Today’s I have two questions that actually go somewhat hand-in-hand.
In the comments of my post about meal frequency, a few people asked me about the maximum amount of protein someone can handle at one setting. The numbers vary, but many sources tend to recommend somewhere in the neighborhood of 20-30 grams of protein at one setting. In an article he wrote for a bodybuilding website, nutritional expert Alan Aragon tackled this question.
If we were to believe the premise that a 20-30 g dose of protein yields a maximal anabolic effect, then it follows that any excess beyond this dose would be wasted. On the contrary, the body is smarter than that. In a 14-day trial, Arnal and colleagues found no difference in fat-free mass or nitrogen retention between consuming 79% of the day’s protein needs (roughly 54 g) in one meal, versus the same amount spread across four meals .
He further added:
Perhaps the strongest case against the idea of a dosing limit beyond which anabolism or muscle retention can occur is the recent intermittent fasting (IF) research, particularly the trials with a control group on a conventional diet. For example, Soeters and colleagues compared two weeks of IF involving 20-hour fasting cycles with a conventional diet . Despite the IF group’s consumption of an average of 101 g protein in a 4-hour window, there was no difference in preservation of lean mass and muscle protein between groups.
In another example, Stote and colleagues actually reported an improvement in body composition (including an increase in lean mass) after 8 weeks in the IF group consuming one meal per day, where roughly 86 g protein was ingested in a 4-hour window . Interestingly, the conventional group consuming three meals spread throughout the day showed no significant body composition improvements.
Based on the available evidence, it’s false to assume that the body can only use a certain amount of protein per meal. … What’s the most protein that the body can effectively use in an entire day? The short answer is, a lot more than 20-30 g. The long answer is, it depends on several factors. In most cases it’s not too far from a gram per pound in drug-free trainees, given that adequate total calories are provided [8,9].
His full article is well worth reading and the short bits I provided hardly do it justice. Alan also gives some recommendations on how to space out your daily intake for optimal results for those truly interested in geeking out over these things.
Now if your ears perked up with his mention of Intermittent Fasting (IF) and the benefits it may provide, you aren’t alone! Mike K. wrote me asking what exactly it is, pros, cons, etc. To his credit, Mike had already read up on the subject via a post over at Mark’s Daily Apple. The article at MDA gives a breakdown of IF and a few different ways to approach it. I pointed Mike towards a fairly well-known expert in the field of IF named Martin Berkhan who runs the site Leangains.com. Leangains.com has a wealth of information on the subject and Martin stays on top of the latest research regarding the practice.
For those who have no clue what the heck IF is, it’s a conscious effort to reduce the window in which you can feed. Some of the variations have a single day of fasting per week, while others have a small window every day (e.g., fast for 20 hours, eat during 4 hours). The biggest challenge for people is eating enough during the feeding window when it is very restrictive. For example, if you were trying to eat a full 3000 calories for the day but had to do so in only 4 hours, you might find it pretty daunting. Many people mix it with paleo and to be honest, I somewhat consider it an advanced topic, so I don’t usually bring it up for paleo neophytes.
However, if you’re interested in trying out IF, please check out the links for MDA and Leangains and please feel free to shoot me any questions you may have!