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Dietary Protein Quality and Requirements

Dietary Protein Quality and Requirements

Daily Requirements

Focusing only on muscle protein synthesis (MPS) as an end proxy for daily protein requirements is methodologically unsound. One cannot ignore muscle protein breakdown (MPB) or the requirements of other lean body mass (LBM), which accounts for approximately 60% of one’s total protein use.


Because of this, the commonly accepted “25-30 grams per meal maximizing MPS” and the recommendation for 1.6 g/kg of body weight per day as optimal are potentially under-estimations.


1) Bodybuilders may benefit from ingesting more daily protein than the current evidence-based recommendations. 2) There is some evidence indicating that a higher ingestion of protein (≥ 3.0 g/kg body weight/day) enhances improvements in body composition. 3) Current recommendations for muscle hypertrophy suggest a relative protein intake ranging from 1.4 g/kg/day up to 2.0 g/kg of body weight/day is required for those involved in resistance training. However, research indicates that the actual ingestion of protein in competitive athletes is usually greater than advocated in guidelines. We conclude that competitive athletes may benefit from consuming a higher protein intake than what is generally prescribed for recreational lifters.


I personally recommend a protein intake of 0.8-1.5g/lbs of body weight daily for most athletes. Variance within the range will depend on body composition, personal preferences, and goals. It is worth noting that recommendations for obese patients are more accurate if based off of lean body mass instead of body weight. Current literature recommends a daily protein intake of ~2.2-3.1g/kg of LBM for the obese.


Protein Quality

The density of protein in a food source can be quantified on the basis of the amount of total calories ingested to achieve intake of the daily requirement of all essential amino acids (EAAs). Non-protein components of protein food sources can be considered in terms of the amount and nature of fat, carbohydrate and fiber, as well as the content of micronutrients.

As a rule of thumb, anything over 100% (or roughly 0.900) on the DIAAS scale is a high quality protein source. It should also be noted that within the context of a complete diet, a variety of protein sources can help make up for deficiencies in any single source.



The protein number itself does not tell the entire story, as different protein sources may be composed of vastly different amino acid ratios. In the case of a vegetarian or vegan diet for instance, the protein number may be adequate, but individual amino acids may be in lesser supply. This generally necessitates either individual amino acid supplementation or an overall increase in amount/variety of ingested plant based protein to achieve the same results as an equivalent source of animal based protein.



Additionally: one of the main constituents of protein to consider when athletic performance (strength, power, hypertrophy) is important is Leucine content.


Free Form Aminos vs Intact Dietary Protein

Do not, however, confuse the importance of Leucine for an equivalence of whole protein and free form amino acids. Jackman et al found: “ingesting of all three BCAAs alone, without concurrent ingestion of other EAA, protein, or macronutrients, stimulated a 22% greater response of myofibrillar-MPS following resistance exercise compared with a placebo. The magnitude of this increased response of myofibrillar-MPS was ~50% less than the previously reported myofibrillar-MPS response to a dose of whey protein containing similar amounts of BCAAs. Taken together, these results demonstrate that BCAAs exhibit the capacity to stimulate myofibrillar-MPS, however a full complement of EAA could be necessary to stimulate a maximal response of myofibrillar-MPS following resistance exercise.” Even this does not tell the whole story as there are other constituents of dietary proteins that provide benefits beyond free form amino acids. This is why one could not simply take an EAA supplement to meet their daily protein needs.



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