High Protein Diets

How Much Protein

The high protein diet has become as popular in the mainstream media as it is in the fitness media. It used to be only bodybuilders, sports athletes, and weight lifters who consumed a high protein diet, but now it seems to be all the rage for anyone looking to build muscle, lose fat, or for general fitness and health.

So what exactly is a high protein diet? Well basically it’s a purposeful decision to increase the amount of protein containing foods you eat every day. Dairy products, Lean Meats, eggs, nuts and protein supplements are examples of high protein foods that people would eat on a high protein diet.

The basic premise behind a high protein diet is maintaining a high intake of dietary protein combined with reduced intake of carbohydrates or fats, or a reduction in the intake of both carbs and fats.

The definition of ’high protein’ changes depending on who you ask. If the scientific community was asked the question of ’how much protein is high protein?’ they would generally answer with an amount of grams of protein based on body weight.

On average, a diet consisting of over 1.2 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight is considered to be high protein. That would be about 0.55 grams per pound of body weight, or about 95 grams in a 175 pound man. Interestingly, this recommendation would be considered low in the fitness world as the answer to the question ’how much protein’ in the fitness world is typically answered with ’at LEAST 1 gram of protein per pound of body weight’.

In truth, the correct answer to ’how much protein is high protein’ depends on your aims, goals and current training level, amount of lean mass and maybe most importantly how much protein you typically eat already. However, that being said, whether your goals are to lose body-fat or gain lean mass the amount you need to eat in a day to optimize either process will fall roughly within the ranges suggested in "How Much Protein".

It’s not a matter of simply eating as much protein as you can, since excess proteins can and will be stored as body fat.

In fact, the Branched Chain Amino Acids, specifically leucine, can signal for an increase in body fat through the mTOR pathway - the same pathway that signals for an increase in muscle protein synthesis. Protein by itself can also increase insulin secretion, and protein combined with carbs can increase the insulin response to a higher level than with you would get with carbs alone. Both of these facts are extremely important for you to consider when going on a high protein diet.

The goal of any high protein diet should be to consume as much protein as will help us move towards our goals, but not create a caloric surplus by eating too much protein. After all, protein and protein foods are expensive!

The good news is that the average North American is already on a high protein diet (from a scientific standpoint) - with typical protein consumption being roughly 70-90 grams per day. Unfortunately, this high protein intake is mostly a result of over eating in general.

They key is to learn how to maintain a slightly increased protein intake while not overeating (consuming more calories than you need).

Funny enough, this suggestion of an elevated protein intake was actually the norm back in the late 1800’s.

Back in the 1890’s ’nutrition’ was simply protein and calories. There were no vitamins and mineral recommendations to worry about as we didn’t know about them yet.

Leading Researchers of the time studied the diets of undergraduate boat crews (I.E. young, athletic rich guys) and showed that during intensive training they had high intakes of protein, - about 155 grams of protein per day.

These findings became the ’Atwater standards’ (named after the head researcher), a set of protein recommendations based on degree of daily muscular work

Degree of Muscular work: Daily Protein Intake:

Light.......... 112g

Moderate......... 125g

Heavy........ 150g

So back in the early 1900’s a high protein diet was the ’go to’ suggestion for protein intake. This soon changed and by the 1920’s when a new lower standard of protein intake (roughly 60-66 grams per day) had been accepted and was even thought to contain a considerable safety margin.

From the 1920’s to the 1950’s protein was not a high priority among nutrition professionals.

But in 1950 things changed again dramatically.

From 1950 to 1975 protein was now back in the spot light. The rallying cry of nutritionists around the world was ’Deficiency of protein in the diet is the most serious and widespread problem in the world!’

Since then we’ve settled down a bit, but still argue about the best amount of protein to eat in a day.

Most of the world’s governing bodies agree with a protein intake that averages around 60-66 grams per day. However many researchers agree with an amount closer to the original amounts suggested by Atwater.

And this is for good reason - A slightly high protein diet (roughly 100 grams per day) has been used successfully in many weight trials. In fact, some research has shown that a high protein diet performs better than a reduced protein diet (lower than average intake) when it comes to maintaining lean body mass during weight loss. However it should be stressed that in some of these studies, the people in the low protein diet group had their protein intake reduced from their normal intake, which may have caused some of the effect.

This slightly elevated protein intake has also been shown to help with the muscle building process. Interestingly, high protein diets with extremely high protein intakes do not seem to be more beneficial than high protein diets with only slightly elevated protein intakes in the 70-120 gram range.

So what is the final answer on high protein diets?

Well that depends. It depends on how much protein you currently eat, and what your goals are. It seems that eating more protein isn’t going to do you any harm as long as you're not overeating total calories (protein can stimulate insulin release). It’s fine to eat more protein if you simply replace some carbs and fat to do so. It’s not a good idea to simply overeat in order to get more protein.

What you should do is find out how much protein you’re currently eating, then decide how much more protein you want to eat, then reduce some of the carbohydrate content and fat content from the foods you’re eating to allow for the extra protein. This way you can increase your total daily protein intake without over eating and risking fat gain.

Brad’s synopsis -

High protein diets seem to have benefits for people who are working out and trying to gain muscle or lose fat. How ’high’ you go is up to you. Each time you increase your protein intake you’ll want to test your results to decide if you need to go higher, stay the same, or even decrease it a bit.

I have not found any convincing evidence that would make me rethink my recommendation in ’How Much Protein?’ however, I do admit that I have also not found convincing research to suggest there is any harm in going higher with your protein intake.

Protein supplements can be used if they are convenient, however I still do not see a large return on investment when it comes to branched chain amino acids or other Amino Acid supplements.


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High Protein Diets For Weight Loss

The current line of thinking in the fitness world is that high protein weight loss diets prevent muscle loss and lead to better overall fat loss during a calorie restricted diet, especially when compared to low protein diets. This belief comes from a rather large body of research that shows scientifically significant effects that stem from the consumption of a high protein diet while following a weight loss diet.

So the concept of following a height protein diet for weight loss is based on science, but the overall effect may be exaggerated by main stream media.

Even though there are significant effects of a high protein diet for weight loss in a research/lab setting, the real world results may not be what you would expect.

As an example, a research study titled "Increased Consumption of Dairy Foods and Protein during Diet- and Exercise-Induced Weight Loss Promotes Fat Mass Loss and Lean Mass Gain in Overweight and Obese Premenopausal Women" published in the Journal of Nutrition compared a high protein diet to an adequate protein diet for its possible effects on weight loss.

The study followed 90 overweight or obese women over 16 weeks of dieting. The women were divided into three difference groups:

Group 1- High protein diet with a high amount of dairy foods

Group 2- Adequate protein diet with a medium amount of dairy foods

Group 3- Adequate protein diet with a low amount of dairy foods

In this study what the researchers considered a "high-protein diet" may not be what you would expect - the women in the high protein diet group increased their normal protein intake by about 40 grams - this put them to roughly 105 grams of protein per day. The women in the lowest protein group actually lowered their protein intake from what they normally ate by about 15 grams, landing them at around 55 grams of protein per day.

To summarize:

High Protein Diet - 40 grams above normal intake (approx 108 grams per day)

Low Protein Diet - 15 grams BELOW normal intake (approx 55 grams per day)

What scientists consider to be 'high protein' is very different then what fitness experts may call high protein. And it would be a mistake to use a study where people eat 100 grams of protein per day to support the theory that people need to eat over 200 grams of protein per day for optimal weight loss.

In fact, what this study considers to be high protein lands right in the middle of the range recommended in the book "How Much Protein".

In this study, women were followed during 16 weeks of dieting. At the conclusion of the study the people in the High Protein Diet lost the same amount of weight as the people in the Lowest Protein Diet. However, the people in the High Protein Diet actually gained 1.5 pounds of lean Body Mass over 16 weeks, while the people in the lowest protein Diet lost 1.5 pounds of Lean Body Mass.

So this study provides further evidence that you can add lean body mass while in a calorie deficit while following a high protein intake. The catch however is that the total amount you can build is actually much lower than you may have been led to believe based on the claims made by the digital fitness media.

It's also important to note that the group consuming roughly 66 grams of protein per day saw no change in lean mass over 16 weeks. So the range of 70-120 grams of protein per day during dieting seems to fit with these findings.

High Protein Diet Lean Mass

The people consuming the lowest amount of protein did lose some lean body mass (about 1.5 pounds), however this amount is also lower than what most fitness media sources would claim. It's also important to note that these people LOWERED their average daily protein intake - so the result may have had more to do with the negative change in daily intake rather than the total amount of protein. This could very well have been the case as we know that your body can adjust to the regular amount of protein it is getting on a daily basis. In other words, if you suddenly drop your protein intake on purpose it might negatively affect your lean mass no matter how much you were eating.

So while there does seem to be some difference in Lean Body Mass, the difference between the group who ate 40 extra grams of protein per day and the group who ate 15 less grams of protein per day was only 3 pounds over 16 weeks of dieting.

Based on these findings it makes sense to follow a slightly high protein diet while dieting, however the increase does not have to be 'massive' by any stretch of the imagination. In fact, if anything this research shows us that we should definitely not LOWER our protein intake during a diet.

When it comes to total fat loss we see similar results. The High Protein Diet lost roughly 11 pounds of fat in 16 weeks, while the group with the lowest protein intake lost roughly 8 pounds of fat in 16 weeks.

So while neither group lost an exceptional amount of body fat, there was still roughly a 3 pound difference at the end of 16 weeks.

High Protein Diet fat Mass

It's likely that you'll find the real benefits of a high protein diet while dieting may not be things you can 'see' on the scale or in the mirror.

In a second study published in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism by the same group of researchers they found that the women in the high protein diet with high dairy saw positive improvements in many markers of bone turnover and adipokine levels, as well as markers of calcium, vitamin D status, and bone metabolism.

These findings seem to suggest that the common thought that a high protein diet leads to bone loss is incorrect - at least at these levels of protein intake (around 100 grams per day)

High Protein Diet adiponectin

The women in the high protein group also saw a larger drop in Leptin levels when compared to the other groups Suggesting a faster return to a 'normal' healthy non-obese metabolism.

High Protein Diet leptin

In conclusion - In this research it seems that most of the health benefits come from the diet, exercise, and weight loss associated with losing weight. All groups saw reductions in markers of inflammation, reductions in percentage body fat and improvements of many markers of muscle strength. There seem to be small (but significant) benefits from following a high protein diet while attempting to lose weight. However, the definition of 'High Protein Diet' is not consuming 200 grams of protein per day, instead it may mean slightly higher than whatever you're currently eating.

In truth, the amount of protein you need to eat while dieting is dependent on a number of different factors -

How lean you are, how hard you are dieting (the size of your calorie defecit), your height, weight and activity level as well as how much protein you typically eat all probably factor into the amount of protein you should be eating.

Finally, I think that anyone who is restricting their calorie intake in an attempt to lose weight should be following some form of High Protein Diet. However I have yet to see any evidence to suggest an average person needs to go beyond 150 grams of protein in a day.

It seems as though the range of 70-120 grams per day suggested for muscle building may also meet the needs of many people trying to preserve muscle mass while losing fat. However, slightly higher amounts may be needed for people who typically eat higher protein diets while not dieting.


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I'll let you have 3 days to try out How Much Protein for only $9.99. Read How Much Protein NOW and if you like it I'll charge you the remaining 27 dollars in three days.

You have nothing to lose. If you don't like How Much Protein, just let me know and I won't charge you the remaining 27 dollars. So there is no risk to you. It's a great oppurtunity to learn how much protein you really need to build muscle!


References -

A randominzed trial of hypocaloric high-protein diet with and without exercise on weight loss, fitness and markers of the metabolic syndrom in overweight and obese women. Mecklin KA. Appl Phsiol Nutr Metab. 2007

Dietary protein and exercise have additive effects on body composition during weight loss in adult women. Layman DK et al. J Nutr. 2005.

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