The Myth of 1 g/lb: Optimal Protein Intake for Bodybuilders

Protein. It’s every bodybuilder’s favorite macronutrient and for good reason. Protein is extremely essential, super satiating and amazingly anabolic. Protein is awesome… but you’re consuming too much of it.

Like most myths, the belief that you should take in 1g/lb of body weight has become so deeply entrenched in the fitness world that its validity is rarely questioned. Strangely, very few people think it’s a bit too accidental that the optimal amount of protein your body can assimilate in a day is exactly 1g/lb. 2.2g/kg doesn’t sound as right, does it? Of course, I know you read my articles for their scientific merit, so let’s look at the literature on the effects of daily protein intake to find out if 1g/lb really is the optimal amount of protein intake for maximum muscle gains.

 

Studies on Optimal Protein Intake

All values in the bullet point list below are expressed as grams of protein per pound of body weight per day. All of these studies controlled for energy intake, either based on individual requirements or by setting energy intake to be equal in all experimental conditions, so that only the proportion of protein in the diet varied between groups. If the studies were based on unreliable methods such as nitrogen balance, a marker of lean body mass changes, I only included them if they controlled for sweating and dietary adaptation periods.

•    Tarnopolsky et al. (1992) observed no differences in whole body protein synthesis or indexes of lean body mass in strength athletes consuming either 0.64g/lb or 1.10g/lb over a 2 week period. Protein oxidation did increase in the high protein group, indicating a nutrient overload.
•    Walberg et al. (1988) found that 0.73g/lb was sufficient to maintain positive nitrogen balance in cutting weightlifters over a 7 day time period.
•    Tarnopolsky et al. (1988) found that only 0.37g/lb was required to maintain positive nitrogen balance in elite bodybuilders (over 5 years of experience, possible previous use of androgens) over a 10 day period. 0.45g/lb was sufficient to maintain lean body mass in bodybuilders over a 2 week period. The authors suggested that 0.55g/lb was sufficient for bodybuilders.
•    Lemon et al. (1992) found no differences in muscle mass or strength gains in novice bodybuilders consuming either 0.61g/lb or 1.19g/lb over a 4 week period. Based on nitrogen balance data, the authors recommended 0.75g/lb.
•    Hoffman et al. (2006) found no differences in body composition, strength or resting hormonal concentrations in strength athletes consuming either 0.77g/lb or >0.91g/lb over a 3 month period.

Now, there are some old studies based on nitrogen balance that suggest higher protein intakes are beneficial, but, as I stated above, these studies were methodological abominations. Nitrogen balance is a notoriously unreliable method to assess changes in lean body mass, especially at higher amounts, and these studies didn’t control for sweating or dietary adaptation. Significant changes in dietary protein intake are known to result in negative nitrogen balance for up to 2 weeks after the change, even when sufficient energy and protein is consumed. Furthermore, these studies didn’t exclude androgenic-anabolic steroid users though they studied competitive athletes. (Tarnopolsky et al., 1988).It’s no wonder many of these studies didn’t get translated and remain no more than a shady abstract on PubMed, if they’re even featured on there.

 

A Bayesian Bodybuilder stomping on a methodological abomination.

Based on the sound research, many review papers have concluded 0.82g/lb is the upper limit at which protein intake benefits body composition (Phillips & Van Loon, 2011). This recommendation often includes a double 95% confidence level, meaning they took the highest mean intake at which benefits were still observed and then added two standard deviations to that level to make absolutely sure all possible benefits from additional protein intake are utilized. As such, this is already overdoing it and consuming 1g/lb ‘to be safe’ doesn’t make any sense. 0.82g/lb is already very safe.

The picture below summarizes the literature. As you can see, 1.8g/kg (0.82g/lb) is the point at which additional protein intake ceases to yield any benefits.

 

 

 

But, But, But…!

If you still think you need more than 0.82g/lb because you think you train harder than these test subjects, think again. Lemon et al. (1992) studied bodybuilders training 1.5h per day, 6 days per week and still concluded 0.75g/lb is the highest intake at which body composition benefits could occur.

Another frequently heard objection is that people need more protein because they are more experienced than the studied populations. Well, Tarnopolsky et al. (1988) used elite bodybuilders and found that less protein was needed than in novice bodybuilders. In fact, the finding that the more experienced you are, the less protein you need, has been replicated in several studies (Rennie & Tipton, 2000; Hartman, Moore & Phillips, 2006; Moore et al., 2007). In everyone there is both constant protein synthesis and breakdown. Resistance training causes both breakdown and synthesis to increase, normally with a favorable balance towards synthesis. As you progress in your training, the body becomes more efficient at stopping the breakdown of protein resulting from training. Since less protein now needs to be replenished, this increase in nitrogen retention means less protein is subsequently needed for optimal growth.

Secondly, the more advanced you are, the less protein synthesis increases after training. As you become more muscular and you get closer to your genetic limit, less muscle is built after training. This is very intuitive. The slower you can build muscle, the less protein is needed for optimal growth. It wouldn’t make any sense if the body needed more protein to build less muscle, especially considering that the body becomes more efficient at metabolizing protein.

A final objection that is often heard is that these values may be true during bulking or maintenance periods, but cutting requires more protein to maintain muscle mass. Walberg et al. (1988) studied cutting weightlifters and they still found 0.73g/lb was sufficient to maintain lean body mass.

A perhaps even more telling study is by Pikosky et al. in 2008. The researchers took a group of endurance trained subjects and had them consume either 0.41 or 0.82 g/lb of protein per day. They also added a thousand calories worth of training on top of their regular exercise. So these guys were literally running on a 1000 calorie deficit while drastically increasing their training volume. Talk about a catabolic state… Of course the nitrogen balance in the low protein group plummeted. However, the protein intake of 0.82 g/lb in the other group completely protected the subjects from muscle loss. Nitrogen balance, whole-body protein turnover and protein synthesis remained unchanged.

Also, the supposed difference in nitrogen sparing effects of carbs and fat are negligible (McCargar et al. 1989; Millward, 1989). Neither actually spares protein though. Only protein spares protein. I think the protein sparing idea came from a wrong interpretation of the nitrogen balance literature showing more lean mass is lost in more severe caloric deficits. A simple explanation for that finding is that the more total mass you lose, the more lean mass you lose. No surprises there.

As such, there is simply no empirically substantiated reason to think we need more than 0.82g/lb of protein per day when cutting. If anything, you could reason the body should be able to use more protein during bulking periods, because more muscle is being built and a lot of other nutrients are ingested that may enable more protein to be used.

The only people that may actually need more protein than 0.82g/lb are people with unusually high levels of anabolic hormones. Androgen or growth hormone users definitely fall into this category, but I don’t exclude the possibility that some adolescents do too. If you reach peak testosterone production while still growing (in height), your unusually high levels of growth hormone and testosterone might increase your protein requirements. Or not. There’s no research to support it. Those rare individuals with amazing bodybuilding genetics could also qualify, but unless your father happens to be a silverback gorilla, you are most likely just like other humans in this regard.

 

The 1g/lb Myth’s Origin

Why is it then that everybody says you need to consume 1g/lb? Aside from the facts that there don’t need to be any good reasons for why people believe in a myth, that myths tend to perpetuate themselves via conformism and tradition, and that the fitness industry is flooded with myths, here are some plausible grounds for the ‘confusion’.

•    People copy the dietary practices of pro bodybuilders on androgens. Steroids enable you to assimilate far more protein than you’d normally could.
•    People based their recommendations on the flawed nitrogen balance studies back from when the world was still flat.
•    The more is better heuristic. There are so many studies showing protein is good for you, it’s hard not to think more of it is even better.
•    Supplement companies have an obvious financial incentive to make you want to believe you need more protein than you really do. There are actually several industry-sponsored studies showing absolutely miraculous benefits of consuming more protein (see for example the studies by Cribb).
•    People can’t be bothered with decimals and just round up to the nearest convenient integer, which so happens to be an easy to remember 1.

 

Often, more is better, but at some point it’s just too much.

On a final note, there’s nothing inherently wrong or unhealthy about consuming more protein than your body can use to build muscle. The excess will simply be used as energy. However, protein sources tend to be expensive compared to other energy sources and variety generally beats monotony with regards to your health, so satiety and food preferences are the only reasons I can think of why somebody would want to overconsume protein.

 

Take Home Messages

•    There is normally no advantage to consuming more than 0.82g/lb (1.8g/kg) of protein per day to preserve or build muscle. This already includes a very safe mark-up. There hasn’t been any recorded advantage of consuming more than 0.64g/lb. The only exceptions to this rule could be individuals with extraordinarily high anabolic hormone levels.
•    Optimal protein intake decreases with training age, because your body becomes more efficient at preventing protein breakdown resulting from training and less protein is needed for the increasingly smaller amount of muscle that is built after each training session. The magnitude of this effect is unclear.

 

This article in 6 words: Consume 0.82g/lb of protein every day.

 


 

 


References

Effect of protein intake on strength, body composition and endocrine changes in strength/power athletes. Hoffman JR, Ratamess NA, Kang J, Falvo MJ, Faigenbaum AD. J Int Soc Sports Nutr. 2006 Dec 13;3:12-8.

Macronutrient content of a hypoenergy diet affects nitrogen retention and muscle function in weight lifters. Walberg JL, Leidy MK, Sturgill DJ, Hinkle DE, Ritchey SJ, Sebolt DR. Int J Sports Med. 1988 Aug;9(4):261-6.

Protein requirements and muscle mass/strength changes during intensive training in novice bodybuilders. Lemon PW, Tarnopolsky MA, MacDougall JD, Atkinson SA. J Appl Physiol. 1992 Aug;73(2):767-75.

Influence of protein intake and training status on nitrogen balance and lean body mass. Tarnopolsky MA, MacDougall JD, Atkinson SA. J Appl Physiol. 1988 Jan;64(1):187-93.

Dietary protein for athletes: From requirements to optimum adaptation. Phillips SM, Van Loon LJ. J Sports Sci. 2011;29 Suppl 1:S29-38.

Protein and amino acid metabolism during and after exercise and the effects of nutrition. Rennie MJ, Tipton KD. Annu Rev Nutr. 2000;20:457-83.

Hartman, J. W., Moore, D. R., & Phillips, S. M. (2006). Resistance training reduces whole-body protein turnover and improves net protein retention in untrained young males. Applied Physiology, Nutrition and Metabolism, 31, 557–564.

Moore, D. R., Del Bel, N. C., Nizi, K. I., Hartman, J. W., Tang, J. E., Armstrong, D. et al. (2007). Resistance training reduces fasted- and fed-state leucine turnover and increases dietary nitrogen retention in previously untrained young men. Journal of Nutrition, 137, 985–991.

Effects of exercise on dietary protein requirements. Lemon PW. Int J Sport Nutr. 1998 Dec;8(4):426-47.

Effects of high-calorie supplements on body composition and muscular strength following resistance training. Rozenek R, Ward P, Long S, Garhammer J. J Sports Med Phys Fitness. 2002 Sep;42(3):340-7.

Increased protein maintains nitrogen balance during exercise-induced energy deficit. Pikosky MA, Smith TJ, Grediagin A, Castaneda-Sceppa C, Byerley L, Glickman EL, Young AJ. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2008 Mar;40(3):505-12.

Dietary carbohydrate-to-fat ratio: influence on whole-body nitrogen retention, substrate utilization, and hormone response in healthy male subjects. McCargar LJ, Clandinin MT, Belcastro AN, Walker K. Am J Clin Nutr. 1989 Jun;49(6):1169-78.

Macronutrient Intakes as Determinants of Dietary Protein and Amino Acid Adequacy. Millward, DJ. J. Nutr. June 1, 2004 vol. 134 no. 6 1588S-1596S.

  • Matt Strauss

    Great stuff! Please keep doing what  you are doing.

    • Menno Henselmans

      If there are enough people like you around, I sure will. Much appreciated.

  • Rhodro

    Great article!

    I read them all so far and they are damn usefull.
    Keep it up, i can’t wait for the next one.

  • Lucas

    Man, you should write a book!!

  • Ymir

    Saw you on DBB and add this site to my rss feed. Like this subject on proteins. It is a waste for the environment if we all eat to much of it. It would be good too keep in mind that there is a maximum.
    But while on AAS thyroid hormone growth hormone insulin,, I still think the situation is a lot different and that is not includes in the studies.

  • Denis

    I gotta agree fantastic website.

  • http://integratedstrength.com Nick Efthimiou

    Great article, and great new look design. 

  • Wouter

    Leuk artikel, zeker omdat het alles ook weer iets eenvoudiger maakt (zoals eten tijdens vakanties, etc.) ;)

    Blijf vooral schrijven!

  • os

    You are a smart guy and your articles are a very good read. Keep on, it's hard to filter out the noise in the huge fitness database (or any other field for that matter) bu you're doing it really well.

  • http://skyefreeman.com Skye

    Thanks for the awesome article!
    I see what you were talking about now in response to my earlier question, and it's causing me to waver.
    My tactic of consuming higher protein was not to spur greater protein synthesis, but to avoid fat storage by using protein as an energy source (and glycogen after conversion to glucose), any spillover being less efficiently converted to fat. Coconut oil was also involved in the plan for a similar reason, whereas carbs would be from fruit and vegetable sources and limited to 100 grams or less.
    Perhaps there are reasons this would be not so effective in practice as on paper.
    I would love to see some information about the deminishing returns in terms of bodycomposition for carbohydrates and fat. My guess would be that many bodybuilders are consuming more carbohydrates than the body can use to build muscle, but I don't have a clear sense of what the optimal level might be.
    My research continues.

    • http://skyefreeman.com Skye

      Just went back and reread the carb article and it looks like I forgot that you already partly adressed the question of carbs in terms of bodycomp benefits beyond glycogen repletion. So do you have any preference for how the caloric surplus is obtained (obviously the cheapest way is with carbs).

      • http://skyefreeman.com Skye

        To rephrase that question… Is there a reason why obtaining the caloric surplus from any particular macronutrient would be better for bodycomposition (once glycogen, protein requirements, and micronutrients are out of the way) than any other.
         
        The case for obtaining the caloric surplus through protein would be potentially lesser conversion of the unutilized spillover to fat. For carbs it could be to gather more phytonutrients and other micronutrients. But there doesn't appear to be a benefit for fat (unless we're talking MCTs) because the excess would just convert to fat.
         
        Clearly I'm overanalysing this.

        • Menno Henselmans

          Well, the body doesn’t distinguish between foods ‘over the allowance’ and foods ‘under the allowance’. It just uses everything, so you can’t force your body to preferentially metabolize certain macronutrients contingent on a caloric surplus. I’ll talk more about these issues in future articles though.

  • Bender

    Protein is more filling and has a higher thermic effect of feeding than either carbs or fats… Wouldn't this suggest that a higher protein intake would be beneficial when trying to lose weight?

    • Menno Henselmans

      Yes, as I said satiation can be a reason to consume more.

  • jesse

    Was waiting for you to do an article like this.  As far as inferior evidence goes, I know some of the top natural bodybuilders reason that from their experience, a surplus of protein is more beneficial for building muscle than fat or carbs mainly because protein is used to build muscle, those who eat more protein end up "drier, grainier, and harder" than their competitors, and those who eat more protein generally spare more muscle than their other competitors.  First claim might sound dumb, but the other two I tend to believe because those that win the show at the pro natural level are the ones who show up with superb conditioning and are grainy and follow these principles along with paying attention to meal timing and food source. 
    Next, even Dr. Lemon himself said in this interview there are possible benefits to higher protein intakes that science cannot conduct well-done studies for.  http://blog.holygrailbodytransformation.com/?p=381  Would love to know your thoughts on all this. 

    • Menno Henselmans

      I don’t see any empirical support for any of these claims and most of the objections Lemon mentioned are simply not true, e.g. research done only on novices or only in the short term.

      • Scott

        The only study you cited with any sort of decent time frame (Hoffman et al, 2006) showed that the 1+g/lb protein group lost 1% bodyfat compared to the .8g/lb protein group WHILE increasing their bench by 7 more lbs and their squat by 9 more lbs than said group.  That is about as drastic a change you can expect in 12 weeks with such a minor diet difference, but it's still "within error bounds" and reported as no benefit.  You need a bigger sample size or a longer trial time, because adding 48lbs to your squat instead of 39 in a period of 12 weeks is no joke and SHOULD be significant.

        • Menno Henselmans

          What you think should be significant and what statistical theory postulates are evidently not the same. There’s a reason you don’t compare the numbers manually. Also, the time frame doesn’t have to be long when protein balance is measured directly, because the statistical power for such a deterministic measure is already extremely high.

  • jesse

    I see. Well, for someone who has high insulin sensitivity(I’m trying to say I get tired after eating carbs) what would you suggest I do? At the moment I’m keeping my macros at 205 P 80 F 200 C. My body is getting leaner while getting bigger, if that makes any sense and I’ve been training 4 years, so no newb gains.

  • jesse

    Also, I’m 5’10 162 lb at the moment, if that helps.

    .

    • Menno Henselmans

      Up your fat intake until you’re steadily but slowly gaining weight.

  • jesse

    Thanks so much, Mennon. Please continue putting out credible information.

  • Darren

    Thanks for a very informative (and re-assuring) article. I have always done well at around  0.9-1g per pound lbm and never understood all the fuss about larger intakes. Actually, I get much hungrier on a cut when I remove too much carbs/fat.
    Does the research make distinctions between lbm and total bodyweight? I don't understand why 0.82/kg (or any other recommendation) would be the same for someone 200 pds and 25% bf compared to someone 170 pds at 10%. I guess much of the research, at least on atheletes, assume a fairly low body fat percentage.

    • Menno Henselmans

      To be honest I don’t know either. I would expect that fat needs less protein to maintain than muscle, but perhaps the difference is small. All the studies use total bodyweight and the results are fairly consistent between populations, so unless your body fat is unusually high or low I don’t think it matters.

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  • david

    This would really shake up the bodybuilding world.  The people who are the most scared of losing muscle mass would be natural bodybuilders who are dieting.  How would you go about reassuring a top level ifpa natural bodybuilder that their muscle loss will be minimal to close to zero?  I also should mention that Martin himself recommends 3 g/kg of bodyweight and he's a fellow bayesian bodybuilder.

    • Menno Henselmans

      Show them the studies. It’s hard to reason with fear though.

      Do you mean Martin Berkhan? It might make sense for IF due to protein’s satiation, because if you only have 8h to eat and you have to eat that much protein, it’s just impossible to get fat.

  • david

    I see.  Well, I can understand the first statement, but the second one?  That makes no sense at all.  I always thought thermodynamics always holds true, whether you eat your calories in a 4 hour window or a 12 hour window. 
    Somebody who I respect a lot is Lyle McDonald, and a lot of his information is used by other bodybuilders such as Tommy Jeffers and Lyle even wrote a book all about protein and why he tends to err on the latter side of 1-1.5 g when dieting.  He also, like you, will not state anything without enough peer-reviewed empirical research behind it.  I mentioned ifpa bodybuider because Lyle's advice is one of the few legitimate sources why bodybuilders still believe they need to take protein higher, sometimes even above 1.5 g, when dieting down to very low bf, say 3-4%. 

    • Menno Henselmans

      Ah the Lyle reference. Many people have told me protein intake should be higher because Lyle says so, but no one’s ever produced a reference. I’ve read Lyle’s work and as far as I’ve seen his reasoning is something like ‘we don’t know enough, so it’s better to be on the safe side’. I also recall reading a thread a long time ago where Lyle said it’s better to recommend too much because people always eat less than they think.

      As for Leangains, my comment was not about the calories. It’s literally about how much food you can stuff into yourself. If you only have 8h and you need to consume 250+ g of protein, it’s hard to consume much else on top of that. Some people prefer not to face restrictions when dieting and rather have obligations, so for these people such a diet may seem like, well, not a diet. That is not to say there is any physiological advantage to consuming that much protein, just a psychological one.

      Anyway, you’d be better off asking Martin and Lyle directly if you want to know what they think about my article.

      • david

        I definitely admire that you will always stick to studies as the only evidence.  I guess even among scientists, everyone has their own preferences.  Ah, that defnitely clears it up.  I do have to admit I had no problems with satiety eating 250+ protein lol.  Expensive for my wallet and probably wasted away via gluconeogenesis, but no satiety problems ever. 

        Suffice to say, I definitely hope you put out more articles as I admired your dissenting voice on stretching.  You're not willing to go against what many people say because you're always after the truth, and looking for surefire near infallible ways to back it up.  You never seem to rely on previous articles by anyone, and only rely on studies, and in my eyes, that is the most accurate way to go.

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  • Rodriguez

    Very interesting, thanks for your effort!
    I'm doing IF so if I have the choice between a bar of chocolate or a steak, I'll still take the steak because of the satiating properties. However, now I wont grow desperate anymore if I dont reach 1g/lb of protein and fear muscle breakdown. Nice.

  • Arun

    Hey there great post.
     
    One quick point of clarification: Lets say we are talking about weight training to add muscle mass (read bodybuilding type stuff)- On ur previous post it was clarified that carbs pre/post wo were unecessary- so in that case lets say that on any given weight training day a 200lb trainee should consume:
    -say max 50-100g carbs (i got the impression from ur carb article that even that may be too much)-200-400cals
    protein 200lbx.82=162 =say 175 -thats 700 cals
     
    so far working cal total= approx 1000 cals. 
     
    Suffice to say to maintain weight for a 200lb trainee, even if we take a modest estimate of say 2750cals
    that means 1750 cals must come from fat? thats a lot of fat, almost 200g (194exact) 
     
    Is that essentially what it takes to gain weight in your opinion?

    • Menno Henselmans

      No, the additional calories can also come from carbs or protein, preferably nutrient dense ones. There is a minimum for protein and fat, but there is no maximum for any macro. In reality though, my diets indeed tend to contain tons of fat as you said.

  • Ymir

    There is a discussion on DBB about this article, maybe you want to join? You are a member right?
    http://forum.dutchbodybuilding.com/showthread.php?p=6660203&posted=1#post6660203
     

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  • Toshko

    Amazing article as always! Keep them coming!

  • Renan

    great article! Mike Mentzer advocated this theory …

  • Rama

    Hi, I enjoyed this article and also learned a lot from Brad Pilon. However a study was recently brought to my attention "http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20798660" which shows that perhaps a higher protein intake may reduce symptoms of physiological and psychological stressors in high intensity training. The study compared intakes of 3g protein per kg of BW vs 1.5g protein per kg of BW. The problem is they did not assess what happened with intakes of 2g protein per kg of BW and 2.5g protein per kg of BW for comparisons as well. Nonetheless, I am interested in hearing your thoughts about this study!

    • Menno Henselmans

      Unless you are an experienced endurance athlete, I don’t think it’s very relevant. Most effects weren’t significant (‘possibly’ this and that, seriously?) in the first place and it has long been established that endurance athletes under some conditions actually require more protein than strength trainees. I’d also note that these athletes were consuming a ton of carbs, so their protein intake was predominantly from sources with incomplete amino acid profiles. Factoring in the marginal improvement of such a huge protein addition, it wouldn’t surprise me if 1.8 g / lb from high quality protein sources was still more than sufficient to optimize their recovery.

       

      • Rama

        1.8 g/ lb from high quality protein sources? Sorry I am not sure what that meant, can you please elaborate on that? Thanks in advance!

        • Menno Henselmans

          It means foodstuffs whose protein has a complete amino acid profile, like fish, meat and dairy and unlike pasta, rice and oatmeal.

          • Rama

            Do you mean 1.8 g/kg of bodyweight? Because 1.8 g/lb is certainly a lot and is a bit more than what even people in the bodybuilding industry recommends….

          • Menno Henselmans

            Oops, yes, 1.8 g/kg of bodyweight, like I said in the article.

  • Rama

    Any thoughts on this study? http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20798660
    I love your articles btw, keep up the great work!

    • http://mennohenselmans.com/ Menno Henselmans

      It’s only relevant to hardcore endurance training. Carbohydrate intake was not matched to compensate for protein intake, which meant the high protein group consumed more insulinogenic energy. Even then, many of the findings were not statistically significant.

  • Bender

    Can you provide a link to the Waldberg et al (1988) study you referred to above? I can't seem to find it anywhere.

  • http://alanaragonblog.com/aarr Alan Aragon

    Menno — Thanks for your discussion of this topic with me & Eric Helms on FB, keep up the good work.

  • John Dunn

    Bodybuilding layman and ex-practitioner of broscience here.
    Can you elaborate on the "1000 calorie deficit" cutting remark? Does this mean 1000 calories a day, or 1000 calories less than recommended caloric intake according to conventional wisdom (which is regularly widly inaccurate)? 
    This is important, as I'm interested in what my caloric floor should be if I'm attempting to lose fat and gain muscle. I am following your guidelines for protein intake as well as your specific workout recommendations, with an hour of basketball preceding each session This is basically a personal consultation, so let me know if this information will cost me :P.
    I couldn't appreciate the work you've done this site any more and am spreading the word. Until I stumbled upon it two weeks ago, I was one of the guys in the gym with the dextrose-rich shake, hurrying home to eat within an hour. 

    • Menno Henselmans

      That’s great to hear. Most people just get mad when they find out they’ve been doing unnecessary or counterproductive things. As for your question, a 1000 calorie deficit is 1000 calories below maintenance intake. An article about your ‘caloric floor’ question is currently in press, so you’ll get a very detailed answer then.

      • John Dunn

        Thanks for the prompt response and I look forward to the upcoming article!

  • http://www.mykemacapinlac.com Myke Macapinlac

    It's funny because I "accidentally" tried this last year before the holidays. I weigh 145 lbs at 5'6" over 15% body fat and was eating 500 grams of steak (fat secret said that's roughly 1 gram of protein per pound) and I couldn't seem to shed off the weight. Then I thought to myself "what if I cut my intake in half" so I dropped it down to 200 to 250 grams of steak and that shred me up with no cardio. 

    I found your website yesterday and pretty much read every article. Thank you for your hard work and legit research. I'm a fan! 

    Sincerely, 

    Myke Macapinlac 

    • Menno Henselmans

      Thanks, Myke!

  • http://www.mykemacapinlac.com Myke Macapinlac

    Also, what's your quideline for body building and fat intake? Is there ever a good time to "carb load?" 

    • Menno Henselmans

      My diets are generally considered high fat, low carb. Fats are essential, carbs are not, after all.

      Carb loading has its place for bodybuilders under very special circumstances, the only regular one of which is pre-contest. I don’t see any point in carb loading as a regular part of a diet unless you’re an endurance athlete.

  • Le shiggy Donatello

    Say I've got the means to accurately measure my LBM, should I still aim for 0.82g/lb body weight?

    • Le shiggy Donatello

      pls respond

    • Menno Henselmans

      Whether it’s more accurate to use LBM instead of total mass is theoretical at this point and total weight is very reliable (unless you’re obese, in which case it may overestimate your requirements), so yes, I’d just use total weight.

  • Crouch

    hello,

    Coming from 1g protein per bodyweight in lbs for 2 years. I tried this method and I suffered some muscle loss after  2 months. My total calories is the same (I compute it strictly), I just readjusted the total protein for the 0.82g/lbs.

    I readjusted again and hit 1.5g protein per bodyweight in lbs and I was able to gain mass (muscle size) and was able to recover muscle loss.

    Maybe this is ok for those who wants to have some muscle and some sexy defitinition. As my goal is to bulk up like a monster, I am not sure if this applies to people who have the same goal as mine.

    • Menno Henselmans

      If you actually lost muscle while on a resistance training program and not on a serious cut you definitely need to revise your program. To emphasize, “Tarnopolsky et al. (1988) found that only 0.37g/lb was required to maintain positive nitrogen balance in elite bodybuilders (over 5 years of experience, possible previous use of androgens) over a 10 day period. 0.45g/lb was sufficient to maintain lean body mass in bodybuilders over a 2 week period. The authors suggested that 0.55g/lb was sufficient for bodybuilders.”

  • Crouch

    I think that this article says it all: http://www.teenbodybuilding.com/locke30.htm

     

    Quoted:

    Protein Requirements Formula:

    Lean Body Weight (in pounds) x Body Demand Factor

    Choose one of the following body demand factors to plug into the formula.

     

    .5 – no sports or training
    .6 – jogger or light fitness training
    .7 – moderate training, 3x per week
    .8 – moderate daily weight training or aerobics
    .9 – heavy weight training
    1.0 – heavy weight training daily
    1.5 – heavy weight training daily, plus cardio 3x per week

    ===========

     

    it seems that .8 does not suit my goals

    • Menno Henselmans

      The author did a good job of pulling a lot of specific numbers out of thin air without referencing any of them. I suggest you reevaluate the credibility of your information sources…

  • Aaron

    You can consume 0.82g/kg protein while cutting without losing muscle according to the 'studies', however what is the maximal deficit you can allow to avoid muscle loss ?

    I'm 99% sure that if I ate just the 0.82g/kg protein, which is about 500 cals for me, it would result in great muscle loss. Therefore what is the optimal deficit for cutting ?

    I think this is also an important point, if not more…

    • Menno Henselmans

      I have another article under review for publication on the optimal deficit for cutting at the moment. It should contain everything you want to know.

       

      • Jeff

        I would be very interested in reading this. Also, in general, keep up the good work!

  • lee rogers

    This is protein per pound of total body weight right? not lean body mass?

    • Menno Henselmans

      Yep, total body weight is what all studies use.

      • eclectic_reader

        But note that most of the studies you posted have athletes as subjects. It’s highly doubtful that a 300 lb woman with a lean body mass of 110 lbs needs 240g of protein.

        • http://BayesianBodybuilding.com/ Menno Henselmans

          She’ll need less, sure. The recommendation holds for the study populations, i.e. people who are not overweight.

  • OptimalProtein

    this is really a highly debatable subject between bodybuilders. I hope that these studies can produce pre and post op pictures. we all have different goals, some wants a little muscle yielding sexy look, while other wants lots of muscle yielding monstrous look. can both goals be achieved by the 0.82 g protein per bodyweight in lbs?

  • OptimalProtein

    there is article

    http://www.bodybuilding.com/fun/bbprotein.htm

    it says that for bodybuilding, 1.0 – 1.6g/lb bodyweight is needed. it also posted some reference in it.

    Sources: 1) Lemon PWR.:Protein and Amino Acid Requirements of the Strength Athlete.;Int J Sport Nutr , 1991;1;127-145 ?2) Tarnoplosky et al: Evaluation of Protein Metabolism Requirements for Trained Strength Atheletes.; J Appl Physiol , 1992:73(5):1986-1995 ?3) Teasley-Strausberg KM.: (Ed.) Nutritional Support Handbook; Cincinnati: Harvey Whitney Books, 1992

    although I am more eager to believe if there are some pre and post pics.

    • Menno Henselmans

      If you read the references, which I also referenced by the way, you’ll find that the authors do not support the recommendations in that article at all.

      • Jeff

        Someone shared the link: http://www.bodybuilding.com/fun/bbprotein.htm with me also. I read the first two papers, and the recommendation is in units of g/kg, not g/lb! Big difference! I actually chatted online with a bodybuilding.com representative about the issue. They told me they will correct it on their website :)

  • Nico Lawrence

    I hypothesize that (A) you need FAR less protein to maintain positive nitrogen balance and at the same time (B) Your body could in fact absorb much more. It may seem paradoxical but its really quite simple. All these experiments fail to consider and document the most critical two factors in protein absorption and that is the amount and frequency of servings, and the type of protein being consumed. You have to imagine that the ideal scenario for protein intake would be to have an IV dripping it into you slowly throughout the day so that the body has a steady flow of amino acids, nitrogen, etc.. While at the same time realizing that slamming down a 50g whey protein shake doesn't mean that your body will utilize it the way you might think. In reality, your body will probably only use maybe 10g-20g at best (depending on your body composition) and the rest will get excreted or converted into other things such as storable fat. An IV is not practical but there are plenty of ways to insure optimal intake. The three best methods that I can think of are 1. Utilizing different types of proteins that have different release patterns to ensure that you maintain a steady release throughout the day. Whey offers fast absorption, casein slower, meat slower still, and egg whites I believe are the slowest. 2. Consume less protein per serving but increase the frequency of servings. For me, I consume roughly .40g/lb and I spread it out in two hour intervals (I used to do it on the hour, but it became distracting and impractical) So between 7am – 7pm I consume about 12g every 2 hours. I use a mixture of sources. My favorite is a casein/whey blend protein mix from Dymatize nutrition because I love the flavor; Raw egg whites in my smoothies because its the slowest absorbing and arguably the highest quality protein known to man (best if raw); Sushi/Sashimi because its irresistible, is a very high quality protein, is slow absorbing, and raw 3. Try to eat more from raw sources such as egg whites and sashimi grade raw fish as heat damages the amino acids and reduces the amount that the body can actually use.

    • Menno Henselmans

      While the factors you mention definitely matter to some extent, research has actually falsified most of your hypotheses. Meal frequency is almost completely unrelated to the bioavailability of protein and its effects on protein balance. Protein source also does not seem to matter much when you are eating mixed meals and the protein source has a complete amino acid profile. Basically, throughout evolution your body has become pretty damn efficient in utilizing the protein it consumes and it becomes even more efficient as you place higher demands on it, as is the case for resistance training.

      I recommend reading Alan Aragon’s article on the limit of protein your body can use in a single meal. That should provide you with a good starting point for further research.

  • Darren

    Menno,

    .45g of protein maintains positive nitrogen balance in bodybuilders over a 2 week period. Do you think if a bodybuilder stayed on this amount beyond 2 weeks, that they would eventually be in negative nitrogen balance?

    • Menno Henselmans

      I certainly wouldn’t recommend it and I believe some/one of the subjects indeed slipped into negative nitrogen balance near the end. However, there is no absolute reason to think protein balance would be significantly more negative over longer time periods. If anything, weight loss would lower protein requirements towards maintenance (equilibrium).

  • Moe

    Hello I am a physician and also a body building enthusiast…for years I have been telling my friends and colleagues who lift that they only need to consume 1g/kg or even less however that point has always been pushed aside as most feel more comfortable with the myth that is so deeply routed in the BB world. Also, I find that there are athletes who are versed in some biochem or even has a graduate degree in the field but they fail to understand that theory does not always materialize to reality. Also, they focus on the immediate situation which is to "bulk up". Life is a spectrum and you go from weak to strong then back to weak. As your body ages so do your orangs and the excess amount of protein which may be of no harm at one point can be the source of worsened kidney function.

    Prior to medical school I was consumed around 400grams of protein a day, my philosophy was if 1g/lbs is good then 2g/lbs is better…a family doctor told me that it was too much and that I could easily get all my protein needs via whole foods but I blew him off as a nobody because the big guys at my gym knew better!

    Thank you for shedding light on the studies and making this a scientific discussion, the 1g/lbs crowd has nothing to stand in when faced with your post.

    PS.. one day I was having my post workout shake and a friend told me that the shake was essentially useless as I had added too much water to it..I was a biochemist at the NIH at the time, mind you…I knew it was a bs statement but I was curious and asked him why..his respones was "I dont know, it just is".. I was dumbfounded…

    • Menno Henselmans

      Thanks. Facing ignorance just never gets easier I’m afraid.

  • http://mennohenselmans.com/the-myth-of-1glb-optimal-protein-intake-for-bodybuilders/ Hilton

    The article states:

     

    ". . .  the more advanced you are, the less protein synthesis increases after training. As you become more muscular and you get closer to your genetic limit, less muscle is built after training. This is very intuitive. The slower you can build muscle, the less protein is needed for optimal growth. It wouldn’t make any sense if the body needed more protein to build less muscle, especially considering that the body becomes more efficient at metabolizing protein."

    The assumption here is that the bodybuilder's muscles grow at an ever-decreasing rate from the first time he picks up a weight. However, considering that muscle gets stronger after each workout (provided the athlete trains adequately), surely the muscle gains will be continually greater & such gains will slow down only as the athlete starts to reach his genetically predetermined most muscular possible state.

     

    In other words: if a natural bodybuilder is able to add a maximum of 10 kg of pure muscle mass to his frame over a period of, say, five years, won't his muscle growth slow down only at approximately the 5 kg point? Surely the rate of muscle growth will be increasingly greater for the first half of his maximum muscle mass gain?

    • Menno Henselmans

      If only that were true. The literature is very clear on the finding that there are strict diminishing returns to strength training in all regards. Anyone who’s reached his genetic ceiling can affirm this.

  • J

    Hi Menno,

    Unfortunately, I do not have access to these specific studies you cite. What about when cutting using a low carb/ketogenic diet?  I assume that the articles on calorie restriction contain a portion of carbohydrates that keep the subjects out of ketosis and spare muscle.  Would this then not definitively rule out the need for higher protein content for those who adhere to a low carb regiment while dieting? Perhaps higher protein content is admissible or even beneficial to those hoping to restrict the breakdown of amino acids when carbohydrates are no longer available in the body.

    Thanks,

    J

    • Menno Henselmans

      As referred to in the article, carbs are not considerably protein sparing. Keto-diets also do not perform worse than higher carb diets in the literature in general.

  • Stewart

    Great article; it has really made me consider my protein intake though, like many people, the fear of wasting months of hard training makes me apprehensive to try it for myself.

    I have a question – why, when your source studies find that there is no advantage in consuming over 0.64g/lb, do you go on to reccommend 0.82g/lb?

    • Menno Henselmans

      It’s based on a double standard deviation added to the found maximum: think of it as a very conservative estimate. Statistically, the probability that more protein than that will benefit you is 0.0025%.

      • Branr

        Isn’t 2 sigma a 95% CI? Meaning there would be a 5% chance that more protein than .82g/lb is beneficial? Perhaps you are thinking of 3 sigma which is the 99.7% CI :)

        • http://mennohenselmans.com/ Menno Henselmans

          Good question. The significance test itself to determine the maximum had a standard 5% alpha to which 2 more SDs were added, so it’s actually 4 sigma, i.e. p = 0.0025. I shoudn’t have added the % sign though. It’s obviously 0.25%.

  • http://www.humanbodysize.com thomas samaras

    A word of caution. Based on my research, too much protein, especially animal protein, can be dangerous to one's health. For example, a recent study by Lopez found that protein raises free radical production by a larger amount than carbs and fat. Free radical damage cells are viewed by many researchers as promoting aging.

    Ozanne found that feeding suckling male rats an 8% protein diet vs. a 23% diet, increased their longevity by almost 60%. Biologist, Professor David Rollo, reported similar findings and noted that the industrialization diet of high meat and calories promotes faster aging. Researcher, Colin Campbell, a nutritional biochemist, reported that protein promotes growth in height and chronic disease. 

    Protein also promotes increased insulin-like growth factor-1 which is tied to cancer and faster aging. Protein also increases the production of several waste products with potentially harmful effects: ammonia, urea, uric acid, and hippuric acid.  Fleming found that protein promotes higher levels of fibrinogen, apolipoprotein (a), and C-reactive protein–all related to increased heart disease.

    Silva and Annamalai did a theoretical analysis of nutrient intake and concluded that lower protein could add 3 years to our lives. However, lower caloric intake provided a 20 year increase in longevity.

    Tufts University Health Letter reported that red meat and processed meats promote all-cause mortality, heart disease, and cancer.

    Protein is an essential nutrient but too much can be harmful.

    I understand that there are experts who disagree with the above findings. You can make your own decision, but I suggest everyone look at the findings of Colin Campbell.

     

    • Ken

      Delayed response, this was posted 10 months ago but still wanted to reply in case anyone reads. I Think most of everything you posted can be summed up by this line you said at the end “Tufts University Health Letter reported that red meat and processed meats promote all-cause mortality, heart disease, and cancer.” This is mostly a western especially american problem. Its not so much protein that causes all these problems as much as it is the type of protein or maybe too much protein and not enough veggies along with it. The body becomes acidic instead of alkaline, leading to all kinds of diseases. The most heart healthy diet that includes protein is the mediteranean diet or japanese diet. The top of there food pyramid is fish. The bottom is red meat in which they only eat 2 or 3 times a month on average, not almost daily like in american. Anything other than what the typical american is eating which is a bunch or factory raised hormone injected raised meat and processed meat. There’s a reason we have like 10 times the heart disease and cancer in america as they do in Japan and some mediteranean countries….

  • Ryan Arthur

    Dear Menno,

    I just wanted to thank you for your excellent, thoughtful, intelligent articles. I hope you will continue writing regularly.

    I also wanted to mention that I am nearing the tail-end of an 8-week cut (solely for recreational purposes, not for a competition) and have been keeping protein at around 1.25-1.5 g/lbs. I plan to lower this to around .85-1 g/lbs. so that I have room for more carbs and fat, which I miss from when I was bulking. It's scary because the huge weight of opinion is on the side of consuming more protein, particularly when cutting, but the science says what it says, and it is going up against a consensus backed by money. I am going to trust the science and try to let go of the fears I have about this.

    Anyway, thank you again, and please do continue writing.

    Ryan

    • Menno Henselmans

      Thank you, Ryan. “Don’t think you’re on the right road just because it’s a well-beaten path.

  • Karl

    Great article

    For a guy that is cutting to loose fat and maintaining muscle and even building a litle to you think 0.62 gram/lb is still enough ?

    • Menno Henselmans

      Thank you. I’d opt for 0.8 g /lb to be sure, but 0.62 should definitely be sufficient to progress.

  • sorell

    So on a bulking diet then if im 140lbs and im getting at most 1g/lbs protein do you suggest eating more fat or carbs. And how many calories should i aim for? 

    Like can you tell me i should get x amount of calories from  fat and x amount from carbs.  thanks

    • Menno Henselmans

      Those questions deserve a much lengthier answer than I can give in a comment, so I’ll address them in a future article.

  • Marco

    Thank you for a most interesting read. It appears that I too have been consuming to much protein, which I based on discussions in internet forums and manufacturer recommendations. I must admit that I adhered to the old adage "the more the better." Now I realise that I'm just wasting money. Keep up the good work.

  • David Webb

    I really wish I read this article 5 years ago, would have saved me so much money..

  • doubleh

    great article, scientifically sound, fun to read. Love the "article in 6 words."

  • Menno Henselmans

     

      •  

      • Robbie Camillo · Flinders University

        I think it's also important to note, that daily intake of protein SHOULD be based on lean body weight. I know people who weigh 100KG so they take 200g of protein, but they have 20+ percent body fat.

        • Scott Mac · Manchester, United Kingdom

          I agree totally my friend.In a hypothetical situation,how could a man of 200lbs and 40% body fat need the same protein intake as a man of the same weight but 10% body fat.I'm trying to work out my efficient macro nutrients for a cutting diet and I'm more geared to go off my lean muscle mass for my protein intake.Have you any articles or advice on this you could recommend please?

           
           

        • Lawrence Neri · Top Commenter · Colegio de San Juan de Letran

          That's hard to determine since it wasn't mentioned specifically in the studies. Makes sense but not mentioned.

           
           

         

      • robjbeckett (signed in using yahoo)

        I enjoyed reading it. I don't even consume that. I go with.8 to 1.2g per kg and take in about 100-120g a day from veg protein. I used to only take in about 70 a day till a few months back. My 4th working set of bench is 315lbs so I don't see the point in taking more. I have even read that doing weights only requires a max of 10 extra grams of protein a day over the amount for a normal no athletic person. That's down around 60-70g a day.

           

        • Ameya Phalke

          Loved the last line-

          This article in 6 words: Consume 0.82g/lb of protein every day.

          :P

             

          • Kody R Boen · Edmonton, Alberta

            Actually, consuming high amounts of protein a day can lead to pancreatic failure, pancreatic cancer, and a multitude of digestive problems and possibly even the diahbeetus.

            • André Ekenberg · Top Commenter

              I would like to see some credible sources on that. At least the pancreatic failure. And also how high the risks are and at what amounts of protein consumptions.

               
               

            • David Peter Jennings · Fanshawe College

              You need to quantify what "high" means. Too much of anything can really hurt you.

               
               

             

          • Peter Heesbeen · · Top Commenter · Den Bosch, Noord-Brabant, Netherlands

            Love your articles!

            Here's a question:
            I read this article and "Optimized Workout Nutrition: Carbs Revisited" where you say we don't actually need carbs for anything. So if I consume 1.64g/kg of protein, which I need, and say 50 grams of fat, which I also need (right?), are the rest of my calories free to be taken from whichever source I prefer? Do you have recommendations for the amount of fat and carbs?

             

          • Pablo Tapia-Vergara

            This one part here about "The excess [protein] will simply be used as energy" I was told that the body will only use protein as an energy source when there is nothing else, and when u reach this point your body is "eating itself" and that any excess protein is passed when you urinate.

            • Afke Moufakkir

              The liver turns it into carbs, which then can be used as an energy source

               
               

            • Sam Jackson · · Community Counselor at As a counselor

              Actually I heard the body will try to burn carbs, then fats, then proteins, and then amino acids as fuel. In otherwords, yes it doesn't burn protein first, but it will burn *anything in your stomache* before it burns *itself* / "eats itself". So using protein as fuel is not uncomon, its just not the body's first choice. If all one eats is protein then it will burn it as fuel before using it to build muscle. (survival before growth priority)

               
               

            • André Ekenberg · Top Commenter

              The body uses most of the protein you eat as energy. This is no matter how much or little you eat. The body is always burning (broken down) amno acids for fuel as well as storing amino acids in muscle. Building and rebuilding muscle on a daily basis. The NET CHANGE is what is interesting. If the body didnt burn up most of the amino acids you ate then you would gain at least a pound of muscle each day.
              So no. The body uses proten as an energy source – all the time.

               
               

             

          • Tom Domaschofsky · Salem, Oregon

            If your goal is to build muscle or simply maintain a decent foundation of LBM than 0.82g of protien per lb of bodyweight is all you need. Most bodybuilders/ fitness enthusiasts simply overdo it.

             

          • Brian Randell · · Top Commenter · Tulsa, Oklahoma

            Quick Question, any studies on how much protein max per sitting? Say meals or protein shakes for snacks / post workout etc that the body can process at one time?

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        • AwkardSquad

          Overwrought conclusion. The literature may well suggest that 0.82g/lb is closer to the point where you cease to see further benefit, but there is both uncertainty within studies and variation between individuals. Since there is little downside to consuming too much protein at these levels, it makes more sense to have an excessive intake than risk insufficient intake. 1g/lb is ultimately arbitrary but it seems pretty well supported scientifically.

          • http://mennohenselmans.com/ Menno Henselmans

            As I discussed in the article, 0.82 g/lb already includes a double error margin to account for interindividual variability. You may be particularly risk averse and choose to consume an even safer level of protein. I’ve got no issue with that decision. Personally though, I prefer consuming carbs and fats. More variety in my diet, cheaper foods, better taste.

        • Peter Soliman

          This article is inaccurate because it’s assuming 1 gram of protein per pound of body weight. As per quote below.

          “Like most myths, the belief that you should take in 1g/lb of body weight has become so deeply entrenched in the fitness world that its validity is rarely questioned.”

          It’s actually 1 gram of protein per pound of lean body mass (everything but fat).

          It’s rarely questioned because that is an accurate recommendation.

          • http://mennohenselmans.com/ Menno Henselmans

            That may be your perception of how it should be, but it is not what most people think. Do a Google search and you’ll see tons of recommendations for 1 g/lb of total body weight. Also, scientific researchers use total body weight. Whether lean mass is more accurate remains speculative.

            • Peter Soliman

              The correct recommendation is 1g/lean body mass. Because people are saying 1g/total body mass is a misconception not a myth. The title of this article is misleading and the statement I quoted is also misleading.

        • yoyoyo

          The author lost me at “extremely essential”. What nutrient is moderately essential?

        • Lars

          Nice article.

          How does plant protein fit in this calculation? Would 0.82g/lbs be enough if the protein came solely from, say beans and lentils? Or is the above number strictly based on animal protein and plant protein doesn’t really count?

          If stumbled upon a guy who tried this on himself and found that he could go down as far as 0,5 g/lbs before seeing adverse effects: http://johnalvino.com/how-much-protein-do-i-need-to-build-muscle/

          • http://mennohenselmans.com/ Menno Henselmans

            Thanks. The studies in this article assume that you consume at least a good portion of your protein from sources with a complete amino acid profile, i.e. a diet typical for athletes and bodybuilders. If you carefully select your plant protein sources so that they have complimentary amino acid profiles (as I would strongly recommend), these recommendations are still valid.

        • Rodrigo Martins
          • http://mennohenselmans.com/ Menno Henselmans

            Helms is definitely a smart guy. I agree with basically everything in the introduction. The paper is well researched and innovative, but the conclusion does not align with the results. [Edit: this ended up being quite story. Skip to the summary at the end if you want a quick answer.]

            Essentially, the methodology of the study is to compare lean mass retention across studies and link it to protein intake. Ideally, this would have been a meta-review, but the study is not quantitative, so it’s a systematic review. There are only 6 studies included in the review and there are several factors discussed that influence muscle retention: initial fat percentage, rate of weight loss and protein intake. I’d add to this, as discussed in my article, that training experience is also very important, not to mention food choices (e.g. amino acid profile), nutrient timing (CRPT), training program design, etc. This alone means the findings can at best be highly preliminary: 6 studies cannot possibly distinguish properly between so many confounding factors.

            As for the results, Helms et al. perform a qualitative analysis for the former factors and note that Mettler and Maestu et al. found relatively high lean mass retention and also consumed more protein than other groups. This correlation can have numerous other causes than protein intake. Mettler et al. studied semi-novice participants who were in poor shape based on their physiological profile (e.g. 16% fat) and then put on a high volume resistance training program consuming more than enough protein. Of course they did well. Maestu et al. observed (inter)nationally competitive bodybuilders dieting for a competition. It’s safe to say these guys did more to maintain muscle mass than just consuming enough protein, so they cannot be compared to ordinary gym goers recruited to participate in a study. (Note that neither study had a relevant control group. The comparison is wholly across studies, not within.)

            The conclusion advocates protein intakes far higher than those studied in RCTs. These numbers have no scientific basis. They are not estimates from a meta-analytic model that evaluates muscle retention based on protein intake while controlling for all the studied factors, which would have been the preferred study design (if there were enough data).

            [Geek alert: skip this paragraph if you're not interested in statistics] Since I was intrigued, I plotted protein intake against delta FFM/BW and calculated a moving average trend line. There was no initial pattern and the trend approximated verticality when the period was stretched. This indicates lean mass retention does not consistently increase across studies when protein intakes are higher. The best fit was actually a higher-order polynomial trend, which would indicate some absurd non-linear relation between protein intake and muscle retention. This basically means that there is insufficient data to make a quantitative analysis, let alone a qualitative one.

            In sum, in the presence of several well controlled RCTs that can establish causality, like the recent Pasiakos study that clearly shows no benefits of consuming more than 1.6 g/kg protein a day, a qualitative and correlational review like this one based on only 6 studies cannot make meaningful inferences about protein intakes higher than those studied. This paper provides an intriguing hypothesis, but the direct research, especially the Pasiakos study probably published during the writing of this paper, does not support the hypotheses from this paper that more than 1.8 g/lb of protein is optimal while cutting.

            • charlie

              Wouldn’t more protein being useful in case you aren’t getting enough carbs or fat?

              • http://mennohenselmans.com/ Menno Henselmans

                What do you mean? If you’re carb or fat deprived, carbs or fats are much more important than extra protein.

        • eccles11

          Scientific skepticism meets bodybuilding. I’ve waited too long to find a website like this. Thanks for the great article, this won’t be my last visit.

        • Steve

          I have been very skeptical for years that the 1g/lb figure is BS, but the myth being so prevalent has scared me away from experimenting for myself because I did not want to lose precious muscle mass that I had worked for. The mere fact that it is so difficult to cram that much protein intake into a day should be evidence enough that the figure is far too high. I weigh about 205 and there is also much advice out there saying if you are looking to gain even more mass, you need to take 1g of protein per pound of mass you wish to gain on top of what you already weigh. So that might boost my supposed intake requirements to 215-220g per day. Managing to consume that much is truly a chore, and an expensive one at that. When I act more casual about my diet and eat when I’m hungry, I manage to take in close to the .82g/lb figure a day and that seems to be enough for me to build and maintain muscle mass. I also have noticed on an anecdotal basis that I need less food/protein to build and maintain muscle mass now that I am about 8 years into training compared with what I had to eat when I first began at 155lbs. Very good article, confirming all of my personal experience and gut feelings.

          • http://mennohenselmans.com/ Menno Henselmans

            Fully agree. I think many experience it this way.

        • Osmond

          Thank You.
          This, along with Brad Pilon’s How Much Protein book helped me get over the whole “protein guilt”/consuming 1 gram per pound LBM or higher. I used to never worry about protein when I first started lifting September 2004 at age 15/16.. to about 22 years old (Oct. 2010). Once I stumbled on the bodybuilding.com forums late 2010 and started reading about how important such large amounts of protein was, I changed up my food intake. I was mainly a cereal/fast food guy and looked decent enough, but “protein guilt” took control of my life from late 2010- April 2011. After my cut, I decided to experiment myself and go back to not caring/not attentive about my protein intake, but this time purposely keeping it between 70-120grams. For over 2 years now..I haven’t noticed any decrease in muscle mass..even during my min cuts/bulks during that span. I’m currently doing an extensive experiment…I’m cutting and looking to get shredded on low protein (70-120grams) here: http://forum.bodybuilding.com/showthread.php?t=157866903

          • http://mennohenselmans.com/ Menno Henselmans

            Yep, protein guilt is common among bodybuilders. Your link is down by the way. Was the thread removed?

            • Osmond

              did my reply post go through..?

            • Osmond

              I removed the thread because I felt it wasn’t garnering enough attention again, and a few individuals thought that I was trolling when I listed my food intake, which was essentially composed of boxes of cereal and fast food. I opted to just to my little experiment lowkey now, but I could share my progress here with you all if you want…?

              So far from April 2013 – Nov 1. 2013, I’ve gone from 208-195lbs..a very slow cut because I haven’t been strict and just just BSing, but I’m looking to be strict now. I’ve deleted many/if not all my progress pics in that span, but I managed to retrieve a few by google-ing my name..since I posted some on very various fitness forums looking for BF% estimations. Though I deleted them off the internet, I guess some just manage to stay.

              For ex: http://forums.lylemcdonald.com/showthread.php?t=3738&page=604 (username: kobebryant8to24)

              I tend to lol when I get estimations from such forums. The main reason I believe people feel they’re losing muscle/great amounts of muscle on a cut is because not necessarily their protein intake or training, but it’s their OVERESTIMATION OF BF% and UNDERESTIMATION OF LBM!!! The 2 whited-out pics were posted in September on that forum..where I was 198.6lbs. I was looking for estimations just out of curiosity and entertainment..and I was getting estimations of 9-10% BF, whereas I believed I was around 16%BF. Then when I posted the non-whited out, recent pic of myself @ 195lbs last week on the deleted thread link in my other post, I got the same estimations of 9-10%BF, yet I believed I was probably 15%BF. I truly believe we really underestimate how much fat we are really carrying around. Also lighting/tan/posing-posture/angles/pump/volume of food consumed can make such a difference in appearance…hence in my pics. I don’t remember if in the whited-out pics if I had just came back from playing basketball at the gym or basketball+lifting..?..the recent non whited-out pic is from Tuesday morning..no pump..not having been to the gym in 2 days. Also, my waist seems to be tad bit thinner in my recent pics..it better be..since I’m about 3.5lbs lighter in that one, in comparison to the two whited-out pics lol. I know I’m going to have to get down to low 180s to be sub 10% BF (I give a slight explanation into my line of thinking in regards to my own BF estimations in the link provided on pages 604,605,606).

              I’m looking to get back to the low 180s, but this time on usual protein intake 70-120 grams..and see if it’s comparable to when I got there in April 2011 at the end of my 6 month cut (oct 2010-apr 2011 @ 230 BW – stabilized 184 BW), which was on about 200 grams of protein. If all goes well, I will push even further to get to a shredded 5/6 % BF on 70-120 grams of protein at a hopeful BW of low 170s. Time for me to be strict and stop with the BS, and to finish what I started with this darn experiment!

              • http://mennohenselmans.com/ Menno Henselmans

                I agree completely with basically everything you said. You can eat lots of high GI carbs and still get shredded (‘a carb is a carb’) and many people consume excess protein. Nice physique by the way. If you want an estimate of your fat percentage, feel free to post your pics on my site or Facebook and I’ll be happy to look at them.

                • Osmond

                  These were taken today after 1.5 hrs of basketball + 1.5 hrs of lifting..so these are pumped a bit. I suppose I’ll post more when I get in the low 180s.

                  Stats: 6’0 195lbs I still think about 15%BF.

                • http://mennohenselmans.com/ Menno Henselmans

                  Not 15% – the vascularity is too high in your arm – but definitely above 10 because you have some suprailiac fat storage. Do you have caliper measurements? The fat percentage is noisy, but the actual skinfold thickness measurements are very valuable as measures of progress.

                • Osmond

                  No. But I can get some caliper measurements done at the gym (24 Hour Fitness) tomorrow by one of the trainers. They do a 4-site I believe.

                • Allen

                  Thanks for the updates Osmand. Please keep posting- it’s a great motivator for the rest of us!

                • Osmond

                  4-site caliper test. I don’t know what formula he used but it came out to 9.7%

                  Bicep – 2
                  Tricep – 5
                  Subscapular – 9

                  Suprailiac – 7

                  I
                  wish I still had my measurements from the test he did on me back in
                  late Feb 2011 on my cut when I was a dehydrated 189lbs..I was on a dumb
                  Keto diet (less than 50 carbs) and over 200 grams of protein a day, but I
                  do remember the percentage he got was 8.8 %.

                  Does hydration status/water rentiention/low-high carbs have any effect on skinfold measurements?

                  As
                  he kept telling me he thinks im at 6% (lol) and that the %s are off, I
                  kept telling him I’m probably between 13-15 or so, and he just laughed. I
                  told him I have current pics of myself at 195lbs and that I’ll be taking pics when I’m at 184lbs..and then at 174lbs for my low protein cutting experiment. He said he would be interested to see the progress as well, and to also see if I can even get that low given that he believes I’m at 6%. So things just got even more interesting. It’s still comical how people think they’re leaner than they really are.,but yeah, please answer above question…thanks.

                • http://mennohenselmans.com/ Menno Henselmans

                  A suprailiac of 7 is definitely above 10%. Most of my clients under 10% have a 2-4 mm suprailiac skinfold. The other skinfolds he used don’t correlate well with fat percentage in males. Calipers are fortunately very insensitive to hydration status (though it may change the ease with which you can pinch the skin).

                • Osmond

                  Yeah, I thought so. Thanks for your responses, much appreciated! I will update again when I get down to low 180s.

                • MM

                  which skinfold method is the best for male atlethes?

                • http://BayesianBodybuilding.com/ Menno Henselmans

                  What do you mean by skinfold method? Caliper brand? Skinfold sites?

                • Osmond

                  Update above^^ I don’t know why it posted as “Guest” though. Do you think in order for me to be shredded (4-6%), I would have to get to 160s? And was wondering, what are your stats (Height/weight/BF%)

                • http://BayesianBodybuilding.com/ Menno Henselmans

                  In the high 160s you should be in contest shape for sure if you can maintain your mass throughout the cut.

                  I was about 190 at 6’1″, ~7% in my last pictures IIRC. Currently bulking again.

                • Osmond

                  Judging from the newer pics, what do you estimate my BF% to be?

                • http://BayesianBodybuilding.com/ Menno Henselmans

                  High single digits.

                • Osmond

                  Even with my suprailiac still measured at 7? Hmm, I was thinking ~13%. I appreciate the estimation though! Another thing, I can’t stress enough how weight can fluctuate and alter the look of your physique. 3 weeks I posted how my weight has been fluctuating quite a bit..and the day I posted, I weighed in at 192lbs. Well, after 2 days it came back down to 187-188lbs and was holding that range for about 2 wks or so. Then last week (June 2nd – June 8th) I took a week off from the gym (went for a trip to Arizona). During that trip I was looking leaner than ever..actually the leanest I’ve looked since April 2011..even after averaging 3600 calories that trip w/ no exercise! I arrived back to California on Sunday (June 8th) and hopped on the scale and weighed in at 181lbs!!. That day I resumed my workout/normal eating regimen, then by Wednesday (June 11th) I was back up to 189lbs ..while taking in 3200 daily calories (less than usual) since that Sunday. I’m guessing this all has to with the muscles being full again with water/glycogen and the weight-lifting/cardio being resumed. Perhaps the time off has me drop water as cardio raises cortisol levels..? I don’t know…all I know is the human body is an interesting thing lol. I guess that’s why tracking weight for fat loss/gain is largely irrelevant due to all the shifting in the scale weight..and going by mirror/looks is a better indicator perhaps? Maybe weighing yourself once every 3 wks or so is better I guess?

                • Osmond

                  After 4 days of weight rising up to 189lbs, this Sunday morning, I’m back down to 185lbs after yesterday’s meal of..

                  Mcdonalds- 3 McChicken Sandwiches
                  2 Large Fries
                  Box of Frosted Strawberry Poptarts (pack of 12 poptarts)

                  CALORIES: 4,480 calories
                  Protein: 78 grams
                  Carbs: 702 grams
                  Fat: 158 grams

                  Weight is such a funny thing..always fluctuating lol. Anyways, time to drop these last 20 or so pounds!!!

                • http://BayesianBodybuilding.com/ Menno Henselmans

                  Taking a rolling average (average of last 7 days or longer) is a good idea. As you said, bodyweight fluctuates depending on glycogen storage and water retention. This is affected by sleep, stress, inflammation, fluid intake, etc. The trend in the rolling average is usually informative.

                • Allen

                  Hi Osmand, I’d love your workout details and your diet. I think your perfect example of Menno’s protein article and “carb is a carb” article. Perhaps not to clog up Menno’s blog- you can fire me an email at a_d_001@yahoo.ca

                • Osmond

                  My earlier posts outline what I eat on a daily basis..pretty much been the same my whole life (cereal, fast food, store-bought frozen pizza). And as mentioned earlier, I do full-body workouts utilizing only the machines at 24 Hour Fitness 3-4 times a week, and they last 1.5-2 hrs ..when I’m not lifting, I’m likely playing basketball. Simple as that.

                • Allen

                  Great work Osmond and thanks for the reply. I’m just rereading your posts- did you cut calories when you were 200 pounds or just worked out more? You look great. I am also trying to focus on machines more than the “big three”. back injury really hampers my ability to deadlift/squat. I’m hitting full body workout on machines but my workout lasts like half an hour tops. Which protocol are you using (eg 5×5). Thanks Osman, really looking forward to your updates.

                • Osmond

                  So you know, the pics of me at 200 lbs are about 2 years old. During that period, I was cutting at 3000 calories. My activity level at the gym is usually high regardless. I don’t have a real traditional bodybuilding “protocol” when it comes to when I lifting. I just lift 3 days a week..which takes about 1.5 hrs..hit everything using machines in 3 sets of 10 reps (2 exercises per bodypart) with 60 secs rest (sometimes less reps..sometimes more). But honestly, I just work out hard for the time I’m lifting..as I don’t like to talk to people when I’m lifting..I don’t listen to music..no distractions..I just..lift, and then be done with the lifting. I lift the way I want to lift..as I find satisfying and enjoyable.

                • http://BayesianBodybuilding.com/ Menno Henselmans

                  Wellbeing is always the ultimate goal. :)

                • Osmond

                  Hey Menno,

                  Are you familiar with the Vermont Prisoner Overfeeding Study?

                  http://dm5migu4zj3pb.cloudfront.net/manuscripts/106000/106570/JCI71106570.pdf

                  and this article?

                  http://wholehealthsource.blogspot.com/2009/12/body-fat-setpoint.html

                  ….is N.E.A.T REALLY that powerful when it comes to overfeeding?.that it can erase thousands and thousands of excess calories from baseline? Or does this set-point theory have some validity to it?

                • http://BayesianBodybuilding.com/ Menno Henselmans

                  NEAT generally accounts for a few hundred calories at the very most. It’s the largest source of energy expenditure variation though. Most set-point theories are a misinterpretation of the dynamics of energy balance reaching an equilibrium. There’s no actual physiological set-point in the body.

                • Osmond

                  Just for clarification: pic me of at 200lbs. When i meant that “period”, I meant during the summer of 2012 (I went from 210-190lbs in 2.5 months on 3000 calories ) Then I creeped back up to 200lbs by mid-Dec 2012, not on 3000 calories..moreso in the 4,000+ ball park.

                • Osmond

                  5/21/14

                  New measurements as of today. Since november when I posted my last caliper measurements..my weight has been as low as 184lbs and as high as 192lbs. Protein is still between 70-120grams. The last 10 weeks, I’ve averaged 4200 calories a day..put on 2lbs. Since November, I’ve noticed I’m able to successfully drop weight at 3500 calories. My maintenance seems to be in the 4,000 calories realm (I’m in the gym 6-7 days a week/ lift M/W/F/Sa for 2 hrs (full body workout) + basketball at the end occasionally.. and I play strictly basketball T/Th and sometimes Sunday, and the basketball games last anywhere from 1.5 hrs – 3 hrs) Other than that activity, I’m sitting on my ass all day whether it be work or just relaxing. I still eat only Fast Food/Cereal (the occasional store-bought frozen pizzas) as I don’t care for much of anything else and I HATE cooking lol.

                  Weight: 192lbs

                  As stated, weight is all over the place..2 days ago it was 188lbs..yesterday it was 191lbs). Last night I took in 4420 calories, and the previous 2 days..4320 and 4400 calories

                  4-site caliper test. 8.1%

                  Bicep – 2
                  Tricep – 4
                  Subscapular – 8

                  Suprailiac – 7

                  I keep saying I’m going to diet hard but I adore food too much lol. Anyways, just updating you guys since it has been like almost 7 months since I’ve last posted.

                • Guest

                  These were taken the first week of March at 188lbs. I’ll try to get newer pics..mostly likely the first week of June

                • Osmond

                  Actually, I managed to take a few pics today (bad mirror pics) on my phone. This was right after eating a box of poptarts (2400 calories) . And I also managed to find some old pics of myself from Mid-December 2012, where I weighed 199-200lbs (70-120 grams of protein like always)…was pretty fat. So here they are..I’m pretty sure y’all can decipher which pics are from today and which pics are old –

                  I hope to update w/ pics again when I’m 179-180lbs if I can just stay disciplined for some wks lol.

                  …and I always wondered..am I the only one that managed to build his physique with just machines..as I don’t use free weights and don’t Deadlift/Bench/Squat (multitude of injuries even I cared to train using such)

                • http://BayesianBodybuilding.com/ Menno Henselmans

                  Obviously going totally catabolic because you’re not consuming enough protein. :)

                • gone-shootin

                  Hi Osmond = Been following your progress. GREAT results! And it’s too funny you’re getting this kick-ass build one a moderate protein, and eat-what-you-want diet. For years, I’ve made some of this too damn complicated!

                  Curious… you say you’re doing full body workouts. Can you list your plan or link to it? I’ve been doing an upper/lower split and am not getting the results I used on a 3 day split. However, my recovery is A LOT better. I’m in my 40s now, and just can hit the muscles as hard, frequently. Thanks a lot! Great results! – Brad, Seattle

            • Osmond

              Edit: oops,– I meant, “… UNDERESTIMATION OF BF% and OVERESTIMATION OF LBM!!!”

        • PhantomEnix

          Im on a flexible dieting and practicing 1 / 1.1g /lb Protein for some time and now i finally decide to put it down. I’m 5’11 and almost 160lbs. How should I adjust my macros to .82g/lb? Currently 2480cal (280C 70F 185P)

          • http://mennohenselmans.com/ Menno Henselmans

            This depends on several factors. What’s your training volume like? How good is your diet?

            • PhantomEnix

              Hi Menno, thanks for the prompt reply. I’m currently on Vince Gironda 8×8 programme training 6 times a week no more than 45 min per session. I’m very strict with my macros and most of my food are from whole unprocessed food. TQ

              • http://mennohenselmans.com/ Menno Henselmans

                More fat then, definitely. You don’t need >1200 calories worth of carbs.

        • Douglas B.

          I’ve been searching for a while on this question but haven’t found any answers. Wouldn’t the g/lb vary according to