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The scam behind high protein diets, and what you need instead


Marketers would have you believe that to build a physique you require “more protein.”

They would also have you believe that it’s unlikely you can get this high quality protein that you need from diet-alone. They just happen to have “engineered food protein” in a powder that is of the highest quality, better than food, actually! And you really need it.

Or more to the point, they like to “insinuate” that if you are truly “serious” about your commitment to physique enhancement then you need protein powder – and you need their protein powder.

Wait a minute. Engineered food is another name for processed food made in a factory. And real research on protein has something different to say about your protein needs.

The protein marketing tactics that always seem to work

When I served on the board of advisers for several supplement companies (companies whose millions of dollars were primarily made with two products – protein powders and fat burners) there were several marketing tactics that were always used because they always worked.

One of these lame tactics was to write articles “rating the protein powders.”

Maybe you recall seeing these articles in various magazines. Maybe you’ve seen such article on various websites. I’m quite sure they still exist today.

The point of these “rate the protein powders” went beyond just trying to get you to see Brand X as the “best” brand. That is the simple and easy scam to recognize in these articles.  (I should know, I wrote some of them.)

But below the surface of these “rate the protein powders” articles there is a broader agenda. You have to remember where these articles are placed: in industry magazines and on industry websites where the consumer wants to be an informed member of the sub-culture.

The unconscious message delivered in these “rate the protein powder” articles is that 1) protein powders are very important parts of your eating and training regimen, 2) you need to be taking protein powder, and 3) if you really care about “results” then you need to take the “right” protein powder.

This is more of the magician’s tricks, sleight of hand slippery writing that goes into promoting and marketing useless supplements. By writing articles like “rate the protein powders” you REMOVE the question in the consumer’s minds of whether protein powders are necessary to begin with. You see the intention in all of this. With the question of “Do I really need this?” removed from your mind – then the answer becomes “of course I need this” and then you are likely now a buyer of Brand X protein powder. THIS is the real purpose of “rate the protein powder” articles. It’s nonsense.

So, let’s ask the question then. If you are serious about building and sculpting your physique, do you “really” need “extra” protein at all, let alone in the form of processed powder made in a factory?

The latest research on your protein needs

Quite simply, the latest research has debunked the notion of all these special protein needs and that you need more protein to build muscles.

Yes, there certainly is an advantage to eating ‘a bit more’ than the recommended daily intake of protein – which stands at .8 grams per kilo of bodyweight daily; but you don’t need much more than that.

Studies at McMaster University provided diets to participants at either 1.35 or 2.62 grams of protein per kilogram of bodyweight: and the participants were untrained men who were subjected to one month of intensive weight-training at 90 minutes daily, and six days per week.

Both groups gained muscle size and strength; but:

  • those who consumed the larger amount of protein gained no more than those participants who took in barely half as much
  • Moreover, the gains of these subjects should be attributed to physiological adaptation to training stimulus and NOT nutritional status.

Read these two bolded statements again and again until you get it!

Having been previously untrained, and then training 90 minutes daily 6 days per week would certainly have a physiological adaptation response in noticeable muscle growth and strength. The research fact on training that is well-established is that most trainees will always make their most significant gains ever, within the first 6 months to a year of training (provided that the training protocol is adequate and the intensity of workout effort is moderate or greater).

Furthermore, the research also shows that experienced bodybuilders who have already developed their physiques actually need LESS protein to maintain that muscle mass.

At the height of my career when I was 260 lbs, and under 10% bodyfat, I recall that I consumed about half as much protein as the “pros” I knew around me, and I never took a protein powder supplement.

But why would bodybuilders with established physiques need “less” protein? That seems counter-intuitive doesn’t it? Well they need less protein because of the amazing wisdom of the body.  They need less protein because over time, this form of resistance training teaches the body to retain more protein from the diet. Kind of like prioritizing fuel efficiency.

The dirty little secret that the supplement industry doesn’t want you to know is that massive protein intake would work against this physiologically constructive adaptation response.

Excessive protein intake increases protein turnover rates and this creates a kind of dependency on continual excessive protein need intake and this works against the body’s needs. This means that in a well-developed bodybuilder physique – the more protein taken in, the more protein is metabolically wasted, but also needed as well.

More isn’t always better: a little more protein is good, for the hard training resistance trainee. A lot more is nonsensical and unnecessary. Research proves it.

As I have argued in many, many previous articles – it’s the protein sparing macronutrients that require the most attention in any diet. My coaching clients know this.

This means your level of fats and/or carbohydrates. You can either focus on one or the other of these protein sparing macronutrients OR BOTH. It doesn’t matter.

When you do, these should be at least two to three times higher than protein calories. This “spares” protein to be used to build and rebuild tissue, and it teaches the body to use protein more efficiently as well. If you think you need “a lot more protein” in your diet to build muscle or enhance metabolism – then you are just plain “wrong” no matter what you anyone says to the contrary.

Some of you will get it; some of you won’t want to.