Broccoli, Cauliflower, and Cancer

Can I drink alcohol on my diet?

Chitosan - A Pill that Absorbs Fat?

Cholesterol - Eat more fat to lower?

Coffee! Should You or Shouldn't You?


Ephedra - Warning

EZ Zucchini

Fat Snack

Fats - Mono, Poly, Saturated

Food Poisoning

Food Labels that Fool You

Genetics and Obesity


Hunger - What is it?

I Ate too Much!

Olestra - The fat that's not a fat?



Salt - Something Nice

Sports Nutrition

Sun - Good Nutrition

Vegetable Soup Homemade

Vegetarian Eating

Vegetarians are Healthier?

Winners and Losers on Your Plate

Sports Nutrition
How much protein do you need?

How much protein do you need to build muscle? The answer may surprise you, but first a short story.

Two men volunteered to live in an enclosed room for three months. The first man read his favorite books and watched TV all day, ate nothing but steak and eggs, and did not exercise. The second man consumed a varied diet and exercised 12 hours a day using weights and a treadmill. Question: At the end of three months, which man gained the most muscle mass?

The answer of course, is the second man who exercised 12 hours a day gained the most muscle mass. The first man, who passed the time away by reading, watching TV, and eating steak and eggs, gained fat tissue. So what does this mean?

It's exercise that builds muscle, not the food we eat. A resting muscle will not grow larger because you're consuming more protein. Although this explanation is common sense to all of us, many still believe it's a high protein diet that builds muscle. The fad diet industry, which is profiting quite well, has managed to convince many people that they need huge amounts of protein in their daily diet. Proof lies in the millions of dollars being spent every year by consumers on high protein products - powdered amino acid supplements, high protein candy bars, high protein pasta, and diet books that promote a lot of meat.

You might be wondering, if the first man who ate a high protein, low carbohydrate diet would have exercised for 12 hours a day like the second man, would he have built more muscle because he was eating more protein and exercising at the same time? The answer again is No.

Do you need more protein if you're trying to build muscle? The exercising muscle needs slightly more protein than a resting muscle, approximately 5% more. The average person requires about 40 to 70 grams of protein per day for normal functioning. Based on 70 grams of protein, for example, if you want to start building muscle, you'll need an extra 4 grams a day (yes, that's all), about ½ of a hamburger patty. Because many people in this country are already consuming three to four times more protein than needed, the recommendation is to decrease the consumption of high protein foods because of the fat and cholesterol that accompanies them.

And so, if you're trying to build muscle (anaerobic) or participating in endurance activities (aerobic), what should you eat?

In both aerobic and anaerobic activities, the exercising muscle needs glucose for energy. Glucose is a sugar produced in the body from carbohydrates - complex carbohydrates, like fruit, vegetables, and grains, and simple carbohydrates, foods made with table sugar.

The results of studies conducted to demonstrate the effect of glucose on an exercising muscle during aerobic events are clear. In one study, two groups of athletes were chosen; the first group followed a high protein, low carbohydrate diet, and the second group, a high carbohydrate, low protein diet. The winners were the athletes on the high carbohydrate diet who were able to exercise for a longer time before fatigue set in. Simply put, the longer the muscle has a steady supply of glucose, the longer it can be exercised before lactic acid builds up and exhaustion sets in. Muscles that receive a poor supply of glucose will fatigue more quickly.

What happens to all of that excess protein you're eating? Protein breaks down to amino acids and then further to nitrogen which is actually what is used as the "protein" we speak of. The body doesn't store excess nitrogen, so what's not used is filtered out by the kidneys and excreted into the urine to leave the body as waste! In addition, a steady diet of meat, eggs, and powdered protein supplements causes stress to the kidneys. Therefore, long-term consumption of these foods can cause kidney damage.

You can become dehydrated very quickly on a high protein diet for two reasons: 1-the metabolism of protein requires large amounts of water, and 2- while excess nitrogen is being flushed out by the kidneys, fluid is also pulled out with it. This dehydrating effect can be seen while indulging in some of the popular high protein fad diets that promise to deliver quick weight loss. At the end of the week, most of the weight loss you see on the scale is due to fluid loss; fat loss does not occur unless you decrease calories. So, if you're involved in activities that cause a lot of sweating, you'll want to avoid a high protein diet.

Along with high protein foods, eggs, meat, and cheese, comes fat and cholesterol. A lean steak, for example, is 60% saturated fat and 30% protein. Unfortunately, like excess protein, excess fat and cholesterol are not excreted. Instead fat is sent directly to fat tissue where it is stored and cholesterol travels to your coronary arteries!

Did you know that a diet high in protein and low in carbohydrate can cause muscle deterioration? Eggs and meat contain no carbohydrate, so a diet dominated by these foods will cause the body to break down its own muscle tissue (this process is called gluconeogenesis) to provide needed glucose. Therefore, a high protein diet may actually cause loss of muscle, the opposite of what you may be trying to accomplish.

Some recommendations: Approximately three to four hours prior to a sports event, eat a meal high in complex carbohydrates and moderate in protein and fat. This regimen provides time for the food to leave the stomach and enter the small intestine. Here, it's broken down to smaller components, absorbed into the body, and will be available to the muscle as glucose while you're exercising. And be sure to drink plenty of fluids before and during the event to help prevent dehydration.

*Note: Avoid sugared foods and drinks immediately prior to vigorous exercise. Sugared foods cause excess insulin to be released, resulting in low blood sugar, and glucose to be unavailable to the exercising muscle. Once you've engaged in strenuous exercise for one hour, sugared foods and drinks are recommended to provide a quick source of glucose.

*Beware of dietary supplements: Ephedra has a mild "upper" effect and can be stressful on the heart during exercise. Click Here to learn more about Ephedra. Creatine, a naturally produced substance in the body, is the end product of protein metabolism and leaves the body as waste. Therefore, taking supplements of creatine will not help to increase muscle performance. Excess Choline can be metabolized to cancer causing substances.

 Here's how to calculate your total protein needs for the day.
(The average male/female requires about 40 to 70 grams of protein per day.)

If you are normal weight: Multiply your weight in pounds by 0.454 to get your weight in kilograms (kgs). Multiply this figure by 0.8 to get the total grams of protein you'll need for the day. For example, if your weight is 175 pounds, then 175 x 0.454 = 79.45 kgs x 0.8 = 63 grams of protein per day. Add 5% if you're trying to build muscle: 63 grams x 0.05 = 3 grams of extra protein.

If you are more than 10 pounds overweight - Multiply your weight in pounds by 0.454 to get your weight in kilograms (kgs). Multiply this figure by 0.7 to get the total grams of protein you'll need for the day. For example, if your weight is 190 pounds but you feel you are more than 10 pounds overweight, then multiply 190 x 0.454 = 86.26 kgs x 0.7 = 60 grams of protein per day. Add 5% if you're trying to build muscle: 60 grams x 0.05 = 3 grams of extra protein.

Note: You may want to tally the total amount of protein you eat each day by using the Nutrition Facts labels on packages. But remember to count the protein in all of the food you eat including vegetables and grain products, like bread, pasta, and cereals. Most vegetables contain 2 grams of protein per 1/2 cooked cup. Fruit is not a source of protein.

Where do you get your nutrition information? Most states now have licensure laws for Dietitians and Nutritionists. Be sure your nutrition advisor is "Licensed" by the State as a Licensed Dietitian (LD) or Licensed Nutritionist (LN), or in states that don't have licensure laws, a Registered Dietitian.




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