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Protein Diet and Bodybuilding
Daily Protein Requirement

Question: What is the reality behind the amount of protein we require on a daily basis?

Answer: I am asked daily about things people read in the media like the body only being able to digest 50 grams of protein a day and more than that being bad for a person. Others think amino acids are like steroids or that aminos are harmful.

The amount of protein required by the average person, the fitness enthusiast, bodybuilder and athlete is debated daily. The National Research Council sets the recommended daily allowance (RDA) per person at 0.8 grams per kilogram of body weight a day. That is the equivalent of 0.36 grams per pound of body weight. Based on the RDA, a 200-pound man, no matter his activity level, would require just 72 grams of protein a day.

Unfortunately the RDA was established by studying inactive people, not those of us looking to remain in good shape, get back into shape or achieve new levels beyond our current peak conditioning.

As far as amino acids go, all things in nature contain them and they are what protein is made up of. Sufficient daily protein supplies essential amino acids which are required for every single one of your metabolic process. All muscles and organs are not only made from amino acids but require more every day to rebuild and function.

We all have higher requirements for protein than the average person who sits around and does nothing for themselves. Without enough protein, you cannot build muscle after tearing it down with weight training, but you can also forget about speeding up your metabolism. Too many studies indicate that weight training increases not only the metabolism but the need for greater amounts of protein. You cannot have one without the other.

One such study had weight lifters workout and consume almost one full gram of protein per pound of body weight a day and yet half these people were tested and found to be in negative nitrogen balance. A negative nitrogen balance refers to not having enough nitrogen inside of you to rebuild tissue. That nitrogen comes from amino acids. Amino acids that you should be getting from sufficient protein.

In another study where weight lifters ate 1.33 grams of protein per pound of body weight a day were able to increase both strength, metabolism and their lean mass successfully reducing their body fat percentages. Most people who pursue fitness train aerobically as well as weight lift and this places other demands on the protein needs of your body.

Prolonged aerobic exercise, cardiovascular training, riding a bike, going for a jog, etc, for example, burns amino acids as energy after the body has used up its internal stores of carbohydrate for energy (glycogen). Aerobic training in a protein malnourished state can lead to a condition called "sports anemia" in which red blood cells and serum iron levels are reduced because the important protein components were used as energy during the activity.

During any sort of weight training, muscle fibers are damaged, torn down, and not only is this why the body becomes better built, but in order to do so it must be allowed to repair following the exercise session. If your protein intake is inadequate (as in poor choices of protein) or deficient (as in not enough), the body draws on red blood cells, hemoglobin, and plasma proteins as a source for muscular repair.

When sports anemia arises, you feel it because little protein is left to rebuild red blood cells at a normal rate, and you begin looking saggy. Clearly, anyone who exercises must include ample amounts of protein in their diets to promote metabolic fitness and we all plan on being active, do we not? Individual protein needs vary and depend on a number of factors, including training intensity and level of conditioning but we are not all that different.

I have seen many clients improve their physiques by increasing their protein intake to as high five times the RDA but that is not good for you in the long run. It stresses the kidneys and other systems creating toxic buildup the body must fight to control. Based on our experience here, everyone and anyone can achieve optimal results by consuming between 1.25 to 1.5 grams of protein per pound of LBM (Lean Body Mass) body weight a day.

Once you begin consuming a higher level of protein you should be sure to drink plenty of water and to get enough minerals. Protein metabolism generates ammonia, which is converted to urea and excreted in the urine and sweat. Drinking extra water aids the kidneys in removing this nitrogenous waste and dilutes mineral salts which could form kidney stones. There is no evidence suggesting that consuming a high protein diet can increase incidence of kidney disease. The reports suggesting such a thing stems from studying people with pre-existing kidney problems. In fact, most studies show that protein improves mineral absorption.


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