The Perfect Amount of Protein

Q & A with Promix Founder & CEO, Albert Matheny

“Can I get too much protein?”

Generally speaking, this is not something the majority of the population should be concerned about. Protein is the most satiating of all the macronutrients, so it is not as easy to over consume protein as it is eat too much sugar and simple carbohydrates.
This is why you will often see reduced calorie diets increase protein and fat intake to help you feel more full while consuming less. (For more information about eating on a deficit for weight loss, check out this post!)

Protein Intake and Kidney Health


If you have kidney disease or otherwise compromised kidney function, you should consult a Registered Dietitian (like myself). However, for most, high protein intake does not increase the risk of kidney disease for people with healthy kidneys. In fact, a higher dietary protein intake is correlated to lower blood pressure and lower risk of diabetes. High blood pressure and diabetes are both linked to kidney damage and disease, so higher protein intake may help reduce chances of kidney disease along with a healthy, active lifestyle and overall appropriate intake of calories. (1)

Can too much protein make me fat?

While there is no risk to too much protein, it is worth noting that excess protein will be broken down by your body to the carbon skeleton and treated and used like a carbohydrate. If your body is receiving enough protein and the amino acid availability in your body is sufficient for all physiological needs (muscle recovery, ect.), then the protein beyond what you need will just be used for energy. As you know, excess energy that is not used is stored as fat.

Are protein and carbohydrate calories equal?

Excess protein is broken down and ultimately used or stored like a carbohydrate. Carbohydrate and protein calories are not equal. Protein requires more energy expenditure to breakdown compared to carbohydrates and fat. Approximately 25% of calories from protein go toward digestion, while carbohydrates use ~7.5% of calories and fats ~1.5% of calories. This means if you consumed 100 calories of protein or 100 calories of carbohydrates or fats, you would have very different net calorie intakes.

To break it down:
100 calories of protein – 25% of calories for digestion = 75 calories
100 calories of carbohydrates – 7.5% of calories for digestion = 92.5 calories
100 calories of fats – 1.5% of calories for digestion = 98.5 calories (2)

You can see how if you change you diet on a macronutrient level that this could have a significant effect. To put things in perspective when it comes to gaining or losing weight, think about this:

Each pound of fat is roughly equivalent to 3,500 calories. So if your goal is to loose 1 lb of fat, then creating a net caloric deficit of 500 calories per day will result in 1lb of fat loss per week.

As a dietitian I rarely ever recommend more than a 500 calorie deficit per day. Cutting calories drastically will significantly impact your recovery as well and be a very hard to maintain for a long period of time.

Take a step back from the numbers and think about real life: eating something made of protein is much more filling than consuming carbohydrates. It is easy to consume 100 calories of carbohydrates like juice, but 100 calories of protein, say beef jerky, is much more filling.

Using protein but still not gaining muscle or losing weight?

This is something that I hear often from clients. Let’s start with not gaining muscle.

Many people think that increasing protein intake will be enough to add muscle. The truth is there are two main components when it comes to gaining muscle. One is training, the second, recovery. You must train with enough weight and volume to stimulate muscle growth. However, the most common error I see is not in training,* but in recovery. Recovery errors occur not only during the workout, but before and after.

Before your workout

Make sure you are adequately and appropriately fueled and hydrated for 45minutes to 1 hour of intense activity. If you are not, you will not be able to work near your capacity, therefore not able to stress/stimulate muscles sufficiently.

During your workout

Take enough rest between major compound exercises in order to put forth significant muscle-stimulating force. Remember the creatine phosphate system is the primary system for <10 second bouts of power. This system needs ~2 minutes between sets to adequately “recharge”. This does not mean you need pure rest between sets, you can do accessory exercises.

After your workout

Recovery varies based on your training as well as your overall caloric and macronutrient state for the day. In a normal day, I would recommend 25g of protein within 15 minutes of completing your workout. There are many factors affecting your exact protein needs, but aiming for 25 grams is going to be more than sufficient for 90% of the population. This would be followed by a complete meal 1-2 hours after your session.

Regarding general caloric intake, often time young athletes, especially teenage boys, are simply not consuming enough calories to keep up with their training and growth demands. Even if protein is sufficient, general calories may not be. When you are in a caloric deficit, regardless of your protein intake, your body will use the protein for energy rather than for muscular repair and growth. Beyond a very basic level of fitness, you cannot add significant muscle while in a caloric deficit. You are also greatly increasing the risk of injury, both physical and physiological (hormonal depression, overtraining syndrome, etc.)

OTHER IMPORTANT FACTORS

Sleep is a massively important aspect of recovery. You stress and breakdown muscle in training that rebuilds when you recover outside of the gym. If you are not sleeping well, your muscular growth will be severely limited.

Hydration is a must. Even low levels of hydration increase your risk of injury, decrease performance, and slow recovery.

Training is a form of physical stress. If you are constantly stressed with other aspects of life, physical or mental, your body is not on a physiological level be able to shift to recovery. It is very important to limit other stressors in your life outside of training if your goal is to add muscle and train or compete at the highest level.

Most of the elite athletes you see in all sports are on some level of performance enhancing drugs, and some of the most effective ones focus on enhancing (speeding up) recovery. If you see someone not following the rules above, they are very, very, VERY likely on performance enhancing drugs.

*This assumes that you observe proper exercise selection and proper execution (form) during your workouts. Many do not, so it might be helpful to check out the WORKOUTS & FITNESS sections of our blog for valuable information and tips on form from myself and other top trainers.

Once you’ve discovered you protein needs, decide which of our protein powders is right for you!

Get those goals: SHOP PROMIX PROTEIN POWDER

Have a question about Promix proteins or any other nutrition questions for me? Shoot me an email – I answer every question right here on this page.

Now, let’s get to work!

ProMix Nutrition Founder and CEO Albert Matheny signature
Albert Matheny, R.D., C.S.C.S. – Founder & CEO

References

(1) Is Too Much Protein Bad For Your Health? Healthline Web site. https://ghr.nlm.nih.gov/primer/howgeneswork/protein Published April 27, 2018. Accessed Feb 2019.

(2) Research Review: A Calorie Isn’t a Calorie. Precision Nutrition Website. https://www.precisionnutrition.com/digesting-whole-vs-processed-foods Accessed Feb 2019.