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Last Updated on December 16, 2020

The More Protein You Eat, the Faster You Build Muscles?

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The More Protein You Eat, the Faster You Build Muscles?

Some years ago I gulped down at least 2-3 unflavoured, whey protein shakes a day, while eating multiple chicken breasts. I thought protein was the holy grail when it comes to muscle growth. Yet I didn’t see the results that I truly wanted in the gym. Instead I was feeling low on energy and bloated.

People training in the gym often consume tons of protein because they expect it to be converted into muscles. Yet the effectiveness of excess protein intake, especially protein shakes has never been scientifically proven. If you drink protein shakes regularly, it’s very likely that you’re taking in more protein than you should.

Video Summary

Will Protein Be Converted To Muscles?

The biggest misconception there is on protein, is that muscles consist entirely of it. This isn’t true.

Muscles consist of protein, yes. But only a fraction of your muscles, approximately 20%, actually is protein. The other 80% are made up of different components, mostly water.

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    You don’t need to consume as much protein as you think you do. Let me show you that with a simple calculation:

    In my multiple years as a trainer, I seldom saw an increase in raw muscles more than 5 kilograms in a year. Even for beginners. This is not because I’m a bad trainer, no, this is just the hard truth for natural athletes. There’s a lot of deceptive marketing out there. Don’t believe it. When I started training in the gym I started to look pretty massive after one year of training and gained multiple kilograms, but it was never, never more than 5 kilograms of raw muscle in a single year.

    To continue the math and show you how much protein you would need for that natural muscle gain:

    One-fifth of those 5 kilograms is 1 kilogram. 1 kilogram of raw protein that your muscles would actually need. If you divide that one kilogram of protein again through 365 (amount of the days in a year), you get only a few grams. In fact it is a one-digit figure. This results to only a few grams that you would need to eat extra in a day, to guarantee muscle growth.

    You need way less protein than you think you need. All the excess protein that you will consume, will be converted to fat and stored in fat cells.

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    How Much Protein Do You Really Need?

    You’re more likely to suffer from protein excess, than deficiency. If you eat sufficient calories in your daily life, you will not be protein deficient.[1]

    I myself strive to consume about 1.3 grams of protein per kilogram of bodyweight. Which might even be too much scientifically speaking, yet moderately higher levels of protein intake are still considered safe.

    Unbiased studies recommend consuming about 0.8 to 0.9 grams of protein per day, if you’re an adult. Most people may even need protein intakes of only 0.6 grams of protein per day, but the recommendation’s aim is to cover most of the bell curve. Experienced athletes may even need less than that, according to some studies, as their body is better able to make use of the protein that they actually consume.

    Once I’ve made that switch to a lower protein diet, I’ve actually experienced less fatigue and more energy in the gym and in my life.

    The Downsides Of Protein Excess

    Protein can do more harm than good. I’ve heard this sentence from my mother many times over, back when I was still drinking frequent protein shakes. I ignored it when I was younger and thought my mother was crazy, yet she still had a decent point.

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    Our current protein focused diet in the western world is promoting hyperfiltration of your kidneys. This increases the workload of your kidneys and therefore increases the stress that you put on that organ. Too much protein in your diet also diminishes the blood flow of your filtration helper and may even leak protein in your urine.[2] Long-term high protein diets may therefore lead to kidney problems. There is also a linkage to increased cancer risk, liver malfunction, and worsening of coronary artery disease.[3]

    Not All Protein Is Created Equal

    There is a guy training in the fitness center that I’m a fitness manager in. He’s a really friendly guy, but suffers from severe kidney problems.

    I recently discussed his workout and nutrition regime with him, so I might give him some additional advice on how to better his condition. I advised him on cutting back his protein shakes and animal protein intake as meat and dairy can lead to an inflammatory response in his body.[4] He’s consuming a lot of protein on a regular basis.

    Sadly he refused to listen to my advice and told me, that his doctors recommended him to keep following his regular diet plan. They told him that altering one’s nutrition doesn’t make a big difference anyway. Tip: If your doctor tells you that, you must change your doctor as soon as possible.

    Some weeks later, after our workout session, he told me about his holidays with his family. And how he needed to cancel them in the last minute, because he was suffering yet again from intense stomach pains. He had to undergo operation that same day to ease the pain. It was his second alarming operation this year.[5]

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    Focus on a plant-based, unprocessed protein source. Such as beans, legumes, seeds and nuts in your diet.

    What To Do Now

    If you drink a protein shake every day, ask yourself: Is this truly working? If not, it may be the time to let go of some of your precious beliefs.

    Consume a plant-based protein shake if you actually like the taste of it. If not, throw it away and don’t waste your money on that beverage ever again.[6]

    Don’t stress protein out too much in your diet. If you don’t like gulping down pounds of lowfat-quark, don’t do it. The extra protein in that food won’t make your muscles pop out. I’ve been there. I was that weird guy that was eating nearly a kilogram of low-fat quark in the morning at 5am after going out, to preserve my muscles. It wasn’t worth it.

    You should take a sincere look at your protein consumption and ask yourself: Am I truly enjoying the excess protein that I put in my body? If not, you should let it go. It isn’t necessary and may even be unhealthy in the long run.

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    You have to realize that supplement companies are marketing companies. Ignore those supplements for the beginning and focus on whole foods. Most people in the US are deficient in fiber and antioxidants. A deficiency that can be fatal. It is time to put more fruits and vegetables in your diet and not worry about protein deficiency.

    Reference

    More by this author

    Florian Wüest

    Qualified and experienced fitness trainer and online coach.

    Your Body on Caffeine Addiction: 70 Cups of Coffee in 7 Days 7 Super Fast Remedies for a Pulled Muscle in Neck Why You Should Keep a Fitness Journal to Jumpstart Weight Loss Hit a Weight Loss Plateau? Here’s How To Break Through It How to Gain Muscle Quickly and Naturally (A Step-by-Step Guide)

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    Published on August 24, 2021

    What Is a Whole Food Diet And Does It Really Work?

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    What Is a Whole Food Diet And Does It Really Work?

    I’ve been a dietitian now for a long time (more years than I care to mention), and if there’s one thing I know for sure, it’s that fad diets are best avoided. This is why I’m so pleased that whole food diets are being talked about more and more.

    Rather than a “diet,” I prefer to think of a whole food diet as a way of life. Eating this way is balanced, and it is a great way to support your all-around body health and longevity. Plus, it’s delicious and—in my opinion—not limiting either, which is a massive bonus.

    A well-balanced diet follows some fairly basic principles and, in essence, consists of plenty of the following:

    • Fruit
    • Vegetables
    • Whole grains
    • Lean protein
    • Nuts
    • Water

    This is essentially all a whole food diet is. Unfortunately, there isn’t an accepted definition of the whole food diet, which means that there are some highly restrictive versions around and some involve principles to frame your diet around rather than strict rules.

    Read on to learn more about the whole food diet as a framework for eating rather than a strict rule book of dos and don’ts that restricts your lifestyle.

    What Is a Whole Food Diet?

    By definition, a whole food diet consists of eating foods that are as close to their natural form as possible. It’s easy to get lost in a quagmire of organic, local, or pesticide-free, but a whole food diet is basically food in its most natural form. Obviously, spices can be ground and grains can be hulled, but you get the idea. You eat the whole food rather than what’s left after being refined or processed.

    In other words, it involves a lot of cooking because whole foods do not involve anything processed. That means no premade sauces, dips, or convenience foods like chocolate bars, sweets, or ready-meals. It also includes things like tinned vegetables and white bread.

    Why? Processed and convenience foods are often high in salt, saturated fat, and additives in comparison to anything homemade. Because of this, their toll on your overall health is higher.

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    Can Other Diets Also Be Whole Food Diets?

    Here’s where it gets confusing—yes, other diets can also be whole food diets. Eating a whole food diet is a lifestyle choice, but many other diets can exist within a whole foods construct. So, diets like the MIND Diet and Mediterranean Diet are also whole food diets.

    For example, here are the foods involved in the MIND Diet:[1]

    • Green, leafy vegetables five times a week
    • Five or more different colored fruits and vegetables every day.
    • Berries five times a week
    • Five or more servings of nuts a week
    • Olive oil five times a week
    • Whole grains five times a week
    • Oily fish twice a week or take an algae-based omega-3 supplement
    • Legumes and pulses five times a week
    • White meat/mix of plant-based proteins twice a week
    • Vitamin D supplement
    • Minimally processed foods
    • No more than one glass of wine a day
    • One or two coffee or tea a day max
    • Two liters of water a day

    That’s pretty much a whole food diet, right? As long as any meat or plant-based proteins are as unprocessed as possible, then it can be a whole food diet.

    Other diets, like a vegan diet, for instance, could be whole food diets or not. It really depends if processed foods are included. Some food substitutes are really heavily processed, so it’s important to read labels really carefully. But it’s only some, not all.

    And here’s where it gets woolly. If you don’t need to eliminate certain food groups for whatever reason—ethical, health, religion—then a whole food diet can be great. But if you do exclude certain foods, then it could be beneficial to include certain “processed” foods. This is to make sure that you don’t miss out on vital nutrients to keep you healthy.

    Processed Foods That Are Okay on a Whole Food Diet

    Many brands of cereals are fortified with B vitamins, which can be hard to come by on a plant-based diet.

    For example, vitamin B12 (needed for maintaining a healthy nervous system, energy, and mood-regulation), is largely found in animal sources. It is something that those on a plant-based diet need to keep an eye on, as studies show that around 20% of us are deficient. And we also know that 65% of vegans and vegetarians don’t take a B vitamin supplement.[2]

    So in that case, choosing a cereal fortified with B vitamins would be a good option, if done wisely. By that I mean use your discretion and check the labels, as many brands of cereals are packed with sugar and additives. But you can strategically choose minimally processed foods using a whole foods mentality.

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    As a rule of thumb, if there are any ingredients that you can’t pronounce, don’t understand, or sound artificial, they probably are best avoided.

    Benefits of a Whole Food Diet

    In a 2014 analysis by Yale University, they concluded that “a diet of minimally processed foods close to nature, predominantly plants, is decisively associated with health promotion and disease prevention.”[3]

    A diet rich in fruit and vegetables or other high-fiber foods like whole grains and nuts is really important in maintaining good long-term health and preventing health problems like diabetes and cancers. These kinds of foods also help our bodies to cope and control the effects of inflammation.

    In fact, one review from 2019 stated that “diets high in plant foods could potentially prevent several million premature deaths each year if adopted globally.”[4] This is a big endorsement for a whole food diet.

    Whole Foods and the Gut

    Whole foods are loaded with fibers that are sometimes lost during processing or refinement. Fiber is essential for a healthy gut because aside from its traditional “roughage” reputation, it also feeds the healthy bacteria in your gut, providing a whole host of other benefits.

    They also provide a lot of variety, which the gut loves. The more variety, the better. So, even though you might fall in love with certain recipes, it’s important to mix up the kinds of whole foods you eat to maintain a healthy gut. Aim for 30 different whole foods each week. It’s easier than you think!

    Whole Foods and the Brain

    The brain is a really hungry organ, and it uses 25% of the total energy you consume from your food. Everything it needs to function at its best is—you guessed it—a whole, unprocessed food.

    In fact, the best diet recommended for brain health is the MIND Diet. In one study, it was shown that people who follow the MIND diet closely had a 53% reduced rate of developing Alzheimer’s.[5]

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    Some of the best whole foods for the brain are:[6]

    • Oily fish
    • Nuts
    • Eggs
    • Berries
    • Broccoli
    • Whole grains

    Is It Easy to Follow a Whole Food Diet?

    Once you’ve got your head around having “ingredients” rather than “ready-to-eat” things in your kitchen cupboards, it’s actually very easy. The only issue is the lifestyle and habit changes that come along with it.

    It is very likely that for many people, following a totally, religiously whole food diet may be unattainable at least some of the time. For example, there are days where you don’t get time to make your lunch or if you want to enjoy social eating. Similarly, people who have young children or who are working more than one job are unlikely to be able to follow a whole food diet all of the time.

    Sometimes, we put ourselves under pressure to be as perfect as we can with diets like this, which can lead to an eating disorder called Orthorexia, which is a preoccupation with healthy eating.

    This means that following a whole food diet, in principle, can be healthy and accessible for some people but not for everyone. It also means that those with previous disordered eating, as always, need to avoid any form of dietary restriction or rules around their diet.

    Is a Whole Food Diet Boring?

    Absolutely not! The beauty of this way of eating is that there are barely any recipes that are off-limits. If you can make it yourself using natural ingredients, then it counts. So, dig out your recipe books and get familiar with your spice cupboard.

    Here’s my advice if you’re just starting: stock up on coconut milk and canned tomatoes. You’ll use them all the time in sauces.

    Best Hacks for Sticking With a Whole Food Diet

    Here are some tips to help you stick with a whole food diet and develop this lifestyle.

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    1. Practice Batch Cooking

    Especially in the beginning, if you’ve been used to eating more convenience-based or packaged foods, you’re likely to feel like you spend the majority of your life in the kitchen. So, I’d suggest getting your cookbooks out and planning around five things to make per week. If you make double, or even triple portions depending on your household, you’ll have enough quantity to last several meals.

    For example, his could be homemade granola. Make it once, and that’s breakfast sorted for a week. Whole food diet ingredients like oats, quinoa, buckwheat, nuts, and seeds are all delicious, and great nutritional resources to keep you feeling full until lunchtime.

    I also love to make big stews, sauces, and curries that can happily be reheated and added throughout the course of a few days.

    2. Make Your Own Convenience Foods

    Sticking to a new way of eating can be really difficult, especially for your willpower. So, it’s very important to make it as easy as possible for yourself.

    Pre-chop. Pre-chop. Pre-chop.

    If you’ve got a container of carrot sticks on hand or can happily munch on a few pieces of melon from the fridge, use those—it’s almost easier than grabbing something from a package. This can extend to your other vegetables, too. If you get your veg delivered or buy it from a market, choose a few things to slice after you wash them. That way, if you need a speedy lunch or a lazy dinner, it’ll be ready in minutes.

    Ready to Try a Whole Food Diet?

    If you’re looking to maximize your overall health, well-being, and vitality, I’d absolutely suggest a whole food diet. But, as with everything, it’s important to do what works for you and your own lifestyle.

    Featured photo credit: Louis Hansel – Restaurant Photographer via unsplash.com

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    Reference

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