” to bring to the market. (This cycling prompts me to predict that very shortly there will be resurgence in the high calorie diet. It might be slightly modified, but a high calorie diet nonetheless. Why recycle this disaster? Most supplement companies do not really care what the truth about supplements is — they will promote only what is “hot” and is making money. And it’s time for another new product).
Back to protein powders: Is whey really better? Are you getting what you pay for? Studies have been done to assess any differences in weight gain between individuals supplementing with whey protein, soy protein, or egg protein. SURPRISE, SURPRISE! There were no differences whatsoever (statistically speaking) between the effectiveness of the proteins. Remember, all 3 of these proteins are designed to stimulate growth, albeit in chicks, calves, etc.
So, is one really better than another? Whey proponents point to a variety of its advantages: 1) It has an ultra high BV (biological value), exceeding, by far, every other protein. One manufacturer claims that their protein has a BV of 168 — over 50% better than egg protein! 2) Some companies also claim that their whey protein is special because it has di- and tri- peptides. They claim that these peptides enhance the immune system, and help to greatly increase the BV of the protein. 3) Another claim is that whey contains certain specific peptides that greatly enhance the immune system. 4) Finally, it is claimed that whey has a significantly higher amount of glutamine and the anti-catabolic branched chain amino acids than any other protein.
Are any of the above statements regarding whey protein true? Yes, but just one. If processed correctly, whey will have small amounts of peptides (lactoferrin, lactoperoxidase, immunoglobulin, etc.) that definitely enhance the immune system. These peptides are NATURALLY OCCURRING and are not created by hydrolyzing the protein (breaking large peptides into smaller ones). Many studies have been completed regarding the effect of whey on the immune system and it is generally recognized in the scientific community that whey positively stimulates the immune system.
But the di- and tri- peptides that you’re continually hearing about regarding whey, however, have nothing to do with these naturally occurring peptides. If processed using low heat, any type of whey, including sweet whey (which is basically unprocessed), will have these naturally occurring peptides. A hydrolyzed whey can have di- and tri- peptides, but these do nothing for the immune system, are not naturally occurring, and are basically worthless to the bodybuilder! Virtually unmentioned in all the hype, whey also has been shown to have a positive effect on a person’s cholesterol and triglyceride profile. With long-term use, characteristics like this become very important benefits of supplementing with a particular protein. (As a note, several studies have shown casein to have a negative impact on a person’s cholesterol profile!)
Now let’s consider the other claims about whey: The ultra-high BV, the di- and tri- peptides, and statements about glutamine and BCAAs. This is where it gets interesting, and where the public is being deceived and manipulated. I have researched this topic rather thoroughly and have talked to experts in the field who work for the companies which manufacture and process the raw, bulk products. I have questioned several experts as to the quality of the various proteins and have found a few interesting facts. First and foremost, BV and PER are OUTDATED. The newest and most accurate measurement of a protein’s quality for a HUMAN is the PDCAAS, the Protein Digestibility Corrected Amino Acid Score. It’s a mouthful, and yet it’s an excellent industry standard.
According to this scale, whey is not necessarily the “best” protein. In fact, casein, egg, soy, and whey are all considered a “one” (top score) on this scale. Does this mean that all of the above proteins are equal? Not at all (and we’ll get into the pros and cons of each protein later in the article). What it does mean is that all of the above-mentioned proteins will supply the BASIC BUILDING BLOCKS for proteinaceous tissue growth and recuperation as well as the next one. I also inquired about hydrolyzation (breaking the proteins into smaller fractions like “di and tri peptides”). What I found was that the hydrolyzed product caused less nitrogen retention than a similar non-hydrolyzed whey. As a note: The hydrolyzed product that I inquired about was reputed to be the best in the industry, with a 27% hydrolyzation, no bitter taste, and a cost from the manufacturer of greater than $8.00 per pound!
Consider this and you’ll quickly realize that many supplement companies (who don’t actually manufacture the whey, but buy the raw product from a converter) are telling some “fibs” about whey protein. For example, a BV of 168 is absolutely ludicrous. Whey manufacturers sometimes still use BV and almost always rate whey protein as a 94 BV! Thus, when you see this 168 BV listed on the label of several manufacturers’ whey protein, just turn your head, know you’re being scammed, and absolutely don’t buy!
If it doesn’t further increase nitrogen retention, then what’s the point including and mentioning di- and tri- peptides? There IS a good reason for hydrolyzing a protein and having short peptides, but it has nothing to do with BV/nitrogen retention. Instead, it has everything to do with how fast and easy the product is absorbed in the gut. Regular, undigested whey will be broken down into di- and tri- peptides via enzymes in a person’s gut, and will be absorbed as such; but the whole process just takes a little longer. Hydrolyzed products are basically only useful in baby food or hospital situations where a person’s digestive system is not functioning optimally, or when protein delivery is needed very quickly.
Is there any benefit to the bodybuilder in using a hydrolyzed product? To tell you the truth, I would have to say NO, except possibly for the benefit of having a quickly absorbed protein immediately after a workout to ensure the muscle tissue is flooded with nutrients in a timely manner. Finally, the cost of hydrolyzed whey is outrageous, and its taste (except that one top notch product) is usually absolutely horrible. Trust me: if you’re trying to induce vomiting, just take a little hydrolyzed whey protein!
Isn’t the claim true about whey having significantly higher amounts of glutamine and BCAAs? Sorry, but NO! Whey does have the highest amounts of BCAAs of any protein, but it does not contain significantly higher amounts. When it comes to the amounts of glutamine, soy beats whey hands down. For every 100 grams of protein, whey has 20.1 grams of BCAAs and 4.9 grams of glutamine. Perhaps to your surprise, soy has 18.1 grams of BCAAs and a whopping 10.5 grams of glutamine! Again, we have been lied to, and deceived. Of course it’s not hard to figure out why when you consider that soy isolate is no more than one quarter the cost of a whey isolate. I think I am going to vomit (too much hydrolyzed whey!!!!!!)
Okay. You’re asking, “C’mon Derek, what does all of this mean to us bodybuilders?” I’ll tell you: You’re being ripped off ROYALLY! Most companies are selling whey protein concentrate (WPC) and saying that their product is ion-exchange, etc, etc. Let me explain a few more details. Ion exchange really doesn’t mean anything in terms of the quality of the protein powder as a whole! Any high quality, pure protein will be labeled an ISOLATE and this is what you MUST look for. A true ion-exchange process CAN yield a good isolate but it is by far not the only process around in order to get a superior whey protein. An isolate will have very little fat and lactose, and will be about 90% protein (the protein fractions are “isolated” from the rest of the material). On the other hand, a WPC is vastly inferior, with about 7% fat and lactose, and only 75% protein (The protein in WPC is usually pretty good but who wants to deal with all of the fat and lactose?) Interestingly, WPC costs less than half of what an isolate costs. Unfortunately, both products look and taste about the same, so it becomes very hard to know what you have. Basically, you have to trust the manufacturer (supplement company) of the particular product.
Here’s the picture-the industry through various articles in muscle magazines touts the benefits and characteristics of a whey protein ISOLATE and turns around and uses a CONCENTRATE. Tell me, who’s the wiser? The supplement companies, that’s who, and they’re a whole lot richer to boot! Some manufacturers will put 98% WPC in their product and then put in 1% of a hydrolyzed product (remember this tastes horrible!) and 1% of an isolate. Then, they can legally claim all types of stuff on their label-di and tri peptides, ion-exchange, blah, blah, blah! Some of you guys are probably getting a little angry and are asking what can be done. To start, read the ingredient list very carefully. Look for the terms WPC, Isolate, Hydrolyzed, etc. Also, look at the nutritional specs. A true, high quality protein will have just about zero fat and carbohydrates per serving. If it has even one or 2 grams of fat or carbs per serving then you know you may have been had with a WPC. (Editor’s note: Of course, you really do have to look at the label closely: If a manufacturer has included fructose, a fairly expensive complex fruit sugar that assists in absorption through the slow release of insulin, you’ll find some carbs). To make matters worse, experts in the field have told me that they have first hand evidence of supplement companies totally mislabeling their product. If you purchase a product through a retail outlet then all I can say is GOOD LUCK!
What about the other available proteins — egg, casein, and soy? How do these compare? First, let me state that all of the above proteins are decent if processed correctly. Each will provide the body very efficiently with the protein that it “needs”. Before you say it, I know your response-“That’s all wonderful, but what is the best protein for me, a bodybuilder/weightlifter?” If you were to use any ONE protein source then I would have to say that it’s a toss up between a soy isolate and a whey ISOLATE. WPC provides a good protein; however the accompanying fat and carbs is something you do not want. If I had my choice, I would pick a soy isolate. A soy isolate is VERY cheap, has the highest score on the PCDAAS, is very soluble if instantized, is extremely bland (a good thing), IMPROVES kidney function (unlike any other protein), is anticarcinogenic, is anti-estrogenic, lowers LDL (bad) and raises HDL (good) cholesterol, IMPROVES THYROID FUNCTION, etc, etc-the list goes on and on. I would definitely stay away from casein and egg-white. Casein has been shown to have detrimental effects on a person’s cholesterol profile and egg-white protein tastes poorly, is expensive, and consists of about 10% carbohydrates. I would have to say that the way to go is a 50/50 mixture of a whey protein ISOLATE and a soy protein isolate. Both of these proteins have certain characteristics that the other one doesn’t. By combining the 2, a product could be developed that was very moderately priced with the highest PDCAAS score, with no carbs or fats, with a significant amount of glutamine and BCAAs, with immune stimulating, naturally occurring peptides, with anticarcinogenic properties, with anti-estrogenic qualities, which improves kidney function, which stimulates thyroid function (significantly), and which mixes instantly and tastes great. Tell me, how can this be beat? Unfortunately, at this time, there is no such animal in the protein supplementation market.
As a final note, please be sure that any protein you purchase is instantized. This means that the protein will mix easily into a liquid like milk without clumping and sitting on top. Instantization is worth its weight in gold as it prevents one from having to use a blender in order to dissolve the protein into the liquid.
Manufacturers/processors use 2 methods to instantize. One is agglomeration which is the process of creating larger and more irregular shaped particles. This will allow the liquid to “penetrate” the protein powder, thus preventing clumping. The other method is to lecithinate the powder. With this process, lecithin is sprayed onto the particles of protein. Lecithin, being an outstanding emulsifier, will greatly decrease the surface tension between the liquid and the protein, thus allowing the protein to easily dissolve. The best products on the market are both agglomerated and lecithinated.
I can’t stress enough that everyone NEEDS to read the nutritional specifications on the back of the label. This is where you can decipher (hopefully, if it’s truthful) if the product is a WPC or an isolate. From what I have seen, whey isolates will sell for $40.00 or more retail for a kilogram(about 2 pounds). I truly believe that with all of the scamming going on right now in the whey market, I would be inclined to purchase an instantized soy protein isolate. Right now, soy protein is “out” with very few claims about it. I believe, at this time, you have a better chance of getting what you pay for with soy than with whey. Currently, Syntrax Innovations carries the only totally instantized soy ISOLATE in the industry. It is agglomerated and lecithinated, tastes great, and is naturally sweetened. (You can contact this company by calling (888) 321-BFIT or go to their website at www.syntrax.com).
An Interview with Scott Murdoch, Ph.D., R.D.
Scott Murdoch, Ph.D., R.D. is professor of nutrition at Bastyr University in Seattle, Washington, a naturopathic physician training university, and a widely respected expert in the field of applied athletic nutrition. In this interview, Dr. Murdoch answers questions regarding protein utilization and maximization posed by max Muscle editor Mike Falcon. Dr. Murdoch’s responses represent a consistent, strong, and rational voice for The Protein Bible, Book I.
MM: One of the precursors of this interview was seeing Peter Lemon’s research about recommended protein intake (see Lemon interview, page 60). In looking over a variety of articles in a number of journals, it seem to me that his work is often used and applied selectively: Whatever the argument, Lemon’s works would be bent to accommodate the writer’s beliefs…
Murdoch: He’s one of the top researchers in the field.
How Much Protein per Meal?
MM: Which would explain why someone would want to pull him into their theses. But I’ve seen a range of figures — both high and low — that tax my imagination: Even Lemon can’t figure out where they come from, but the most interesting is how much protein you can ingest at one sitting that can be assimilated. I keep hearing ranges from 25 to 42 grams per meal. Lemon wasn’t familiar with the research, such as it may be, but guessed that it was based on mathematical models, taking daily protein use “backwards.” Most of the studies I’ve seen are in vitro (test tube, in aqueous solution) studies. The variables that other researchers say make this a difficult number to pin down include the various sizes of people, their ability to produce the digestive enzymes, their own unique profiles, and whether or not they attenuate or increase their ability to digest after exposure to large amounts of protein over a period of time.
Murdoch: I’ve never actually even heard a recommendation about how much protein a person can take in, in one sitting. We usually wrestle with the broader question of how much protein a person should take in, in one day, and then making the decision on how an athlete is going to get that protein and what kind of meal scheduling or snack scheduling or supplement snack scheduling, etc. It is so individualistic because of all the variables that depend on so many different factors that it would be a long stretch to even make a recommendation for a per-meal sitting as far as I’m concerned.
MM: Virtually all the studies I’ve seen have been in vitro (test tube, aqueous solution), which makes this even a greater stretch.
Murdoch: There are in vivo (in the person) studies, but not a lot. There are several ways to go about this. Your can do nitrogen balance studies, isotope labeling of certain amino acids, and both are good ways of beginning to answer the question. A lot of them have been done in animals and to extrapolate them to human use have some limitations. But the thing that’s most difficult to categorize is the status of the individual. For example, in a number of nutrients the rate of absorption depends on the individual’s state. In an extreme example, take iron absorption; it can increase 3 times or more its normal amount just by an individual being iron-deficient. And protein is at least in that category, and even more variable.
MM: That analogy seems even more appropriate when we saw that it appears that individuals who were not used to taking in large amounts of protein were more effective in utilizing it.
Murdoch: There’s another primary issue, which is to come to some agreement about how much protein an elite bodybuilder should be taking in the first place. And those amounts shouldn’t necessarily be more than 1.8 grams of protein per kilogram of bodyweight per day. I think the consensus is that here’s a range for athletes of 1.2 to 1.8 grams per day (per kilogram of bodyweight). So when you see an athlete taking in more than 2.5 or even 3 grams per kilo you’re talking about a group that’s taking in much more protein than they could ever synthesize as lean body tissue.
So you have 2 questions going on: 1) Is it all being absorbed or is some of it going out through the stool; 2) If it is all being absorbed then I guarantee you the excess is going out in the urine. So, what you have is a detrimental situation for these athletes, because all that extra amino acid cannot be stores. There are small pools that can be stored, but not large amounts. As a result it’s very toxic and they have to get rid of it. It’s unlike any of the other macro-nutrients; they have to get rid of that nitrogen waste product. If they don’t get rid of it they’ll run into all kinds of problems down the road. They’ll stress their body’s functioning capacity which could be detrimental to their performance if there’s an exercise component to the outcome.
Anabolic Steroids & Protein Assimilation
MM: What about athletes who have shortened their recovery times through androgens, prohormones, or straight-out anabolic steroids?
Murdoch: If you take a look at the body of nitrogen balance studies —and granted the ones that have been done have not death with individuals who have been in a completely anabolic state cause by anabolic steroids — those are often less than 1.8 grams. Your question’s a good one: how much more synthesis could occur? I would be surprised if it were significantly more than 1.8.
MM: What are the caps on this process that would indicate that as the maximum?
Murdoch: For me, there are 2 things. One is taking a look at the nitrogen body studies of elite bodybuilders. Say there were 12 bodybuilders in the study. How many were in positive nitrogen balance and how many were in negative nitrogen balance, and you typically find that the majority are in nitrogen balance with much less than 1.8. That’s the first thing. That range of 1.2 to 1.8 is the ends of the spectrum; in other words, to use more than 1.8, there has to be something very unusual going on in that individual. The second reason I say that, is that the physiologically the amount of protein synthesis that can occur over that seems to be pushing the physiological envelope. It seems very difficult, if not impossible, to get protein synthesis to stay higher than 1.8 pg/k for a long period of time. I’m not sure what the advantage would be, other than having some sort of enormous anabolic jolt where the individual has to eventually come back down to some form of homeostasis, and they won’t be able to maintain it.
Staving Off Catabolism
MM: Peter Lemon said pretty much the same thing: I think what happens, when bodybuilders take massive amounts of protein, is that they’re hoping — as they do with many of the things they ingest — to stave off catabolism. They arise at 2 or 3 in the morning to take a protein shake.
Murdoch: The irony of that is that the best way to stave off catabolism of their lean body tissue is to eat carbohydrate foods.
MM: But, of course as bodybuilders approach contest time, carb becomes a 4-letter word. We’re also seeing immune system compromises in bodybuilders that seem to be pretty severe.
Murdoch: That makes sense to me too, Think of the body’s systems that are being stressed by that protein intake.
MM: What happens when excess protein is ingested?
Murdoch: Revisit with me how protein gets broken down. The cycle at first creates ammonia; that’s the nitrogenous waste product from the amino acids. The protein gets broken down into the amino acids; the amino acids have to get dealt with. They’re either utilized or they have to be broken down to nitrogenous groups that’s turned into ammonia. Our bodies can’t handle ammonia so we have a cycle called a ureaic cycle, and it turns that ammonia very quickly into urea, or urine that gets very quickly excreted. So if you have a large amount of protein that’s not being utilized then you have a large amount of urea, which is itself toxic. So the body tries to get rid of it, which causes a diuretic effect, which in many bodybuilders’ eyes is a desirable thing. They’re losing water so they look tighter, but they’re losing electrolytes as well, and run the risk of having electrolyte deficiencies, which can cause all sorts of problems. One of the most severe would be arrhythmia in the heart. On top of that you’re stressing the liver, which is trying to deal with this nitrogenous waste group. The liver is being taxed greatly, as are the kidneys.
MM (Wells): A lot of guys will put themselves into what they call depletion, running down their carbs until where they’re eating virtually nothing but protein. Then , when they eat carbs again to cause a rebound effect and cause the glycogen to load more fully. Some of these run 3 or 4 days, which is considered safe, but others will go 3 or 4 weeks.
Murdoch: Let me couch that in an area I’m really comfortable with. You’re talking about glycogen super-compensation or glycogen loading. A lot of endurance athletes used to do that. They’d do that until 3 days before the event and then they’d ingest massive quantities of carbohydrates to get that rebound or super-compensation of muscle glycogen levels, so they’d be able to last longer in the event. What the research has shown nicely from muscle biopsies and computer manipulation of that routine, is that in order to get the muscle carbohydrate level very high they don’t have to go through the deletion phase. If they just managed to increase the total amount of carbohydrate in their diet they can get muscle glycogen concentrations up to the same levels as they were producing in the traditional muscle glycogen loading techniques.
MM: Then the rebound effect is somewhat untrue.
Murdoch: Well, it’s not really untrue. You will get more than if you didn’t either increase the amount of carbohydrates after the depletion phase, or just increase the amount of carbohydrates above your normal amounts anyway. It’s not untrue that super-compensation does occur; it is, however, untrue that it’s the only way to do it. Another point I’d like to make is that they found that individuals did this 4 or 5 times, the body got “wise” to it. They found that athletes were not able to get their glycogen levels as high as when they first did that. There is a potential problem in that this type of very extreme cycling has made the body a little bit more leery about super-compensating than just taking in more carbohydrates and exercising. That only speaks to endurance, which is a far different goal, however. It’s a functional power outcome. They can be very different goals.
MM: I’ve noticed, from my own experience, that when I go high protein it seems like the bodyfat burns faster. Let’s say you eat a giant T-bone steak and you can only use 40 or so grams of protein, leaving you another 60 grams unused. But does that unused protein have any caloric value?
Murdoch: In order for your body to break those amino acids down, it actually cleaves the other components that are energetic in there. Nitrogen doesn’t have any caloric value in and of itself. It’s the carbons and the hydrogen that do, and the process of creating ammonia in urea is really just a process of removing the nitrogen. So you still have all the calories. What you’re doing is excreting the toxic portion of this molecule that’s been created; this nitrogenous group. I disagree with the individuals who say I feel like I burn more fat. You may note that you have changes going on, but I don’t believe those changes are a burning of fat. I believe those changes are misinterpreted, and that what you’re losing is the diuretic effect of eating a lot of protein. You lose something, because you feel it, but what you’re losing is not fat. In fact it’s physiologically impossible to determine any loss of adipose tissue in a 2-week period, because the most you could lose under most circumstances would be 3000 to 4000 calories worth of pure adipose tissue, which would be about a pound. But it’s always a mixture of other endogenous fuels.
MM: We know some guys, who as contest time come closer, the fats are nothing, the carbs go down to nothing, and the protein goes up to 700 or 800 grams a day. Their thinking goes something like this: if my body’s going to burn fuel, it’ll be excess protein which takes more energy — stored fat — to burn.
Murdoch: It’s a mixed up point of view. The health cost is too high from a health perspective, even if the people don’t care about it in the short term. If the greatest concern is metabolic catabolism, then carbohydrates stave off the process, even in lower amounts of protein intake than we’ve talked about. It’s not understanding the relationship.
MM: Peter Lemon had a though, that staving off catabolism may not be wise, because the body has a wisdom about it, and that this sort of tidal effect may be the signal that starts the body to grow again.
Murdoch: Interesting view. But the funny thing is that when you’re working out hard in the gym you’re in the gym they believe they’re in a catabolic state, breaking down tissue. There’s such a focused examination of protein that what would help more is to understand the relationship between carbohydrates, fats and protein.
MM: What, then, should they understand and alter?
Murdoch: they should keep their protein intake to no higher than 1.8 grams of protein per pound of bodyweight. And they should make sure they’re getting enough calories. Not just protein calories, but calories from carbohydrates, if not fats. Carbohydrates are not all the same; some have a high glycemic response and some low. The bodybuilder would want low glycemic response, as from beans and lentils.
MM: But what about insulin manipulation, using very high glycemic index foods and complex carbohydrates and get the body ti secrete large amounts of insulin, to help protein utilization.
Murdoch: There’s no question that insulin’s anabolic in nature, and forces fuel into the cells. It’s true for glucose and it’s true for other things as well. Even protein causes the release of insulin. But there’s a point at which you don’t need that. In exercise, you don’t need the same amount of insulin going through the blood in order to get the cells to pull in the same amount of glucose. We look at runners who have been running and we feed them a carbohydrate drink and they don’t have an increase in insulin, and yet the amount of glucose that goes into the cell is effected by and generated by the need of the cell, not the mechanism of insulin. There are 2 ways to look at it: insulin can either become more sensitive in smaller amounts, or/and the cell is really triggering the increase of glucose uptake. But you don’t want that massive anabolic effect of insulin, because you don’t need it and it’s desensitizing the normal relation that goes on to deal with all the other metabolic processes that go ion in the body. It’s super-overkill.
MM: Let’s revisit protein as an insulin releaser.
Murdoch: It depends on the food and the amounts. But what’s interesting is that it tends to create the release of glucagon, which has a little more balanced release of these regulatory hormones,. Whereas foods that are high glycemic in nature will cause a very large of release of insulin and none of glucagon.
MM: What about that range of protein, from 1.2 to 1.8 pg/k?
Murdoch: Based on elite athletes at the top…
MM: What about when they should take this?
Murdoch: Different protein containing foods have different digestibility, I mean the amount of the protein food that gets broken up and ultimately absorbed.
MM: Does that have something to do with the BV rating?
Murdoch: There are a few different measures, but digestibility is a good one. Most are 90% or above. Animal sources are pretty high, but there are some plant sources that are high too. The debate is that if it’s 90%, is it really significant? I think it only become significant in people who are starving. Those individuals are really looking for every extra gram they get, but I don’t think it’s significant for individuals consuming over 100 grams of protein a day. You’re talking about the difference between 180 and 160 grams of protein, as an example.
MM: What’s a safe assumption for breaking daily protein down into meals?
Murdoch: When it’s all said and done, it doesn’t make a lot of difference. I know that’s not what you want to hear, because your readers are looking for an edge, even one or 2 percent. But the truth is you have such a high rate of digestibility with the majority of proteins anyway; if, for example I broke it into 5 different sittings than 3 meal sittings, am I going to be extracting more protein out of there? You might or might not be; let’s say you get an additional 2 percent, because you’ve already got an enormous digestibility percentage anyway, but what does that mean? That means you have an additional 2 percent available to do something, and the truth of the matter is that you’re eating more protein in the first place. It’s kind of a different emphasis, because the emphasis now is to cut down on protein and put in some foods and macro nutrients that furnish the calories because they aren’t so toxic.
Everything You Wanted To Know About Protein But Were Afraid to Ask
by Dr. Lester L. Lee
Dr. Lester L. Lee, Pharm D., M.D., and a Diplomate of the American Board of Sports medicine and, is a monthly contributor to Max Muscle. As a medical advisor to the U.S. Olympic Committee, and a member of their testing procedures team, he is at the forefront of sports medicine and regularly treats and advises world-class athletes, from bodybuilding to volleyball. He is a principal in Arista Medical in Huntington Beach, California.
Question #1: I’ve heard that your stomach should be empty before you eat again so that digestive enzymes have a full change to replenish. Is that true? How does protein actually get digested and turn into muscle? In answer to the first part of question #1 — not true. In answer to the second part of your question, a bit of discussion on protein and amino acids is in order. Amino acids are the chemical units or “building blocks” that make up proteins. Proteins are a necessary part of every living cell in the body. The enzymes and hormones that catalyze and regulate all bodily processes are proteins. Proteins help to regulate the body water balance and maintain a proper internal pH. Proteins are chained amino acids linked together by what are called peptide bonds. Each individual type of protein is composed of a specific group of amino acids in a specific chemical arrangement. It is the particular amino acids present and the way in which they are linked together in sequence that gives the proteins that make up the various tissues their unique functions and characters.
The proteins that make up the human body are not obtained directly from the diet. Rather, dietary protein is broken down into its constituent amino acids, which the body then uses to build the specific protein that it needs. Thus, it is the amino acids rather than protein that are the essential nutrients. Processes of assembling amino acids to make proteins, and breaking down proteins into individual amino acids for the body to use, are continuous ones. When we need more enzyme proteins, the body produces more enzyme proteins; when we need more cells, the body produces more proteins for cells. These different types of proteins are produced as the need arises.
There are approximately 28 commonly known amino acids that are combined in various ways to create the hundreds of different types of proteins present in all living things. In the human body, the liver produces about 80% of the amino acids needed. The remaining 20% must be obtained from the diet. These are called the “essential amino acids.” The nonessential amino acids can be manufactured in the body from other amino acids obtained from dietary sources. The fact that they are termed “nonessential” does not mean they are not necessary, only that they need not be obtained through diet because the body can manufacture them as needed. Proteins are digested by multiple enzymes in the intestine and are converted to muscle tissue by process that will be discussed in the following question.
Question #2: Does taking testosterone boosters make more protein get absorbed?Consuming testosterone enhancers or boosters does not actually enhance the absorption of protein. Testosterone is the primary sex hormone found in men. It is produced primarily by the testes and controls a great number of metabolic functions. It is an androgen, which stimulates growth and tissues in which it acts, one of them being muscle. Testosterone has anabolic and androgenic affects. The anabolic effects are isolated to be the ones which affect muscle tissue directly.
The steroid testosterone exists as a molecule being carried through the entire body via the blood stream. The steroid molecules exist in the blood along with countless others, all of them have a message to deliver. Each message is meant to be delivered to specific areas. These areas have receptor sites for that certain molecule. Sites that get a message from a steroid molecule include: Skeletal muscles cells, hair follicles, sebaceous glands, certain areas of the brain, and certain endocrine glands. In other words, these areas have an affinity for the steroid molecule. Once a receptor steroid complex is formed, it travels to the center of the cell or the nucleus. It then binds to nuclear DNA, (the deoxyribonucleic acid) and the process of transcription is amplified. As a result of this process, messenger RNA (ribonucleic acid) that has been formed, leaves the nucleus and binds to RNA in the cytoplasm of the cell and transcription of messenger RNA takes place, allowing for protein synthesis to occur. This increase in protein synthesis provides protein molecules which are then used to increase the size and strength of a skeletal muscle cell. The skeletal muscle now exists in an enhanced state, above its maintenance level. To maintain its condition, pure stimulation (resistance training) of the muscles similar to that which originally allowed the muscle to grow is required.
The cycle of protein in the body is constantly revolving. The amount of protein synthesized is roughly equal to the amount broken down which creates the metabolic process of renewing old tissue. Enhanced/elevated levels of testosterone override this principal and make it possible for the muscle to exist in an enhanced state for prolonged periods of time.
Another process that occurs with elevated levels of testosterone is its influence on muscle cells, and that is of increased nitrogen retention of the muscle. Nitrogen is a component of protein. When more nitrogen is being held than released by the muscle, it is then a positive nitrogen balance state. This condition is synonymous with enhanced muscle growth. This retention of nitrogen is actually a sign that muscle tissue is being deposited.
Question #3: I know that some bodybuilders eat late at night, but they take only protein powder and water. Sometimes they even get up in the middle of the night to eat protein. What are the reasons for this? The harder and more intensely you train, the more important dietary protein becomes to maximize the muscle/building process. For the intense bodybuilder/weight lifter, I recommend a protein intake of 2 grams per kilogram of quality protein per day. In other words, if you weigh 220 pounds (100 kilograms) your protein needs would be upwards of 200 grams of protein per day, in 5 or 6 divided doses.
In addition to providing muscles with the important amino acids for growth, protein also has a significant effect on insulin stability and energy levels. If you consume protein with each meal, your body sugar level will fluctuate far less. Not only does this factor aid in controlling your appetite, it also provides a consistent environment for greater fat loss. It is a well documented fact that consuming diets too high in carbohydrates causes blood sugar levels to constantly fluctuate. Part of this has to do with the fact that there are certain amino acids and protein in carbohydrate foods that act as “mood altering” neurotransmitters, specifically tryptophan and tyrosine.
It is extremely impractical to consume large quantities of protein from whole-food sources for a multitude of reasons (guess them). In order to consume 200 or more grams of whole-food protein a day, one would have to be consuming large quantities of meat hourly. Not only is this impractical and inconvenient, it would also churn your stomach. Also, to consume that great proportion of meat would produce a significant amount of residue in your colon (i.e. poop). On a gram-per-gram basis, protein powders are far less expensive than meat.
Not having an abundant supply of all of the important amino acids during the post-workout recovery period could cripple ones body ability to recover and grow. A good time to have a protein supplement is late in the evening. Consuming a late night or early morning protein drink significantly improves protein metabolism and aides in preventing the protein breakdown that occurs naturally while you sleep. Scientific evidence supports the fact that maintaining high levels of branch chain amino acids (as found in whey protein) in the bloodstream actually prevents a large percentage of typical overnight protein breakdown (catabolism). This cycle of feeding (during the daytime) and fasting (at night while one slumbers) results in gains and losses of body protein. For bodybuilders, this natural building up and taking down process is counterproductive to muscle development. For the “compulsive” bodybuilder, consuming protein before you sleep, as soon as you wake up, and even in the middle of night is a possible mechanism of retarding protein wasting.
When taking amino acids individually for healing purposes, take them on an empty stomach to avoid making them compete for absorption with amino acids present in foods. When taking individual amino acids, it is best to take them in the morning or between meals, with small amounts of vitamin B6 and vitamin C to enhance absorption. When taking an amino acid complex that includes all of the essential amino acids, it is best to take it one-half hour away from a meal, either before or after.
Question #4: I’m a vegetarian and I keep on seeing all sorts of information about amino acids balancing. Do I want to take into a combination of vegetable protein sources to create some sort of balance? Is the goal the same balance of amino acids we have in our muscles? Vegetarians, especially vegans, would be wise to take a form containing all of the essential acids to ensure that their protein requirements are met. Current research supports the notion that by eating a variety of legumes (nuts), as well as all other food groups throughout the day, one can obtain the full array of essential amino acids required for efficient protein metabolism.
A complete protein provides the proper balance of all 8 essential amino acids that build tissue and are found in foods of animal origin such as cheese, poultry, meat, eggs and seafood. Incomplete protein lacks one or more of the essential amino acids; foods such as seeds, nuts, grains, beans and some vegetables are in this category.
Soybeans, however, do contain all of the essential amino acids and are recognized as a complete protein. There are some advantages and disadvantages with soybeans as your source of protein. They have a significant amount of fat, though it is mostly unsaturated. Soybeans, are a good source of omega-3 fatty acids which have been shown to help reduce breast cancer and prostate cancer as well as being a good source of fiber. The disadvantages arise when comparing the biological value of protein sources. Not all proteins are created equal. Scientists measure the quality of a protein by subtracting the amount of protein lost in urine and feces from the amount consumed. The remainder of the protein is retained by the body and then can be used for muscle and connective tissue development, enzyme formation, and nutrient storage among other purposes. This measurement is described as the biological value of the protein. When this form of measurement first began, the whole egg was at the top of the chart with a value of 100, thus, all other proteins fell below this core. With the present day technology of high quality whey protein such as Max Whey protein, scores over the 100 mark have been achieved. So vegetarians need to consume a wide variety of vegetable and whole grain sources to complete all of the essential amino acid requirements.
Question #5: Nobody seems to be drinking milk anymore at my gym. Not even skim milk. Isn’t non-fat milk one of the best protein sources? Why don’t guys at my gym want to drink milk? Milk (lactose) is very difficult to digest. For those individuals who lack the enzyme lactase, milk and milk by-products can lead to gastrointestinal disturbances such as flatulence, nausea, vomiting and diarrhea. With the wide array of quality proteins now on the market, it is much simpler to consume a higher quality protein that is easier on the digestive system. Also, as previously noted on the biological value of protein chart, cows milk has an BV value of 91 and casein only has a BV value of 77. With the present day technology of high quality whey protein and protein isolate blends, it is much more convenient if not efficient to consume a protein drink.
Question #6: I want to take in a lot more protein than I have been, but I can’t eat 6 meals a day because of my work schedule. Can I eat larger meals and take digestive enzymes instead? Please refer to my discussion in question #3.
Question #7: Is there any advantage to animal-based proteins like whey or egg over vegetable- based proteins like soy and wheat? Please refer to my discussion to question #4 above. As I mentioned previously, vegetarians need to consume a wide variety of all vegetable and whole grain sources to complete their essential amino acid requirements. For example, if an athlete chooses a complete protein of soy products, taking into the consideration of a biological values of only 74 or only 54 in the case of wheat, the athlete must consume a far greater amount of vegetable protein to equal the benefits of animal protein. The unfortunate consequence of this diet, is the athlete now runs into the problem of too much starchy carbohydrates and fat in the diet. This leads to too much bulk and residue produced in the digestive system.
Question #8: Do women absorb or use protein differently than men? Do they need the same amount of protein as men do? Male and female athletes utilize and absorb protein in a similar fashion. The efficiency of protein as an “anabolic agent” is determined by testosterone, either endogenously (produce your own) or pharmacologically enhanced. This question was partially answered as in my discussion in question #2 above. Building muscle requires a vigorous strength training program. It takes tremendous energy to feed this type of exercise. A high-carbohydrate diet allows for the greatest recovery of muscle glycogen stored on a daily basis, enabling the muscles to work equally hard on successive days. Furthermore, studies done with strength-trained athletes such as wrestlers and power lifters have shown that subjects who consume a hypo energetic high-carbohydrate diet are better able to maintain exercise performance than athletes consuming hypo energetic moderate-carbohydrate diet.
Many athletes assume that protein is the most important nutrient for accrual of muscle mass; however, we often lose site that the best way to accumulate protein is to simply increase energy intake (carbohydrates). For any given protein intake, increasing total energy intake will improve nitrogen retention. When energy is performed, the improvement in nitrogen retention is accomplished by increasing energy intake is magnified. Conversely, if energy is not supplied in adequate amounts, the protein consumed will be used as an energy source, and not as a means of increasing muscle mass. Energy and protein intake interact such that protein needs are greater when energy intake is reduced.
Do women need the same amount of protein as men do? This depends on the woman’s physical or metabolic needs. If individuals who have higher protein needs because they are growing, e.g., children, adolescence, and/or women who are pregnant; or those whose diets may be inadequate, e.g., dieters, vegetarians and/or the elderly, begin a regular exercise program, an even greater intake of protein may be necessary.
Question #9: I’m 50 years old but still workout regularly. Do I have different protein needs than younger men? If so, how do they differ? Assuming that there is no compromise to either the kidney or liver systems of either work out groups, protein requirements for athletes in both age groups if they are working out intensively is the same.
Question #10: Can I use protein for energy? What happens if I cut my fats and carbs to nothing. In response to the first part of the question, why would you want to? Not only would utilizing protein as a sole source of energy contribute to muscle wasting, but also would place you into a ketotic state (acidosis). If I were to ask a number of world experts in the area of exercise physiology what the single most important nutritional factor affecting muscle gain would be? The answer: Total dietary energy, specifically carbohydrate energy (i.e., Carbomax). As I discussed in question #8 above, it takes a tremendous amount of energy to fuel muscle growth. A high-carbohydrate diet allows for the greatest recovery of muscle glycogen stored on a daily basis. The best way to accumulate protein is to simply increase energy intake. Again, for any given protein intake, increasing total energy intake will improve significantly nitrogen retention. If energy is not supplied in adequate amounts, the protein consumed will be used as an energy source, and not as a means of increasing muscle mass. Branch chain amino acids (valine, leucine, isoleucine) are used directly for fuel by muscles, and that may spare other amino acids from being catabolized. However, this is not an effective nor efficient way of utilizing branch chain amino acids.
Significantly decreasing fats and carbohydrates in diet have traditionally been utilized by bodybuilders before a contest. This aids in obtaining the hard “cut” look, since fats and carbohydrates tend to be hygroscopic (water retaining); however, this diet approach is only performed a short time prior to the contest.