The Five Biggest Contradictions in Fitness
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The Five Biggest Contradictions in Fitness

It’s no secret that when people contradict themselves, it has the effect of making the flaws in their actions or statements seem glaringly obvious. But what about when WE ourselves get caught contradicting ourselves by someone else?

By: Nick Tumminello Added: January 6th, 2014
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  1. #1
    Soon to be lean... Joe Black's Avatar
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    Is there a limit to how much protein the body can use in a single meal by Alan Aragon

    Is there a limit to how much protein the body can use in a single meal?

    There are many controversial subjects in the world of bodybuilding, but probably none that give a more varied range of answers than the good old 'What's the maximum amount of protein that can be absorbed in a single sitting?'

    It's gotten so bad that there are meatheads everywhere designing their whole diet around what they believe to be the right limit, but are there efforts in vain?

    We needed someone that can apply both science and logic and answer this question once and for all and who better than Mr Alan Aragon....
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  3. #2
    Senior Member Shemz's Avatar
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    Very interesting article. I never even knew that there was a 20-30gr "standard"..Mine can go from 20g to 50g or even more for one meal, never really had any negative effects from it and right now i don't really have the time to eat 6 times a day.
    "When you promise yourself something, make a commitment, you can't give up. Because, when you're in the gym, you have to fulfill the promise you made to yourself. The people who can self motivate - in any field - are usually the ones who win. Regardless of talent." T. Platz

  4. #3
    Chubbilicious. VikingWarlord's Avatar
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    That's pretty much what I've always figured. The biggest problem I've always had with it is that "sitting" and "meal" are almost always undefined periods of time but the logic behind the hard limit just doesn't stand up to any kind of scrutiny

    Good article, great sources.
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  5. #4
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    Typically very good article from Mr Aragon.

  6. #5
    Wannabebig Member Metal_Man's Avatar
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    Good read.

    For the past few months I've been having a shake consisting of milk and 3 scoops of protein after workouts (about 75g protein). Then I would wait a couple of hours to eat again. More recently, however, I've begun to eat two spicy chicken sandwiches with my post workout shake(bringing the total up to about 125 g protein). My lifting routine, sleep, etc... has remained the same, but I feel significantly less sore on the days following a workout. I have to credit this to the increased intake at one specific feeding time...

    Nice to see a well researched article back up what I've personally experienced.
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  7. #6
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    YES!! Great article.

  8. #7
    Determined View 1's Avatar
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    I agree good article as well, Ive been reading some of Mr Aragons stuff as of late.
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  9. #8
    Wannabebig Member Alan Aragon's Avatar
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    I'm glad you like the article, guys.

    I've experienced plenty of frustration trying to explain to people that "protein dose myth" off-the-cuff, so it's a relief to finally get my thoughts organized in an article.

  10. #9
    Softball Wh0re VDubb's Avatar
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    ^Definitely appreciated Alan.............keep up the great work.

  11. #10
    Wannabebig New Member
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    Awesome article Alan. I always learn stuff from your writing and research.

    I think this idea might vary from one personality type to the next (bodybuilders in my mind have a greater ability to be disciplined in general than general population), but there is some merit to allowing people to believe there is a good reason to eat on a structured schedule. I used to tell people all the time that eating more frequently boosted metabolism... which although is not significantly true, it gives people a reason to follow a schedule (I believed it at the time I told them) For the general population, sometimes this is relevant, because it creates more structure, and ultimately, more consistent good eating, no?

    Just a thought... I sometimes wonder when people start to understand too much about what is going on, if it hinders their ability to be more consistent, because they over-rationalize things. That said, could ignorance is bliss be a good strategy for some in these cases? If I told someone meal timing doesn't really matter, how does this shape their decisions on a consistent basis... do they stop planning and preparing their meals? Do they go off the wagon if they've not eating anything all day?

  12. #11
    IRL my name is Trent Hazerboy's Avatar
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    I always thought that 20-30 g a day stuff was BS.

    Maybe this wasn't the scope of your paper Alan, but you could have also talked about how muscle synthesis isn't the only goal of eating protein rich foods. Macronutrient breakdown is also a big deal -- almost all of the diets advocated for weight loss in the bodybuilding world are high protein, so if I only ate my 120 grams of protein a day over six meals while on a diet, where the hell else would I get the rest of my calories from? Not to mention all that great creatine I'm getting from protein!
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  13. #12
    Wannabebig Member Alan Aragon's Avatar
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    Steve -- I think that the liberation from unfounded "rules" by becoming aware of the facts is more empowering than being held captive by false beliefs that governs your behavior (and some of your results) by sheer default. The ultimate combination is being educated about that it takes to hit your macro targets for the day, in addition to knowing that the rest is distantly secondary (with a few exceptions, of course).

    All -- Thanks very much for the feedback.
    Last edited by Alan Aragon; 02-23-2010 at 09:26 PM.

  14. #13
    Wannabebig New Member
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    After reading several articles about this protein limit,it never made sense to me at all.Eating 6 small meals a day when I was leaning out,I gradually shifted into eating just 4-5 meals a day not because of anabolism myth but my personal preference and scheduling issue instead.I didn't see any difference as far as changing body composition,only slight gains in increasing LBM since my goal is to stay lean even at hypertrophy phase or culking.Good article Alan!

  15. #14
    Wannabebig New Member
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    I can't wait until I start seeing bros citing the Arnal and IF studies and declaring with certainty that men can only digest/use 90 grams of protein and the rest gets pissed out.

    Either that or else the bros will begin a campaign that the 60 grams from GNC's wheybolic extreme is "underdosing." GNC will love it and soon will begin marketing a wheybolic super extreme complete with 90 grams of protein and a whopping 420 calories .

    Alan, joking aside, this is a great article. Maybe someday a researcher will come across this and actually design a study setting up subjects in groups as you have laid out.

  16. #15
    Wannabebig New Member
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    Alan, you don't mention anything about protein breakdown in the article. As far as i can see, the egg and beef study only examines protein synthesis. Doesn't this make the bogus claim that 20-30g of protein is the maximum the body can use at a sitting, false to begin with? I thought it was pretty much established that high protein diets does not only maximize protein synthesis, but also lowers protein breakdown. Studys have shown slow protein to be superior to fast protein, when it comes to protein retention. And that's not because of greater protein synthesis, but because of the significant decrease in protein breakdown that comes with slow protein (such as casein, whole milkprotein or eggs). Clearly, protein breakdown have a greater role in protein retention than protein synthesis.

    "A Review of Issues of Dietary Protein Intake in Humans" says this:
    "In healthy adult men consuming small frequent meals providing protein at 2.5 g ? kg-1 ? d-1, there was a decreased protein breakdown, and increased protein synthesis of up to 63%, compared with intakes of 1g ? kg-1 ? d-1 (16). Subjects receiving 1g ? kg-1 ? d-1 underwent muscle protein breakdown with less evident changes in muscle protein synthesis."
    Last edited by Frameless; 02-24-2010 at 12:45 AM.

  17. #16
    Do What You Love Rip.66.'s Avatar
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    good to know for a person who is about to experiment with the warrior diet!

  18. #17
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    Awesome stuff here Alan, I completely agree.

    Obviously there is not a time limit or maximum on digestion, the stomach doesn't just dump undigested clumps of protein and meat into the intestines for excretion at an hour or so after ingestion just because it is time to do so. It continues to digest the food product until it is broken down small enough to be passed through the intestines then the food is passed into the intestines. If this were not the case we would see half chewed peices of meat in our feces just like the corn that never digests. Sorry for the rashness.

    I am planning to load my nutrients in the mornings around my workouts which are done fasted except for my EAA's. I will take in about 30 grams of EAA's 30 minutes pre workout and sip on another 30g in my intra drink. Go home and have a shower, then have another 75 grams of protein, probably mixed between whey and real meat and about 100-120 grams of mixed carbs. Keep the nutrient intake balanced at a low-moderate level through out the day and then one last big push of solid food protein at night before bed to keep a trickle of protein dripping into my bloodstream as ong as possible overnight. I know it sounds simple but I think it will play into keeping nutrients readily available in my system. I can also do HIIT or some body weight pushups and squats or something later in the day to cause more protein synthesis if I want it, rather than relying on a sudden influx of protein to cause the synthesis to occur.

  19. #18
    Breaker of Skulls Guido's Avatar
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    Thanks, Alan. What an elightening article. I've been wondering about the whole "the body can only digest 20-30g of protein at a time" myth for a long time but never really got a definitve answer. Thanks for doing the research.
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  20. #19
    Wannabebig Member Alan Aragon's Avatar
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    The feedback is appreciated, everyone. It's hilarious how this article is linked on a few other boards, and some people don't even read it (thinking I'm gonna offend their dearly held beliefs) while others make hasty prejudgements that the article is a veiled supp ad. Hah! Learning takes effort, & idiocy is bliss. Thanks for actually READING the article, guys.

  21. #20
    Soon to be lean... Joe Black's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Alan Aragon View Post
    The feedback is appreciated, everyone. It's hilarious how this article is linked on a few other boards, and some people don't even read it (thinking I'm gonna offend their dearly held beliefs) while others make hasty prejudgements that the article is a veiled supp ad. Hah! Learning takes effort, & idiocy is bliss. Thanks for actually READING the article, guys.
    I read one forum thread where the article was posted and was clearly linked and one guy just didn;t even read the article and said 25g at the most per sitting lol..
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  22. #21
    Wannabebig Member Alan Aragon's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Daniel Clough View Post
    I read one forum thread where the article was posted and was clearly linked and one guy just didn;t even read the article and said 25g at the most per sitting lol..
    I think I could have found what you're talking about. Check out the brain power going on in this thread:

    http://forums.mmaweekly.com/showthread.php?t=32384

  23. #22
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    I just don't see a premise that supports the conclusion that "... this [protein] limit is likely similar to the amount that’s maximally effective in an entire day." Based on the studies linked, it seems incorrect to give more credence to the stretchy extrapolation of the data listed in [11][12][13] as opposed to the short-term studies listed in paragraphs prior. As noted in the article, the short-term results, unsophisticated as they may be, are fairly consistent in suggesting the converse of Alan's conclusion is likely true. In my view, Alan did a great job finding the research which outlines the shockingly inconsistent results, then drew a conclusion that simply isn't adequately supported by the data. I'd imagine it's kind of disconcerting to simply throw your hands in the air as a professional when the data doesn't imply anything, but I believe that is all that can be done here.

    In my view, Alan did the same thing in his otherwise strong article on milk in months prior; did a great job of rutting through the body of evidence, then came down on one side (pro-milk, as it were) with little reasoning defended within the article (which is to say, listing of pro-milk evidence in roughly the same dosages of casein-specific concerns, then sided with pro-milk). I'm a big fan of Alan's remarkably awesome ability to dig through the data, but I think sometimes he manufactures a conclusion that just isn't there.

  24. #23
    The Flyfisher rbtrout's Avatar
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    Excellent article, too bad we can't get it published all over.

    I've figured that the 20-30 grams per sitting was crap, as well, based upon the same logic that you used in your article - we'd all have a lack of protein.
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  25. #24
    Soon to be lean... Joe Black's Avatar
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    It cracks me up because the product plug is SO small and VERY relevant!

    Bah, in my opinion if you don't have the intelligence to read something and grasp the quality of the information and learn from it, you don't deserve too lol
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  26. #25
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    Last night I went out to dinner with some friends for one of the guys birthdays, at dinner we started working out diet etc... One of the guys ( never met him before ) starts talking about how the body can only absorb 26 grams of protein max and thats it. Now I am not one to sit and argue or debate with people but I could not let this one go ( plus I know a little bit but I am not an expert ). So I brought up this article and I also brought up the issue of IF as well ( which I have been doing for almost a month and glad I switched over to it ) and the guy still said I was wrong, stating that a whole team of guys came to this conclusion ( though he does not know the study and cannot quote it, as I asked him to ) and Alan is just one guy ( which made me laugh out loud ). So I then brought up the fact that depending on the protein source it is absorbed into the body at different rates then he says this study was only for "isolates" so I said your talking about whey then and he said no isolate protein its not the same as whey, at this point I was just dumbfounded by his stupidity I was almost at a loss for words. I asked him how protein was made and he did not know so I explained how its a bi product of cheese and the different types of proteins etc etc.. and he still said I was wrong, so I just told him alright conversation is done as you are clueless, I asked him if he the internet on his phone he said yes I told him to look up this article and how whey was produce and its different types all of witch he said he would do later, I just smiled and said ok, and I just dropped it, people are so stuck in body building dogma its just unreal.

    Two things that made me laugh even more was the fact that he did not like my gym ( local chain, they have 4 gyms in my city ) because it has to many free weights and not enough machines, and then he got so drunk he threw up all over himself and the table when he took one to many shoots.

    Times like these makes me want to learn as much as I can about nutrition for when times like these appear.
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