7 Protein Myths

We set 7 myths straight about the most important muscle-building nutrient


Somewhere along the way, the idea that a body can handle no more than 30 g of protein per sitting wedged its way into nutrition circles. That’s an old wives’ tale. Do you think Arnold Schwarzenegger grew on 30 g of protein every three hours, the equivalent of eating only four or five ounces of chicken at each meal?

Think again. Protein digestibility and the amount your body can handle per meal is tied to how much you weigh and how hard you train. The more you weigh, the more you need; the harder you train, the more you need. In turn, the more you need, the more you’ll be able to digest, absorb and assimilate. A 200-pound male will, in general, need more protein than a 160-pounder and should be able to digest more per meal. Digestibility is also linked to the amount of protein you consume on a regular basis. The more protein you eat regularly, the better your body becomes at digesting large protein meals.


This myth just won’t go away. The idea that dairy-based proteins — low-fat or nonfat milk, cheese and yogurt — lead to gains in fat or added water retention is, well, wrong. Dairy is perfectly fine.  It’s a great source of protein, and some research even shows that dairy, when combined with a low-calorie intake, could possibly coax fat loss.

The dairy misconception could be connected to the fact that most cheeses, including nonfat cottage cheese and nonfat sliced cheese, contain excessive sodium, which has the potential to initiate water retention. However, even that’s overblown, because bodybuilders need more sodium. It drives glycogen storage and indirectly supports growth by interacting with potassium to turn on pumping mechanisms within cells that govern the exchange of nutrients that lead to muscle repair. Plus, sodium is not the culprit many mistake it to be. If you suddenly change your sodium intake, abruptly increasing it, water retention is likely to be the result. However, if you consume dairy on a regular basis and maintain a relatively consistent sodium intake, you will adapt and probably avoid noticeable fluid retention.


This misconception relates to dieting bodybuilders. Some trainers advise against cutting way back on carbohydrates, insisting that a lack of carbs causes a loss of muscle tissue. However, by increasing protein intake while dieting, you offer your body alternatives to muscle tissue for use as fuel. Where a low-calorie or low-carb diet can cause muscle tissue to be broken down, an increase in protein consumption “attracts” the body to use dietary amino acids found in protein as a substitute for those in muscle tissue. It does so by burning some amino acids directly and by a process known as gluconeogenesis, in which amino acids are converted into glucose. The myth breaker: increase protein when carbs go down, and you’ll protect against muscle loss.


A cup of cooked oatmeal yields 6 g of protein, a medium bagel provides 11 g and two cups of cooked spaghetti supplies about 16 g. That may be a fact, but the type of protein derived from nonanimal sources might not be the best at creating or supporting protein synthesis. That’s because they are not complete proteins; they don’t contain all the essential amino acids the body needs to build mass.

The entire spectrum of amino acids, including all of the essential amino acids, can be found only in foods that are animal based. Fowl, fish, red meat, milk and eggs are best because they are complete proteins; they contain all of the amino acids the body needs to grow. The proteins found in nonanimal sources are called complementary, or “junk,” proteins; they lack sufficient essential and required amino acids that are ideal for creating anabolic and recovery environments within the body. FLEX




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