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What if I were to tell you that you’ve been lied to about carbs and fats for probably your entire life? Would you call me a liar? Would you say show me the data? Would I be a zealot of some form? Or would you be open to a paradigmatic shift in your thoughts about nutrition? There is a nutrition revolutionary storm a-brewin’ and it is high fat, very low carbohydrate, ketogenic dieting.

First, let’s address the immediate, visceral feelings you may be experiencing. “Won’t fat give me heart disease, diabetes, blahblah?” Yes. Of course it will… IF you eat fat AND carbs. “Well what if I eat carbs without fat?” It’s better than eating both, yes, but head-to-head, a ketogenic diet appears to be favorable for markers of metabolic syndrome and most preventable diseases. Carbohydrate inhibits fatty acid metabolism. When blood glucose and insulin are elevated, such as after carbohydrate ingestion, it is more difficult for our bodies to break down fats. Coupled with elevated insulin, this promotes fat storage, and in the absence of exercise, prolonged insulin elevation can lead to insulin resistance and diabetes. “Aren’t ketones bad for you?” Not necessarily, no. The level of ketone bodies induced by nutritional ketosis are much, much lower than with diabetic ketoacidosis, for example. Ketones are used as fuel, once the body adapts to using them in that manner.

“What exactly can you eat on a ketogenic diet?” Anything cut from an animal (yes bacon. yes 80/20 beef. yes chicken thighs. yes pork sausage. yes cow tongue… maybe not cow tongue), non-starchy vegetables (broccoli, kale, and others of the green variety), unsweetened yogurt, cheese, coconut products (especially coconut products) such as oil/butter/manna, nuts, avocado, seeds, full-fat salad dressings, butter, eggs, you can put cream in your coffee (REAL CREAM!), pork rinds, and mayonnaise. You can even work in chocolate and wine, ladies! I find one of the most fun things about keto is adapting your favorite recipes into a ketogenic version. Baked goods do not need to be ruled out, but you will most likely have to make them yourself with almond flour and artificial sweeteners. I find this to be highly advantageous over a high carb, low fat diet, since replacing carbohydrates in meals seems to be much easier than replacing fat. It’s also much easier to eat out, since most places cook their food in some form of fat. Just practice these words, “No bun, please.” Moreover, there are a ton of websites available that provide tasty “keto versions” of common recipes. Vegetables are also much more fun to eat when wrapped in bacon.

“What can you NOT eat?” Pretty much all fruit, desserts, breads, juice, beer (this one we can’t replace with fake hops, sorry Jimbo), grains of any variety (cereal, rice, quinoa, barley, wheat, etc.), starchy vegetables like potatoes, and pasta. “But I don’t think I can give up pizza.” Well you don’t have to, you just have to change it. Almond flour or cheese or meat (Meatza!) crust, low carb pizza sauce, cheese and meat/veggie toppings. Done (see the resource below). The best part is, if you really, just really can’t even, you can time carbohydrates near exercise without falling out of ketosis. In sedentary individuals, carbohydrates are typically capped at or before 50g per day or 5-10% of total calories while fat composes ~60-70% and protein the remainder. Athletes have a much higher carbohydrate tolerance already, and obviously, use more energy than some lump on a log. “Wellll how much can I have then?!”


It will vary based on activity level and other individual factors, so you need to determine it for yourself. You can do this via urinary ketone sticks (cheap option) or blood ketones (less cheap option, but better). First make sure you are in ketosis, then after you have your peri-workout carbs, test yourself again a few hours later. Though if you want the free option, I wouldn’t recommend trying to figure out how many carbs you can have, but you will feel generally lethargic while, and only while, adapting to the ketogenic diet. Athletes should be somewhere around 10-20% total calories from carbs, ~100g but I’ve seen some individuals between 150-200g and remain in ketosis, if carbs can be timed correctly and a high activity level is maintained. However, the idea of “maxing out” on how many carbs you can take in without losing nutritional ketosis is a bad one. Try to stay firmly in ketosis for the most benefit.

“So about that performance thing you mentioned…” Everything in this field of nutrition and athletics comes down to energy systems. The long duration system is the aerobic energy system, and it is a BEAST on the ketogenic diet. That is because the aerobic system can metabolize fats, and fats have the highest energy density. Marathoners and ultra-marathoners are already adopting the diet and setting records in the process because they are not running out of their preferred energy source of fats. But if you’re like me and don’t give a rats tail about running, cycling, or any other form of cardio, how can keto be beneficial?

The medium duration energy system is the anaerobic system. This energy system primarily uses carbohydrates. “Woah! Wait a minute. How do we fuel the anaerobic system if we’re not eating carbs?” Well the body makes carbs from fats and proteins. A person on a ketogenic diet won’t ever be devoid of glucose or glycogen. Muscle glycogen will be lower, but it will not be gone. Thus, anaerobic activity should not be grossly affected unless performed intermittently for a long time. So if you’re an athlete who does perform intermittent anaerobic activity for a long duration in a competitive setting, see two paragraphs ago and drink some carbs during your activity if you’re feeling weak or slow. The intermittent nature should allow for at least some carbohydrate replenishment through the body’s own process of gluconeogenesis, or formation of new glucose, but if you’re feeling as though some is needed, don’t deny it. Although, MCT’s are probably better (see coconut products).

In professional MMA fighters (intermittently anaerobic sport), they have reported equal or improved performance AND a cognitive benefit since they don’t experience hypoglycemia, they just use fats instead. No big deal to the keto-adapted body. However, so far, this has been anecdotal information (official investigation to be completed by the winter, hang tight!). “What about my gainz, bro?” In a resistance training clinical trial, the ketogenic diet actually INCREASED muscle gain MORE than high carb dieting, and AT THE SAME TIME reduced body fat. Strength was also unaffected compared to high carb. Too good to be true, right? Nope. It makes sense. The diet is known to be protein sparing and to have a beneficial effect on body fat from several other studies.

If you’re thinking of trying a keto diet, you must know three important things. First, do NOT be scared of eating foods that you previously believed to be “bad” like butter or bacon. Second, do not eat too much protein. Remember, the diet is fat based, do not be ket-bro-genic. Third, make sure you try the diet for at least 4 weeks before saying it is too hard or miserable or ineffective. It takes time to make the shift, but your body will thank you for it in the end. Finally, check out the sources below to gain some more information and for help on your journey.


Jordan Joy is currently a Research Coordinator at the MusclePharm Sports Science Institute. He is a CISSN certified sports nutritionist and CSCS certified strength coach. Jordan has his MS in Applied Nutrition with Northeastern University and is pursuing his PhD in Human Performance.


What if you could teach your body to burn more fat and preserve carbohydrates stores to improve health, reduce body weight and body fat and improve athletic performance? Not surprisingly, this is possible with a few adjustments to your daily nutrition plan.  By using a little basic science combined with smart daily nutrition habits, it is possible to tap into your almost unlimited fat stores to use as energy while teaching your body to preserve its vey limited carbohydrate stores.  In the end, that means better health, improved body weight and body composition and better athletic performance.

This “fat burning” concept can be easily described in two words: metabolic efficiency.  There are two methods to improve your metabolic efficiency: exercise and nutrition.  From an exercise perspective, it has been known for some time that exercising aerobically will enhance the body’s ability to burn fat at a cellular level.  Don’t let that mislead you though.  It is also important to get some higher intensity exercise balanced with the aerobic exercise.  Interestingly, exercise only has a small (roughly 25%) impact on becoming a better fat burner.  Nutrition is the powerhouse and can have a much more robust (roughly 75%) impact on your metabolic efficiency.

I am going to move forward with explaining more about nutrition in this article since it has a greater impact.  From a nutrition perspective, being metabolically efficient simply means being able to more efficiently use the nutrients that are stored in your body at the right times during rest and exercise.

It is likely that you have heard of this scenario before as it applies to exercise: as intensity increases, the body prefers to use more carbohydrate and less fat for energy.  Older scientific research has determined that our fat burning “sweet spot” is between 63-65% of maximal exercise intensity and training above that intensity will burn more carbohydrates and less fat.  While it is true that you will burn more carbohydrate at higher intensities of exercise, the point at where your body crosses over from mostly fat to carbohydrate usage is highly variable and trainable.  That’s right.  I said trainable.  As I have been eluding to, you can train your body to become more metabolically efficient through proper daily nutrition strategies.

The great thing is that this isn’t rocket science.  Eating too much of any one nutrient (carbohydrate, protein and fat) will develop metabolic inefficiencies.  Focusing too much on eating too much of one food and a state of nutrient imbalance can occur.  The solution is eating a combination of foods to control blood sugar which will optimize hormone levels that favor fat burning.

Most people have about 50,000 – 80,000 calories stored in their body as fat.  Even the leanest athletes still have around 30,000.  Contrast that to only 1,400-2,000 calories stored as carbohydrates and you can begin to see the opportunity that exists to tap into your fat stores.  Not only will this mean you can burn fat at higher intensities of exercise, which leads to preserving carbohydrate stores, but it also can lead to body fat and weight loss, improved blood lipid (cholesterol, LDL, HDL, triglycerides) levels, a decreased risk of many chronic diseases and better sleep patterns.  The benefits, similar to your fat stores, are almost unlimited!

As I mentioned above, it only requires a bit of a nutrition shift to start teaching your body to burn more fat.  Here are two simple and easy to implement nutrition steps that you can use in your quest to become more metabolically efficient:

1.   Adopt a nutritional paradigm shift.  Get in the habit of combining foods that have protein, fiber (carbohydrates) and fat.  It is these three nutrients that, when eaten together, will balance and optimize your blood sugar and control your hormone levels to allow for greater fat burning. I prefer to recommend vegetables, fruit and whole grains (in that order) for carbohydrate sources.

2.   Follow the 90/10 percent rule and allow some misses.  It is more than okay to allow what I term “misses” into your daily nutrition plan.  But when you do, be sure it is minimal (10%) and eating or drinking them does not send you into a downward spiral.  Enjoy the occasional treats such as chips, chocolate, cookies, etc but in small portions and lesser frequencies while focusing on combining nutrients 90% of the time.

Developing your metabolic efficiency will take preparation, execution and commitment on your part.  This is a behavior change that can take time to adopt.  Start by pairing protein, fiber and fat rich foods together at the majority of your meal times or snacks and you will be well on your way to becoming more fat adapted which will lead to enhanced health and improved performance.


Bob Seebohar, MS, RD, CSSD, CSCS, METS II, is the owner of eNRG performance in Littleton, Colorado.  eNRG performance, a performance training and recovery center, provides sports nutrition, exercise physiology testing, endurance coaching and educational opportunities for active individuals and athletes.  Contact him at or visit eNRG performance at



We all know that protein is important. After water, protein is by far the largest component of your body, making up about 20 percent of your muscle and organ tissue, including 10 percent of your brain. It’s in every cell of your body, and is a primary building material for your skin, bones, and everything in between.

Unlike the other two macronutrients, carbohydrates and fat, little of the protein you eat is used for energy. Instead, it’s used to build, repair, and replace the protein in your cells, which breaks down throughout the day. Exercise accelerates protein turnover, especially in your muscle cells. That’s why athletes and fitness enthusiasts need to pay special attention to the amount of protein in their diets, as well as the quality of that protein. It’s crucial for muscle size and strength, body composition, and sports performance.

In this special report, I’m going to cover these topics:

  • How much protein you need
  • How protein helps with weight control and improves body composition
  • The safety and potential side effects of a high-protein diet
  • Which types of protein are best for your goals
  • How to choose the best protein supplements
  • How to use protein supplements before and after workouts, and at other times of day

This information is useful for anyone interested in health and fitness, from high-level competitive athletes to recreational enthusiasts. It has everything you need to know about protein, and nothing you don’t.


No one really knows how much protein you need each day, whether “you” refers to people in general or to the individual and unique “you” who happens to be reading this. Even if we get as specific as possible regarding age, size, body composition, gender, activity level, habitual diet, and goals, the best we can do is provide a range.

My friend Jose Antonio, Ph.D., is one of the world’s leading experts in sports nutrition and supplementation. He offers these reasons why we’ll never have a formula that applies to everyone:

  • Two people consuming the same absolute amount of protein could consume different amounts and types of amino acids. There are 20 different amino acids, 10 of which are considered “essential,” meaning your body can’t make them from other proteins. Different foods and supplements contain different amino acids in different proportions to each other.
  • When you eat protein alters the way your body uses it.
  • The content and volume of the other foods you eat also affect the way your body uses protein.

Without a precise equation that tells us how much protein an athlete should consume, I fall back on a very simple recommendation for all the athletes I train: eat 1 gram of protein per pound of body weight per day. I’ve used this strategy for years with great success. The success isn’t because I’ve somehow figured out a magic formula that’s eluded scientists. It’s because it’s simple to follow and easy to remember.

Some would argue that this is an awful lot of protein. It’s more than twice the RDA and even higher than the recommended range for strength athletes, which tops out at 0.9 grams of protein per pound of body weight. I agree. It is a lot of protein. It’s more than anyone needs for building and repairing muscle tissue.

I think it’s better to consume too much protein rather than risk not eating enough. Why? Because protein does more than build and repair tissues. It increases your metabolism, reduces hunger, and helps you preserve muscle tissue during times when you’re cutting back on total calories with the goal of losing body fat.

The studies cited in the next section shed light on why this is.


The following studies compared higher- and lower-protein diets.

The first, published in 2010, shows that a high-protein diet prevents muscle loss in young, resistance-trained athletes who are trying to lose weight. The 20 subjects cut their habitual food intake by 40 percent for two weeks, while following their normal training. One group got 35 percent of their calories from protein, while the other got just 15 percent.

There was no difference in performance in either group. But those who had the higher- protein diet lost twice as much total weight, on average, while retaining virtually all of their lean mass. Those on the lower-protein diet lost 3.5 pounds of muscle, on average.

Still, the study showed this wasn’t an ideal diet for either group. Those getting more protein reported higher fatigue from their workouts, despite losing more weight.

Mettler S et al, Increased protein intake reduces lean body mass loss during weight loss in athletes. Med Sci Sports Exerc
2010; 42 (2): 326-337.

In a much bigger study published in 2008, 158 obese individuals, from 25 to 50 years old, cut 500 calories a day from their normal diets for 12 weeks. One group got a protein supplement called ProlibraTM twice a day, while the other got a placebo drink (same calories, but without the protein). The supplement is dairy-based, meaning it has high concentrations of calcium and leucine (an essential amino acid).

Both groups lost weight, which makes sense with a 500-calorie-a-day deficit. But those  who got the protein supplement lost more fat and less lean tissue.

Frestedt JL et al, A whey-protein supplement increases fat loss and spares lean muscle in obese subjects: a randomized
human clinical study. Nutr Metab 2008; 5: 8.

A 2003 review made several key points:

People who eat high-protein diets ad libitum—that is, as much as they want—will lose  body fat while retaining muscle fat because the protein improves satiety while also burning more calories during digestion. So you eat less total food, but you also burn off more of the food you eat. This effect carries over to the post-weight-loss period, when the goal is to maintain the new, lower body weight. Since you’ve preserved more muscle, your metabolic rate will be higher, which helps you keep your weight in check.

Westerterp-Plantenga MS, The significance of protein in food intake and body weight regulation. Curr Opin Clin Nutr
Metab Care 2003; 6 (6): 635-638.

A 2004 study recruited obese patients with type 2 diabetes, putting half on a low- protein diet and half on high protein for 64 weeks. Weight loss was similar (although the high-protein group lost more), but when they regained weight during the follow-up period, the low-protein group saw their blood pressure rise more. The researchers concluded: “A high-protein weight-reduction diet may provide a more favorable cardiovascular risk profile than a low-protein diet with similar weight reduction in people with type 2 diabetes.”

Brinkworth GD et al, Long-term effects of advice to consume a high-protein, low-fat diet, rather than a conventional weight-loss diet, in obese adults with type 2 diabetes: one-year follow-up of a randomized trial. Diabetologia 2004; 47 (10): 1677-1686.

In a more radical study, published in 2004, researchers recruited 148 male and female subjects (average age: 44; BMI: 29.5; 37% body fat) and put them on a 500-calorie- per-day diet for four weeks.

They then followed them over the next three months, with half getting 18% of their calories from protein and the other getting 16%. The difference was an extra 48 grams a day for the higher-protein group. The results: “A 20% higher protein intake … during weight maintenance after weight loss resulted in a 50% lower body-weight regain that consisted of fat-free mass. This was related to increased satiety and decreased energy efficiency.”

In other words, that small difference in dietary protein resulted in a big difference not just in weight regain, but in what type of weight was regained. More protein meant more muscle.

Westerterp-Plantenga  MS et al, High protein intake sustains weight maintenance after body weight loss in humans. Int J Obes Relat Metab Disord. Jan 2004; 28 (1): 57-64.

In a 2005 study from the same team, a similar research population was followed for six months following an initial four-week crash diet. This time the higher-protein group got 30 grams per day above the control group. The researchers found: “During weight maintenance, the protein group showed a higher protein intake (18% vs. 15% of calories), a lower weight regain, and a decreased waist circumference compared with the control group. Weight regain in the protein group consisted of only fat-free mass, whereas the control group gained fat mass as well.” This was partly attributed to the higher-protein group being less hungry than the others.

Lejeune MP et al, Additional protein intake limits weight regain after weight loss in humans. Br J Nutr. Feb 2005; 93 (2): 281-289.

In a 2009 study, the same group (from Maastricht University in the Netherlands), assessed the 24-hour response to two types of isocaloric feedings on healthy men and women:

  • Group 1 consumed 60% carbs, 30% fat, and 10% protein
  • Group 2 consumed 40% carbs, 30% fat, and 30% protein

The researchers found multiple benefits of higher protein diets, such as:

  • Increased energy expenditure
  • Increased fat oxidation
  • Higher protein anabolism in men
  • Increased satiety in women

Westerterp-Plantenga  MS et al, Sex differences in energy homeostasis following a diet relatively high in protein exchanged with carbohydrate, assessed in a respiration chamber in humans. Physiol Behav. 2009; 97 (3-4): 414-419.


Thermic effect of food, or TEF, describes the energy expended by our bodies in order to consume (bite, chew, and swallow) and process (digest, transport, metabolize, and store) food. Certain foods require us to burn more calories than others.

Fat, for example, is very simple to digest. Your body simply breaks down the fat molecules into smaller and smaller bits. You’ll burn up to 3% of the fat calories you consume through TEF.

Carbohydrates take more effort to digest because your body needs to break them down into simple sugars and convert them to glucose molecules. You’ll burn anywhere from 5 to 10% of the calories through TEF.

Protein requires the most work to digest because it’s made up of as many as 20 amino acids. Your body has to break down that protein in your steak or peanut butter into its component amino acids, then reform them into molecules it can use for its many functions. You’ll burn 20 to 30% of protein calories through TEF.

A gram of protein has 4 calories, which means that in a meal with 25 grams of protein, you may end up burning 25 calories just through TEF.

Tappy L, Thermic effect of food and sympathetic nervous system activity in humans. Reprod Nutr Dev. 1996; 36 (4): 391-7.

The combination of satiety (you’re less hungry in the hours following a protein-rich meal) and TEF shows why higher-protein diets are so effective for weight loss. Moreover, adding protein to your diet following weight loss is a proven strategy for limiting the amount of weight you regain. The weight you do add will mostly be lean tissue—muscle, bone, and everything else that isn’t fat.

So what’s the catch, you may ask. As you’ll see in the next section, there isn’t one.


Spend enough time in the fitness or nutrition field, and you’re sure to hear someone wave a caution flag, warning you that a high-protein diet is dangerous to your kidneys.“This is perhaps the longest-enduring myth in the sports nutrition field,” Dr. Antonio says. “The notion that eating more protein than the paltry recommended daily allowance will result in renal problems has no foundation in scientific fact or support.”

In a 2000 study, researchers looked at bodybuilders and other well-trained athletes whose protein intake was judged to be either high or medium, relative to their body weight. They took blood and urine samples to see if there were signs of kidney problems.

The researchers found that the athletes’ nitrogen balance became positive (that is, they had enough protein to build new muscle tissue) when their daily intake exceeded 1.26 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight, or 0.57 grams per pound. They saw no link between protein intake and creatinine clearance, albumin excretion rate, or calcium excretion rate, any of which, if elevated, would suggest that a higher-protein diet was potentially dangerous.

Their conclusion: “Protein intake under 2.8 grams of protein daily per kilo (2.2lbs) of body weight does not impair renal function in well-trained athletes, as indicated by the measures of renal function used in this study.”

Poortmans JR and Dellalieux O, Do regular high-protein diets have potential health risks on kidney function in athletes? Int J Sport Nutr Exerc Metab. 2000; 10 (1): 28-38.

In a 2005 study, the researchers suggested that “while protein restriction may be appropriate for treatment of existing kidney disease, we find no significant evidence for a detrimental effect of high protein intakes on kidney function in healthy persons after centuries of a high-protein Western diet.”

Martin WF et al, Dietary protein intake and renal function. Nutr Metab. 2005; 2: 25.

Another question that arises: Is a high-protein diet harmful to your bones? Not only is it based on a myth, it’s a completely backwards myth. “Oddly enough, not enough protein is deleterious to your bone health,” Dr. Antonio says.

A 2002 study concluded that “excess protein will not harm the skeleton if the calcium intake is adequate,” while a review study published in 2003 showed that people with chronically low protein consumption were at higher risk for lower bone density and more bone loss.

Heaney RP, Effects of caffeine on bone and the calcium economy. Food Chem Toxicol. 2002; 40 (9): 1263-70. Kerstetter JE et al, Low protein intake: the impact on calcium and bone homeostasis in humans. J Nutr. 2003; 133 (3): 855S-861S.

A 1998 study worth noting found that protein supplements help elderly folks heal faster from bone-related injuries. They looked specifically at femoral fractures—the large leg bone that connects with the pelvis to create the hip joint—and found that supplementing with 20 grams of protein a day reduced bone loss and allowed seniors to return home sooner from rehabilitation facilities.

Porter KH and Johnson MA, Dietary protein supplementation and recovery from femoral fracture. Nutr Rev. 1998 Nov; 56 (11): 337-40.


So far we’ve seen that a higher-protein diet is both safe and beneficial. You’ll have greater satiety from one meal to the next, a faster metabolism due to TEF, and more muscle with less fat. All those benefits, with no adverse side effects. But not all protein-rich foods are equally beneficial. Let’s start by comparing the protein in animal foods vs. vegetables.

We know that eggs, dairy, beef, pork, and poultry are all terrific sources of protein. Vegetables with some protein include soy, nuts and seeds, legumes, and whole grains.

A 1999 study came to this conclusion: “Consumption of a meat-containing diet contributed to greater gains in fat-free mass and skeletal muscle mass with resistance training in older men than did a lactoovovegetarian diet.”

Campbell WW et al, Effects of an omnivorous diet compared with a lactoovovegetarian diet on resistance-training- induced changes in body composition and skeletal muscle in older men. Am J Clin Nutr. 1999; 70 (6): 1032-1039.

A 2005 study compared low-fat milk to soy protein for building muscle. The conclusion: “In young men completing 12 weeks of resistance training (5d/wk), we observed a tendency (P = 0.11) for greater gains in whole-body lean mass and … greater muscle fiber hypertrophy with consumption of milk.”

Phillips SM et al, Dietary protein to support anabolism with resistance exercise in young men. J Am Coll Nutr. 2005 Apr; 24 (2): 134S-139S.

Another question that I hear often: Is it better to have whole milk or skim? Old-school bodybuilders would drink as much as a gallon a day of whole milk back in the days before steroids (or creatine, for that matter). But most of us grew up with a fear of fat, however unfounded. Thus, skim milk replaced whole milk as the muscle-building fluid of choice (assuming protein supplements, which are usually made from milk proteins, aren’t an option at the moment).

In a 2006 study, researchers compared the two. Although they used small amounts of both types of milk, giving most of their subjects just 8 grams of post-workout protein, they found enough of a difference to suggest that “whole milk may have increased utilization of available amino acids for protein synthesis.”

Elliot TA et al, Milk ingestion stimulates net muscle protein synthesis following resistance exercise. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2006; 38 (4): 667-674.

Now let’s look at which milk protein is better.


You’ll find lots of research here on the question of which milk protein is best for building muscle. It really depends on when you’re having the supplement in relation to your workout.

First let’s look at whey.

A 2011 study from the U.S. Department of Agriculture found that supplementing with 60 grams a day of whey protein for 6 months resulted in less body weight and body fat, a smaller waist size, and a reduction in ghrelin, a hunger-triggering hormone.

Baer DJ et al, Whey protein but not soy protein supplementation alters body weight and composition in free-living overweight and obese adults. J Nutr. 2011; 141 (8): 1489-1494.

A 2004 study found that whey protein produces an immediate rise in the amino acid pool following resistance exercise. That’s followed by a second rise 90 minutes later.

Borsheim E et al, Effect of an amino acid, protein, and carbohydrate mixture on net muscle protein balance after resistance exercise. Int J Sport Nutr Exerc Metab. 2004; 14 (3): 255-271.

A 2007 study found that 20 grams of a supplement combining whey protein and free amino acids up-regulated protein synthesis and anabolism when compared to a carbohydrate-only drink. The researchers gave the subjects the supplement an hour before and an hour after training. The subjects receiving the supplement showed increases in body mass, fat-free mass, thigh mass, muscle strength, serum IGF-1, IGF-1 mRNA, myosin heavy chain I and IIa expression, and myofibrillar protein.

The researchers concluded: “Ten weeks of resistance training with 20 grams of protein and amino acids ingested 1 hour before and after exercise is more effective than carbohydrate placebo in up-regulating markers of muscle protein synthesis and anabolism along with subsequent improvements in muscle performance.”

Willoughby DS et al, Effects of resistance training and protein plus amino acid supplementation on muscle anabolism, mass and strength. Amino Acids 2007; 32 (4): 467-477.

Now let’s look at comparisons of whey with casein.

In a study published in 2000, the researchers cut calories by about 20% in three different groups of subjects. One group simply dieted. The other two groups dieted, trained, and received a supplement of either casein or whey protein. The casein-supplemented group did far better than the group that got whey. They lost almost three times as much fat and doubled their strength gains. The conclusion: “This significant difference in body composition and strength is likely due to improved nitrogen retention and overall anticatabolic effects caused by the peptide components of the casein hydrolysate.”

Demling RH and DeSanti L, Effect of a hypocaloric diet, increased protein intake and resistance training on lean-mass gains and fat-mass loss in overweight police officers. Ann Nutr Metab. 2000; 44 (1): 21-29.

A 2004 study compared whey and casein and concluded that whey and casein offer similar muscle-building benefits. They used a 20-gram supplement of whey or casein an hour after training. Whey produced a greater net balance of leucine (an essential amino acid considered to have the greatest anabolic potential) over time.

The researchers concluded: “Acute ingestion of both whey and casein after exercise resulted in similar increases in muscle protein net balance, resulting in net muscle protein synthesis despite different patterns of blood amino acid responses.”

Tipton KD et al, Ingestion of casein and whey proteins result in muscle anabolism after resistance exercise. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2004; 36 (12): 2073-2081.

A 2000 study showed that whey protein, combined with branched-chain amino acids and glutamine, improves body composition by increasing lean mass and possibly decreasing fat mass. The researchers concluded: “This study suggests that whey protein combined with BCAA and glutamine leads to improved body composition (increased lean muscle mass) and resistance exercise performance. Whey protein supplementation may help decrease body fat.”

Colker CM et al, Effects of supplemental protein on body composition and muscular strength in healthy athletic male adults. Current Therapeutic Research 2000; 61 (1): 19-28.

A 1997 study showed that whey protein induces a dramatic (68%) but short increase in plasma amino acids, vs. 31% for casein. But casein inhibited muscle-protein breakdown by 34%, an effect that wasn’t found for whey. Over 7 hours, leucine balance was higher for casein.

Boirie Y et al, Slow and fast dietary proteins differently modulate postprandial protein accretion. Proc Natl Acad Sci. 1997; 94 (26): 14930-14935.

However, a 2003 study found that for older men, faster-acting whey is a better choice than casein: The conclusion: “[D]uring aging, protein gain was greater with whey (rapidly digested protein), and lower with casein (slowly digested protein). This suggests that a ‘fast’ protein might be more beneficial than a ‘slow’ one to limit protein losses during aging.

Dangin M et al, The rate of digestion affects protein gain differently during aging in humans. J Physiol. 2003; 549 (2): 635-644.

Now let’s look at some other important benefits you may get from whey protein. I mentioned bone health earlier. A 1996 study offered this conclusion: “We propose the possibility that the active component in the whey protein plays an important role in bone formation by activating osteoblasts.”

Takada Y et al, Whey protein stimulated the proliferation and differentiation of osteoblastic MC3T3-E1 cells. Biochem Biophys Res Commun. 1996; 223 (2): 445-449.

Glutathione is among the body’s most powerful antioxidants. But extreme exercise lowers it, making the body more vulnerable to rogue chemicals that can lead to damage at the cellular level. A 2004 study came to this conclusion: “This study demonstrated that whey protein supplementation lessens the decreases in glutathione caused by prolonged exercise.”

Middleton N et al, Whole blood and mononuclear cell glutathione response to dietary whey protein supplementation in sedentary and trained male human subjects. Inter J Food Sci Nutr 2004; 55 (2): 131-141.

Then there’s a potential stress-reduction benefit, according to a 2002 study: “Because an increase in the plasma Trp-LNAA ratio is considered to be an indirect indication of increased brain serotonin function, the results suggest that dietary protein rich in alpha- lactalbumin improves cognitive performance in stress-vulnerable subjects via increased brain tryptophan and serotonin activities.”

Markus CR et al, Whey protein rich in alpha-lactalbumin increases the ration of plasma tryptophan to the sum of the other large neutral amino acids and improves cognitive performance in stress vulnerable subjects. Am J Clin Nutr. 2002; 75 (6): 1051-1056.

The same research group, in a 2005 study, found that taking alpha-lactalbumin (a whey fraction) in the evening increases alertness and attention the following morning, especially in poor sleepers. The researchers’ conclusion: “Evening dietary increases in plasma tryptophan availability for uptake into the brain enhance sustained alertness early in the morning after an overnight sleep, most likely because of improved sleep.”

Markus CR et al, Evening intake of alpha-lactalbumin increases tryptophan availability and improves morning alertness and brain measures of attention. Am J Clin Nutr. 2005; 81 (5): 1026-1033.

Which milk protein works best for you probably comes down to questions of timing and absorption. Whey is faster acting, working its way through your digestive system in about 3 hours. For casein, it’s more like 7 hours.

My recommendations:

  • About 30 to 60 minutes before your workout, have a protein shake with 20 grams of a whey isolate supplement.
  • About 30 minutes post-workout, have a shake made with at least 30 grams of a casein-rich protein supplement.

Earlier I mentioned a 1997 study by Boirie et al. The researchers determined that whey will cause amino acid levels to peak about 60 to 90 minutes post-ingestion, which means that if you use whey as your pre-workout supplement, you’ll have the maximum amount of amino acids available to your muscles right in the middle of your workout, when you can use them.

But after a workout, casein appears to be superior, keeping amino acids elevated for up to 7 hours. Casein is especially beneficial if you work out in the evening, and will be going to bed soon after. Even on non-workout days, Dr. Antonio says it’s a good idea to have a casein supplement before bed to take advantage of the prolonged elevation in amino acid levels.


Here’s what we’ve learned:

  • No one knows exactly how much protein you can use at any given time or on any given day. There are too many variables to calculate.
  • In general, though, more protein in your diet is better than less, especially when your primary goal is body composition—maximum muscle, minimum fat. I recommend a daily target of 1 gram of protein per pound of body weight.
  • Unless you have existing kidney disease, there’s no reason to think a high- protein diet is dangerous.
  • The real danger to your health comes from a low-protein diet. It’s bad for your body composition, bone density, and metabolism.
  • Animal proteins (dairy, eggs, meat) are superior to vegetable proteins (soy, beans, grains) for building muscle.
  • Most protein supplements will have a predominance of either casein or whey, both of which are milk proteins and both of which are beneficial.
  • Because whey is faster to digest, it makes amino acids available to your muscles faster. Thus, whey is the better choice as a pre-workout supplement. Amino acid levels will peak about 60 to 90 minutes after drinking a pre-workout protein shake made from whey isolates.
  • Casein is slower to digest, giving you a supply of amino acids for 7 hours following ingestion. Thus, casein is a better post-workout supplement. It’s also a good choice before you go to sleep at night.





What do we think of when we think of “bad” food? No, not the tastes bad Fear Factor type foods, but the naughty foods we’re discouraged from eating. Desserts, potato chips, hot dogs, deep fried mayonnaise balls, and the list goes on. Generally speaking, we classify fats as “bad,” and we classify sugars as “bad.” I can get behind sugar as bad for the most part (it is beneficial in some situations), but fat as bad? That’s a notion I can’t support.

Why do we, as a society, criminalize dietary fat? Well its NAME is FAT! If we were to just call them lipids from the get go, they would probably be more accepted. Nomenclature aside, the United States used to support an “eat more” diet, as nutrient deficiencies were highly prevalent in the early 1900’s. However, the progression into our current, overweight society became a concern around the 1960’s, and a globally conducted study associated fat with death rates, while complex carbohydrates were negatively associated. Thus, we now have the recommendation that ~50% of daily calories should come from carbohydrates. Unfortunately, the “complex” portion of carbohydrates has been lost for most individuals, and if trends mean anything, we’re likely worse off than before.

Interestingly, 150g had, at least at one time, been determined to be the minimum amount of carbohydrate necessary for maintenance of health. However, carbohydrates are not an essential nutrient soooo… uhh what? You don’t need them! Your body can actually produce up to 200g of its own carbohydrate per day. Moreover, that global study from I mentioned doesn’t translate to the good ol’ US of A, and the replacement of saturated fat with carbohydrate does NOT lower risk for CHD whereas the replacement of saturated fat with polyunsaturated fat does lower risk for CHD. In addition, there is overwhelming support for a very low carbohydrate, ketogenic diet for improving symptoms of metabolic syndrome. Of course while following a ketogenic diet, dietary fat is much higher than recommended. Fat is not bad on its own. However, fat in combination with sugar reduces fatty acid oxidation. So for the desserts or the potato chips or the hot dogs, is it any one of the nutrients or is it the combination? More evidence is necessary to fully clarify, but so far it seems that it is the combination. So really, why not fat as a primary fuel source?

For most of you or someone you know, the answer is energy systems, and most athletes tend to care about their performance during the ~10-120 second range. Outside the population of competitive athletes, fats are perfectly suitable for composing the primary energy source, and they’re likely beneficial. Thinking of the roles between the two, carbohydrates supply energy and not very much of anything else, while fats have a role in hormone synthesis, vitamin absorption, neural function, and so on. All of these things are critical for athletic performance. The thing about carbohydrates are they’re only needed for high intensity exercise. For the casual 5k runner, they’re not all that important (evidence demonstrates low intensity exercise is not altered by a ketogenic diet), but a soccer player absolutely would benefit. Still, how useful is your mouth guard from pee wee football? Not very because you only need it when you need it. Sugars are the same way; have them during periods of activity and “load” other carbohydrates prior to competition. Have your fat separate from carbohydrates when possible, but certainly don’t fear it.

In short, dietary fat is not to be feared. In all actuality, it seems that sugar exacerbates health problems more so than fat, and it may possibly make fat bad, so just like picking your friends nose, you can have your bacon, and you can have your bagel (whole grain, of course), but you might not want to put your bacon on your bagel.


Jordan Joy is currently a Research Coordinator at the MusclePharm Sports Science Institute. He is a CISSN certified sports nutritionist and CSCS certified strength coach. He has his MS in Applied Nutrition with Northeastern University.


We all know that there are differences in carbohydrates – high glycemic, low glycemic, simple sugars, starches, etc. And we know that different carbohydrates are absorbed in the gut and appear in the blood at different rates depending on various factors. For example simple sugars are absorbed more quickly than more complex ones, the rate of absorption of the latter depending on how quickly the complex sugars especially in the form of starches, can be broken down and subsequently absorbed.

The rate of absorption, and its subsequent effects on insulin levels, makes up the basis for the glycemic index of not only foods but whole meals since the presence of protein and fat with the carbohydrates usually slows down the absorption over the whole digestive process. Fast and slow carbohydrates have different metabolic effects on the hormones and on various metabolic processes.

Now we also have slow (for example casein) and fast (for example whey and soy) dietary proteins. The speed of absorption of dietary amino acids by the gut varies according to the type of ingested dietary protein and the presence of other macronutrients. The speed of absorption can affect postprandial (after meals) protein synthesis, breakdown, and deposition.1,2

Its been shown that the postprandial amino acid levels differ depending on the mode of administration of a dietary protein; a single protein meal results in an acute but transient peak of amino acids whereas the same amount of the same protein given in a continuous manner, which mimics a slow absorption, induces a smaller but prolonged increase.

Since amino acids are potent modulators of protein synthesis, breakdown, and oxidation, different patterns of postprandial aminoacidemia (the level of amino acids in the blood) might well result in different postprandial protein kinetics and gain. Therefore, the speed of absorption by the gut of amino acids derived from dietary proteins will have different effects on whole body protein synthesis, breakdown, and oxidation, which in turn control protein deposition.

For example, one study looked at both casein and whey protein absorption and the subsequent metabolic effects.3In this study two labeled milk proteins, casein (CAS) and whey protein (WP), of different physicochemical properties were ingested as one single meal by healthy adults and postprandial whole body leucine kinetics were assessed. WP induced a dramatic but short increase of plasma amino acids. CAS induced a prolonged plateau of moderate hyperaminoacidemia, probably because of a slow gastric emptying. Whole body protein breakdown was inhibited by 34% after CAS ingestion but not after WP ingestion. Postprandial protein synthesis was stimulated by 68% with the WP meal and to a lesser extent (+31%) with the CAS meal.

Under the conditions of this study, i.e., a single protein meal with no energy added, two dietary proteins were shown to have different metabolic fates and uses. After WP ingestion, the plasma appearance of dietary amino acids is fast, high, and transient. This amino acid pattern is associated with an increased protein synthesis and oxidation and no change in protein breakdown. By contrast, the plasma appearance of dietary amino acids after a CAS meal is slower, lower, and prolonged with a different whole body metabolic response: protein synthesis slightly increases, oxidation is moderately stimulated, but protein breakdown is markedly inhibited.

This study demonstrates that dietary amino acid absorption is faster with WP than with CAS. It is very likely that a slower gastric emptying was mostly responsible for the slower appearance of amino acids into the plasma. Indeed, CAS clots into the stomach whereas WP is rapidly emptied from the stomach into the duodenum. The results of the study demonstrate that amino acids derived from casein are indeed slowly released from the gut and that slow and fast proteins differently modulate postprandial changes of whole body protein synthesis, breakdown, oxidation, and deposition.

After WP ingestion, large amounts of dietary amino acids flood the small body pool in a short time, resulting in a dramatic increase in amino acid concentrations. This is probably responsible for the stimulation of protein synthesis. This dramatic stimulation of protein synthesis and absence of protein breakdown inhibition is quite different from the pattern observed with classic feeding studies and with the use of only one protein source.

In conclusion, the study demonstrated that the speed of amino acid absorption after protein ingestion has a major impact on the postprandial metabolic response to a single protein meal. The slowly absorbed CAS promotes postprandial protein deposition by an inhibition of protein breakdown without excessive increase in amino acid concentration. By contrast, a fast dietary protein stimulates protein synthesis but also oxidation. This impact of amino acid absorption speed on protein metabolism is true when proteins are given alone, but as for carbohydrate, this might be blunted in more complex meals that could affect gastric emptying (lipids) and/or insulin response (carbohydrate).

In light of the fact that both hyperaminoacidemia 4,5,6 and resistance exercise7,8,9,10,11 independently stimulate muscle protein synthesis, a recent study (by Wilkinson et al. 2007) looked at how different proteins differ in their ability to support muscle protein accretion.12

The study investigated the effect of oral ingestion of either fluid nonfat milk or an isonitrogenous and isoenergetic macronutrient-matched soy-protein beverage on whole-body and muscle protein turnover after an acute bout of resistance exercise in trained men. The authors hypothesized that the ingestion of milk protein would stimulate muscle anabolism to a greater degree than would the ingestion of soy protein, because of the differences in postprandial aminoacidemia. compared whey against casein.

In this study arterial-venous amino acid balance and muscle fractional synthesis rates were measured in young men who consumed fluid milk or a soy-protein beverage in a crossover design after a bout of resistance exercise.

The primary finding of the current study was that intact dietary proteins, as against say portions of intact proteins such as concentrates or isolates of whey, soy or casein, can support an anabolic environment for muscle protein accretion.

Two other studies done to date found that the ingestion of whole proteins after resistance exercise can support positive muscle protein balance.13,14 However this study was the first to show that the source of intact dietary protein (i.e., milk compared with soy) is important for determining the degree of postexercise anabolism.

The study (by Wilkinson et al. 2007) also found a significantly greater uptake of amino acids across the leg and a greater rate of muscle protein synthesis in the 3 h after exercise with the milk-protein consumption as compared to soy-protein ingestion. Thus milk protein promoted a more sustained net positive protein balance after resistance exercise than did soy protein.

The authors concluded that since the milk and soy proteins provided equal amounts of essential amino acids, and that the level of EAAs drive protein synthesis,15 it’s likely that differences in the delivery of and patterns of change in amino acids are responsible for the observed differences in net amino acid balance and rates of muscle protein synthesis. Because of differences in digestion rates, milk proteins may provide a slower pattern of amino acid delivery to the muscle than soy protein.

Ingestion of soy protein results in a rapid rise and fall in blood amino acid concentrations, whereas milk protein ingestion produces a more moderate rise and a sustained elevation in blood amino acid concentrations.16Interestingly, these increases in anabolic p
rocesses were seen without any concurrent increases in whole-body protein oxidation. Part of the explanation for this lack of increase is that the test meals consumed by participants in this study had 30% of total energy from fat, which would likely have slowed digestion and, thus, the rate appearance of amino acids into general circulation. As well, the dose of protein used (7.5 g indispensable amino acids) did not stimulate amino acid oxidation.

Previous studies that examined the effect of ingestion of similar quantities of crystalline amino acids on muscle protein turnover have shown that increases in net protein balance with the ingestion of 40 g crystalline indispensable amino acids (8.3 g leucine)17 were similar in magnitude to that seen with the ingestion of only 6 g crystalline amino acids (2.2 g leucine)18. These data suggest that, when large quantities of amino acids are ingested, amino acids are likely being directed to deamination and oxidation.

The authors of this study (by Wilkinson et al. 2007) proposed that the digestion rate and, therefore, the ensuing hyperaminoacidemia that differed between the milk and soy groups after exercise is what affected the net uptake of amino acids in the exercised leg.

However, regardless of their conclusions, because there are variations between the proteins, it’s still possible that the differences in amino acid composition between the two proteins had some effect on protein accretion. For example, the analysis of the proteins in this study found that the content of methionine in the soy protein (1.4%) was lower than that in milk protein (2.6%).


Because of different absorption kinetics, proteins from different sources are used differently in various tissues, including locally by the gut, by the liver, and by skeletal muscle. As well, the kinetics change not only with the source of protein, but also when protein intake is increased.19

Recent studies have alluded that whey protein may be the best protein to use after training. However, this is not the case when one looks at the immediate beneficial effects of whey protein on protein synthesis, the counter productive effects on insulin, and the lack of long term effects on protein synthesis.

A recent study looked at the effects of protein supplentation on body composition, muscular strength, muscular endurance, and anaerobic capacity during 10 weeks of resistance training.20

Thirty-six resistance-trained males were split into three groups and followed a 4 days-per-week split body part resistance training program for 10 weeks. Protein supplements were randomly assigned, prior to the beginning of the exercise program. Group one received carbohydrate placebo, group two whey protein + casein, and group three whey protein plus branched-chain amino acids and glutamine.

In this study, the combination of whey and casein protein promoted the greatest increases in fat-free mass after 10 weeks of heavy resistance training.



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  • Dangin M, Boirie Y, Guillet C, Beaufrere B. Influence of the protein digestion rate on protein turnover in young and elderly subjects. J Nutr 2002;132(10):3228S-33S.
  • Boirie Y, Dangin M, Gachon P, Vasson MP, Maubois JL, Beaufr B. Slow and fast dietary proteins differently modulate postprandial protein accretion. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA 1997;94: 14930-14935.
  • Bohe J, Low A, Wolfe RR, Rennie MJ. Human muscle protein synthesis is modulated by extracellular, not intramuscular amino acid availability: a dose-response study. J Physiol 2003;552:315–24.Biolo G, Tipton KD, Klein S, Wolfe RR. An abundant supply of amino acids enhances the metabolic effect of exercise on muscle protein. Am J Physiol 1997;273:E122–9.
  • Bohe J, Low JF, Wolfe RR, Rennie MJ. Latency and duration of stimulation of human muscle protein synthesis during continuous infusion of amino acids. J Physiol 2001;532:575–9.
  • Biolo G, Tipton KD, Klein S, Wolfe RR. An abundant supply of amino acids enhances the metabolic effect of exercise on muscle protein. Am J Physiol 1997;273:E122–9.
  • Chesley A, MacDougall JD, Tarnopolsky MA, Atkinson SA, Smith K. Changes in human muscle protein synthesis after resistance exercise. J Appl Physiol 1992;73:1383–8. Biolo G, Maggi SP, Williams BD, Tipton KD, Wolfe RR. Increased rates of muscle protein turnover and amino acid transport after resistance exercise in humans. Am J Physiol 1995;268:E514–20.
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  • Wilkinson SB, Tarnopolsky MA, Macdonald MJ, Macdonald JR, Armstrong D, Phillips SM. Consumption of fluid skim milk promotes greater muscle protein accretion after resistance exercise than does consumption of an isonitrogenous and isoenergetic soy-protein beverage. Am J Clin Nutr. 2007;85(4):1031-40.
  • Elliott TA, Cree MG, Sanford AP, Wolfe RR, Tipton KD. Milk ingestion stimulates net muscle protein synthesis following resistance exercise. Med Sci Sports Exerc 2006;38:1–8.
  • Tipton KD, Elliott TA, Cree MG, Wolf SE, Sanford AP, Wolfe RR. Ingestion of casein and whey proteins result in muscle anabolism after resistance exercise. Med Sci Sports Exerc 2004;36:2073–81.
  • Volpi E, Kobayashi H, Sheffield-Moore M, Mittendorfer B, Wolfe RR. Essential amino acids are primarily responsible for the amino acid stimulation of muscle protein anabolism in healthy elderly adults. Am J Clin Nutr 2003;78:250–8.
  • Bos C, Metges CC, Gaudichon C, et al. Postprandial kinetics of dietary amino acids are the main determinant of their metabolism after soy or milk protein ingestion in humans. J Nutr 2003;133:1308–15.
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  • Borsheim E, Tipton KD, Wolf SE, Wolfe RR. Essential amino acids and muscle protein recovery from resistance exercise. Am J Physiol Endocrinol Metab 2002;283:E648–57.
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  • Kerksick CM, Rasmussen CJ, Lancaster SL, Magu B, Smith P, Melton C, Greenwood M, Almada AL, Earnest CP, Kreider RB. The effects of protein and amino acid supplementation on performance and training adaptations during ten weeks of resistance training. J Strength Cond Res. 2006 Aug;20(3):643-53.