Meal Frequency: Is Eating Six Times a Day Necessary?

Eating Six Times a Day

Is All That Eating Necessary ... Really?

One question that is popping up all over the bodybuilding space is the question is meal frequency.  Not just meal timing, just the basic question of how many times do I need to eat per day?

Just the other day I received this note …. (for you who can’t read, I’m not saying this, I said I received this)

No study has ever confirmed that it is more efficient to eat 6 small meals as opposed to 3 big meals (or even 2!) in terms of body composition results.

ZERO!

Are those six meals a day I’ve heard about really necessary?  People have been told for some time that in order to build muscle and gain weight, they need to be eating.   In the past, you’ve probably heard that eating more frequent meals is has a thermodynamic effect and you will burn more fat by eating more often. ( A study done in 2010 disproves this assumption)

But is this dogma true?  First, let’s examine the short list of frequent meals.  This list is by no means definitive.

Benefits of More Meals Per Day:

  • appetite control
  • frequent eating and tight control of within day energy balance help to control insulin
  • personal observation (not scientific but not irrelevant either)
  • energy balance
  • higher meal frequency is important from a cortisol control standpoint

Drawbacks to More Meals Per Day:

  • too much eating
  • burden to carry so much food around
  • preparation for the amount of food
  • not necessary to achieve the proper amount of total daily calories
  • not necessary for the current level of athletic training

” If eating 5-6 times a day helps control your appetite and easily hit your calorie goals, if it gives you more energy, keeps you satisfied all day long and you enjoy it – then that’s the way to go. If eating bodybuilder-style with 5 or 6 whole food meals a day is a burden to you with the food prep and time spent eating, or it makes it harder to stick with your plan, not easier, then you’re better off with 3 or 4 meals a day or 3 meals with snacks.”Tom Venuto, author of Burn the Fat Feed the Muscle

To take Tom Venuto’s statement a bit further here’s what Dr. Dan Benardot, PhD., RD, LD, FACSM, and author of Advanced Sports Nutrition says on the meal frequency subject…

“There is a limit to how much energy (i.e., calories) the body can handle properly at one time. By satisfying our total energy requirements through infrequent eating opportunities, this limit is passed and problems occur. In addition, infrequent eating does nothing to address normal blood sugar fluctuation. Blood sugar peaks about one hour after eating, and is back to pre-meal levels about two hours after that. That means that we can expect a normal range of blood sugar for about three hours. Unless something is consumed to satisfy the need for blood sugar every three hours, gluconeogenesis can result with a loss of lean mass.”

“A dedicated bodybuilder should eat at least five times a day and space those meals no further than three hours apart.  I have found eating smaller, more frequent meals, or in other words “grazing” throughout the day, is the most efficient way for my body to process food.”SkipLaCour; six-time national drug-free champion bodybuilder; author of Bodybuilding Nutrition

Will Brink, author, columnist and consultant, to the supplement, fitness, bodybuilding, and weight loss industry and author of Bodybuilding Revealed & Fat Loss Revealed weights in with an excellent video on the subject.

Do You Need to Eat Six Times a Day or More?

At this point, I hope you are not confused!  What I’ve found is that first and foremost you must get your required number of calories per day to reach your goals.  After that, meal timing becomes important given your activities in the next hours.  You do not need to eat more frequent meals IF your blood sugar is in control and your appetite is fine.

Signs of Hunger:

  • hunger pangs
  • loss of focus and inability to concentrate

If you are NOT engaging in high intensity training or activities that require some type of re-fueling OR if you are taking a training break OR sedentary, then 3 meals a day would probably be just fine.

However, if you want to optimize performance, be your best at your intense workouts, perform longer duration activities, then don’t get caught in the trap of controversy that says multiple meals (maybe 5 maybe more) is not necessary.  Or that there’s no evidence via studies to show that multiple meals has an affect on body composition.

In fact it IS and there are SEVERAL studies (listed below) that prove this.

Going by personal experience, as should you in this case, if you find yourself getting light-headed and you feel like you want to grab the closest candy bar, you are probably experiencing some significant swings in insulin.  Having more frequent meals helps control this issue and it’s why I like having 5-6 meals per day.  I’m able to eat at a 15% calorie deficit when cutting without going crazy with hunger or insulin making me make horrible choices out of desperation.

However, if you eat 3 times a day maybe a snack or two and get your calories in per day, have energy for your activity and you experience NONE of the hunger swings or cravings, you simply don’t need more meals per day.

I am a fan of frequent eating but is it absolutely 100% necessary?

The answer is you should customize your meal frequency!

Meal Frequency can be affected by:

  • environmental
  • your history
  • accessibility
  • culture
  • time
  • finances
So YOUR meal frequency really needs to be customized to your situation based on the benefits and drawbacks listed above in addition to your personal situation.

In the meantime, based on the research and several experts in the field of nutrition and bodybuilding listed here on subject, I’ll continue to eat my six bodybuilding style meals per day.

I’d love to know what you think on this subject.

Marc David – CPT
“The NoBull Muscle Guy”
Author of NoBull Bodybuilding

Additional Resources and Studies on Meal Frequency

  • Meal Frequency: International Society of Sports Nutrition
  • Meal Frequency and Energy Balance by Lyle McDonald
  • Researchers Look at How Frequency of Meals May Affect Health
  • Beneficial metabolic effects of regular meal frequency on dietary thermogenesis, insulin sensitivity
  • Meal frequency and energy balance
  • Meal Frequency and Weight Loss by Dr. Christopher Mohr
  • Optimal Protein Intake And Meal Frequency To Support Maximal Protein Synthesis and Muscle Mass by Dr. Layne Norton
  • Effects of meal frequency on body composition during weight control in boxers

More Studies:

  • Nibbling versus gorging: metabolic advantages of increased meal frequency
  • The relationship between frequency of eating and adiposity in adult men and women in the Tecumseh Community Health Study
  • Effect of meal frequency and timing on physical performance

Holiday Challenge Press Release

Fitness Challenge Debunks Holiday Weight Gain Myth – To disprove the myth that weight gain is inevitable during the holiday season, hundreds of Americans are signing up for a fitness challenge that tests their ability to become lean and fit between the end of November and the beginning of January.Holiday Fitness Body Transformation Challenge

** Press Release by Tom Venuto **

For the Holiday Challenge, a fitness contest that begins on Thanksgiving Day (November 24), participants can sign up at the Burn The Fat website where they can also track their exercise and nutrition regimens for 49 days. Those who slim down the most could win a Hawaiin vacation or other prizes.

The Holiday Challenge is the brainchild of fat loss expert Tom Venuto, author of the best-selling e-book Burn The Fat, Feed The Muscle, and The Body Fat Solution (Avery/Penguin).

“Too many people buy into the news stories that say Americans will gain 5 to 10 pounds of body fat in the six weeks between Thanksgiving and Christmas,” Venuto says. In reality, according to the New England Journal of Medicine, the average amount gained over the holidays is much more modest, just over one pound.

“So the idea that everyone is going to pack on several pounds is clearly a myth,” Venuto says. “But people believe that myth and it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.”

To turn the conventional wisdom on its head, Venuto is challenging the thousands who follow his Burn The Fat blog to not just maintain their weight but to actually lose body fat during the holiday season.

“No one consciously sets a ‘goal’ to get in worse shape over the holidays,” Venuto says, “They do it by default. Mentally, people accept the idea that it’s impossible to stay in shape because of all the parties, the family get-togethers and the tempting food, so they say ‘Why bother?'”

Once people resign themselves to thinking that gaining fat is unavoidable they are actually setting a “negative goal,” Venuto says. And, he contends, the only way to counteract that unconscious negative decision is to create a conscious goal to do the opposite: to get in better shape over the holidays.

As an incentive to those who take part in the Holiday Challenge, Venuto will award two grand prizes of a five-day vacation in Maui to the overall winners in the men’s division and the women’s.

Because the Holiday Challenge is a body transformation contest — and not simply a weight-loss competition — participants will be judged on how much they improve their body composition (the amount of lean body mass and body fat percentage). Contestants will also be judged on the visual improvement in their bodies (as illustrated by their “before” and “after” pictures), and the inspirational essay they must submit during the contest. In addition to the overall winners, additional prizes, (including Ipads, IPods, Kindles, and gift certificates) will be awarded to winners in other categories such as “Most Ripped,” “Most Muscular” and “Most Inspirational.”

During the Holiday Challenge, contestants must enter their body fat measurements, workout details and food intake (even on Thanksgiving and Christmas Day) using a daily journal at the Burn The Fat website

But participants will need to do more than simply follow contest rules. They will also have to challenge the excuses and rationalizations that cause many people to fall off the fitness wagon during December.

“One of the most common excuses is ‘I’m too busy to work out over the holidays,’” Venuto says. “But no one is too busy for their highest priorities. Your health and your body have to become your highest priority — because without your health, you can’t enjoy anything else in life, including your family or the holidays.”

And those who want to be successful in the Holiday Challenge must also break out of the “either/or” thinking that keeps many people from reaching their fitness goals. “People believe they can either get in shape or they can enjoy themselves — but not both,” Venuto says. “But the truth is you really can enjoy the holidays and get in better shape at the same time.”

“Life is not an “either/or” proposition,” he adds. “It’s a matter of balance. And challenging yourself to achieve that balance is a great way to start the New Year!”

For complete details and contest requirements for the Holiday Challenge click the link below

www.burnthefatholidychallenge.com

McDonald’s Must Pay Obese Employee

McDonalds to Pay for Obese Employee

If you haven’t seen the latest fast food lawsuit, it goes something like this…

Headline: McDonald’s must pay obese employee $17.5K

When I read this SF Gate article (link here) I had mixed emotions.  But first.. here’s the basics.

A Brazilian court ruled this week that McDonald’s must pay a former franchise manager $17,500 because he gained 65 pounds while working there for a dozen years.

He felt he was forced to sample the food to ensure high standards as random people who worked for the company come in and report violations and problems.

Not to mention, the company offered free lunches to employees which only added to his caloric intake.

On the one hand.. food prices have increased in the last few years.

On the other hand, the myth that it costs so much to eat healthy really isn’t true if you look at the larger picture that encompasses your total health.

[ Note: This article was written by fitness and nutrition author Jon Benson.  I have his permission to share it with you.  Jon is the author of the The Every Other Day Diet]

One of the biggest myths out there is the myth that eating healthy costs too much.

Just the opposite… and I’ll prove it to you in three ways.

#1: Cash

Here’s some sample figures courtesy of my friend Scott Tousignant’s fitness blog…

  • 2 medium size sweet potatoes $1 or… small fries from a fast food joint
  • 2 red peppers $1 or… a can of pop
  • Bowl of oatmeal with fruit & protein powder $2 or… large bag of chips
  • 6 Chicken Breasts $10 or… a sub combo from a fast food joint
  • 18 eggs $3.50 or… a burger from a fast food joint
  • 2 salmon fillets $15 or… large pizza
  • Loaded chicken salad (homemade) $3 or… bag of cookies
  • Large bag of oatmeal $3.50 or… 4 chocolate bars

Not much of a comparison, it is?

Yet the foods on the left would feed a family of two or more for 4-7 days… the foods on the right? 2-3 days if you live through it.

Tips to make the most expensive part of eating healthy — the cost of quality meats — go further include…

1. Use tofu fillers in chicken and beef recipes. Even if you hate tofu, you can barely taste the difference when combined properly.

2. Buy your meats in bulk online. You can find less expensive grass-fed beef and naturally-raised chicken and have it delivered to you if you live near a large city. If not, check the local farmers.

3. Eat meat only 3-4 times per week and use black beans with rice or inexpensive tuna for your other days. I eat tuna cooked in a skillet with lots of veggies and some olive oil almost every night and I LOVE the taste!

My book The Every Other Day Diet has over 40 pages of recipes in it to help you eat healthy and cheap… and you can still eat out and consume your favorite foods several times per week.

#2: Your Health

Do we ‘really’ need to talk about buy new (usually larger) clothes every year or two? Or about the health care costs associated with being even 20 pounds over your ideal weight, let alone more? How about the time you miss from work with excessive colds?

Eating healthy and taking care of your body adds years to your life… and for the record, the years eating poorly takes away from your life, on average, costs each American over 80,000 in medical expenses.

Want to add that to your food budget?

#3: The Big Picture

Anyone who has been fit knows the joy it brings… the freedom you feel from wearing whatever you want… the productivity you see from increased energy… the pace at which you move during the day.

Not only are these gifts priceless, but they are also massive cash-savers. Your productivity alone can add thousands to your bottom line each year, well off-setting any costs associated with eating quality food.

The Bottom Line…

Like any good accountant would suggest, you need to look at your ROI (return on investment) if nothing else.

What does investing in a better body, greater health, and vibrant energy do for your life? How can that actually translate into more income AND less expense?

You will be surprised.

Remember:
Don’t Quit. Get Fit!

What do you think?

Spot Reduction: The Legend; The Reality

You may have heard that Spot Reduction is a myth. That spot reduction is not possible and anybody claiming it to be such is incorrect.

This question came from an observant reader who asks…

QUESTION:

Marc,

Why is EVERYBODY saying that spot-reduction is a myth? One of the other blogs I read from another fitness expert says that spot reduction is possible!

Is Spot Reduction Possible?

Spot Reduction: Fact or Fiction?

He said “Current research is now finding that when you work a specific muscle, the intramuscular fat and the fat in that general area is where the body derives fuel for that exercise.

In other words, if you work your abdomen – you’re working those muscles in the area – the body turns to your belly fat for the most help in long-term fuel for that exercise.”

His exact words are that “if you do ab exercises (sit-ups, etc.), your body will use abdominal fat as fuel (glycogen) for that exercise, thereby burning it.”

In other words, the shedding of fat is not uniform all over your body!

To what extent is this true?

Thanks, and I look forward to your replies and analysis,

Mike

ANSWER:

Your fitness expert above is correct. Spot reduction at the very basic level has been proven to be true in a single study done in 2007. But before you run off and try the routine listed above you need to know a few more things.

After reading the comments on the news story above, it appears the only study I found was the same one referred to in the story.

One study does not make something a fact. 2007 isn’t exactly current either. 4 years after the single study, no other studies have been done to further the findings. My guess?

Not because it wasn’t proven to be true in theory but for the actual real-world usage of such a scenario.

Another expert and author in the field, Lyle McDonald at Bodyrecomposition.com, took this same study in 2007 and wrote about it in detail in 2009. ( McDonald is the author of The Ketogenic Diet, The Rapid Fat Loss Handbook, The Guide to Flexible Dieting and several other nutritional books.)

Lyle said, “Yes, there appears to be an effect whereby working a given muscle impacts on local fat cell metabolism but the effect is completely and utterly irrelevant in quantatitive terms. The amount of fat mobilized due to increased hormones or blood flow is simply insignificant to anything in the real world.”

The amount of fat mobilized due to increased hormones or blood flow is simply insignificant to anything in the real world.

Additionally, the news story mentions picking different abdominal exercises and recommends “perform and reach muscular failure.”

Another ab expert, David Grisaffi, C.H.E.K., CFT, PN, and author of the book Firm and Flatten Your Abs… said in regards to training your abdomainals and core to failure…

“One of the biggest problems with training the core and abs to failure is that the more fatigued you become, the more your form begins to break down. When your form breaks down, that is when injuries are most likely to occur. This is true for any exercise, but it may be truer for abs and core than any other type of exercise due to the susceptibility of the lower back.

Research by Dr. Laurence Morehouse of University of California at Los Angles found that when doing abdominal exercises, especially sit-ups, you over-work your hip flexor muscles – the psoas and the iliacus. When the exercises are performed quickly (form breaks) or all the way to failure (form breaks), the hip flexor’s pull on the lower back is increased.

When performing your core exercises, always be conscious about form, especially as you begin to get tired toward the end of a set. You should terminate your set at or before the point where you notice that your form breaks in the slightest, and that is usually a couple of repetitions before reaching muscular failure.”

So let me summarize and review ….

Spot reduction based upon a single 2007, peer reviewed, published article appears to be valid. However, based upon the results of the study in question, the benefits are not significant to real-world usage.

Furthermore, based upon David Grisaffi’s recommendation of abdominal training, do not train your abdominals or core to muscular failure. Stop short and keep your form intact.

I stronly enourage you to read the references listed and come to your own conclusions.

Sincerely,

Marc David
author of NoBull Bodybuilding

Research References:

Do This – Burn Fat. How to Spot Reduce Belly Fat (Is It Possible?). From http://dothisburnfat.com/blog/spot-reducing-belly-fat/

Stallknecht B et. al. Are blood flow and lipolysis in subcutaneous adipose tissue influenced by contractions in adjacent muscles in humans? Am J Physiol Endocrinol Metab. 2007 Feb;292(2):E394-9. From http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16985258

Here’s How Consumer Reports Screws You Blind

Unhealthy Metals Found in Some Protein Drinks

Is Your Protein Shake Poison?!

In the July 2010 issue of Consumer Reports, there’s a 4 page spread and chart showing that those favorite protein drinks of yours can contain potentially unsafe levels of heavy metals.  Things like Arsenic, Lead and Cadmium!  With such a report, it’s almost a guarantee to rock the supplement world.  Or is it?

Maybe the better question:  Should it?

The full report will be in the July issue of Consumer Reports.  Or you can read the Consumer Report on Protein Drinks (opens in a new window)

QUESTION: I just read the Consumer Reports article about potentially unsafe levels of heavy metals.  Some of those protein drinks I consume.  I’m currently drinking Muscle Milk chocolate.  Not three times a day but I use it frequently.  Do you think I should stop drinking protein shakes entirely?  What is your thought on this report?

ANSWER: Could this be true?  The same magazine I used to buy my last washer and dryer is now the expert on supplement research?   Can the same evaluation methods to test how dry my socks are be used to tell me if I’m in-taking too much dangerous levels of heavy metals?  Or even better, how much protein I need a day?

In a nutshell, Consumer Reports used USP (U.S. Pharmacopeia) an independent research facility to test 15 protein drinks which included ready to drinks, meal replacement power and just whey powders.

Consumer Reports testing was based on consumption of three shakes per day and the testing applied proposed U.S. Pharmacopeia standards - not current, accepted or approved standards or guidelines.  It’s important to note this was not published in a peer reviewed scientific journal.

They tested for:

  • Arsenic
  • Cadmium
  • Lead
  • Mercury

USP found most of the products to be in the low or moderate range for the 3 servings except for the following three products.

What Consumer Reports Found:

  • EAS Myoplex Original Rich Dark Chocolate Shake has an average of 16.9 micrograms of arsenic in three servings — more than the 15 micrograms a day that is the proposed USP limit. It has an average of 5.1 micrograms of cadmium for three servings — above the USP limit of 5 micrograms a day.
  • Muscle Milk chocolate powder, at three servings, contained all four of the metals, and three metals were found at a level that was among the highest of all 15 products tested. Cadmium levels were 5.6 micrograms — above the 5-microgram limit. Lead was 13.5 micrograms — above the USP limit of 10 micrograms. The arsenic averaged 12.2 micrograms — near the 15-microgram daily USP limit.
  • Muscle Milk vanilla crème had 12.2 micrograms of lead per three servings — above the 10-microgram daily limit. It has 11.2 micrograms of arsenic — close to the 15-microgram daily limit.

Here’s What They Aren’t Telling You … They Didn’t Compare Apples to Apples!

All of the products listed in the Consumer Reports article are not the same.  Muscle Milk and Myoplex ranked the highest partly because they are Meal Replacement Powders or MRPs.  MRP’s will have naturally higher trace amounts of these elements because they include a blend of all macronutrients (protein, fat, carbohydrates), plus micronutrients in vitamins & minerals.  Whey protein powders OR low carb protein powders will contain lower levels of these elements because they provide mostly protein and not the full blend of macronutrients plus vitamins & minerals that MRP’s do.

In other words, the more nutrient sources (macronutrients & micronutrients) one consumes, the more trace amounts of these metal elements they are ingesting.  The report would have been more accurate if all like products were compared (MRP’s). Pure Whey protein powders will have lower amounts of these elements for the reasons just mentioned.

Do You Know What’s In Your Food?

Don’t forget the substances tested by Consumer Reports are naturally occurring in the environment, and it would be uncommon, if not impossible, not to detect the trace amounts reportedly found in any agricultural product, such as dairy products, fruits and vegetables.

FDA’s publication Total Diet Study Statistics on Element Results (December 11, 2007), which analyzes 200 foods found in grocery stores four times per year, showed the following:
Lead Levels in Common Foods

Lead Contamination in Everyday Foods

BUT KEEP READING…

First off … let me start by saying I’m not a scientist by nature.  But that doesn’t disqualify me from making comments on how a proper study should be conducted.  In fact, I wondered myself after reading this article.. how would one conduct such a study?

My guess is, at the very least they need to include the methods used in testing so that anybody else qualified could reproduce the results. Even friendly hackers do this.  They report their findings and methods used to reproduce the error in an effort to get the company in question to fix their product.

However, what’s the #1 thing missing from this Consumer Reports article Heavy Metals Found in Protein Shakes?  Care to take a guess?

The methods used!  For all I know, they took various expired supplements from a location in Area 51 and used a metal testing kit from ACE Hardware.  They don’t specifically say how it was conducted and the onus is on them.

Here’s How another 3rd Party, Independent Agency Responded to the  Consumer Reports Article on Protein Drinks

“NSF International cannot comment on the test results reported in the July 2010, Consumer Reports article on protein drinks. It omits critical information about the laboratory that performed the test and its accreditation qualifications. ISO 17025 accreditation is critical for any laboratory testing for heavy metals in dietary supplements and nutritional products.

The article also omits the test methods used, analytical preparation, sample size, the basis of their risk assessment, detection limits, quality control data and instrumentation used for this report.”

FACT: In order to report your finding you MUST report methods used so that results can be reproduced by others.  Sorry Consumer Reports but your study is invalid without such.  Not to mention your testing apples to oranges.

But don’t take my word for it… I asked Daniel Whittaker, a personal trainer for decades, a Wellness Consultant, an Expert Moderator on DiscussBodybuilding.com and researcher.  He’s currently attending California State University, Los Angeles, where he is studying Exercise Science and Bioscience and assisting with research in the University Human Performance Laboratory.

He is the recipient one of two Certificates of Honor awarded by his College in recognition of exceptional academic achievements, and he has been inducted into both Phi Kappa Phi Honor Society and Golden Key International Honor Society.

“Marc, your comments about the validity of the research methods are spot on.  Without a methods section, the report is really of no value if I can not repeat it consistently in a proper lab with the same methods…” -Daniel Whittaker

What’s even more shocking is that nobody including the fitness expert you probably follow seems to pay attention to the 4 pages that precede the pretty colored chart.  Things I’ve tried in my newsletter, program, blog, podcasts and forum to battle.  What things?

MYTH:

“The body can only break down 5 to 9 grams of protein per hour” -Kathleen Laquale, licensed nutritionist and certified athletic trainer

FACT:

“Regarding the quote from Kathleen Laquale about the body only being able to break down 5 to 9 grams of protein an hour. I defy her to find research to support this. I cringed when I saw the original quote in Consumer Reports, and I’m cringing again to see that the NPR site has adopted it as fact. - TCLoma (of T-Nation?)

“There is no such thing as consuming too much protein.as long you’re getting other nutrients in your diet as well.”Dr. Andrew Shao, Ph.D, in Nutritional Biochemistry from Tufts University in Boston, M.S. in Human Nutrition Science.  His B.A. in Biology is from Brandeis University in Waltham, Mass.

A reoccurring theme throughout the entire article is:

Too Much Protein Can Cause Health Problems!

Of course, there’s no links to current studies just “experts” who drop the statement like a hot stock tip at a bus station.

Let’s see what a few of the real experts in the field of bodybuilding have to say about the never ending myth that a high protein diet is deadly ….

“If you tell them you are on a high protein diet because you are an athlete they will tell you, “oh you don’t want to do that, you don’t need it and it will lead to kidney disease” without a single decent study to back up their claim!” - Will Brink, columnist, contributing consultant, and writer for various health/fitness, medical, and bodybuilding publications article,  author of the “Nutritional Myths that Just Won’t Die: Protein.”

“A number of health risks have been attributed to the consumption of high protein intakes, this includes potential problems with the kidneys, bone health, metabolic acidosis and certain types of cancers. For the most part, these risks tend to be extremely overstated.” -Lyle McDonald, “Protein Controversies.” Chapter 8 from The Protein Book: A Complete Guide for the Coach and Athlete.

Moving on …

So I asked my friend and mentor, Tom Venuto, a lifetime natural bodybuilder, an NSCA-certified personal trainer, certified strength & conditioning specialist (CSCS) and author of the #1 best selling diet e-book,  “Burn The Fat, Feed The Muscle” about this “High Protein” is bad for you that Consumer Reports wants you to believe.

Marc: Tom, can you explain why some licensed professional STILL tell their clients that a diet high in protein leads to health problems?  Including kidney failure, dehydration and osteoporosis?

Tom Venuto: I knew this question would pop up. This “high protein is bad for you” myth never seems to go away, so let me squash this ugly bug right now once and for all.

At one time or another, you’ve probably heard the myth that high protein diets are:

  • bad for your kidneys,
  • they dehydrate you
  • and give you osteoporosis.

Well, here’s the truth: It’s a medical and scientific fact that except in the case of pre-existing kidney disease, there is no documented evidence that a high protein intake will cause kidney damage in a healthy kidney. In fact, there is not a single study that has been published in a peer-reviewed scientific journal using adult human subjects with healthy kidneys that has shown any kidney dysfunction whatsoever as a result of consuming a high protein diet.

In the textbook, “Total Nutrition: the Only Guide You’ll Ever Need,” from the Mt. Sinai School of Medicine, the authors, Victor Herbert and Genell Shubak-Sharpe, had this to say about protein and kidney disease:

“High-protein diets have never proven to be a serious hazard for healthy people, although processing excess protein can overburden a liver or kidney’s that are damaged by disease. That’s why individuals with kidney or liver disease are often put on protein-restricted diets. Likewise, very high protein formulas can also be detrimental to very young or premature infants whose kidney function is not fully developed. Some nephrologists have also speculated the eating a high-protein diet throughout life may be the reason for the ‘slight’ decline in kidney function that usually occurs with age, but this connection is still under investigation.”

What about the claim that high protein diets cause osteoporosis? In inactive people, some studies have shown that increased protein intakes lead to elevated calcium excretion. This is because high protein intakes increase the acidity of the blood, and the body must “leach” calcium from the bones to buffer the acidity. The researchers theorized that this calcium loss could lead to accelerated osteoporosis, especially in women.

While this phenomenon has been observed in sedentary individuals, there is no clearly established link between high protein intake and osteoporosis. Women with risk factors for osteoporosis should be more cautious, but if you are athletically inclined and participate in aerobic and resistance exercise, you will probably have few risk factors. Here’s what Herbert and Shubak-Sharpe had to say on the subject:

“Our typical high-protein, high-meat diets have also been implicated as a factor in the development of osteoporosis, but these claims may be the results of misinterpreting scientific research. Studies have shown that adding purified protein supplements and amino-acid mixtures that have had their phosphate removed do increase excretion of calcium by the kidney in both animals and humans. However, several long-term controlled human studies carried out by Herta Spencer, M.D., at the Hines VA Medical Center in Illinois have shown that high intakes of protein from natural protein sources such as meat, which have their phosphate intact, do not significantly increase calcium loss.”

A post-menopausal sedentary woman would not be well advised to go on a high protein diet, but if you’re a bodybuilder, or even if you just train with weights recreationally, then you will have denser bones than someone who doesn’t work out. Therefore, extra protein should not be a cause for concern.

Probably the only legitimate problem created by a high protein intake is dehydration. Metabolizing protein requires more water than fats or carbohydrates, so it is very important to consume extra water if you increase your protein intake. The standard recommendation is 8-10 8 oz glasses per day (64 – 80 oz). However, the higher your protein intake, the more water you should drink beyond the standard guideline. For bodybuilders on high protein diets, a gallon a day (124 oz) is more like it.

The one gram per pound of bodyweight guideline is good as a general rule of thumb for bodybuilders.  The amount of protein you need depends on how hard you are training and on whether you want to gain, maintain, or lose bodyweight.

Marc: Thanks once again Tom.

I can appreciate the overall good intentions of Consumer Reports to bring public awareness to the foods were consuming.  However, it does not negate the fact that the study itself was flawed and that most of the article seemed to have a bodybuilding type bashing theme to it.

In my 6 years online and 2 decades of bodybuilding, I’ve run across these myths countless times.   I can understand how the average consumer might not know protein intake requirements or how to conduct a proper research study, I fail to understand how a company as large as and well funded as Consumer Reports can write such a loosely documented and misleading prose on the world of fitness.

Even IF the report were true, they give NO information to the companies listed on how to reproduce the results to correct their products.

When David Barr wrote on the potential ill effects of Glycocyamine in some products, specifically Muscle Milk, I recall passing that report off to Cytosport.

Guess what they did?

They took the research, they looked over the facts and the consumer concerns and Cytosport REMOVED it from the product.

See folks.. that’s how it works.

Step 1:  You Find Something Questionable

Step 2:  You Document Your Research and Share with Company

Step 3:  You See if Company Responds

What we have here is a clear case of myth perpetuation and classic biased reporting.

Here’s What They Should Do Next:

Instead of freaking out of high protein diets, or all protein powder, the products that have been named should get tested by a research group that will publish the findings in a peer reviewed journal, where we know the methods of testing meet certain scientific standards or at least can be scrutinized by the rest of the scientific community to be sure that they do.

If the results come up positive for heavy metals, these supplement companies have some explaining to do and some actions to take for damage control.

The Bottom Line: Overall, the Consumer Reports article on Heavy Metals Found in Protein Drinks is of no real usable value. I won’t change my habits at this time when it comes to using protein supplements on that list or not.  Regarding Cytosport’s Muscle Milk, which I am a consumer of at times, it has NSF Certification which does not support the findings of Consumer Reports.

In my NoBull Bodybuilding program, I recommend whole foods thru Ph.D. approved meal plans, andd using protein shakes or powders as an supplement getting no more than 20% of your daily protein from such sources.  While I use proteins like this myself, I don’t drink 3 shakes a day.

Disclosure: I have a close family member works for Cytosport.  However, I am a consumer of the product.   You should realize however, that this isn’t an research report; it is a blog, and unbiased blogs are kind of boring.  If you don’t take a position what do you write about, really?

Industry Response:

Cytosport: Testing Confirms Muscle Milk Safety
Optimum Nutrition
NSF Statement on Consumer Reports Findings

For Further Research:

Protein Drinks Are Dangerous??!! Yeah, right.
CBS Morning Show: Could Protein Drinks Be Harmful to Your Health?
Heavy Metals Found In Protein Shakes: Should You Stop Drinking Them?
UltimateFatBurner Blog: Skeptical about Consumer Reports
How to Evalute Any Supplement

Dangerous protein drinks?
Bodybuilders & Protein, Part 1, 2 and 3
How Much Protein Can I Eat at Any One Time?
Consumer Reports Magazine Takes Aim at Protein Drinks

Marc David
“The NoBull Muscle Guy”
www.nobullbodybuilding.com

P.S. – My biggest pet peeve is a few fitness experts trying to make money off the report and linking you to a brand of protein thru their affilite link!  Of course they make a commissions off the purchases.  Talk about bias.  If you don’t trust supplement companies WHY on earth would you trust and expert that passed this report to you, offering up no professional insight and then tries to milk you for a few cents off a link to purchase protein.

I believe buyers should be made aware of the incentives individuals may have to give particular advice.  They should be more cynical.

What Supplements Should I Take?

Photo Credit: John Jeddore

Photo Credit: John Jeddore

I’ll refrain from talking about brand names and such as I think we all have our opinions on those and many times price is a factor.

I’m also not posting this list to preach about the benefits of supplements.  The post title is “What Supplements Should I Take” and I’m merely answering.

This isn’t my schedule but rather a framework.  And please keep in mind.. these are supplements meant to supplement an outstanding nutritional program.  I do not use this list to fill in gaps or substitute or my lack of proper eating.  It’s in addition to … not in place of.

So let’s begin…

My Foundational Supplements:

These are supplements I take daily with meals (not all meals), regardless of training.

* Multi-vitamin
* Essential Fatty Acid complex (EPA/DHA)
* Joint Matrix
* Digestive Enzymes
* Udo’s Oil 3-6-9 Omegas (plant sourced)
* Beta-Glucan
* ZMA

My Picks for Performance/Muscle Building Supplements:

My selection at this time for pre-workout and post-workout recovery.  I’ve tried drinking various energy combinations during a workout (Waxy Maize, Vitargo, water beyond a sip at the drinking fountain, etc) and found it to be bothersome.  My workouts don’t last long enough that I need energy during the workout itself.  I’ve got reserves for 60 minutes of high intensity training.

This section is the most critical for me.  If I can have enough energy to do a very high intensity workout AND I can recovery quickly, my gains will be staggering.

When I do not have a session that involved weight training, this list shrinks a lot.

-Some things are bulk, raw materials that aren’t available for end line consumers. –

* Whey protein
* Creatine
* Vitargo S2
* L-Leucine
* Muscle Milk
* Monster Milk/Mass
* Monster Amino
* Monster Pump
* Beta-Alanine
* Provon 290 whey protein isolate

My Optional Supplements:

Things I’ve found beneficial and I take at irregular times.  I am a coffee drinker and I switch to green tea.  Not for the metabolic effects but for the pick me up of caffeine and the other associated benefits with green tea.

* Caffeine
* Green tea
* Cytomax

Cytomax is something I found useful in 2 specific categories:

a) when attempting to do a high volume, high intensity leg workouts.  It’s the only solution I will consider drinking during the actual workout besides sipping water.  Anything that is “endurance” related which can be some weight training workouts believe it or not.

b) taken long after workouts but before bed on high intensity days to eliminate cramps.  Leg cramps plague me.  This is the only solution I’ve found that eliminates it almost immediately.

And that concludes this lengthy list on what supplements I currently take.

I’d like to know what supplements you take if any.  Please post your comments below.

Disclaimer: I reserve the right to update this post when things change or I go home and swallow a pill and realize I didn’t post it here. :-)

Marc David
“The NoBull Muscle Guy”
www.nobullbodybuilding.com

QUESTION:

You said you don’t need to take supplements to build muscle?  At least that is what your book claims along with everybody else in this industry.  Are you contradicting yourself?

ANSWER:

You do not. I was asked what I personally took, and I responded when most other professionals will not.  I’m not a supplement pusher but I’m not a supplement hater.   You only need handwork, consistency and adequate food intake coupled with recovery to build muscle and burn fat.  I said that, others say it and I stand by it.

QUESTION:

What supplements should I take?

ANSWER:

I’ve got no idea what you should take given your personal financial situation, your work ethic, your age, any medications or other complications and/or needs.  Recommending supplements to people isn’t something I do for a variety of reasons.  One being, I might be fine taking Product A when you have an allergic reaction.  I think sticking to the basics is the best idea.  Beyond that, if your diet is nearly perfect, that’s the time you can put forth some honest effort into making a plan for yourself.  Cookie cutter list of supplements to take is like giving cookie cutter financial advice.  Most people LOSE.  It may or may not pertain to them.  They end up frustrated and upset.  Hence, I make these recommendations for ME and me only.  Not you.  Re-read that this is for informational purposes only.

QUESTION:

How come other fitness guys don’t post this?

ANSWER:

I don’t know.  I’d guess the same reason they don’t post a lot of things.  They create images and often live different lives.  What you see in this blog, my personality, my preferences for a training style, my opinions.. is how I live.  All the time (except when I’m sleeping).  I take supplements personally and therefore, I don’t create some illusion I don’t.  But I don’t run around pushing them on people and I don’t give out recommendations as I don’t know your history among other things.  It’s a question I get all the time and it’s always the one I can’t answer perfectly.

QUESTION:

Where can I buy…   How come you don’t post links?

ANSWER:

Because I’m not making recommendations.  This is a list post.  For informational purposes.  Disclosure.  For curious minds.  Not me trying to encourage you or direct you anywhere.  People asked, I responded.  That’s it.

QUESTION:

Where can I learn more about the science behind supplements IF I choose to take this path?

ANSWER:

I wrote a very lengthy post about How to Evaluate a Supplement. I suggest you read it and do your research before just buying the latest and greatest or what Joe/Sally said on some forum.  You’ll end up with more money in your pocket and feeling smarter.