Ridiculous Protein Recommendations: A 15 Year Fitness Review

One renowned nutritionist for the world’s best mixed martial artists answers nutrition questions every Sunday on his Twitter. Responding to one quizzical soul, very recently, he advised an ass puckering “2g protein per pound bodyweight for growth” which made me think he sucks at math, which is wholly forgivable. Finishing my quick math I figured he would advise I eat close to 400 grams of protein per DAY, or 1600 calories in protein. That’s more than half of my daily calories. Importantly, the “for growth” protein recommendation caveat means if you are looking to increase size (mass).

Damn, training’s changed since I was teenaged athlete.

When the Bump & Run was a viable man-to-man defense and striking 50 home runs was no biggie, I was a wannabe halfback lifting in various 24/7 gyms in San Jose, looking to add pure muscle to my wiry frame. If you can’t remember the memes that highlighted pre-Y2K gym fanaticism, allow me to refresh your memory, as I recall a simpler time.

A time, when the Raiders weren’t shitty, and protein recommendations were clinical: 1.2 grams per KILOGRAM (non-athlete) and 2 grams per kg bodyweight for athletes. An era right before everyday people ate a s—t ton of protein for no reason.

In the year 1999…

• Bodybuilding Was Fitness

The first personal trainers were bodybuilders. They looked better than everyone else and knew more than everyone else about weight lifting. In 1999, trainers regaled me with their fitness knowledge, and probably you too. Trainers taught me reverse curls and Zercher squats. About post-workout recovery, trainers taught me about protein and the hour “rule” (which is true biologically), and about creatine. Every gym in the country had Vitruvian men and women setting a high standard for exercise.

Now, fitness is less governed by those stacked looking hard-bodies. Women’s bodybuilding, for example, is deader than the Power I formation. In its wake, Figure, Fitness and Bikini competitions change the way training is practiced in the gym. And, men’s Figure has lifted the windows where pro bodybuilding smashed down doors to weight lifting.

As much, more everyday people can participate in IBBF competitions and this is purely a positive paradigm.
With more people working out, nutritionists probably reorganized to summate their advice in response. Suddenly, 1.2 to 2 grams per kilo or on measure, 81 to 136 grams or 324 to 544 calories, seemed flaccid.

• Women Stayed Away from the Weight Room

Women dodged the weight room, in 1999. Instead, most women opted for fuchsia and turquoise steps for exercise, complimented by teeny dumbbells and possibly wrist weights. Yea, we somehow convinced everyday women to overlook the weight rooms in favor of two pound paperweights coated in pink neoprene. WTF!?

Well skinny women were IN. Eating grapefruit and shot-gunning ephedra was IN. Whatever benchmark for femininity and beauty exists, had yet to be (dis)proven by athletic and muscular women, who are proving that meme wrong. I’m not trying to be reductionist BTW…

Today we see scores more women in the weight rooms. This is great. Because, maybe, the standard for beauty is different and women know this already. Without guessing, women have embraced their need to do Oly’s and muscle ups because training is about results. Those results come by way of kettlebell swings and tabatas. Nothing else matters as much in the gym.

Well, with a fuller weight room and more competitive women participating in mma, combat sports and crossfit, maybe nutritionists figured the Gold standard, had become the old standard.
And, so protein recommendations, inclusive of women hiccupped in the last fifteen, becoming as useless as the Wildcat offense. Because for women, on average, 2g/kg for athletes can mean, easily, a third of their daily calories, unless you are over 5’7” (probably).

• Tri-tip for Breakfast

Atkins reintroduced his diet that was borne in the seventies. His diet recommendations, not only dictate most of our half-assed ones of today, but also contained the beats for eating one burger per day and losing weight. Perfection.

We were waiting for someone to bless our darkest food revelries. You know, eating tri-tip and whole eggs first thing. Every protein is okay, apparently, as long as you avoid that pernicious apple juice, the evil bread slices and Cuties.

Recently, I had an ex-client who ignored all of my recommendations insisting over a chorus of dead silence, that their “eating is good.” Breakfasts and dinners were the same: steak – sometimes in the morning with eggs. This client was confidently buoyed by the lack of wheat and white flour stashed in the household pantry, inclusion of rice flour, and the nonexistence of fruit juice in the fridge.

Consuming protein is fine, is necessary for exercisers and athletes, yet for those who diet, a false positive. Protein builds, many tissues, namely muscle. And, if you’re breaking down muscle, like during weight training, you need more protein (amino acids) to rebuild the muscle types you place tension on.

Atkins diets are Paleo diets with healthy minded exceptions. Sorry. It’s true. They’re ketogenic.
The over-consumption of proteins, the under consumption of carbohydrates and the insanely unsafe high fat intake highlight the similarities. Yes, Paleo diets advise the elimination of processed crap. This is great! This is needed. And, Paleo diets go further in defining “processed.” Also, this is a great thing.

CF has done nothing else if not ingratiate athletes from all walks to weight lift purposefully. Paleo diets and CF, though, are linked closer than Under Armor compression shorts and your sweaty taint.

But, I’ve had clients lose enough body fat in just six weeks that they stopped taking meds to control their cholesterol and hypertension. They, literally saw their primary physicians at week one and again at week six. The doctor, proudly, told them their exercise and efforts reduced their numbers. If I gave them SOME variation (some PUBLISHED, btw) Paleo diet in those “Loading” six weeks, who knows what could have happened instead.
Increasing your protein means you HAVE TO lower either carbs or fat. Today, we seem to increase that which we admonished in 1999 – fat intake. Saturated or unsaturated, poly and mono… the nuance does not matter at first.

Everyday folks and exercisers should never be advised to eat more fat unless they are malnourished, or suffered serious neural traumas.

Protein recommendation by the time I graduated from college had Americanized, doing away with the metric system – 1g per pound bodyweight. Or, for on average, 150 grams for non-athletes, which is 600 calories or easily 30% of your daily diet on measure.

• What’s a Bosu?

We saw them as teens as we swaggered toward the squat rack. Confused as to where you put the plates on the double sided bowl, we figured the Bosu was for the noodle-armed in 1999. It worsened when we figured out “Both Sides Up” wasn’t a sex toy.
Years later, I shook like a Miami palm in the middle of a hurricane during PT (personal training) fundamentals, standing on this f—ing thing with a skinny bar and forty pounds massaging my spine, likewise when I balanced on a Swiss ball, attempting to stand up tall on it, decrying physics.

Atlas laughed.

Apparently, I didn’t use my core and hadn’t ever. Functional training completed a cycle of training modalities left gaping between the cardio machines, weight stack machines and the free weights.

Functional training as it relates to protein intake is not a stretch.

Functional movements demand you develop your core. And, when you have a strong core, a truly strong core, you can lift anything and perform in any sport. You become stronger, pound-for-pound. These movements help in injury rehab, isometric training, balance, agility and core training. CrossFit athletes and combat sport athletes especially, benefit from the function ideals. Because a new sport was borne of functional ideas and were inclusive of more people, sport nutrition changed too.

We can push and pull sleds for training, not just in football, for cardio capacity and power benefits. In fact, increasing functional endurance allows exercisers to train harder and more effectively.

Training better and smarter underscores training today.