How much protein should you eat? Real demand for protein

There are still many myths about the bodybuilding diet. Observing comments on Youtube, Facebook or Instagram, it can be concluded that in Poland, a country with less than 40 million inhabitants, there are more experts in dietetics, strength sports, pharmacology and healthcare than in the USA (over 327 million in 2018 .)! For this reason, the source of information should not be online blogs, but books, not Youtube, but scientific publications, not Facebook, but an endocrinologist, cardiologist, and internist.

Is a bodybuilding diet healthy?

First of all, it is worth remembering that by its very foundation, a sport focused on a feat is destructive to health. Joints (running, jumps, parkour, strength training, martial arts), bones (running, martial arts, jumping), nervous system (combat sports, rugby, American football) will suffer.

Competitive bodybuilding, due to the excessive use of pharmacology, destroys internal organs (kidneys, liver), has an effect on changes in the heart (hypertension, the effect of rhGH and IGF-1), spine destruction, changes in the joints (wrist, elbow, shoulder) ), often significantly shortens life and accelerates aging. Pharmacology is not the only reason for changes in the bodybuilder system. Overeating is also important. Branch Warren claimed that eating is not a pleasure, but a task. Fattening cultivated by bodybuilders leads to intensification of changes in the digestive system (oxidative stress), promotes glucose disorders (insulin resistance), promotes the development of diabetes, fatty changes in the liver (besides, do not forget about the hepatic metabolism of dozens of drugs that bodybuilders use).

Therefore, if you ask if the diet of bodybuilding behemoths is healthy, I will answer that it is harmful to health and significantly shortens life. However, can you train in moderation and eat sensibly so that it doesn’t affect your health? Probably so. Surely you should not uncritically follow the bodybuilding giants, they often pay the highest price for a few years of being famous (see Ronnie Coleman).

Protein – high supply is the plot?

They are not more important than carbohydrates or fats, but they do matter. People from the late 1990s are attacked with messages about amino acids, branched chain amino acids, and the best types of protein. That is why some people began to think that the supply of protein in the diet is actually a myth that it has no meaning. It’s like advertising of vitamins and minerals has done a disservice to health. Many people think that the proper supply of certain ingredients in the diet does not matter that this is a producers’ plot. There are hundreds of studies that show that proteins are of great importance for a bodybuilder, but not just for virtually any athlete. Why? The body stores carbohydrates in the form of liver and muscle glycogen. That’s right, skeletal muscles are the reservoir of protein. However, using protein for energy purposes is a last resort and pathology, not a normal physiological condition. Normally, this phenomenon should be marginal. That is why regular protein supply is of great importance, especially for bodybuilder.

How much protein should you eat?

This does not mean that all people have the same needs when it comes to the amount of protein they provide in their diet, and that everyone has to eat kilos of meat every day.

For physically inactive and rarely exercising people, in the US they often give measures like 0.4 gram per 1 pound of body weight (~ 454 g), i.e. ~ 0.9 g of protein per kg of body weight, people training, but moderately and uncommonly (e.g. endurance disciplines) 1.1-1.3 g per kg body weight, people training intensively and regularly (e.g. endurance disciplines) 1.5-1.8 g per kg body weight.

Attention was thought once. It quickly turned out that these standards were largely dictated by fear of proteins. Fortunately, no one proved that a greater than 1.8-2 g supply of protein in the diet was harmful to the kidneys or liver. In addition, once calculations regarding the absorption of proteins, nitrogen balance in humans, were more primitive. After all, the dispersion in demand between different players was not necessarily taken into account. It’s like saying that after the same workout, everyone needs the same time to recover. It may turn out that a seasoned powerlifter after 2 days will be able to exercise again, and another person will not be able to lift weights for the next 4 days. And similarly in later years and by carrying out numerous experiments, it turned out that between people there are huge differences in the need for proteins.

Much protein in diet? Why not!
Much protein in diet? Why not!

Therefore, it is currently suggested that

  • athletes of endurance disciplines even provided 2.0-2.3 g of protein per kg of body weight when exposed to negative energy balance (starts, competitions, etc.),
  • people training, more intensively and regularly, disciplines such as bodybuilding, provided 1.8-2.8 g of protein per kg body weight during the mass period (hypertrophy),
  • people training bodybuilding supplied even above 3.0 g of protein per kg of body weight during reduction (several weeks); there are reports of 4-4.5 g protein supply per kg body weight.

Can I benefit from more than 1.8 g per kg body weight per day of protein supply?

Butterfield GE et al. Studies have shown that in the event of insufficient energy supply (e.g. from carbohydrates) even of the order of 100 kcal per day, the demand for protein increases significantly. In runners in the above In the circumstances, when traveling 5-10 miles (1 mile = 1.6 km) per day, with an intensity of 65-75% of the maximum oxygen absorption, the supply of 2 g of protein per kg body weight was insufficient (which was considered an unusually high and unhealthy level many years ago ). What does it mean?

That people running from 8 to 16 km a day, in conditions of providing too little food, should eat a lot more protein. If you have been suggested so far to players weighing 80 kg from 1.2 to 1.5 g protein per kg body weight per day (96-120 g per day), it may turn out that even 150 g protein is not enough! And yet the situation when an athlete eats too little food, occurs commonly during long-term workouts, trips to competitions and only starts. The more you train, the more often you are exposed to protein, carbohydrate and even fat deficiencies.

In the studies of Mettler, Mitchell, and Tipton, 20 healthy, trained, young athletes were tested for the amount of energy spent during 1 week. In the second week of the experiment, they were fed with 15% protein and 100% energy value. In the next 2 weeks, intervention was based on a diet based on 15% or 35% protein and 60% of energy supplied from food to date (typical caloric restriction situation encountered during fat reduction). During reduction, the high-protein group (2.3 g protein per kg body weight) lost five times less muscle mass compared to the low-protein group (1 g protein per kg body weight).

The best sources of protein

Theoretically, red meats such as beef, veal, pork, lamb, mutton, horse and goat meat are great sources of protein. Unfortunately, red meat contains heme iron, the consumption of which has been linked to cancer and cardiovascular disease. White meat is e.g. chicken, turkey, goose, duck, etc. In addition, for a bodybuilder, fish (but not e.g. tuna) or eggs (but not industrially produced) are valuable. Whey proteins (WPC, WPH, WPI) and casein proteins are very good (and safe) sources of protein.


Protein plays a key role in the bodybuilder’s diet. It is not more important than carbohydrates and fats, but its role cannot be overestimated.

How much do you need it There is no common answer to this question. It depends on how often you train, what disciplines, what age you are, what energy demand you have and how much you cover them.

It cannot be said that high standards for proteins were created artificially, because they are increasingly proposed by authors not related to bodybuilding.