#PTonICE Daily Show – Friday, February 16th, 2024 – Protein: is 25g/hour the true limit?

In today’s episode of the PT on ICE Daily Show, Fitness Athlete division leader Alan Fredendall discusses current recommendations on protein intake, new possible recommendations, and barriers to showing efficacy with different amounts of protein consumption.

Take a listen to the episode or check out the show notes at www.ptonice.com/blog

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All right. Good morning. PT on Ice Daily Show. Happy Friday morning. Hope your morning is off to a great start. My name is Alan. Happy to be here today. Currently have the pleasure of serving as the Chief Operating Officer here at Ice and a faculty member in our Fitness Athlete Division. It is Friday. It is Fitness Athlete Friday. We talk all things related to CrossFit, Olympic weightlifting, powerlifting, endurance athletes, If you are working with a patient or client who is recreationally active, out on the road, on the bike, in the gym, Fitness Athlete Friday is for you. Just a quick announcement before we get into today’s topic. If you’re going to be at CSM or you’re already at CSM, join us tomorrow morning, 5am, CrossFit Southie. We have a free workout going on, led by me. I’m getting on a plane later tonight to fly out there and run the workout tomorrow morning. So whether you have many years of CrossFit experience, whether you have zero minutes of CrossFit experience, we’re going to have a fun workout tomorrow morning at five. Please go on our Instagram, go into the pin post and sign up for the sign up form. The link is in that pin post. So today, Fitness Athlete Friday, what are we talking about? We’re talking about a paper that just came out at the end of 2023 and was published a few weeks ago, looking specifically at protein digestion. Hang on, buddy. Come here. Sorry about that. We’re going to talk about protein digestion and the upper limits of what we think can happen with protein digestion. So we’re going to talk about current protein recommendations based on the current body of research. We’re going to talk about what this paper found and the conclusions it drew that may change those protein recommendations. And then we’re going to talk about barriers to this research.

So the paper we’re referencing today, the title is the anabolic response to protein ingestion during recovery from exercise has no upper limit in magnitude and duration in humans. was a paper published in December 2023 by Tromelin and colleagues, pardon my sick son coughing, and the journal title is Cell Reports in Medicine. So that’s the paper we’re referencing. Current protein recommendations quite old and they typically recommend and advocate that humans can’t digest or otherwise synthesize protein in amounts above about 20 to 25 grams of protein per hour and If you’re like me, you were sitting in a lecture in undergrad maybe 20 years ago and you heard that based on literature from the 90s and the early 2000s and you thought, hmm, that seems really specific and also really impractical given how much protein we’re recommending that people eat. How can somebody possibly only synthesize and utilize 20 to 25 grams per hour. That would mean an individual, especially a larger, more muscular individual, would basically need to be always eating protein, right? A lot of these studies look specifically at whey protein, a faster digesting version of protein. Whey protein is essentially the watery portion of milk with all the fat strained out. But even at moderate protein consumptions, think about an individual who’s maybe 6’6″, 300 pounds. No, no. No, no, okay, we’re gonna hold you all the time. Somebody who’s 6’6″, 300 pounds, that person would need to eat 20 to 25 grams of protein for 12 to 14 hours in a row to get all of their daily protein in, maybe just at a maintenance protein level. That is really impractical and yet, up until this paper was published in 2023, we don’t really have any other recommendations that we could give. So cue this paper being published at the end of the year. You see yourself, hi.

This paper, fantastic methodology, amazing study, really good incorporation of inclusion and exclusion criteria of the subjects used, but also did a really good job of being very thorough in measuring and tracking the protein synthesis in the subjects in the study. So let’s talk about that study. This study looked at 36 healthy males between 18 and 40. Inclusion criteria, they had to have a BMI between 18 and 30. They had to have already been exercising one to three days per week, so they needed to basically be familiar with exercise, particularly resistance training. And exclusion criteria included anybody who smoked, anybody who was lactose intolerant, and anybody who was taking any sort of prescription medication. So basically we looked at rather young, rather healthy men. What did we do? We had them all perform the same type of resistance exercise. We had them perform the same resistance exercise protocol. They went into the gym, they performed one set of 10 reps at 65% of their max on lat pulldown, leg press, leg extension, and also chest press, so bench press machine. They then did four sets to failure at 80% of their max. So they did all the same resistance training protocol. And then what changed, what varied in this study was how much protein they consumed after the resistance training protocol. So some subjects were given no protein, that was the control group. Some subjects were given 25 grams of protein. And then another group was given 100 grams of protein. So four times current best recommendations. And the hypothesis was, how much protein synthesis might we see compared to the 25 gram group in the 100 gram group. We looked at immediately post-exercise, we looked up to 12 hours post-exercise and we found some really interesting results that essentially the higher protein group saw continually increased levels of protein synthesis out to the end of the study, the end of the 12-hour period. So the 25-gram group had increased protein synthesis obviously compared to the zero-gram group, but the 100-gram group had 20% increased levels of protein synthesis in the zero to four-hour measurement window and 40% higher in the four to 12-hour post-exercise window. So this paper is great because it really opens up the notion that we can front load our protein and that we can potentially catch up on a protein deficit later in the day. For a lot of our folks, especially our active folks who are also maybe working, wrangling kids during the workday, trying to get enough protein in and trying to get it in those 25 gram feedings is probably just not feasible when we’re looking at individuals eating 200, 250, maybe even 300 grams of protein a day. Simply not possible to get that. So a lot of those folks have issues with timing of protein intake. and also the belief that any consumption beyond 25 grams might be wasted. This article is really a landmark paper because it shows that that might not be the case, that we can front load large doses of protein or catch up with big doses of protein later in the day and see really long windows of protein synthesis after resistance training. Again, 40% higher at the 12-hour mark compared to 20% higher at the 4-hour mark tells us protein synthesis actually increased the further away we got from both the exercise and the actual consumption of that protein.

Now there are some barriers with this research, we need to be mindful of what this paper does not say. This paper did not look at objective measurements of things like strength or hypertrophy, so it would not be fair, hi buddy, you’re gonna knock my tripod over, It would not be fair to use this study to say that eating 100 grams of protein at a time makes you stronger, makes your muscles bigger because the study did not look at this and therefore we cannot conclude that 100 gram doses are better. What we can conclude is that this may be an alternative way to consume our protein that results in equal or even higher amounts protein than the traditional recommendations of 25 grams per hour. What we also need to be mindful of is that all of the research on 25 grams per hour looks specifically at subjects fasted eating whey protein. This study literally did the opposite. It looked at individuals who were fed, who had just performed resistance training, and who were essentially eating casein protein, the fatty portion of milk protein. So eating basically the opposite aspect of the protein and doing it under a different mechanism, doing it after exercise as compared to doing it fasted. So it is a little bit of comparing apples to oranges. Nonetheless, what we can take away from this paper is an alternative feeding strategy, especially for those individuals who we see in the clinic, who we see in the gym, who may tell us that they simply don’t have time in their day, time in their schedule to eat protein in 25 gram feedings. If those patients, if those athletes, if those clients are already saying, hey, I know I’m not getting enough protein because I don’t have time to eat 25 grams every hour for 14 hours, and I’m just simply not eating protein, then this is a very viable alternative solution of, hey, let’s try front-loading your protein before you leave the house for the day. Let’s try eating, you know, 50, 75, 100 grams of protein, maybe half, maybe 75% of our protein intake for the day before we leave the house. Now again, what we can’t promise those people is that they will have equal or better levels of muscular strength or hypertrophy gains, but nonetheless we know how important protein is at least for recovery. so we can make that alternative recommendation to those patients and clients.

So, protein, is 25 grams an hour the maximum? It doesn’t appear so. It appears that the more we eat, the higher levels of synthesis that we have, at least in the scope of this paper, up to 12 hours after we’ve consumed that protein. Is it better? We don’t know yet. We need more research. We need to now look at a study of folks eating 25 grams versus 100 grams and now measuring them more longitudinally and seeing what does muscular hypertrophy look like, what does muscular strength look like, even what does functional outcomes look like, different functional tests. but that being said this is still a very landmark foundational paper that should change our mind about how we think about eating protein that we can think about front loading if we need to we can think about catching up at the end of the day eating a big dose of protein maybe with dinner. I know Mitch Babcock who teaches here in the fitness athlete division a big fan of a big bowl of cereal with protein powder on it on the end of the day just to get a big lump of protein in before the day’s end and that might be a viable successful alternative for a lot of our patients and athletes. So protein get it in get it in where it fits in even if it’s a bigger dose than previously you may have been led to believe would be effective. Courses coming your way really quick. If you want to come learn more about protein, recovery, nutrition from the Fitness Athlete Division, our Level 1 online course starts again April 29th. Our Level 2 online course starts September 2nd. And we have a number of live courses coming your way throughout the year. A couple coming your way the next couple months. We have Zach Long down in Charlotte, North Carolina. That’ll be February 24th and 25th. Zach will again be out on the road, this time in Boise, Idaho, March 23rd and 24th. And then we have a doubleheader the weekend of April 13th and 14th. Joe Hineska will be out in Renton, Washington, near Seattle. And Mitch Babcock will be down in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. So I hope you have a wonderful Friday. Please join us at CSM if you’re going to be there. 5 a.m. tomorrow morning, CrossFit Southie. Other than that, we hope you have a great Friday. Have a great weekend. Bye, everybody.

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