Protein: the building block of muscles, and a beloved subject of debate on bodybuilding forums. It’s also the topic of some rumors spread by under qualified meatheads and self-declared “nutritionists”.
If you’re new to the fitness world, chances are you you went out and bought some expensive protein powder that the sales rep at GNC pushed on you. We’ve all been there.
The need for a protein supplement when you’re hitting the gym isn’t a lie. Most average people could stand to up our protein (and lower our fat) intakes, and that’s exactly what a protein shake does.
However, there is a ton of pseudo science, that we like to call “bro-science.” That’s basically any “fact” that’s cultivated from the anecdotal evidence of gym rats.
It’s not all wrong, but chances are Chad down at Gold’s Gym didn’t follow the scientific method before deciding Ultra-Rip Turbotein by MuscleSquad was the ONLY protein that will get you jacked.
As a personal trainer, I’ve heard pretty much every BS tidbit about protein there is. So I’ve put together a list of some of the most ridiculous lies (and all too common misinformation I’ve heard).
Now, bro-science isn’t always wrong. A lot of times it’s based on real science, but blown way out of proportion. That’s where our first myth comes from.
Bro-Science Myth #1: Complete Protein or Bust
This is probably the closest to true myth on the list. A complete protein is one that has a complete amino acid profile. Amino acids are the building blocks of protein, and it IS important to make sure you’re getting all of them in your diet. But that doesn’t mean you have to get them all from one food, or even one meal.
Certain foods (e.g. meat and soy) have a complete profile. Other foods, like grains and legumes, are incomplete. However, grains and legumes are what we call “complementary proteins.”
That means that what one lacks, the other has. So dishes like beans and rice are a perfect way to get a super lean, protein packed meal without resorting to another shake.
Bro-Science Myth #2: How Much Protein Do You Really Need?
If you browse forums, you might see suggested intake numbers as high as 300 to 400 grams of protein. Of course, anyone recommending an intake that isn’t specific to your bodyweight is full of crap.
If they break it down, that’s likely around 2 grams of protein per pound. That’s excessive, and sustaining that intake for too long can damage your kidneys.
The scientifically recommended intake per day for building muscle is only .7 to 1 gram per pound of lean mass.
That means you can cut that absurd number in half. Plus, if you’re carrying extra body fat, their formula is bogus.
You need to calculate your lean mass and go off that. All you need to do is find your body fat percentage to figure out how much of your body weight you should include.
Bro-Science Myth #3: Protein is the Key To Bulking
This one doesn’t need much explanation. If you’re trying to hit your bulking phase calorie goal, you can’t just focus on protein.
Chances are, that’s going to mean you overload on unhealthy fats, which can do some short and long term damage. You need to up your health carbs and fats as well.
Carbs are where you get your energy from. If you’re bulking on a keto or paleo-esque diet, your precious calories are going to end up in the trash can at the gym.
Bro-Science Myth #4: Plant Protein Doesn’t Work For Muscle Growth
This goes back to the amino acid myth, even if the debater doesn’t know it. Somewhere along the line, the existence of complimentary proteins was forgotten, and Chad from Gold’s Gym just decided that plant proteins either don’t exist, or somehow don’t function the same as animal proteins.
To be clear, there is literally no scientific bases for this, other than what we addressed earlier.
This idea is actually the cause of a lot of health problems in America. If you look to other countries, beans and rice are prominent side dishes, or even entrees.
In most of Asia, tofu, made from soybeans or other legumes, isn’t treated like a salad topper for hippies.
Around the world, people incorporate plant proteins into their normal diets. In America, we look at steak and cheeseburgers as the protein kings. And that’s why we have so many health problems.
Many dieticians recommend we get at least 50% of our protein from plants. Just make sure you’re pairing complementary foods, and you’re good to go.
Protein is great. Protein is important. And protein is pretty misunderstood. It’s one of the biggest pieces of evidence that you shouldn’t trust everything you hear in the locker room.
If someone tells you something, ask where they heard it. If it’s from a forum, do your own research. If it was from a fitness website that doesn’t included sources, do your own research.