The Truth About Strength Training and Protein Intake - 1

Winter is upon us. Over the last 48 hours, Toronto has been hit with close to 40cm of snow, making outdoor activities trickier. Meaning, now is as good of time as any to get into the weight room and focus on strength training.

Apart from your training routine, optimizing gains in muscle and strength are heavily dependent on how you fuel your body. For the next two weeks, we’ll take a closer look at protein’s role in the strength/muscle building process and outline four key points that can make or break your training.

Protein’s Role

People who resistance train generally increase protein consumption for the following reasons:

1) Increase muscle size → Body composition/image improves 2) Increase muscle strength and power → Improve performance 3) Accelerate rate or recovery → Allows you to train more and perform better

Although studies suggest that adding protein powder to your diet may positively contribute to these three factors, we shouldn’t assume that simply consuming more protein is the answer.

The Muscle ‘Growth’ Process


Facts to consider: Muscle Protein Breakdown (MPB) refers to the muscle being ‘broken down’. Muscle Protein Synthesis (MPS) is the ‘formation’ of muscle.

Interestingly, MPB and MPS both INCREASE as a result of weight training. MPB may seem obvious (i.e. that soreness you feel a day or two after a workout) but MPS is critical for muscle hypertrophy to occur, and can ONLY be stimulated through systematic weight training.

Key Point #1: Daily Protein Intake

Some clinicians claim that overconsumption of protein (from all sources) may cause renal stress, dehydration, gout, bone catabolism and may have an adverse impact on diet quality. However, there is virtually no scientific research suggesting that consuming more than the recommended daily amount of protein is unsafe.

Daily Requirements:


                                                                          Figure 1.

Take a look at Figure 1. An 80kg (176lb) person who does NOT strength train only needs about 64g of daily protein to maintain muscle mass. A person with the same bodyweight who regularly strength trains, needs about 136g of daily protein to maintain or increase muscle mass. Interestingly, it really doesn’t take much to meet these requirements.

A couple of eggs, a large glass of soy milk and a portion of steak will get the job done for the average person. Adding a couple scoops of protein powder will allow a strength athlete to meet their daily needs.

Bottom line, if you’re trying to increase muscle size and strength, consuming MORE protein will likely not make any significant difference.

Next week: We’ll outline three points about protein intake that CAN have a big impact on increases in muscle size and strength. Until then, stay warm.

Sources: 1) Lowery et al 2012. Dietary protein and strength athletes. Strength and Conditioning Journal. 2) Tipton and Wolfe. Protein and amino acids for athletes. Journal of Sports Sciences.