Protein Loading


Everyone's heard of low-carb dieting . For some people this approach works wonders, while others feel terrible on this type of diet and their workouts really suffer.

By default, with a low carbohydrate diet, you must replace the missing calories with either protein or fat. Most commonly, individuals will go the ketogenic route, bringing their total fat intake up to about 60%-65% of their total calorie intake so they can get their body to switch over metabolically, making it run off fat as fuel instead of carbohydrates.

The other option is to keep fat at a more moderate level (say around 25%-35%) and bring your protein intake way up. While this can be beneficial from a fat-loss perspective, it has a number of drawbacks.

The benefits

First let's discuss the benefits of a high-protein diet. From a fat-loss perspective, protein is the macronutrient that is the most calorie wasteful in terms of breakdown. Basically, for every 100 calories of protein eaten, you are only going to net around 75 calories. Therefore, this single fact alone helps to increase the metabolism and allow you to consume more calories while maintaining or losing weight (this concept is commonly know as TEF). With 100 calories from carbohydrates you are going to net around 94 calories, and with 100 calories from fat, you will net 97 or 98. So as you can see, protein is in fact the better option with regards to that.

The next benefit of a higher protein diet is that some individuals will find that it helps them recover slightly better after their workouts than if they were just doing the one gram per pound general recommendation.

The third benefit is that if protein intakes are brought up to about 1.5 grams per pound of lean muscle mass, there is much less chance you will lose muscle mass tissue on a low-calorie diet. In fact, if you are doing a very low calorie diet (say anything at or below 10 calories per pound of body weight), it should be a mandatory requirement to bump protein up to 1.5 g/lb of bodyweight. The last thing you want to do is lose muscle tissue, so this will help solve that problem.

Finally, the remaining advantage to a higher protein diet versus one that's higher in carbohydrates is that there is not nearly the same insulin response from protein as there is from carbohydrates, so if you tend to be insulin sensitive, moving to a higher protein diet (or higher fat, as it's the same story) is likely a good idea. This can help decrease the chance of body-fat accumulation and help reduce feelings of hunger.

Some drawbacks to a high-protein diet.

The drawbacks
Now for the drawbacks of a high-protein diet. The body can only use so much protein each day. Any protein taken in above the amount you need for tissue repair and growth will be partly converted into glucose and either used as energy or stored.

If you are doing a ketogenic type of diet where you are required to keep carbohydrates below a certain level in order to enter ketosis, too high of a protein intake can actually prevent you from doing so since it is being converted to glucose in the body. For every 100 grams of protein taken in over and above your needs, 58 grams of glucose will end up in the blood as a result.

So as you can see, even on high-protein diets you can still get a rise in insulin if you are eating enough of it -- especially if you decide to “load” your body and consume a great deal of it at once.

Generally speaking, anywhere above the range of two grams per pound of bodyweight is simply unnecessary and will be an expensive form of carbohydrate.

Additionally, if you are trying to gain muscle and hoping the extra protein will help you add more muscle mass, you will be mistaken. Stop and think about this concept for a second: Your body can only use so much protein per day and any extra will be converted to glucose. This means it is like you are eating carbohydrates anyway, but because of the TEF factor you will need to eat even more protein to gain the same amount of weight than if you had just eaten carbohydrates in the first place. Talk about a hard way to put on body weight.

A Load of Healthiness

So as you can see, regardless of your goals, a high-protein diet is only useful to an extent. The maximum protein intake where you would see any benefits is two grams per pound of bodyweight. Anything above that will not be beneficial and could cause issues with dehydration.

Once you've reached that level, you must fill in the rest of the calories of your diet with either fat or carbohydrates. If you are sensitive to carbohydrates and they tend to bloat you or make you feel tired and dizzy, opt for a lower carb/higher fat approach. How low you choose to bring your carbohydrates is up to you; however, be aware that if you go under 100 grams per day, you might get into a situation where you are low-carb, but not quite low enough to cause ketosis, which again can cause problems.

For that reason, it's best to either restrict carbohydrates to 50 grams or less or have them just above 104 grams per day (as this is the minimum requirement of the brain when you are not in ketosis).

Overall, there are good reasons to bring your protein intake higher than normal, but you can take this too far. Getting into a ”protein loading” situation will probably cause you more harm than good.

By: Jeff Bayer

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I have a friend from high

danmanxr's picture

I have a friend from high school wrestling who's in to abs training big time. Part of his training is taking lots of hard body punches. He learned that a high-protein diet also helps reduce the bruising. His skin has taken a lot of punches and he doesn't bruise easily. In football I got many bruises but wonder how many more I would have had if I didn't take in so much protein.

Some key aspects to remember

justin's picture

Some key aspects to remember when dealing with carbs / protein.

Never Combine Carbohydrates and Protein

    The fact of the matter is, by utilizing this approach, the insulin spike is
    dramatically minimized and the carbohydrates will do what we want them to do, refill
    glycogen stores and support healthy thyroid function. When you combine fat and
    carbohydrates, the fat slows down the bolus entry into the small intestine, reducing transit
    time while providing an appropriate insulin response. When you combine protein and
    carbohydrates, it sends insulin skyrocketing and can lead to the last thing you want when
    dieting, fat storage!

Protein = The best choice

    Protein also has a relatively high thermic effect. In other words, when you consume protein, your body has to burn additional calories to process it. About 35% of the calories that come from protein can be used for this process. So load up on the protein.

I would highly recommend the high protein diet. Nothing ridiculous, but roughly 1g of protein to pound of body weight is a good way to start. So if you weigh 200 pounds, 200g of protein per day. It says in the article your body can only handle so much protein a day... Well not exactly the most accurate statement, it should be stated that your body can only handle so much protein at once.

Thus tha'll shall not eat more than 40-50 grams of protein per meal. So if my diet calls for 200g of protein, I'll pack about 35g of protein per meal (on a six meal per day diet).

Make sure the carbs your consuming are low glycemic index.

Here are some good foods to stick with.


    • Asparagus
    • Artichokes
    • Cabbage
    • Lettuce
    • Onion
    • Cauliflower
    • Radish
    • Watercress
    • Spinach
    • Green Beans
    • Celery
    • Cucumber
    • Broccoli


    • Avocado
    • Grapefruit
    • Banana
    • Lemon
    • Tomato
    • Watermelon (neutral)


    • Almonds
    • Pumpkin
    • Sunflower
    • Sesame
    • Flax

    Fats & Oils

    • Fish
    • Avocado
    • Hemp
    • Flax
    • Olive
    • Evening Primrose
    • Borage

    Protein Sources

    • Fish
    • Lean Beef
    • Chicken
    • Almonds
    • Eggs
    • Whey

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