Can excess protein make you fat?

Categories: Videos & podcasts

In this clip from my recent guest lecture for Dr. Paul Hough’s university class, I go into a question I get asked a lot: can excess protein make you fat? There are a lot of misconceptions about this, so I hope this clip helps you understand the science! For more advanced science lovers, the full interview below is also highly recommended. The level is a bit higher than my more mainstream interviews, as it’s for a university class, but if that’s your thing, you’ll probably find it one of my more informative podcasts.

Full interview:

Transcript (auto)

I’ll begin the recording now Menno thanks for joining us and the first

questions that um I’ve sort of ordered in this way are on

um basically on energy so how much to eat so this first question is probably

one you receive a lot uh and this comes from Craig and he asks how many extra

calories should you aim to consume to increase muscle mass a 10 Surplus is

often recommended but that’s only around 250 calories for me and that seems quite

low when you look at what bodybuilders eat it’s actually quite high already I would

say 10 10 there was one study in bodybuilders where it wasn’t clear if

they were completely natural and they found that there was some improvement of it was I think it came out to about 10

percent versus five percent something like that and there was an increase in muscle growth

but also a lot of increase in fat gain and that was probably the most promising study and I think it was the most

promising because some of the competitors were not natural it was in Brazil

most research in particular two nice Studies by Garfield from Norway found

that if you increase the energy Surplus for a natural training in natural athlete they gain

almost no additional muscle mass almost no additional increase in muscle strength but a significant increase in

fat Mass so you can think of the energy Surplus as being like this is maintenance and then

there’s this little extra that your body can use for muscle growth and once you’ve provided it with that any

additional increase in energy surpass above that mainly gets stored as fat

because the body just has a finite amount of muscle it will build based on a stimulus that you provided it with

strength training and you can’t really upregulate it that much just like you can’t upregulate uh

protein synthesis that much with just protein intake it’s the strength training that provides stimulus and

nutrition is merely permissive to to a large extent it’s not that stimulatory there is some effect but it’s it’s not

large whereas the additional fat gain you get from higher energetics is large and if

you think it’s low well for one most bodybuilders don’t have an energy expenditure of 2500 calories especially

not one bulking you’re looking more at four thousand five thousand calories and secondly most are not natural which is

of course the the big uh Pink element in the room when trying to copy any bodybuilding practices

and most of them probably also dream or bulk a bit too much and

yeah if you think of the net metabolizable energy density that you’re actually storing in the body

for a kilo of lean body mass I think it’s 1825 or something calories per

kilogram it’s very little and you’re lucky if you build a kilo of muscle per month as a natural trainee that’s beyond

the nervous stage so yeah I mean 1800 divided by 30 and you’re looking at a very tiny Surplus that’s actually being

stored you need a bit more than that because of energy efficiency issues but yeah you’re looking at a very small

Surplus for natural trainees so how would you go about um setting like an energy intake Target

for someone that’s trying to increase muscle mass then what would be your method

it would be a percentage of energy supplies but it would be more like five percent sometimes even just two percent

the most important thing much more important than setting the initial estimates which is just going to be that

an estimate is tracking someone’s body composition over time yeah and seeing

how their results are so in general you could say that if you see measurable increases in fat gain two weeks in a row

like increases in skin full scallopers that you’ve calibrated well that would be a bad sign

again for a natural training because that you’re having too much fat storage most likely so you mentioned um like a

five percent increase there which for smaller people like particularly like

smaller females that’s going to be a very small number of calories so how

um do you go about prescribing for those individuals so if you’re doing say a

five percent do you add some leeway on that if the individual’s smaller or do you sort of titrate it and go five

percent for a number of weeks and then if that’s not working increase more yeah I do it I do adjustments weekly if

the data warrant an adjustment and more the more adjustment is

necessary the bigger the increase so if I see oh you’re losing weight rather than gaining weight of course I’ll go up a lot more and that benefits your

initial estimate was probably incorrect very incorrect and if you see that someone is just maintaining but you want them to be in a

five percent energy Surplus then you know okay I have to add about five percent calories and if you see okay

there’s now a steady increase in in weight and basically no measurable fats that’s ideal and strength is progressing

well well then your data show you’re on the right track and then as the boat progresses you probably want to add some more calories over time because that

your metabolism is going to increase during the bug and in your experience what kind of range have you observed

with um your clients and physique athletes in terms of what they responded to or

what’s kind of the maximum you’ve needed to go to to to see an increase in in muscle growth

it’s a massive difference because we’re not just looking at we’re often when we’re talking discussions people talk

about the net energy Surplus yeah to be a net energy surplus of say five percent but that means a much bigger increase in

energy intake for some people than five percent because some people um from research talk about spend Thrift

versus I found audio systems very confusing but 50 versus spent Thrift metabolism basically some people have

much more adaptive metabolism than others when they increase energy intake they just burn most of it off they become more physically active their

thermic effect of Food rises a lot so for these individuals that five

percent net energy Surplus might require a 500 calorie increase um whereas for the other individuals

that have a very unadaptive metabolism they may only have to go up 50 calories and and do you um take into account

training status and and the type of training um someone is doing so for example would

you set the Surplus differently to someone that’s fairly new to resistance training it maybe doesn’t need as much

Surplus compared to someone who’s more experienced who might need a little bit more absolutely I think in a general

rule is that the energy Surplus should match the potential for muscle growth so

for a highly Advanced competitor you’re really lucky if there’s any muscle growth and so you you really

don’t need much of an energy Supply pretty much any weight gain is good if you can get 0.1 body weight gain per

week without much fat that’s great in fact with highly Advanced competitors often you’re looking at that and that’s

also why enhanced competitors can have a much higher energy Surplus

that’s still useful I coach natural and enhanced competitors vast majority is natural but the difference is night and

day when it comes to energy Surplus because in a natural you see exactly what the research shows you add calories

oh you’re mainly just an increase in facting in enhanced trainees you add calories they gain more muscle you have

more calories they gain more muscle that’s really interesting so they serve people that are taking

um so um performance enhancing drugs they’re getting um is it a case of more sort of that uh

energy Surplus is being partitioned towards muscle growth is that how that’s kind of occurring yes I I think that is

uh there’s a much better p ratio and much better so you have the stimulus of muscle growth from the strength training

and there’s also an additional stimulus from the anabolic androgenic steroids themselves because research finds that

if you just put people on energy anabolic androgenic steroids and a high protein diet they already gain a very

substantial amount of lean body mass that’s cool um and just one one final

follow-up before we go on to the next one on this and what your thoughts are so if we

um conclude that a small Surplus is probably beneficial uh what your

thoughts on the macro nutrient profile of of that Surplus do you think it matters

um provided you’ve hit Pro your sort of protein targets yeah it matters but not nearly as much

as most people think for the average gym goer so a protein is is crucial and I

typically recommend 1.8 gram per kilogram I one of the first articles I wrote which very extensive and

subsequently verified by meta-analyzes that we co-offered um is that there are essentially no

benefits above 1.6 gram per kilogram per day total protein intake total body weight

I recommend 1.8 based on Research by Lemon at all which finds that you’re basically adding a I think it’s a triple

Sigma in the end which is also used in business a lot for it to be extra extra safe in terms of knowing that you’re not

just covering the population on average but you’re also covering the outliers which might have a very high protein

requirement for some reason if you then only do resistance training

that your carbohydrate requirements are very low I recently co-offered the first systematic review on carbohydrate requirements on this and the vast

majority of research does not support that carbohydrates are really a limiting factor for strength trainees because

you’re you’re burning at most 39 glycogen based on the research more like 20 most workouts and if you’re doing

that full body type training and they’re like it’s it’s often even less and then you have a lot of time to re-synthesize that between your workouts

so then you get fat or you definitely don’t want to go super low in fat there’s some lines of research

indicating that it’s probably beneficial to go higher than 20 fat intake it’s good for

anabolic hormonal health and but we don’t see much of an effect in studies directly even between ketogenic and

non-ketogenic conditions most studies finds that high carb low carb there was a recent study again that found this it

doesn’t make a difference in muscle growth for strength development so I think there is a case to be made for

you can’t go zero fat long term because then you’re getting these negative hormonal effects most likely it’s it’s

plausible that we don’t see these effects in short-term studies because we know that things like even with trt even

even a cycle there’s research that it takes about a month before we see increases in muscle protein synthesis

because the effects of as are largely genomic so it takes a long time before

those actually manifest as increased muscle protein synthesis and only then afterwards increased muscle mass

okay that’s really interesting I just want to Circle back to something that just struck me is um on that previous

question about a caloric Surplus for for gaining muscle uh so that’s almost like

taken as a as a given something you need to do and where do you think um that stems from this idea that

um I’ve eaten a lot of calories to gain muscle comes from do you think it’s a sort of a historical thing from

bodybuilding um literature that’s a good question I think and in

fact the scientifically the hypothesis that you gain more muscle and energy Surplus than energy deficits is not very

well supported at all we do know and this is relatively recently that higher energy deficits result in less muscle

growth than small energy deficits and so recent meta-analysis found that on average with 500 calorie deficit or so

it becomes very difficult to build additional lean body mass so it it stands to reason that also

based on the literature on nitrogen balanced protein balance there is an increase when you go into energy as a plus because we see protein balance

improves and so there’s that Sound Logic and then the practice of people successfully

bulking I think in large part that comes from the days when we weren’t very precise like in the 50s they had no

concept of these you know counting your Macros these kind of things and then what often happens is people eat intuitively they kind of gravitate

towards maintenance and that probably just doesn’t cut it for a more advanced training bodybuilders and the like so what you saw is people to make sure that

at least they’re they’re bulking they would dream about as we now call it yeah so they massively override and then when

they’re cutting they were probably cutting way too aggressively because they didn’t have fine tools to monitor a

0.1 percent decrease in weight even if they did you know they didn’t have spreadsheets and whatever so it’s very unlikely that they actually

paid attention to these things and as a result people kind of shot overboard which is probably more effective than the people that just try to maintain as

people some some call it now because for advanced trainee maintenance resulting well just that maintenance so the people

that booked and cut were probably more successful in the end and now we’re learning that well you you don’t want a

bulk and cut but it’s much more precise on both ends sure yeah that makes perfect sense I think as well as um it’s

almost like an insurance policy of of eating um just in a slight Surplus so that

you’re not in a negative energy balance so you’re more likely to to accrue muscle mass rather than as you say there

you can’t really force feed muscle game right so the more you eat doesn’t necessarily mean more sort of lean

tissue accretion um I’ll come on to the next one which is kind of uh related to to energy intake

and this is one I received personally a few weeks ago I thought it’d be good to put it to you

um is time restricted feeding detrimental to building muscle that’s a good question

um it’s probably not but most of the research we have is on energy deficits and there is a case to be made that an

energy supports you can stimulate higher levels of protein balance so maybe the diet is permissive enough

but in energy deficit you can maintain but in energy Surplus maybe you cannot maximize the 24 7 integral of muscle

protein synthesis over time and yeah I think that that is a relatively

reasonable argument based on the literature on um muscle protein synthesis in response

to single meals which typically shows are relatively transient increase and

there is some research that for example two meals per day doesn’t cut it well that’s kind of logically infers that

there must be a certain time window which we need to because if you get six meals in three hours then the for the

body that’s essentially you know one or maybe two meals right it’s kind of indistinguishable so I think it follows that there’s

probably at least a minimum feeding window that you need now eight hours seems to be sufficient the popular 16-8

seems to be at least an energy deficit seems to be good enough to retain muscle very well there was one recent study

which also found that myofibular muscle protein synthesis that did not differ between intermittent fasting and

non-interm fasting interestingly in that study it did result in a decrease in lean body mass

though which most research does not find so that that question is a little bit out

um like scientifically we don’t know exactly that I personally are on the side of eight hour feeding Windows the

absolute minimum I recommend and I typically do that more for cutting them for bulking in bulking I mean it should be necessary anyway for booking I like

to have more free probably four meals a day if you want to be on the safe side is that because it’s just more difficult

to see but um by definition your your meal size is going to have to own your

caloric intakes and have to be much larger in that compressed window and is that just purely practically because

it’s just more difficult to consume that much energy in short space of time compared to that too yes and um lack of

lack of validity in the trenches you could call it you know we don’t see a lot of people we see lots of people that

do successfully that do very well on intermittent fasting diets for fat loss we don’t see a lot of people that

successfully bulk on intermittent fasting diets now of course that could be purely a practical concern but

since we don’t have like solid research yet that this is good and we have mechanistic rationale for why it may not

be optimal you know the MPS response to single measles transient so you need to spread that out multiple meals across

the day to maximize the total MPS over the day as a whole possibly

I are on the side of safety okay cool that that makes perfect sense and the

the next question is uh similar to um to the previous in terms of timing of

uh specifically a macronutrients in this case and this comes from Solomon who

asks what are your thoughts on carbohydrate backloading and firstly do you just want to explain

what back cloning is because I appreciate some people might not know what that means

yeah I think kind of nobody knows exactly what it means because the the term isn’t used very much in in

scientific circles yeah so there was a book by John Kiefer I’m if I’m not mistaken that popularized the concept

and he kind of used it in a in a very specific way of also starting with

different types of carbohydrates I think the most colloquial usage of the term refers to consuming more of your

carbohydrates in the later part of the day as opposed to earlier yeah so let’s say carbohydrate backloading is having

more than 50 of your carbs in the second half of the day okay now there is research that generally finds

at least overweight individuals and alike they may do better in terms of most in terms of appetite suppression with the carbs earlier or at least

energy and earlier in terms of purely looking at same kind of energy intake

looking only at the carbohydrate distribution I think the only good study we have on this is sulfur at all from

Israel in military or not military police Personnel right and it did find a

slight benefit in terms of hunger management and fat loss and even a mechanistic argument for that

in favor of car back loading so having the groups I think were carbs spread equally versus

carb spread mostly to dinner and the dinner group had higher daytime levels

of leptin and adiponectin which are appetite suppressor hormones and they also had lower levels of appetite

and slightly greater fat loss which was probably mostly attributable due to better diet adherence rather than you

know energy balance type thing or energy expenditure type thing because that’s a good rule for me General I would say

like if you see better fat loss in any study you always have to wonder is this due to energy intake energy expenditure

or nutrient partitioning because those are the only three explanations that make scientific sense right if it’s

anything that’s hormonal or whatever it can make sense if it influences these more proximate causes so something else

can we can say like oh there’s an increase in testosterone that’s why they gain more muscle and that influences nutrient

partitioning and the like or you could say there is an increase in thyroid hormone levels that’s why they lost more

fat and then the the whole chain of causality is increasing thyroid hormone

increasing energy expenditure therefore greater energy deficits therefore greater fat loss yeah so it all kind of all writes lead

to sort of energy balance it just um in different mechanisms which are altering uh either expenditure or intake

um I think that’s why it’s often quite complicated questions to answer on Fat Loss because

when you as you just mentioned there studies use different protocols and

you’re never quite sure how much of it is due to the behavior change element um and also the knock-on effects on

expenditure and uh you know you can quite tightly regulate intake but then

um the others like expenditure is essentially a bit of a black box in most research yeah and even to take us

difficult to regulate oh for sure yeah um and in in terms of this question on

carbohydrate backloading um because it’s sort of a hypertrophy

theme q a is there any mechanistic basis for doing that say if you train later in

the day to partition carbs around training or after training carbohydrates

brochure don’t seem to matter much just now research by I think Statin at all and kopman which found that adding

carbohydrates to protein did not further augment muscle protein synthesis even directly post workouts and even when

we’re talking about like 50 or 100 grams of carbohydrate so very sizable amounts

of a carbohydrate did not result in any further additional muscle protein synthesis or decreasing muscle protein

breakdown so it’s unlikely to be directly beneficial and like we discussed I mean for

glycogen synthesis and like yes there’s any faster glycogen resynthesis rate but it’s simply not relevant in most

scenarios unless you want to train again on the same day or maybe the next morning after an evening workout and

you’re training the same muscle with a high volume of both occasions it probably doesn’t matter for strength

training I mean if you’re doing soccer and they’re like we’re talking different numbers

so carbide clouding I think is very unlikely to directly improve muscle growth but there is some research

indicating that energy intake in general might increase muscle growth when it’s

more um so for example I think chimer at all found that if people work out around in

the middle of the day yeah and they have most of the energy like 70 of energy intake in the morning or 70 of the

energy in the in the evening so basically after the workout first prefer the workout then they have better nutrient partitioning when they did it

after the workout when they had the meal after the workout yeah so more of their energy and cycle of the day after the

workout which would synchronize it essentially with the anabolic window and the whole period of protein synthesis afterwards

so I I do tend to program it that way if someone has only one meal for example on

the last meal of the day I earn on the side of making that about twice as big as other meals typically because we we

see in research that muscle protein synthesis can be elevated about two-fold higher and the requirements for

nutrition also about two full higher so it’s about 40 versus 20 gram high quality protein like in a form of whey

if you want to equalize it to a number like that so I do think it makes some sense to do

that it’s quite speculative still at the moment but I do program that way and it’s not the car backloading but rather

the energy intact I think that might make a difference cool um the next question it touches upon something

um you’ve already mentioned a couple of times and this comes from Ross he says

he sees lots of recommendations about eating above maintenance to increase muscle mass but what is the best way to

find out your maintenance so it’s actually more difficult than most people realize for strength

training because the traditional advice is that you eat two two weeks at or you monitor your energy intake and

you essentially have to adjust it until you find that for two weeks there is no change in your weight yeah and many

studies also do it this way it is actually not accurate because for a strength Journey no increase in weight

does not have to mean that there’s no change in body composition you might be recomping and if you’re on a very

serious strength training program you’re not super advanced yet you’re not incredibly lean the energy depth isn’t too high it’s actually quite likely and

my clients I very often see body recomposition because everything is supposed to be optimized

so then being at maintenance can mean either your maintenance or you’re an energy deficit in your recomping so it’s

a little more tricky than that but if you see no change in measures of body fat and weight then you can you know

quite safely assume you’re in energy maintenance even then maintenance is a little bit of

a sticky concept like people often talk about it and we also like aesthetic but it’s Dynamic yeah I often see that and

uh when you see it on social media about maintenance is used as if it if it’s like this line this set figure when in

actual fact energy balance in your maintenance is dynamic it’s changing all the time but anyway I’ll let you expand

on that yeah so if you increase your if you change your energy intake your energy expenditure also changes

so that means that the maintenance is more of a range and there’s a range in which

almost nothing happens that’s hard that’s going to be hard to detect on a scale you know it’s going to be below the measurement variance yeah and then

there’s a significant deviation from what we consider as the point maintenance before we actually start

seeing uh increases in body weight or decreases in body weight especially if you have an Adaptive metabolism like me for example

I can go from about 3300 basically nothing happens to

my weight I can go up all the way to 4 000 and still almost nothing happens to my weight this is caloric intake just

yes calories per day and I have to get down to about 2500 or

2800 before anything like happens really happens to the scale so I have a very adaptive metabolism for

some people it’s much more um linear than that so there are maintenance is about three thousand and

they see differences when they go up to 3100 they start to slowly increase weight and they start to see some

decrease in body weight when they go 100 200 calories or so lower but yeah this varies a lot per

individual for most people though the the idea of like two weeks nothing happens your body weight that’s going to be in your maintenance range and how do

you um typically track body mass do you take um a weekly average and if so how

many times across the week would you measure or advise people measure their body mass I recommend daily measurements

that’s a because it’s simply the most data and then taking the weekly average and it also offsets for a weekly kind of

seasonal changes in the data which most people have you know Tuesday they have their work at a different location so

they walk more or whatever first day they are more likely to overeat because they’re stressed so you have some

seasonality even in in weekly data and that you want to average that out and

it’s also best to for habit formation so from a behavioral point of view daily it’s much easier for most people than

three times a week for example okay and so you would um and what sort of percentage I know this will vary from

person to person but what kind of percentage would you take on average to be a meaningful change in in body mass

any can be meaningful especially if you’re talking about like an advanced training that’s bulking

um it so it depends on like what you want to see for weight loss you typically have higher numbers than for weight gain because it’s easier to lose

fat than it is to build muscle so you’re talking about bigger changes typically and then you have to you know

relate it to someone’s measurement various and this is definitely where art meets science and that you have to kind

of look at the client and see okay is this really

um you have to look at the overall trend so you’re looking at the weekly change but you’re also looking at the whole Trend before that so if I see a client and

they’re gaining point five percent point five percent point five percent point five percent weight gain per week

and then one week suddenly out of nowhere it’s minus 0.3 that I’m typically concluding

um first I’m going to ask them is there any change in your activity level energens et cetera to say no no change then I’m going to conclude they’re

actually still an energy Surplus and this is just an anomaly in the data so we’re going to stay the course and

typically you see that the trend in these indeed continues upwards so guessing that requires um quite a bit

of patience on on the client’s part so because I don’t you’ve probably noticed

this when when someone does track and send you their data nothing can happen for a long period and then all of a

sudden you just see this this change and uh it’s kind of getting past that

initial sort of period of of nothingness happening yeah and I mean I do her on the side of

making adjustments more rapidly than some other evidence-based coaches because I’m very honed in on my clients

like daily habits optimizing everything so it depends a lot on your clientele

often what you see with clients where nothing happens when they’re supposed to be in a big deficit is that they’re simply not in a big deficit yet they’re

not managing to control their diet very well and over time as they progress with that it becomes they become better at it

and it also depends on your measurement tools because if a client is doesn’t want to use anything other than weight then you might need more data and

especially if the weight variance is large before you can reasonably conclude whether there is anything going on

whereas if someone is super meticulous and their weight doesn’t change that much from day to day then even for the

first week at 0.5 decrease you can say Okay most likely in energy deficits if you’ll see their waste slim down their

caliper readings go down and on that point there um for body composition analysis

um often people don’t have access to um things like the Bob pod and biological

impedance and so what would you recommend for tracking changes in body

composition like skin folds and circumference measurements are the most useful for

most individuals and by far the most important thing to teach people with

these measurement tools is standardization sure because if you’re just for example for with weight

circumference the typical measurement is standing relaxed and there is no such thing no that’s

like military posture or optimal posture these things don’t exist everyone is very Dynamic postures that can change a

lot based on someone’s mood based on whether they were just sitting or whether they were just lying down whether it’s the morning or the evening and especially when you have them focus

on it and you give them measurement tape they’re very likely to change you know suck their gut in a little bit more or

if they’re feeling unhappy they’re maybe inclined to make it less tight or tighter so they kind of see the readings

they want so you really want to have the measurement conditions very constant over time that typically means

in the morning fasted after having gone to the bathroom and what I typically recommend is maximally flex your abs

exhale all air like you’re doing like a bodybuilding post and make sure all the air and then you take the measurements

I’ve also tried maximally ballooned up stomach and it works almost equally well but if clients don’t like it yeah yeah

and it’s actually um it’s one of the things we we’re doing um the one of the practicals I run with sports science

students is is simply measuring weight circumference using the recommended

guidance of finding sort of the midpoint between iliac crests at the top of your pelvis and the the last rib and even

then it’s actually quite a difficult measure to take precisely on your own because the tape measure can be skewed

and you mentioned there as well exactly how the person breathes massively affects your your measurement and as

soon as you mention breathing to the person like I’ve done this myself you kind of think oh should I breathe in should I hold and then yeah then it

introduces that sort of measurement error so um I completely agree standardization really important I think

that’s particularly important with um biological impedance analysis which I know a lot more people are using now

with it being in in a lot of scale so um yeah if you if you’re doing that in

consistent times of day personally I think it’s it’s kind of a meaningless measure because it’s just so variable

but um anyway um back on track to the to the questions okay um so we’ll look at next uh let’s

you’ve I think you’ve answered some of these in your previous answers but um we’ll look at uh the protein question so

the first one which I have answered but um we’ll cover it again just for uh Clarity and this comes from Johnny there

is so much information about protein intake that I’m unsure what advice to follow what is the current recommended

protein intake to support muscle growth so for me it’s 1.8 gram per kilogram per

day I 1.6 is probably sufficient but I recommend 1.8 and you can find an

article on my website if you Google manual optimal protein intake or just optimal protein intake maybe depends on

your Google was number one on Google for a long time and then you’ll find the article with lots of references

including our math analyzes and study we offered as well on recovery basically

the short version is that there’s zero research literally zero that finds additional benefits above 1.6 when

nutrient timing is controlled for it right so that’s a really nice clear concise

answer because I take on his point when you when you do kind of if you were to Google this or just look on social media

there’s there’s a there’s a range which most recommendations fall in between like 1.6 but it you can see people

recommending up to 2.2 grams per kilo of body mass so it’s nice that we’ve got a clear and concise answer there so thanks

for that and by the way I’ll um I’ll link to to your that article you mentioned and any others that um are

relevant so I’ll send an email out to the attendees so I’ve got all this information uh another protein related

question from arkhan and he asks um for a natural gym Enthusiast aiming to

optimize muscle growth often I have seen that adding more protein leads to

constipation and flatulence is that an indication you are consuming excess

protein which is not being utilized properly it’s not it’s

there’s um interestingly this idea that like protein makes you gassy but for

most people that’s actually not true it’s due to other changes that they make in their diet typically in the inclusion

of foods they are intolerant to as well as in just general overall increase in food intake so most people start to eat

healthier they also increase their intake of vegetables and in particular fault Maps or beans for example and they are

notorious for making people gassy flatulent Etc so it’s usually other Foods now it can

be the case that it’s one of the protein sources protein sources are typically very well tolerated but lactose intolerance is extremely common in the

world in the UK not so much but it’s still a non-trivial percentage of the population and then if you have a lot of

dairy protein that can definitely cause digestive issues for most people though it’s something else I mean even

carnivore diets are typically favored by people that have a lot of digestive

issues and I’m definitely in a proponent of carnivore diets but they do work for many people to eliminate digestive

issues because they’re caused by fault Maps which are part of plants and a particular carb fibrous carb sources

so it’s very unlikely that protein per se for an individual is a problem because super high protein diets are

actually often um therapeutic for this okay cool that makes sense and I’m guessing a lot of

people that um increase their protein intake um for muscle growth uh reasons often

use supplements and as you mentioned there if they have issues with lactose then a lot of supplements that that

might explain what what’s causing those sort of digestive issues yeah and supplements contain all sorts of stuff

other than lactose so yeah yeah um so the on a similar theme

um and this this comes up you probably received this question a lot because there is quite a little bit of conflict

in information and I think some of it actually stems from uh misunderstanding of some of the research in this area but

um nevertheless um I’ll put it to you so Yasmin asked um if I consume too much

protein will this be converted into fat cool question I would say yes

it’s typically not the protein itself though that is actually converted into fat but

rather that excess energy intake from a high protein diet does still contribute towards

vaccine so there have been a few Studies by Antonio at all which found no

increase in fat gain yeah they were free living conditions though with very

high protein intakes very high Dropout rates very poor dietary returns and I’ve

talked to him about these studies and he also says yeah a lot of people complained about digestive issues about

just not being able to get it that much protein so I think in this case over reporting is actually quite likely

that they were saying yes yes I got all my protein in when in reality they were like nah I’m done at the end of the day

do I need to do another two-way shakes before I go to bed I’m not doing it sorry but they log it as yes did it

today if you look at controlled research like the bray at all metabolic word studies they do find that higher energy or

higher protein intakes or else equal just increase the protein intake you do see higher fat rain Gates and

mechanistically the body does oxidize protein very readily as energy source and that frees up carbohydrates or fat

typically fats to be stored as fat so there’s another there’s the mechanistic confusion because people think oh you

don’t store the surplus of energy directly as fat and that’s true

what happens is the body oxidizes the protein uses it for energy and then it uses less carbohydrate or

fat to for for energy because it has a protein already that’s generating the energy so it will store more of the fats

but it’s typically very efficient it will preferentially store the fat as fat because it’s the easiest most metabolically efficient pathway and only

then if needed convert glucose like to new fats the novel epogenesis and

protein has to go kind of do a dual pathway of first glucose and glucose and then the novo lipogenesis

very inefficient so the body doesn’t do it but it’s only relevant if you’re literally consuming nothing but protein

and that’s typically not the case so in practice yes increasing your protein intake can increase fat gain I mean the

body doesn’t even know what the Surplus is that you eat you know it just registers energy and do you think a similar

misconception comes from um well at least in my experience of spoken with

clients and even a couple of athletes that have gone on a ketogenic diet and not managed to lose much body fat

because they’ve misconstrued um oxidizing fat with burning or losing

body fat whereas if you kind of over feeding fat then your body is going to preferentially use that for energy it’s

not necessarily just going to dip into the fat store so similar thing with with protein and over consumption ultimately

if you consume too much of anything the body’s going to find a way of of storing

that in in tissue stores yes that’s the the confusion between your body turning into a fat burning

machine which might be true in terms of fat oxidation rates but it’s not necessarily true in terms of adipose

tissue loss and with the protein consumption do you think some of that those kind of

questions on if I ever eat protein I can’t gain fat is that through maybe a Mis exaggeration of dietary induced

thermogenesis from protein intake in the people think they’re getting a sort of a freebie of just consuming as much as

they want definitely and we have quite some research on that it does seem to be true that like very high protein intake

has a dietary induced from a Genesis Advantage compared to lower protein diet

so it’s inefficient for the body to store the protein as fat usually that’s not an issue because you also consume

fat and alike but there’s also a greater increase in energy expenditure from high protein foods because they have a

naturally High fermic effect of foods so it takes more energy to absorb and digest the nutrients and especially if

you’re not at an optimized protein intake yet then you’re also increasing muscle protein synthesis and that

significantly increases energy expenditure because it just makes the whole body more metabolically active

so up until that point of Maximum muscle growth you should also see better fat loss because your stimulating increased

energy expenditure above that point you only have the fermic advantage assuming that you’re not on a zero fat zero carb

diet so literally just way shakes all day even then you have some carb into a garlic

so the the thing with that is that when people say oh look we have these studies why Antonio and they don’t look at the

brain studies they say well the higher protein there’s fermic Advantage so it doesn’t you don’t get fats again the

thing is the firmative advantage is always a percentage of energy intake so it’s literally there’s no such thing as

negative energy right if you consume 100 calories and even if you go by the highest in highest estimates of protein

being like 30 fermic effect you’re talking about 30 calories extra burns out of those hundreds so you still have

70 additional calories that are going to be stored in the body so it’s impossible to explain zero fat

gain like you could say there is reduced fat gang most research finds that that’s true but it’s it’s marginal we’re

talking about small small differences but you you cannot logically infer from

that that there would be Zero Effect yeah now that that makes perfect sense and just before we go on to another

question um I can’t remember if I think I might have read this in one of your articles of or I heard you speak about it on um

on a podcast and that’s the satiating effect of protein so that’s another

um sort of piece of advice or information that’s soft and taken as fact that protein is

the most satiating macronutrient and could you just give your take on that

it’s that’s true on average in research so in general higher protein diets on

average in a literature outperform lower protein diets however that mechanism seems to function on what’s called

protein leverage Theory effect whereby kind of like salt and water the body stimulates you to cons to keep consuming

until it has met a certain amount of intake of that nutrient yeah and it does

seem that the brain and body can somewhat register amino acid balance and the like there are Pathways by which it

actually seems to register the intake of protein and above that point

which seems to be about 1.6 1.8 gram per kilogram per day we see no further advantages and it’s also not protein per

se that’s that beneficial because there are lots of studies on whey protein supplementation and they often find that

people figure meta-analysis are relatively recent one also find that on average people increase their total

energy intake when it comes to whey protein supplementation because I mean way is just not satiating

at all it’s liquid calories super fast digesting a sweet it’s typically easy to

consume a lot of yeah so most people increase total energy inside from way it doesn’t decrease casein

um steak or in particular something like dry chicken might be a different story because it’s just unpleasant to eat yeah

so you yeah you you’re not likely to overeat on dry chicken breast

if you talk about like tender chicken with a nice sauce even if it’s a low calorie sauce it’s a very different

story already yeah so the food choice is much more important than whether it’s protein per se and the protein protein

satiating effect seems to stop at about 1.6 uh gram per kilogram per day and

we’ve actually also done a study ourselves where we directly compared 1.8 versus 2.7 I found no differences in

hunger or a little bits of energy intake that’s really interesting and it’s

probably one of those areas as well because we take quite a reduction in this approach in research and we don’t

often consider that we’d only macronutrients as such you eat meals

which are a composition of different macronutrients so the idea that you know we just eat protein is is kind of um

it’s not really valid in the real world and I see that with um discussions about

carnivore diet that you mentioned earlier and people saying it’s brilliant because I I just don’t feel hungry after

it and I don’t overeat but it’s like well if you’re that limited it’s actually the limiting factor is the the

actual diet itself because you can’t have it’s like if you were to just have I think someone’s done this with a

boiled potato diet um after a certain amount of the same thing it’s no longer appealing so

regardless of the macronutrient it’s actually kind of the rules of the diet that limits in your energy intake yeah

therefore protein specifically there’s even some research indicating an habituation effect that’s there seems to be a transient

increase in satiety from a higher protein intake but it disappears so there might also be something like that going on

that’s interesting so could that be um some sort of Merit to sort of cycling protein intake for support dietary

purposes for that reason could be I mean most research still doesn’t find benefits even relatively

short-term research our study I think was too weak so you’d be looking at very short-term periodization you know maybe

it’s beneficial for three days or something okay cool um I’ll come on to the next question

which is a slight departure but one that you probably get asked a lot um as well so

um it’s probably a popular area um this comes from miles and he asks can you build strength in a caloric deficit

definitely you can even get muscle in a caloric deficit so the the math analysis that we talked about earlier it found

that muscle growth occurs typically in research up to a 500 calorie deficit or

so I think it gets harder the leaner you are the more muscular you are the greater the energy deficit

strength gains are much easier to realize in fact I think this is a hard reality check that people struggle with

if your strength is state is stable in an energy deficit and your weight is

going down you’re probably losing muscle because if your Str your strength should always be

increasing due to neural learning so you can you can gain strength for either neural learning so the multiportex the

brain the nervous system becoming more efficient at coordinating the existing muscle mass and you can get more Strong

by simply having more muscle mass or generally more positive morphological adaptations

if there’s no a change in the muscle mass then there should always be some increase in strength just from the

neural learning if you’re doing the exercise regularly you should you know get better technique at it decreased

antagonist co-activation those kind of things there should be some increase in strength so if there really isn’t any

that is a stranded probably and any of these adaptations are being offset by

these adaptations so any neural learning is being offset by muscle loss

I see so um it’s a good way of tracking it would it be a good way of tracking nutrition in a way then looking at

strength and how that’s um being maintained so for example if

you’re going into a diet um you could track so not necessarily one RMS but certain sort of strength

exercises um see how you’re performing and use that as an inference if you’re losing

strength that you could be losing muscle mass yeah definitely I think for practical purposes for many people

strength is a reasonable long-term proxy for muscle mass they get a short-term

new exercises the relation is very weak but in the long term like empower the first we see a super strong correlations

Olympic weightlifters as well the more better of the better performing athletes

are simply the more muscular ones by and large just kind of interesting right yeah I

mean and the other thing could it be um sort of a transient thing if if your self experienced this myself but I don’t

know if it’s psychological but say you go into a training session fasted and um

you usually do a session fed is there some sort of psychological influence on

there where you kind of just feel a bit more depleted so that maybe then you’re not putting in as much effort or your

perceived exertion is higher definitely there there’s been research directly on

that that we reviewed in our systematic review and carbohydrate intake where they found that

people that consume a placebo breakfast perform better than people that train fasted

and there was no significant difference between the placebo breakfast in this case of modified gel so the participants couldn’t tell whether it was high energy

or just gels with flavoring and stuff but just the perception of having breakfast seemed to improve performance

rather than the carbohydrate intake itself and that’s a really interesting field

and actually I’ll only come on to one of the other questions which I’ll put in the supplement section because it kind

of feeds into this and no pun intended um let me just find it uh

what uh here it is sunny um does drinking a sports drink during a resistance training session improve your

performance it typically doesn’t I mean it depends on what’s in the drink I suppose but for

most people carbohydrates protein if you’re not training fasted in particular and that doesn’t affect anymore what’s

going on in the session at least not via physical mechanisms you know of course there are always psychological possible

mechanisms but if you think about it it’s actually already kind of too late to consume

something into a workout because it it doesn’t have time to reach blood and sufficient amounts to even make much of a difference what about some of the

research that looked at um time to exhaustion and more endurance exercise where they

they’ve done like mouth rinsing with carbohydrates do you think there could be a similar effect with resistance

training whereby it’s um it’s um basically acting directly on the brain

from sensors in the mouth causing some sort of reduction in rpes is that a bit

of a long shot when it comes to resistance training do you think now there is some research that’s mouth rinsing is effective but our research

also finds that it doesn’t even have to be carbohydrates like mouth rinsing with a sweetener also works so it seems to be

the perception of sweetness and a pleasant taste just I think any kind of positive effect but in psychological

terms can decrease rpe because anything that makes you feel better can kind of help you push harder because pushing

harder essentially costs you happiness units if you will did the getting out of your comfort zone is easier when you

start off happy if you already start off tired and depressed and fatigued it’s very difficult to push yourself further

and I think this is also why we see psychological influences are a lot more common with power and endurance type

training than with strength training because strength training is like you can do eight reps or nine you probably also know pretty closely what it’s going

to be yeah and it’s you know that’s it’s kind of um it’s pretty well defined whereas with endurance and Power

endurance training is just like it’s so mental like how how long can you sustain a certain running pace or in general how

long can you keep jogging that is there’s an immense mental component to that sure yeah yeah there’s time to

exhaustion type um studies yeah you see um yeah there if you’ve ever taken part

in one they’re pretty horrible particularly when you don’t have a set end point for the exercise

um but uh yeah that’s a tell for another um session and just on the carbohydrate

um during exercise do you think some of that um so some drinks are specifically targeted as sort

of like peri-workout drinks where you drink them during is some of that message do you think

given maybe a certain placebo effect of the drink and that could be giving you a performance effect

yeah I think there’s pretty successful Marketing in general along the Pre-Workout very workouts type

drinks post workouts less so now than five ten years ago five years ago

pre-imposed workout nutrition was like Super Hot Topic with almost anyone using

both it wasn’t period when I used whey and dextrose powder and then I realized oh damn I’m literally paying the price

of steak for sugar and it’s well it’s just sugar so yeah it’s just a waste of

money and um if it does anything it’s like psychological psychological effects are

not to be discounted but there’s also research that if you tell people that it’s a psychological effect they still get the placebo yeah I mean I

find that really fascinating yeah um so for people that are unaware of that those those studies usually the

placebo effect occurs because someone thinks that there’s an active beneficial ingredient but even when people are told

there isn’t they still get or some people still get the benefit they’re still something deep down that believes

it yeah yeah it’s it’s it’s really really fascinating I’ll come on to the

next um supplement question uh which is on a similar theme and this is comes from

Kamal he says he often takes a pre-workout supplement before he trains do the effects of caffeine wear off if

you take them frequently so if if you take the supplement frequently I think he means

this is the better I’m of the position that yes especially based on just practical observation and I mean try

yourself how much effect you feel yeah but the effects are wearing off and for

most people in fact at some point they they stop feeling anything as uh

recently I was with a friend and we were saying we’re saying all right it’s um

it’s bedtime we’re off it was like yep yep and you got down and he came back and yet like this huge monster kind of

energy yeah and he shut it down and we were like bro we just agree we’re going

to bed he’s like yeah yeah I know and we’re like he’s like yeah I don’t feel anything

zero it’s just habituated to it and you yeah it is a confusing monk so I I one

of my previous colleagues who’s actually a caffeine researcher that’s what he specializes in and he is observed sort

of mixed effects but if you look at the research in general it if I’m right I’ve

not looked at this for a while this question but it does suggest that there isn’t a habituation in fact when they

kind of take habitual users versus non-habitual users but they’re usually using quite High dosages and the

um variation between or within individuals is is quite high so yeah

it’s probably a case of maybe um trying it out for yourself and seeing if you’re losing the effect would you

say yeah exactly and I think most of the within individual studies many do find habituation effects and across

individuals they don’t but then there are a few issues with that one is across individuals it’s always more noisy and

the second one is that they use higher dosages and even when they say taking a less math analysis you said well the

dosage use was not higher than their mean daily intake well that means that the one-time dosage was equivalent or

about yeah about equivalent to their total daily normal intake so if you normally have seven cups of coffee a day

spread out across the day of course that doesn’t prevent you from still feeling something when you Chuck seven at once

right so I think those effects are mostly um explaining that we also know that

there are significant variation between individuals and how they metabolize caffeine so yeah I think for most individuals

just if you’re trying it out yourself you do find that you get habituated and you do lose some of the effect maybe

it’s not complete habituation maybe it depends on dosage caffeine in general is interesting because so much of it

appears to be psychological other than a physical there’s no dose response effect for example which almost completely uh

rules out any real significant physical components in my mind because what drug does not have a dose response effects

like it’s it almost doesn’t exist so yeah caffeine is very interesting in

that regard and do you think there’s um some Merit to maybe uh cycling or taking periods off a

pre-workout supplement because if the main ingredient as far as I can tell in most of them is caffeine so if you’re

taking it as a pre-workout yeah they’re a sort of proprietary Blends and things but they’re expensive and if you kind of

relying on that every time before you train um then there’s probably an issue there

with that if you need it I feel like you need to have a pre-workout then maybe try without for a while and see if there

is any difference yeah it’s not good in a spirit of anti-fragility so I think

it is beneficial to either go off at some periods or better what I typically recommend is to be strategic with the

dosage for one don’t use it when you don’t need it don’t just get in the habit of taking it daily just because like many people have that idea with

supplements but drugs are different and second just keeping the dosage low enough if you feel something from

vulnerable stick to one Red Bull and don’t go up increasing many people I think overdose a lot with many drugs you

know they’re saying like no I’m all right I mean my hands shake a little bit it’s like when your hands are shaking you’re way over the the effective dosage

of like what you need you know so you’re just inducing much more tolerance than you would need to

yeah so yes a lot with most of these things it’s a case of um there’s no one-size-fits-all and certain

self-experimentations probably needed um we’re coming up to the hour Mark um if it’s okay man can I ask you one uh

final question um I actually missed out the name of this person but it did the question came to me a while ago um quickly because I

do have art stop in a minute sorry I do have a hard stop in a minute but okay see if I can uh okay

so essentially is his blood test results showed a slight increase in potassium levels very small increase is it still

say is it safe to continue taking creatine for muscle growth it probably is creatine is generally

seen as very safe and potassium increases are not like a widely reported side effect of that you’d also have to

wonder like how do you measure the increase because it’s normal to have variance when you do two measures of blood uh readings potassium does not

easily go out of whack if you’re not using diuretics or something so that would like of course disclaimer talk to

Dr yada yada but in my first glance that would not seem like I worry some uh finding brilliant we managed to get it

in just before they are marked so uh yeah well done with that one um so at that point we’ve hit it now so just want

to say um thanks very much for uh taking the time to answer all these questions we got through most of them which is

really good so I really appreciate that man and I’m sure everyone else found the session really useful as well thank you

very much for your time right okay all right bye

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About the author

Menno Henselmans

Formerly a business consultant, I've traded my company car to follow my passion in strength training. I'm now an online physique coach, scientist and international public speaker with the mission to help serious trainees master their physique.

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