BodybuildingPro.com Articles Database Articles by Writer Articles Written By Tom Venuto Protein and Bodybuilding II
one of "Bodybuilders & Protein," we talked about the ABC's of
protein: what it is, what it is used for, and how it is processed
in the body. We also looked at what the scientific literature says
about protein needs. From this discussion, we came to five
1. Protein is
the only nutrient directly responsible for building muscle.
2. Exercise increases protein needs.
3. The Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA) for protein (.36 grams
per pound of body weight) is woefully inadequate if you work out on
a regular basis.
4. Studies by the world’s top protein researchers such as
Dr. Peter Lemon, have determined that .8 grams per pound of body
weight should be your minimum for protein if you exercise
regularly (more than double the RDA!)
5. Optimal intakes for hard-training athletes, such as
bodybuilders, are still unknown and may be even higher. In one
study of Polish weightlifters, 50% of the subjects were still in
negative nitrogen balance, even while consuming 250% of the
we’ve established these facts, that still leaves one burning
question: How do you determine the precise amount of protein that
is right for you? Read on to find out.
needs by body weight: The one gram per pound of body weight
builders, one gram per pound of body weight has been a rule of
thumb for years - and it's very close to the .8 grams per pound of
body weight recommended in the most recent research. However, .8
grams per pound of body weight should be considered a minimum for
strength athletes and bodybuilders. When you account for factors
such as biochemical individuality, varying metabolic rates and the
added protein needed to accommodate for intense training and
gaining muscle, adding an extra margin of .2g/lb makes sense. Under
certain circumstances, one gram per pound might not even be enough,
but we'll talk more about that later.
gram per pound rule is the easiest and most commonly used method of
calculating your daily protein requirement, but it does have
drawbacks. For example, the more body fat you have, the more this
method will overestimate your protein needs. It also doesn't take
into account whether your goal is to gain or lose weight.
Nevertheless, as long you are training regularly and you are within
the normal ranges for body composition, then this simple formula is
a solid recommendation and a good place to start.
You are female
Your total body weight = 130 lbs.
Your protein requirement = 130 grams per day
If you eat 5 - 6 meals a day (like you should) that’s 22 - 26
grams of protein per meal
You are male
Your total body weight = 190 lbs.
Your protein requirement = 190 grams per day
Spread over 5 - 6 meals per day, that’s 32 - 38 grams of
protein per meal
needs as a percentage of total calories
way to calculate your daily protein needs is to multiply your total
calorie intake for the day by the desired percentage of calories
from protein. To do this, you’ll need to know how many
calories you’re supposed to take in. There is not enough
space to discuss calorie calculations in this article, but you can
find all the formulas on my website in the article titled, "Calorie Calculators." For now, let it suffice to say
that exercise physiologists tell us the average maintenance level
is 2000-2100 calories per day for women and 2700-2900 per day for
men. After you’ve determined your caloric maintenance level,
you then adjust it up or down depending on whether you want to gain
or lose weight.
total calories should come from protein
step is to select the optimal percentage of calories from protein.
The percentage you choose must be in line with your goals, activity
requirements, body type and metabolic rate. The ideal ratios may
vary widely based on these factors, but as a "baseline" I recommend
that 30% of your calories come from protein. That leaves 15% from
fat and 55% from natural, unrefined complex
you’ve selected the proper ratio of calories to come from
protein, simply multiply the percentage of calories from protein by
the total calories for the day. That will tell you how many
calories should come from protein.
step is to divide the protein calories by four (there are four
calories in each gram of protein) and that will give you how many
grams of protein you should eat per day.
You are a female, 130 lbs.
Your optimal calorie intake to lose fat is 1700 calories per
To determine your protein intake, multiply your caloric intake by
1700 calories per day X .30% = 510 calories from protein
There are 4 calories per gram of protein
510 protein calories divided by 4 calories per gram of protein =
127.5 grams of protein
You are male, 190 lbs.
Your optimal calorie intake to lose fat is 2600 calories per
To determine your protein intake, multiply your caloric intake by
2600 calories per day X .30% = 780 calories from protein
There are 4 calories per gram of protein
780 protein calories divided by 4 calories per gram of protein =
195 grams of protein
times when higher protein is called for
probably noticed in the example above that using 30% of calories
from protein comes out very close to one gram per pound of body
weight. However, the percentage of total calories method is more
accurate because it accounts for different goals. The examples
above were for someone who wanted to lose weight. Obviously your
optimal caloric intake, and therefore your protein intake, will
vary depending on what you want to achieve. If you want to gain
weight, you’re going to need more calories, and a substantial
portion of those extra calories should come from
there are times when a higher protein intake is necessary. These
you are trying to gain muscular body weight
2) When you are using a low carbohydrate diet for fat loss
3) When you are "carbohydrate sensitive"
Intake and Gaining Muscular Body Weight
suppose you're male, you weigh 190 lbs. and you maintain your
weight on 3000 calories per day. To gain weight you’ll need
to increase your calories. Makes sense, right? Specifically,
you’d need about 3500 per day. Now let’s do the math:
30% of 3500 calories is 1050 calories per day. 1050 calories
divided by four calories per gram is 262 grams of protein a day.
That’s nearly 1.4 grams of protein per pound of body
everything we’ve discussed so far, you’re probably
wondering, "isn’t that entirely too much protein?" True, 1.4
grams per pound of bodyweight seems like a heck of a lot of
protein. However, there is a very logical reason for this extra
protein, so stay with me for a minute. Granted, there’s no
scientific "proof" that high protein intakes this high will grow
more muscle, but that’s not the reason for the extra protein.
The reason is your protein intake has to go up along with your
calories in order to keep your nutrient ratios
more calories to gain weight, but if you only add the extra
calories from fat or carbohydrate, you would probably find yourself
getting fat - and fast! As bodybuilders know all too well, excess
carbohydrates, especially in the presence of a calorie surplus, can
easily cause fat storage. The same goes for dietary fats. A high
calorie diet with 70% of the calories from carbohydrates might be
ok for a long distance runner, but chances are, a bodybuilder would
get as smooth as a baby’s butt eating like that!
intake and low carbohydrate dieting
time when more protein is justified is when you are using a low
carbohydrate diet. The baseline diet of 55% carbohydrates, 30%
protein and 15% fat is without a doubt the healthiest, most
balanced way to eat, and most people will lose weight on this diet,
as long as calories are below maintenance. However, take a look at
the diets of the world's best bodybuilders and fitness competitors
and you'll discover that nearly all of them use some variation of
the low carbohydrate or moderate carbohydrate diet to achieve the
"ripped" look necessary to win competitions.
decide to choose the low carbohydrate approach to dieting, the
problem is that you can’t just drop out all those
carbohydrates and leave the amounts of protein and fat right where
they were. If carbohydrates are decreased substantially, the
protein (and to some extent, the healthy "good" fats) must be
increased correspondingly so the calorie deficit doesn’t
become too large.
carbohydrates are too low and your calories are also low, the
result is almost always muscle loss. Not exactly what a bodybuilder
wants, is it? So, to offset the drop in carbohydrates and keep your
calories above "starvation level," your protein intake must be
increased - sometimes to very high levels. Exactly what ratio of
protein to carbohydrate you take in depends entirely on your type
of metabolism and can only be determined through trial and
does a high protein level fend off muscle loss while on low
carbohydrates, but it can also speed up the fat burning process.
Protein has the highest "thermic effect" of any food. That means
that protein foods speed up your metabolism because your body has
to work harder to digest, process and utilize this nutrient
compared to fat or carbohydrate. The "thermic" effect of protein is
one of the reasons that a higher protein diet is more effective for
fat loss than a high fat diet or a high carbohydrate diet. Too
much of any food type can be stored as body fat, but protein is
less likely to be converted to fat than any other
intake for the carbohydrate sensitive or insulin
protein, low carbohydrate diet may not be appropriate (or healthy)
for year round maintenance, but there is no question that a higher
protein diet makes it easier to lose body fat. One reason for this
is because of the thermic effect of proteins, but another reason is
the effect of moderate or low carbohydrates and high protein on
insulin and blood sugar levels. Let me explain:
people are very "sensitive" to carbohydrates. This means that when
they eat a lot of carbohydrates, they "overreact" and there is an
unusually large surge in their blood sugar and insulin levels.
Insulin is an important anabolic hormone and is responsible for
moving glucose into body cells, but too much is not a good thing.
Large concentrations of insulin in the bloodstream activate fat
storage enzymes and promote the movement of triglycerides in the
bloodstream into fat cells for storage. Too much insulin also
inhibits enzymes that promote the breakdown of stored body fat. The
only solution to this problem is less carbohydrates and - you
guessed it - more protein.
Conclusion - There are no "rules"
gram per pound of bodyweight guideline is good as a general rule of
thumb for bodybuilders, and the 30% of total calories guideline is
even better. However, it's impossible to set hard and fast rules
about protein intakes, because no single rule could possibly apply
to everyone. The amount of protein you need depends on how hard you
are training and on whether you want to gain, maintain, or lose
bodyweight. It also depends on whether you decide to take the high
carbohydrate, low fat approach or the high protein, low
carbohydrate method. Neither way is right or wrong. What's right is
what works for you.
diet will work for everyone. Nutrition is a highly individual issue
and you must make adjustments to your diet to account for the
differences in your metabolism and your body type. If you've tried
the conventional, high carbohydrate, low fat diet and it hasn't
produced satisfactory results, a diet with moderate or even low
carbohydrates might be the answer. If you decide to take the low
carbohydrate approach, you're going to have to increase your
protein to make up for the lower carbohydrates. If you don't,
you'll end up losing your hard-earned muscle. You're also going to
have to eat more protein if you want to gain lean body
though it flies in the face of conventional wisdom and seems
excessive, it's entirely possible that you might need as much as
1.25 grams to 1.5 grams of protein per day - or more - to get
third installment of Bodybuilders and Protein, we will conclude the
series by looking at the often extreme protein consumption habits
of competitive bodybuilders. Then we will answer the question
that's on everyone's mind: "Isn't eating too much protein bad for
This article was
provided courtesy of Tom Venuto and www.burnthefat.com.
Tom is a lifetime natural bodybuilder, personal trainer, gym owner,
freelance writer and author of "Burn the Fat, Feed The Muscle"
(BFFM): Fat Burning Secrets of the World's Best Bodybuilders and
Go to: Protein & Bodybuilders III
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