Tyler Robbins Fitness

B.Sc. Biochemistry, Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS), Certified CrossFit Trainer (CCFT/CF-L3), USA Weightlifting Level 1

Filtering by Tag: High Protein Diet

What's the deal with high protein diets?


Study after study has proven the effectiveness of diets with higher than recommended amounts of protein for healthy body composition. However, many individuals still believe discount these studies for a number of reasons including the belief that eating too much protein can be unsafe or unneeded.

Protein is the most important macronutrient vis-à-vis positive alterations in body composition. Previous work has suggested that protein intakes in the range of 1.2-2.0 grams per kilogram (kg) body weight per day (g/kg/d) are needed in active individuals [1-7]. In contrast, the US recommended daily allowance (RDA) for protein is 0.8 g/kg/d. The average protein intake for US adults is 91 grams daily or ~1.0 g/kg ideal body weight [8]. Thus, the average US adult consumes slightly more than the RDA; however, this level is inadequate for athletes or active individuals who engage in exercise/sport training for several hours per week.

There are a couple very interesting points of interest to discuss from this study. First, the participants in this study consuming a high protein diet (4.4g/kg/d) did not gain any weight (fat, or fat free mass) during the 8 week study, despite the fact that they consumed 800 calories more per day than baseline.

The current investigation found no changes in body weight, fat mass, or fat free mass in the high protein diet group. This occurred in spite of the fact that they consumed over 800 calories more per day for eight weeks. The high protein group consumed an extra 145 grams of protein daily (mean intake of 307 grams per day or 4.4 g/kg/d).

But calories are calories right? Most nutritionists or "experts" will tell you that in order to lose weight you need to consume less calories than you burn in order to lose weight. Well, that may still be true, but don't always assume that eating more will make you gain weight either. This is especially important for those of us that wish to either lose weight or maintain weight but are too damn hungry trying to stick to a specific caloric goal. Instead, reach for a high-protein snack.

One might suggest that the high thermic effect of protein may make it difficult to gain body weight during times of overfeeding. It has been shown that the greater the protein content of a meal, the higher the thermic effect [34]. Both young and old individuals experience an increase in resting energy expenditure after a 60 gram protein meal (17-21% increase) [35].

I would definitely be in the "high protein" category, and you could ask my wife, I am warm all the time. Even in the middle of winter, I am usually in shorts and a tshirt in our house. For those of you who remember your high school or college physics classes should remember the first law of thermodynamics. Heat is a form of energy. The heat that my body is constantly producing are calories being burned (used).

This study is also telling for those who are either too shy to do resistance training or are trying to add mass from resistance training.

First, those of you who may not do enough resistance training due to a fear of becoming "too bulky," realize that these study participants are training hard, eating 800 calories more than usual every day, not to mention consuming 4.4g/kg/d of protein, and didn't gain any weight at all.

Those of you who are trying to add some mass, realize that more protein is not always the answer. Sure, your body will need protein to build tissue, however, more protein is not necessarily better in building more mass. Your body can only synthesize so much protein at a time (around 0.25-0.5 pounds of new muscle/week) so aim for around 2g/kg/d of protein and fill the rest of your diet in with carbohydrates and fats.

Future research should focus on trained subjects using a single source of protein during overfeeding. Furthermore, a heavy resistance program geared towards skeletal muscle hypertrophy in conjunction with protein overfeeding needs further investigation.

I appreciate the mention of these topics of future research. The participants of the study used whey and casein protein powders to reach their daily protein goals, so it would be interesting to see what results a similar study found if individuals used only whole foods rather than supplements (is it even possible to eat that much protein?).

Also, would there be any difference in weight gain and fat free mass gain if participants were doing a hypertrophy-specific resistance training program.

Here we go again...high protein diets do NOT cause cancer

Have you seen the latest sensationalized headline?

"High-protein diet 'as bad for health as smoking"
Research finds that people who eat diet rich in animal protein carry similar cancer risk to those who smoke 20 cigarettes each day

I mean, it is pretty hard to become more head-turning than that...yet, unfortunately, that is what our society has become - sensationalized headlines. Majority of individuals will either hear that "study headline" on the TV or radio, or maybe they will even read it on the internet. This will ultimately result in a quick knee-jerk reaction something akin to, "See, see, see, I told you high protein diets are bad for you! That guy George down at the gym keeps telling me that I should eat more protein, but I am certain it is no good for my kidneys...."

I will admit, there is far too much content for any one individual to take in on a daily basis, now with such a connected world and "news" coming in from various sources, it is hard to read through everything that comes at you on a daily basis. So, in an attempt to gain as many readers as possible, catchy or polarizing headlines are now the 'norm' to catch as much attention as possible. The only problem here, and trust me, it's a big one, is that most people don't actually read the article, they just "gain their knowledge" from just the headline alone.

I can't believe I actually have to say this, but protein does not cause cancer...far from it. Not only that, but eating protein should never be compared to smoking...holy crap!

The biggest problem with any diet and lifestyle study is this simple fact: correlation does not mean causality.

Just because someone ate a higher protein diet over their lifetime and ended up dying prematurely due to cancer, one should not jump to any conclusions that it was the protein that in fact caused the cancer. Fair enough, so what should we study?

Well, the next logical step is to view overall trends. Fair enough, that is what this study attempted to do. However, even when studying overall trends, you need to account for variations in other dietary factors and lifestyles, i.e. exercise (something this study failed to factor in, by the way) which is essentially impossible to do with nearly infinite variations in day-to-day lifestyle and diet choices from one individual to the next.

To create the best possible scientific study, one would need to take a human being from birth, lock them in a room and only allow them to eat or drink one specific item for the duration of their life to study its individual effects over a long term. Of course this is impossible due to, well, you know, human ethics obstacles.

Not only that, but a diet that revolves around one single item or food category is not good for us anyways. It is best for us to have well-rounded diets rather than whatever is 'catchy' that week, month, or year. Specific diets may be extremely successful in helping you lose weight or get lean, but that does not necessarily mean that you are giving your body all of the vitamins and nutrients that it needs.

If you can, head on over to this article to read a fantastic summary of the study. Here is their summary:


This study has found a link between high protein intake and increased risk of death among people aged 50-65, but not older adults. There are some important points to bear in mind when thinking about these results: