Protein is a highly contentious topic in the fitness industry. The FDA minimum recommended intake is only about 60 grams a day, but if you’re only getting that amount, you’re doing yourself a major disservice. I’ve written on that topic already, so I won’t go into more detail, I’ll just link you over:
Today, I want to talk about some of the ridiculous myths I’ve heard about protein over the years (many reiterated to me recently). There’s a lot of misinformation out there, and misinformation that indicts a crucial macronutrient like protein is dangerous.
Stupid Protein Fear #1: It Will Make Me Huge and “Bulky”
Certainly, this one comes mostly from women. Most guys don’t worry too much about getting massive.
Yes, muscles are mostly made out of protein. Yes, consuming adequate protein allows for muscular development. However, let’s not kid ourselves, just adding protein to your diet isn’t going to make you explode into she-hulk.
First of all, it’s very difficult for women to put on a lot of muscle. I’ve already covered this in detail in my post on lifting for ladies. Women just don’t have high enough levels of testosterone to allow for a great amount of muscle growth. Increasing protein intake doesn’t change that. Consuming adequate protein gives your body the building blocks it needs to recover from exercise – not make you massive. It’s not a steroid…
Stupid Protein Fear #2: Isn’t It Like…”Steroids” or something?
Absolutely not. Steroids are very specific compounds, made up of four cycloalkane rings (yeah, organic chem, no thanks). Steroids (including hormones like estrogen, testosterone, and fats like cholesterol – yep, cholesterol) perform a wide variety of crucial tasks in the body, but they are not even remotely related to proteins. Anabolic steroids – those that produce androgenic effects like muscle growth – are a very specific form of steroid hormone. Again, nothing related to protein.
When you see massive bodybuilders – they didn’t get that way eating a ton of protein. They got that way injecting a lot of anabolic steroids.
Protein is a crucial macronutrient. You die without consuming it. It does not have hormone-like effects.
Stupid Protein Fear #3: Protein Will Damage Your Kidneys
There’s been a big to do about this every since a couple of misunderstood studies came out some time ago. These studies examined high protein diets in people who already had kidney failure. The high protein diet increased the problem. The media took hold of this and sensationalized it: “High protein will destroy your kidneyz and kill you dead!!!1!”
However, massive amounts of research has been done on high protein diets in healthy population, and there is far more evidence to suggest that there is no risk of kidney damage from protein in people with healthy kidneys. See this massive review study for evidence. More from Mark Sisson.
Unless you have kidney failure – eating a ton of protein will not hurt your kidneys. Let’s move on, world.
Stupid Protein Fear #4: Protein Will Make You Fat
This one is as baffling as the rest. Of any macronutrient (the others being fat and carbohydrate), protein is the one least likely to cause fat gain if you increase its relative consumption. In almost any diet, substituting protein for carbs or fats is going to cause you to lose fat.
Fats and carbs aren’t inherently fattening, but they are much more risky for fat gain than protein. Fats and carbs in combination, or when used to increase the palatability of foods (sweetening thing with sugar, adding butter for flavor and texture, etc), often lead to increased calorie consumption and weight gain. This is not the case with protein.
So stupid fear 4 is the opposite of true. For fat loss, eat more protein instead of fats and carbs.