If you’ve ever eavesdropped on a bunch of lifters for more than a few minutes, odds are that protein came up in conversation—and in particular, how they meet their daily protein requirements.
They also probably said things like this:
- You need 1 gram of protein per pound per day.
- You need to get your protein every two hours.
- Your body can only absorb about 20 grams of protein per meal.
- You have to get your protein inside the “anabolic window” which slams shut shortly after you work out.
- Whey is the best form of protein, everything else is just an impostor.
Sometimes something sounds right just because it’s been repeated so often. But that doesn’t mean it is right. Here’s where each of these protein myths go wrong.
1. How Much Protein You Need Depends on Your Goals
Your daily protein requirement depends on whether you’re in a calorie deficit to lose fat or a calorie surplus to gain size. But the research definitely doesn’t say “more to grow, less to cut.” The opposite is true!
If you’re dieting, you need to consume more protein to minimize muscle loss, keep yourself feeling full to stave off hunger, and lose more fat. Research suggests that a range of 0.8-1.4 grams of protein per pound of body weight per day is the most effective amount to preserve lean body mass when you’re cutting. The overall consensus for all athletes eating for maintenance or in a caloric surplus is to consume 0.5-0.9 grams of protein per pound.
Factors such as your age, how conditioned you are to strength training, and what sport and activities you participate in affect where within these daily protein ranges you need to aim. For example, aging increases protein needs and people who have done more strength training actually require less protein.
In short, no one-size protein requirement is right for everyone. And more isn’t always better. It may just be…more.
2. You Don’t Need Protein Every 2-3 Hours
No, you don’t need to consume protein every two hours. Researchers have looked at the activation of muscle-building signals in response to protein ingestion. But these early studies were done with resting subjects, and their signals to stimulate muscle growth returned to baseline around 180 minutes after the subjects consumed protein.
This measurement of the time after protein ingestion, known as the “muscle full” effect, gave rise to the idea that if you’re chasing gains, you have to continually top up your protein intake to keep those muscle-building signals flowing.
More recent research has shown that resistance training delays the “muscle full” effect for up to 24-hours after a workout. This means that the protein you consume all day, not just within a few hours of your workout, plays a role in your hypertrophy.
In terms of when you plan your meals, evidence suggests that eating six or more meals a day doesn’t produce demonstrably superior results or dramatically boost the availability of protein to your body.
3. Think in Terms of Total Leucine, Not Total Protein
The idea that the human body can absorb only about 20 grams of protein per meal was based on research about whey and egg proteins. The body is able to absorb these two specific forms of protein very rapidly, so consuming 20 grams of these proteins per meal causes maximum stimulation of muscle proteins.[7,8]
The results of this research led to the suggestion that, because muscle proteins were maximally stimulated with 20 grams of protein, there was no benefit to consuming more and 20 grams constituted a ceiling for protein consumption.
We know now that the reason 20 grams led to maximum muscle stimulation was because whey and egg proteins are rich in the amino acid leucine, which is directly responsible for switching on anabolic muscle protein signals. The 20 grams of these proteins yielded about 1.8 grams of leucine, which turns out to be the real limit.
To get 1.8 grams of leucine from lean beef, you’d need to eat 113 grams, which would include a total of 30 grams of protein. If you prefer brown rice protein, you’d have to eat about 48 grams of it to get your leucine quota.[9,10] In short, the limit of how much protein you could or should eat has more to do with how much of that protein it takes to get 1.8 grams of leucine, not how much actual protein you eat.
4. Take Your Time Climbing Through the Anabolic Window
The idea that you have to chug your protein shake before you’ve hit the shower is another myth that, once dispelled, will make your life easier. The so-called “anabolic window” is really pretty big—big enough for you to finish your workout, take your shower, make your way home, and eat a whole-food meal.
Research shows that muscle protein activation peaks within 1-2 hours after resistance training. Whether you consume your protein immediately after your workout or within a couple of hours, the anabolic response will be roughly the same.
To maximize the hypertrophic signals that protein trigger, eat a meal containing 30-45 grams of protein three hours before your workout, then consume a leucine-rich meal or supplement up to three hours after. Turns out that when you do resistance training, the “anabolic window” is almost like an “anabolic day.” You’ve got plenty of time to get your macros, so don’t stress out about it.
5. Whey Is Great Protein, But Not Necessarily the Best
When it comes to the quality of a protein, it goes back to the amount of leucine the protein contains. The research that led people to conclude whey was superior to other forms of protein was comparing the same absolute dose of each. When the researchers compared the amount of leucine in 20 grams of whey versus 20 grams of brown rice protein, whey got higher marks because it has more leucine per gram, but that doesn’t mean it’s the best or only way to get it.
Researchers then looked at the amount of leucine in different proteins, instead of the amount of protein. They found that the activation of muscle-building signals was the same between different types of protein once the threshold of 1.8-2 grams of leucine was reached. The researchers found, for example, that it takes 48 grams of rice protein or 25 grams of pea protein to yield the same 1.8 grams of leucine you can get from 20 grams of whey.[10,12]
Whey might contain a high concentration of leucine, but you can still get all the leucine you need from other proteins, you just might have to eat more. If you’re following a plant-based diet, or if you find that whey causes you intestinal distress (or just olfactory distress to those sitting around you), you lose nothing by opting for a plant-based protein such as pea protein. It will take 25 grams of pea protein rather than 20 grams of whey to get your leucine dose, but you’ll get it all the same.
- Jäger, R., Kerksick, C. M., Campbell, B. I., Cribb, P. J., Wells, S. D., Skwiat, T. M., … & Smith-Ryan, A. E. (2017). International Society of Sports Nutrition Position Stand: protein and exercise. Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition, 14(1), 20.
- Phillips, S. and Van Loon, L. (2011). Dietary protein for athletes: From requirements to optimum adaptation. Journal of Sports Sciences, 29(sup1), pp.S29-S38
- Phillips, S. (2012). Dietary protein requirements and adaptive advantages in athletes. British Journal of Nutrition, 108(S2), pp.S158-S167.
- Atherton, P., Etheridge, T., Watt, P., Wilkinson, D., Selby, A., Rankin, D., Smith, K. and Rennie, M. (2010). Muscle full effect after oral protein: time-dependent concordance and discordance between human muscle protein synthesis and mTORC1 signaling. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 92(5), pp.1080-1088.
- Atherton, P. and Smith, K. (2012). Muscle protein synthesis in response to nutrition and exercise. The Journal of Physiology, 590(5), pp.1049-1057.
- Reidy, P. and Rasmussen, B. (2016). Role of Ingested Amino Acids and Protein in the Promotion of Resistance Exercise-Induced Muscle Protein Anabolism. Journal of Nutrition, 146(2), pp.155-183.
- Schoenfeld, B., Aragon, A. and Krieger, J. (2013). The effect of protein timing on muscle strength and hypertrophy: a meta-analysis. Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition, 10(1), p.53.
- Witard, O., Jackman, S., Breen, L., Smith, K., Selby, A. and Tipton, K. (2013). Myofibrillar muscle protein synthesis rates subsequent to a meal in response to increasing doses of whey protein at rest and after resistance exercise. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 99(1), pp.86-95.
- Moore, D., Robinson, M., Fry, J., Tang, J., Glover, E., Wilkinson, S., Prior, T., Tarnopolsky, M. and Phillips, S. (2008). Ingested protein dose response of muscle and albumin protein synthesis after resistance exercise in young men. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 89(1), pp.161-168.
- Symons, B., Sheffield-Moore, M., Wolfe, R. and Paddon-Jones, D. (2009). Moderating the portion size of a protein-rich meal improves anabolic efficiency in young and elderly. Journal of the American Dietetic Association, 109(9), pp.1582-1586.
- Joy, J., Lowery, R., Wilson, J., Purpura, M., De Souza, E., Wilson, S., Kalman, D., Dudeck, J. and Jager, R. (2013). The effects of 8 weeks of whey or rice protein supplementation on body composition and exercise performance. Nutrition Journal, 12(1), p.86.
- Rasmussen, B., Tipton, K., Miller, S., Wolf, S. and Wolfe, R. (2000). An oral essential amino acid-carbohydrate supplement enhances muscle protein anabolism after resistance exercise. Journal of Applied Physiology, 88, pp.386-92.
- Babault, N., Paâzis, C., Deley, G., Guãcrin-Deremaux, L., Saniez, M., Lefranc-Millot, C. and Allaert, F. (2015). Pea proteins oral supplementation promotes muscle thickness gains during resistance training: a double-blind, randomized, Placebo-controlled clinical trial vs. Whey protein. Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition, 12(1), p.3.
REVEALED! The UK’s Fastest City According To Strava
It’s the most magical time of the year. Christmas trees are popping up all over the nation, festive light displays line the high streets of every city, town and village, and Strava has released its end-of-year stats.
With 36 million members logging activities in 195 countries, Strava is in a unique position to show what the world is doing when it comes to running and cycling. You can use that info to work out the best ways to motivate yourself to move more – people who exercise with others exercise more, for example – or you can just use it to find out who has the bragging rights for being the fastest runners and cyclists in the UK. And it’s Northern Ireland.
Let’s start by tipping our hats to the runners of Londonderry, because they averaged a sprightly 5min 13sec per kilometre throughout 2018. That’s a lot quicker than any other city, with Antrim and Glasgow the next fastest at 5min 24sec per km. The fastest English city was London at 5min 31sec per km, while Cardiff was Wales’s speediest at 5min 33sec per km.
Overall, Northern Ireland was the fastest nation of the UK at 5min 59sec per km, with Scotland second at 6min 8sec per km, England third at 6min 12sec per km and Wales lagging well behind at 6min 28sec per km.
For England, Scotland and Wales, Strava has broken down the fastest cycling spots by area, although it has stuck with cities in Northern Ireland, making it tough to crown one winner. However, when it comes to the overall rankings, Northern Irish eyes are smiling once again. Northern Ireland tops the overall nation charts with an average speed of 23.6km/h, with England second at 22.1km/h, Wales third (21.4km/h) and Scotland bottom (21km/h).
Ballymoney is the speediest spot in Northern Ireland, with an average of 26.1km/h, while Dungannon and Omagh are joint-second at 25.7km/h.
Elsewhere in the UK Lincolnshire, Suffolk and Warwickshire all come in at 23.6km/h, making those areas the fastest counties in England. Anglesey tops the Welsh charts at 23.3km/h, while North Lanarkshire and Renfrewshire share the Scottish spoils at 22.7km/h.
In case you’re thinking that Northern Ireland’s success is due to some canny exercisers only recording sprints, think again – its Strava users have the longest average rides and runs at 38.9km and 7.9km respectively. The Welsh are second when it comes to ride length, England third and Scotland fourth, while Scotland has the second-longest average runs with England and Wales tied in third.
Here are the full speed rankings for running and cycling.
1. Northern Ireland 5min 59sec per km
2. Scotland 6min 8sec per km
3. England 6min 12sec per km
4. Wales 6min 28sec per km
1. London 5min 31sec per km
2=. Brighton and Hove 5min 33sec per km
2=. Bristol 5min 33sec per km
1. Londonderry 5min 13sec per km
2. Antrim 5min 24sec per km
3. Belfast 5min 27sec per km
1. Glasgow 5min 24sec per km
2=. Edinburgh 5min 30sec per km
2=. Inverclyde 5min 30sec per /km
1. Cardiff 5min 33sec per km
2=. Conwy 5min 50sec per km
2=. Flintshire 5min 50sec per km
1. Northern Ireland 23.6km/h
2. England 22.1km/h
3. Wales 21.4km/h
4. Scotland 21km/h
1=. Lincolnshire 23.6km/h
1=. Warwickshire 23.6km/h
1=. Suffolk 23.6km/h
1. Ballymoney 26.1km/h
2. Dungannon 25.6km/h
3. Omagh 25.8km/h
1=. North Lanarkshire 22.7km/h
1=. Renfrewshire 22.7km/h
3. Inverclyde 22.5km/h
1. Anglesey 23.3km/h
2=. Pembrokeshire 23km/h
2=. Wrexham 23km/h
Up The Intensity With This Full-Body Workout
One of the benefits of heading to an exercise class at the gym is that you can be sure you’re not going to be wasting any time there. It’s all too easy to spend longer than needed drifting between machines or extending your rest breaks when you’re working out solo, but head to a class and you’re getting full value for every minute.
That’s certainly the case at new London fitness studio Victus Soul, which offers two workouts concepts – HIIT & Run and HIIT & Box. Both these high-intensity sessions involve pushing yourself to the max, and you’ll leave the building absolutely certain you haven’t wasted any time in the gym.
To get a taste of the sessions at Victus Soul we enlisted Lyanne Hodson, master trainer at the studio, for a workout. In a typical Victus Soul class this workout would be combined with a boxing routine, so if you know what you’re doing on the bags, feel free to add that aspect in yourself. And if you’re unsure of your boxing skills, you can always head to Victus Soul to try a HIIT & Box class with a trainer guiding you through every punch.
Perform each of the following exercises once for one minute back to back. Aside from taking 30 seconds to grab some dumbbells before the alternating lunges, don’t rest between exercises.
Standing with your feet hip-width apart, roll down through your spine and then walk your hands along the floor until you’re in a press-up position. Then walk your hands back towards your feet and roll back up.
2 Dive-bomber press-up
From a top press-up position, push your hips up as high as possible so that your legs and arms are straight and your body forms a triangle. This is your starting position. Keeping your legs straight, allow your arms to bend and attempt to get your nose as close to the floor as possible as you push forwards so your chest nearly grazes the floor. Press back through your hands to full arm extension and repeat.
3 Lunge with rotation
From a standing position take a big step forwards and lower your back knee so that your legs are bent at 90°. As you do this extend your arms out in front and then rotate your torso over your front leg. Return back to centre and then to standing. Alternate sides.
Grasp a medium set of dumbbells – around 5kg-8kg – and stand with your feet hip-width apart holding the dumbbells by your sides. Step forwards with one leg and lower your back knee, making sure both legs are bent at 90°. Push back up through your front foot to the starting position. Alternate sides.
Stand with your feet hip-width apart and slightly turned out, holding dumbbells by your shoulders with your palms facing. Brace your core, then send your hips back while bending your knees to squat down. Drive through your heels, squeezing your glutes, to come back to standing and then push both weights up above your head, making sure your arms are in line with your ears.
6 Renegade row press-up
Get into a top press-up position holding dumbbells. Keeping your hips level, row the right dumbbell up until your elbow is in line with or a little higher than your waist. Lower it and row the left dumbbell up. Finally, lower into a press-up – full or with your knees down – and push back up. That’s one rep.
7 Weighted burpee
Stand holding dumbbells by your sides. Drop down, put the dumbbells on the floor and kick your feet out behind you so you’re in a press-up position. Then jump your feet back up to your hands, stand up and jump straight up.
In this next section you will do six minutes of strength work using one heavy dumbbell (8kg-12kg). Spend a minute on each exercise and complete two rounds without rest. In the first round use your right arm for the dumbbell snatch and row, and in the second round use your left arm.
1 1¼ goblet squat
Stand with your feet hip-width apart and slightly turned out, holding a dumbbell with both hands in front of your chest. Drop into a squat, then drive a quarter of the way back up, then go back down before pushing all the way back up.
2 Dumbbell snatch
Stand with a dumbbell between your feet. Squat down and grasp the dumbbell with your right hand. In this bottom position make sure your shoulders are pulled back, your back is straight and your arm is locked out.
Stand up by driving through your heels and snapping your hips forwards, simultaneously pulling the dumbbell up in front of your body and then pushing it over head until your arm is straight, making sure to keep your arm in line with your ear.
Place your left knee and hand on a bench, making sure your hand is directly under your left shoulder and your back is flat. Holding a dumbbell in your right hand, start with your arm fully extended down to the floor, then bring your elbow up towards your waist, drawing your shoulder blade in to keep your arm close to your body.
Last up is a short EMOM finisher. Set a timer for three minutes and at the start of every minute complete the reps below – the quicker you do it, the more rest you get for that minute.
From a top press-up position, spring your legs forwards to the outside of your hands and take your hands off the floor. Then put them back down and jump the legs back to the start position.
Stand with your feet hip-width apart, a slight bend in your knees and your hips slightly back. Swing your arms forwards and jump onto the box. Once on the box stand up fully, squeeze your glutes and then step back down.
Running To Work Might Be Faster Than Your Current Commute
Some of the benefits of running to work are obvious. You get your exercise done while doing a journey that you’d need to do anyway, meaning you don’t have sacrifice any leisure time to fit in a spot of cardio. You also get some valuable time to yourself away from the irritations of a standard commute, whether that’s the crush of packed public transport or the stress of navigating traffic in a car, so you arrive at work or at home in the evening in a more peaceful state of mind.
Your journey is also free, which is a nice bonus, but the real cherry on top could be that it may actually be faster to run to work than it would be to drive or take the bus. Fitness app Strava has compared its data on 4.6 million run commutes logged on the app in 2018 with information on declining traffic speeds in cities to estimate that, if the trends continue, run commuting will be faster than using motor vehicles by 2020. Run commuters in London manage an average speed of 6.7mph (10.8km/h), which is still slower than the 7.7mph (12.4km/h) average speed of traffic, but the latter is declining and Strava projects it will fall below running speed by 2020.
Scoff if you will, but it’s not so outlandish given that Strava found that getting to work on two feet is already quicker than road transport in certain parts of the UK. For example, the number 11 bus in London from Fulham to Liverpool Street averages 5.4mph (8.7km/h) during peak times.
Other cities in the UK where run commuting can be a faster option than taking the bus or driving include Aberdeen and Belfast. Congestion in those cities slows traffic to an average of just 4.8mph (7.7km/h) in Aberdeen and 3.3mph (5.3km/h) in Belfast in peak times.
Clearly whether run commuting is a valid option, let alone a faster one, depends on the commute in question. If you live in the countryside or your home and work are right by Tube stops on the same line in London, for example, then the odds are you’re not going to be faster (although very speedy types might disagree).
However, the Strava data does highlight the fact that run commuting might not add as much time to your trip to work as you might think, making it a great way for the time-starved to fit exercise into their day. Even if it takes 15 minutes longer to run, for example, you’re still ahead in the time stakes if you’d otherwise have to dedicate 30-45 minutes to a standalone workout later. It’s also worth considering running just part of your journey. If you start out in the suburbs but finish in the centre of a city, the later stages of your trip might be faster on foot. It certainly beats waiting to squash yourself into a packed bus.
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