How much protein should you eat

I'm often asked how much protein you should eat if you want to build muscle.

There's a lot of myths about this that have been built up over the years, one of the most common myths is that your body can only consume 30g of protein at a time, any more than that and you just end up weeing out the amino acids.

This is one of the oldest myths around and it came about due to a paper that was published that reported those findings (I've not been able to find the paper, so I may be adding to the myth!).

Seriously though the original research was done on OAP's, and also females (who have a lower muscle mass). This is really flawed and the myth stay on. Only yesterday one of my rugby players asked me, can't we only absorb that amount. I was like, dude, I would have been in your tribe 100,000 years ago! You'd never have survived.

The body can process and absorb huge amounts of protein, but it does depend on body mass, activity patterns and age – as we get older we produce less stomach acid and digestive enzymes.

What we need to remember is that a lot of research particularly research from the 70's and 80's was undertaken in hospital settings with patients who are very ill?  Protocols that we use in sport still come from hospital research.

In those situations when a patient is bed ridden and not eating properly, the patient starts breaking down their own muscle to provide energy. They literally start WASTING AWAY; you've probably seen people who this has happened to.  It's sad. Of course anything that can help preserve muscle mass is looked on very favourably in these settings.

The myth of only 30g of protein comes from a study done with very sick people, in the study they found that the patients could only utilise more than 30 g, if they fed them more there was no significant advantage, this is where I believe the myth stems from.

Later I heard that Louis Ferrigno, aka 'The hulk' started to tell people in Golds gym the same myth, the rest they say is history……. (although this may also be another myth)!

If you think about it logically and look at how we have evolved over the 1000's of years of human existence, when our ancestors would have killed a wild animal they wouldn't be sat round the campfire saying

'Go easy on the protein Nigel; you're just going to end up wasting all those nutrients if you eat too much'

We've evolved to be able to cope with eating a lot more than 30g in one sitting.

Ok so HOW MUCH SHOULD we have.

The International Society of Sports Nutritionists recommends 1.2g-2.0g Kg per day, (120g -200g for a 100Kg athlete).  Now that is sufficient if you are a 'normal' athlete as opposed to one who is trying to add extra lean muscle.

During my practical experience working with elite rugby players who are wanting to build muscle I use a protocol of 3.5g protein per kg (350g of protein for a 100Kg athlete) that's the equivalent of about 13 cans of tuna a day.

Please don't start going out and consuming that amount of protein if your not backing it up with a specific training plan and eating strategy, if you do you will just get fat!  Also I recommend that amount because a lot of the sources come from single amino acids and liquid forms of protein such as whey.

These proteins are already mostly broken down, they don't need any digestion!

You also need to check you have no kidney issues before going on a high protein diet. This is very, very,  important.

Also you need to be aware of the acidic nature of protein in your body and the need to have plenty of alkalising foods at the same time. It's important to understand all the elements of the puzzle not just seize on one tip here and there and trying it for a week or 2 until the next fad comes along.

I'll also show you which aminos, and amino blends supply alkaline building blocks for the body.

I just want to let you know about some of the latest research… This research suggests that there is one particular amino acid that when an excess of it is taken it has the effect of 'turning on' protein synthesis.  If you don't have enough of this amino acid your muscle building potential will be limited as a result.

In my muscle building program I outline the exact protocol for protein and carbohydrate consumption that turns your body into a muscle building machine. You'll learn the exact amounts to have   pre and post training and what to eat in the 4 hours after your work out.

You'll also learn how to ensure you have enough of the rate limiting amino acid as well. If you're not using these strategies you will be wasting your money and your food because you will be weeing out unused amino acids.

Best regards


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Matt Lovell – Elite Sports Nutritionist

Matt Lovell - Elite Sports Nutritionist

Matt Lovell is the sports nutritionist for the England Rugby team and works with  UK Athletics team as they prepare for the Olympic Games in London in 2012.

Matt has written a comprehensive guide on Preparing for a Big Event, the popular Fat Loss Program Four Week Fat Loss and Regenerate a Muscle Building Nutrition program.


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