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  1. #1
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    How much protein and when?

    I gotta say, I'm confused by the mixed messages I've been getting about protein.

    It seems like most of the things I read and hear, when I ask about building muscle, say simply "eat more protein," as if it were the magic road to burliness. But I also read an article that the body really gets all the protein it needs from a regular diet, and doesn't need supplementation - indeed, that surplus protein could be turned to fat.

    As for me, I'm a vegetarian so am at a bit of a disadvantage when it comes to protein - though I do love my brown rice & beans & tofu. I'm trying to improve at two sports at the moment - rockclimbing and cycling - that don't seem terribly complementary: I'm trying to increase strength in my arms and shoulders, and endurance in my legs and lungs. So it's a bit complicated.

    I have the whey protein powder in smoothies. I found a protein bar I like that seems nice and low-sugar (ThinkThin). But I don't really have a target to shoot for, so I'm kind of flying blind. And I don't know whether it makes a difference to try and have more protein the day of (the day after?) a particularly hard climb or ride, or if I should just shoot for the same amount every day. Heck, I don't even know if I'm doing more harm than good to my body by trying to supplement like this, particularly in such a state of ignorance.

    I've looked around here and seen some very knowledgeable nutrition posts, though couldn't find anything that dealt specifically with this topic - how do I determine how much protein I should be trying to ingest in a day, and does it matter when I eat it?

  2. #2
    just another gosling Carbonfiberboy's Avatar
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    Endurance athletes burn protein. The more you ride or run, the more you burn. Therefore, whether or not you get enough in your diet depends on how much you do. John Salathe lived on fruit and nuts, so I'm thinking rock climbing isn't a big protein burner.

    I'm also a vegetarian, though technically an ovo/lacto/pisco -etarain. I supplement with 40-60g of whey protein/day. I started supplementing when I noticed that I wasn't recovering as my rides went up into century length. My legs were sore all the time- acutely painful on the bike and always painful off. I started with the whey and the pain went away. Well, mostly.

    So my suggestion is: if you're fine, you're fine. If you're not fine, you need to do something about it. Protein isn't magic. I don't know if it matters when you ingest it. I take mine with meals, plus a scoop with a good bit a carbos after a ride. Research supports that last bit, but I don't know of other research on timing. But it makes sense to me to always take protein with carbos, vegetables, etc., so you don't burn it for calories.

    People put out a lot of numbers about the quantity thing. 1.25g/day/lb. of lean body weight is a pretty good number, I think. Only thing is, it's almost impossible to estimate the quantity you get from your natural vegetarian diet.

    Mostly you build muscle by working out really hard. If you're not recovering from your workouts, more protein. You don't necessarily want more muscle. You want more strength. Not exactly the same. You have to drag it up the wall or hill.

    And it's absolutely true that surplus anything gets turned into fat. So if you add protein, you need to subtract something else.

    Edit: I typed grams per pound above, but I meant grams per kilogram. Big difference.
    Last edited by Carbonfiberboy; 05-08-07 at 10:16 AM.

  3. #3
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    Quote Originally Posted by deolmstead
    I gotta say, I'm confused by the mixed messages I've been getting about protein.

    It seems like most of the things I read and hear, when I ask about building muscle, say simply "eat more protein," as if it were the magic road to burliness. But I also read an article that the body really gets all the protein it needs from a regular diet, and doesn't need supplementation - indeed, that surplus protein could be turned to fat.

    As for me, I'm a vegetarian so am at a bit of a disadvantage when it comes to protein - though I do love my brown rice & beans & tofu. I'm trying to improve at two sports at the moment - rockclimbing and cycling - that don't seem terribly complementary: I'm trying to increase strength in my arms and shoulders, and endurance in my legs and lungs. So it's a bit complicated.

    I have the whey protein powder in smoothies. I found a protein bar I like that seems nice and low-sugar (ThinkThin). But I don't really have a target to shoot for, so I'm kind of flying blind. And I don't know whether it makes a difference to try and have more protein .the day of (the day after?) a particularly hard climb or ride, or if I should just shoot for the same amount every day. Heck, I don't even know if I'm doing more harm than good to my body by trying to supplement like this, particularly in such a state of ignorance.

    I've looked around here and seen some very knowledgeable nutrition posts, though couldn't find anything that dealt specifically with this topic - how do I determine how much protein I should be trying to ingest in a day, and does it matter when I eat it?

    I've read that a couch-potato type person need about 0.36g/lb body weight daily to maintain muscle. A person trying to grow more muscle can do well to supplement up to about 0.5-0.6g/lb body weight/day. Supposedly more than about 0.8g/lb/day will be excreted as waste (which puts a big burden on the kidneys).

    Here's a place to start (Google is your friend -- try "how much protein do I need each day?"): http://exercise.about.com/cs/nutrition/a/protein_2.htm

    As far as when you eat it, it should follow the times suggested for general calorie ingestion -- more early in the day, less at night. If you are worried about catabolism (your body eating your muscle at night) you can try taking some whey supplement before bed. I've read that a whey-casein protein mix is a better night-time drink because the casein takes longer to absorb into the bloodstream, so it will stave off more of the catabolic effect of sleep.

    I don't know if any of that is true or not, but I've read some articles that sound pretty solid, and they say about what I've relayed to you here. I wouldn't go beyond 20-30g for a night-time supplement though, and I would be sure that was the only source of calories in the product.

    And really, between soy products and beans, you're not at much of a disadvantage as far as protein in general goes; although you do have to pay special attention to getting the essential aminos. But even that can be done in a vegetarian manner, as I'm sure you know.

    If you're really concerned that your diet is inadequate or needs serious revision to meet your goals, talk to your doctor or nutritionist. They'll be able to use their expert knowledge to develop a specialized plan for you. Much better than some amateur nutritionist on a couch 1000 miles away.
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  4. #4
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    It all depends on what you’re after.

    When I was in high school, I was 5’11” and wrestled in the 115 weight class. I wanted to gain MUSCLE weight and get stronger. I ate the regular 3 meals a day and did not buy the hype that you needed more protein. After all the scientist agreed. You don’t need high protein.

    But after a time I wasn’t making the gains I wanted. So I started eating ever three hours and did a big increase in my protein. I strived for one gram of protein per pound of body weight or more. I started eating tubs of cottage cheese, eggs, tuna and added protein shakes in there too. Just as an aside, I prefer MIXED protein supplements, ones that have whey, Micellar casein, and maybe some Egg proteins also.

    The results, I went from 130 to 175 and stayed the same within 12% bodyfat throughout the entire time. In other words, I didn’t just get fat.

    Two summers ago I increased my cycling. A lot of people told me I was looking skinny by the end of the summer. I was obviously loosing muscle and fat. I started drinking a higher carb and protein shake and eating extra food and I was able to keep more muscle.

  5. #5
    '05 NUEser EJ123's Avatar
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    I also use the thinkthin bars in the morning for a quick on the go breakfast if I don't have time. I find it's one of the best. Check out IntenseMuscle.com and ask there. A lot of them are very knowledgeable.

  6. #6
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    1-1.25 grams per pound is the minimum for a very athletic person. It's extremely important if you want to keep muscle while participating in endurance activities such as cycling, because all steady state aerobic exercise is very catabolic.

    And why you veggies don't talk more about quinoa I'll never know. It's a magic grain.

  7. #7
    Faster but still slow slowandsteady's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Carbonfiberboy
    Endurance athletes burn protein. The more you ride or run, the more you burn. Therefore, whether or not you get enough in your diet depends on how much you do. John Salathe lived on fruit and nuts, so I'm thinking rock climbing isn't a big protein burner.

    I'm also a vegetarian, though technically an ovo/lacto/pisco -etarain. I supplement with 40-60g of whey protein/day. I started supplementing when I noticed that I wasn't recovering as my rides went up into century length. My legs were sore all the time- acutely painful on the bike and always painful off. I started with the whey and the pain went away. Well, mostly.

    So my suggestion is: if you're fine, you're fine. If you're not fine, you need to do something about it. Protein isn't magic. I don't know if it matters when you ingest it. I take mine with meals, plus a scoop with a good bit a carbos after a ride. Research supports that last bit, but I don't know of other research on timing. But it makes sense to me to always take protein with carbos, vegetables, etc., so you don't burn it for calories.

    People put out a lot of numbers about the quantity thing. 1.25g/day/lb. of lean body weight is a pretty good number, I think. Only thing is, it's almost impossible to estimate the quantity you get from your natural vegetarian diet.

    Mostly you build muscle by working out really hard. If you're not recovering from your workouts, more protein. You don't necessarily want more muscle. You want more strength. Not exactly the same. You have to drag it up the wall or hill.

    And it's absolutely true that surplus anything gets turned into fat. So if you add protein, you need to subtract something else.

    www.nutritiondata.com

    It isn't impossible at all. Just look it up.
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  8. #8
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    Unless you are on a restrictive diet of some sort, it is generally pretty easy to get the required amount of protein through a normal diet, without supplementation. But if you feel you need more, a little whey protein never hurt.

    For endurance athletes, it is recommended that one ingest 1.0-1.4 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight. Saw mention of grams per pound of body weight above, which is, in my opinion, too high.


    http://www.cptips.com/protein.htm
    http://www.velonews.com/train/articles/7570.0.html

  9. #9
    just another gosling Carbonfiberboy's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by grebletie
    Unless you are on a restrictive diet of some sort, it is generally pretty easy to get the required amount of protein through a normal diet, without supplementation. But if you feel you need more, a little whey protein never hurt.

    For endurance athletes, it is recommended that one ingest 1.0-1.4 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight. Saw mention of grams per pound of body weight above, which is, in my opinion, too high.


    http://www.cptips.com/protein.htm
    http://www.velonews.com/train/articles/7570.0.html
    Sorry, sorry, sorry. I meant kg, but typed lb.

  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by slowandsteady
    www.nutritiondata.com

    It isn't impossible at all. Just look it up.
    Not to put words into Carbon's mouth, but my guess is he meant that while you can easily count grams of protein, it's more difficult to count complete proteins, since many veggie sources have incomplete amino acid profiles.

  11. #11
    just another gosling Carbonfiberboy's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by slowandsteady
    www.nutritiondata.com

    It isn't impossible at all. Just look it up.
    So sorry. Impossible must be a trigger word. I meant impractical. Let's see . . . my wife made us a bulgur casserole last night. Some bulgur, some peanuts, some carrots, a few other assorted veggies, onion, garlic, and soy sauce. Pretty tasty, and I think that bulgur and peanuts have some protein complementarity. But she didn't weigh anything (and isn't about to!) and I have no idea how much I took - just a nice little pile. Even if we look up the composition of every food we eat, weigh all the ingredients with which we cook, and calculate the percentages of every one of the 1000+ recipes we cook with, we still won't have it, because we'd still have to calculate the amino acid composition of each food, look at which of those amino acids are among those which either can or cannot be produced in the body, and then calculate how close all that comes to human body amino acid composition to get usable protein quantity.

    So I have looked into this, and concluded that the time spent doing all that would be better spent sleeping, training, or just getting on with life. "Impossible" was a poor choice of words.

    Edit: Greg didn't put words in my mouth. We posted at the same time. Well, he was a few seconds ahead of me.

  12. #12
    Faster but still slow slowandsteady's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by aikigreg
    Not to put words into Carbon's mouth, but my guess is he meant that while you can easily count grams of protein, it's more difficult to count complete proteins, since many veggie sources have incomplete amino acid profiles.

    Check out the link. It is the most comprehensive nutrition data I have ever seen. And it's free....


    Here is a link to raw spinach. It lists 19 amino acids. It breaks down the fats and vitamins into their individual components. For example, it breaks down Vit E into Alpha, Beta, Gamma and Delta Tocopherol. If anything, it is too much information.

    http://www.nutritiondata.com/facts-C00001-01c20gM.html
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    Quote Originally Posted by slowandsteady
    Check out the link. It is the most comprehensive nutrition data I have ever seen. And it's free....


    Here is a link to raw spinach. It lists 19 amino acids. It breaks down the fats and vitamins into their individual components. For example, it breaks down Vit E into Alpha, Beta, Gamma and Delta Tocopherol. If anything, it is too much information.

    http://www.nutritiondata.com/facts-C00001-01c20gM.html

    No kidding! i do this for a living, and yet I'd never be that anal! I enjoy spending my free time being free, I suppose.

  14. #14
    Faster but still slow slowandsteady's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by aikigreg
    No kidding! i do this for a living, and yet I'd never be that anal! I enjoy spending my free time being free, I suppose.

    It is a little bit nuts. But, hey, if you really need to know how much 18:2 undifferentiated polyunsaturated fat is in your chocolate cupcake, at least you can look it up.
    "Ride lots." -- Eddy Merckx

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    Thanks guys, this has been really helpful.

    I have done googling on the subject, but it always turns up so much "men's magazine" "better abs in 2 hours" junk that can SOUND knowledgeable enough but I just don't trust. That's mainly where I got the more protein = more muscle equation and the attendant skepticism.

    It's also complicated by the difference in training goals - I enjoy both climbing and cycling, and want to improve at both but not the exclusion of the other, and the nutritional tips for both seem so different that I guess I need to just keep experimenting in the middle ground until I find something that seems to work.

    But the links you've posted are great, and have shown me some valuable resources, so thanks.

  16. #16
    Faster but still slow slowandsteady's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by deolmstead
    Thanks guys, this has been really helpful.

    I have done googling on the subject, but it always turns up so much "men's magazine" "better abs in 2 hours" junk that can SOUND knowledgeable enough but I just don't trust. That's mainly where I got the more protein = more muscle equation and the attendant skepticism.

    It's also complicated by the difference in training goals - I enjoy both climbing and cycling, and want to improve at both but not the exclusion of the other, and the nutritional tips for both seem so different that I guess I need to just keep experimenting in the middle ground until I find something that seems to work.

    But the links you've posted are great, and have shown me some valuable resources, so thanks.

    www.cptips.com

    A very good site on cycling training that is beyond beginner fluff, but not so complicated that you can't understand it without a degree in physiology.

    Basically, building muscle happens like this.

    You exert your muscle to fatigue.
    You rest
    Your body sends energy to create more muscle while you rest.

    If you don't have enough food(protein and carbs) you won't build muscle
    If you don't have enough rest, you won't build muscle.

    You have to have all three, exertion to fatigue, food, and rest to build muscle. What happens in some people is that they don't eat enough good food to supply the energy to build muscle therefore they don't bulk up as fast as if they were properly fed.

    Keep in mind that you don't necessarily need to eat protein to build muscle. Your body does a very good job of converting carbs into proteins. The only exception are the essential amino acids which are called essential, because we cannot make them.
    Last edited by slowandsteady; 05-08-07 at 02:35 PM.
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  17. #17
    Senior Member ModoVincere's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by slowandsteady
    www.cptips.com

    A very good site on cycling training that is beyond beginner fluff, but not so complicated that you can't understand it without a degree in physiology.

    Basically, building muscle happens like this.

    You exert your muscle to fatigue.
    You rest
    Your body sends energy to create more muscle while you rest.

    If you don't have enough food(protein and carbs) you won't build muscle
    If you don't have enough rest, you won't build muscle.

    You have to have all three, exertion to fatigue, food, and rest to build muscle. What happens in some people is that they don't eat enough good food to supply the energy to build muscle therefore they don't bulk up as fast as if they were properly fed.

    Keep in mind that you don't necessarily need to eat protein to build muscle. Your body does a very good job of converting carbs into proteins. The only exception are the essential amino acids which are called essential, because we cannot make them.
    Where does the N come from to convert carbs to protein?
    By the way, this is a serious question, not trying to be a smarta$$ here.
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  18. #18
    big ring MIN's Avatar
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    To address the "when" part of your question: consuming 1:4 protein to carb ratio (that is, 1 gr of protein per 4 gr of carbs) is best within 2 hours of activity. Carbohydrate uptake is more efficient in the presence of protein. Protein is required for recovery but do not exceed the 1:4 ratio.

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    Quote Originally Posted by MIN
    To address the "when" part of your question: consuming 1:4 protein to carb ratio (that is, 1 gr of protein per 4 gr of carbs) is best within 2 hours of activity. Carbohydrate uptake is more efficient in the presence of protein. Protein is required for recovery but do not exceed the 1:4 ratio.

    And of course I would say that post workout, consume a 1:2 ratio of PRo to CHO, and do so as immediate as possible - after 45 minutes you've lost your window to allow the CHO to work effectively.

    And if you want to be REALLY effective, have a similar meal/shake about an hour after the first one helps a lot as well.

  20. #20
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    Quote Originally Posted by aikigreg
    And of course I would say that post workout, consume a 1:2 ratio of PRo to CHO, and do so as immediate as possible - after 45 minutes you've lost your window to allow the CHO to work effectively.
    Hm. How the heck do you come up with recipes that adhere to these sorts of ratios? Is there a website that'll give ideas or something? Or do you just stick with something REALLY simple, like 1/4c beans to 1c rice and water? I mean, obviously there's some ballparking involved, but once you start factoring in drinks, salad, etc my head starts spinning...

    (math is not my strong suit)

    EDIT: OK, I see that NutritionData.com has some pretty hard-core tools for figuring these things out. That's helpful. I just wish it had the ability to share/rate/search recipes with other users...
    Last edited by deolmstead; 05-08-07 at 04:47 PM.

  21. #21
    big ring MIN's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by deolmstead
    Hm. How the heck do you come up with recipes that adhere to these sorts of ratios? Is there a website that'll give ideas or something? Or do you just stick with something REALLY simple, like 1/4c beans to 1c rice and water? I mean, obviously there's some ballparking involved, but once you start factoring in drinks, salad, etc my head starts spinning...

    (math is not my strong suit)
    You should just drink a recovery drink like Endurox. I take EAS Protein as a supplement - it has BCAAs which is great if you're a vegetarian.

  22. #22
    Faster but still slow slowandsteady's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by ModoVincere
    Where does the N come from to convert carbs to protein?
    By the way, this is a serious question, not trying to be a smarta$$ here.

    I was greatly simplifying it. Glucose is used to produce amino acids in conjunction with specific enzymes. The liver is the major "producer" of nitrogen. But nitrogen generally comes from bacteria and plants in our diet and normal gut flora.
    "Ride lots." -- Eddy Merckx

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