When it comes to the topic of sports nutrition there are many myths and fallacies that float around. Of all the myths that surface from time to time, the one about protein seems to be the most deep rooted and pervasive.
Most Common Myths About Protein Diets
- Athletes Don’t Need Extra Protein
In the past few decades researchers using better study designs and methods with real live athletes, have come to a conclusion hard training bodybuilders have known for years. The fact that active people do indeed require far more protein than the RDA recommends to keep from losing hard earned muscle mass when dieting or increasing muscle tissue during the off season.
Another group of researchers found out that strength training athletes eating approximately the RDA/RNI for protein showed a decreased whole body protein synthesis on a protein intake of 0.86 grams per kilogram of bodyweight.
High protein diets are far better for:
- reducing body fat
- increasing muscle mass
- helping the hard training bodybuilder achieve his (or her!) goals
- endurance athletes will also benefit from diets higher in protein
- High Protein Diets can Cause Diseases
Some people think that a diet high in protein are bad for the kidneys and will give you osteoporosis. There is not one scientific study published that has shown any kidney dysfunction or abnormalities from a high protein diet.
1-1.5 grams of protein per pound of bodyweight will have no ill effects on the kidney function of a healthy athlete. Now of course too much of anything can be harmful and it’s possible a healthy person could eat enough protein over a long enough period of time to effect kidney function, but it is very unlikely and has yet to be shown in the scientific literature in healthy athletes.
The pathology of osteoporosis involves a combination of many risk factors and physiological variables such as:
- macro nutrient intakes (carbs, proteins, fats)
- micro nutrient intakes (vitamins, minerals, etc)
- hormonal profiles
- lack of exercise
- family history
The theory is that high protein intakes raise the acidity of the blood and the body must use minerals from bone stores to “buffer” the blood and bring the blood acidity down, thus depleting one’s bones of minerals. But athletes have few of the above risk factors as they tend to get plenty of exercise, calories, minerals, vitamins, and have positive hormonal profiles.
A high protein diet does not lead to osteoporosis in healthy athletes with very few risk factors for this affliction, especially in the ranges of protein intake that have been discussed throughout this article.
- All Proteins are Created Equal
Protein is different in it’s quality and provides various functional properties that athletes can take advantage of.
- Whey Protein, concentrate (WPC)
It has been shown to improve immunity to a variety of challenges and intense exercise has been shown to compromise certain parts of the immune response. It is also exceptionally high in the branch chain amino acids (they are oxidized during exercise) and have been found to have many benefits to athletes.
- Soy Protein
Soy is a very important protein source, especially for a vegetarian diet. It is the most similar vegetable protein to meat protein which makes it a great substitute and also rich in amino acids. Soy is also able to reduce the cholesterol and the risk of heart diseases.
- Whey Protein, concentrate (WPC)
If you exercise a lot and maintain an active lifestyle, protein helps you building muscles and losing weight. But with Protein it’s nothing other then with every food we eat, the overall energy intake counts. Keep your portions in a good size, eat healthy and well balanced and exercise. Then you will have no problems, keeping a healthy weight.
- Lemon, PW, “Is increased dietary protein necessary or beneficial for individuals with a physically active life style?”
- Lemon, PW, “Do athletes need more dietary protein and amino acids?”
- Tarnopolsky, MA, “Evaluation of protein requirements for trained strength athletes.” J. Applied.
- Phillips, SM, “Gender differences in leucine kinetics and nitrogen balance in endurance athletes.”