If you’ve spent enough time in the gym, the chances are you’ve come across countless myths and bro-science claims that have significantly shaped your training and diet habits. While some myths are harmless, others can profoundly impact your gains. When it comes to protein facts, there seems to be no shortage of misinformation. So let’s take a look at five of the most common protein myths and see if they hold up to the latest research.
Myth 1: Protein Must Be Consumed Immediately After Training
Urban legend has it that if you miss the “anabolic window” by not chugging protein 30 minutes after your last rep, you can kiss your gains goodbye. The theory is that there is a limited duration after training when the muscle’s sensitivity to accepting protein for repair and recovery is elevated. While this is true, we now know this window of opportunity is much longer than we initially thought. In fact, it lasts up to several hours after finishing your training session. While consuming protein post-workout is essential to maximize muscle protein synthesis, what’s as important for muscle growth and repair is the total amount of protein you consume throughout the day.
Myth 2: The Body Cannot Utilize More Than 30 Grams of Protein at Once
This myth stems from research showing that muscle protein synthesis is maximized by consuming 20 to 30 grams of protein, while an increase has no additional benefits. Because of this, it was assumed the body could not process more than 30 grams of protein at once. However, a recent study had subjects consume 70 grams of protein in one sitting and found it improved whole-body protein synthesis by reducing muscle protein breakdown. The body can utilize more than 30 grams of protein at once, but it will not stimulate MPS (muscle protein synthesis) to a greater degree than a 20- to 30-gram serving containing 2.5 to 3 grams of leucine. A serving of more than 30 grams would, however, improve whole-body protein synthesis (not the same as MPS).
Myth 3: High-Protein Diets Wreak Havoc on The Kidneys
This myth is based on the theory that when you add more protein to your diet, the kidneys are forced to work harder to get rid of the extra nitrogen produced by its breakdown, which could cause kidney damage. However, no proof exists that consuming amounts of protein many times higher than the RDA has any ill effects on renal function in otherwise healthy individuals. In fact, a recent study conducted at Nova Southeastern University had subjects consume 3 grams of protein per kilogram of bodyweight (three times the suggested RDA) daily for six months, and found no harmful effects on measures of blood lipids or liver and kidney function.
Myth 4: Too Much Protein Makes You Fat
Supplementing with protein does not make you fat; consuming more calories than you burn does, regardless of the macronutrient. Contrary to popular belief, it has been shown that people who eat a high-protein diet lose body fat. These effects are due to protein’s ability to promote a feeling of fullness and burn more calories during digestion (thermic effect of food).
Myth 5: High-Protein Diets Cause Osteoporosis
Not long ago, it was thought that the increase in calcium excretion from high-protein diets was detrimental to bone health. Recent studies suggest otherwise. Diets high in protein have been shown to increase calcium absorption and to have no adverse impact on net stores of bone calcium. A case in point is a 2003 study that demonstrated that individuals with chronic low protein intake were at higher risk for lower bone density and more bone loss.
So there you have it: The five most popular protein supplement myths have been debunked. My intention here is not to promote higher protein use: your protein requirement is what it is, and I do not recommend taking any more than is needed. Your body cannot store amino acids for future use, so excess protein gets converted to glucose that is burned off as energy if your body needs it. Otherwise, its converted to fatty acids and stored as adipose tissue. So, forget these myths; calculate your protein requirements and then follow a diet plan that gives you maximum gains for the effort you put in at the gym.
Mark Glazier is a supplement guru who has dedicated the last 25 years to studying and developing sports supplements as a formulator, manufacturer and brand owner. As CEO and founder of NutraBio Labs, Glazier has been at the forefront of honest supplementation and started the full label transparency movement 18 years ago. He has built a reputation as a consumer advocate exposing supplement scams and outright lies that have plagued the industry for decades. Glazier takes a no-bull approach to supplements, revealing how to really get the most out of every ingredient that you put into your body to ensure that you are making real muscle gains and cutting out the crap that doesn’t work.