Although it shouldn't be, the protein requirements to help build added muscle and strength still remain controversial. An example of this is evident in many of the videos posted on YouTube. Many of these videos are posted by militant vegetarian advocates, who insist that not only are protein needs overestimated but that consuming any protein in excess of actual need will lead to serious disease. They often cite kidney damage, cancer, and even cardiovascular disease. But what isn't evident in these videos is that the information these assertions are based on is often decades old and has long been superseded by more recent studies. In one book that I read, the author, a medical doctor who also is a staunch vegetarian advocate, asserted that athletes--including bodybuilders--need to ingest no more than 48 grams of protein a day. His idea of a safe intake of protein was even less than the official recommended intake of protein for those who are not physically active, which is 0.8 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight.This physician completely ignored the massive body of medical studies clearly showing that athletes and bodybuilders require significantly more protein compared to a sedentary person. The surprising aspect of this is that as a physician, this man surely must be aware that the basic mechanism for adding muscle to the body is an upgraded muscle protein synthesis, which does require a greater amount of protein intake. The motives behind such absurd notions that bodybuilders and athletes don't need to consume extra protein in their diets likely stems from the difficulty in consuming enough protein to support muscular growth on a vegetarian eating regime. It can be done, but it's not easy since it requires a large amount of food intake because fruits and vegetables are a far less concentrated source of protein compared to animal foods, such as beef, eggs, chicken, and fish, where sufficient protein can be ingested with a relatively small amount of food. Adding to the problem is that fruits and vegetables, with their high fiber content, are filling, making it hard to eat enough food to accommodate gains in muscular size and strength. It can be done by the highly motivated, but it isn't easy.
Much of the confusion about the optimal intake of protein for athletes stems from measures of protein use in the body that have proven to be inaccurate. The primary technique of determining protein needs in the past was the Nitrogen Balance test (NBT). Protein is unique among macronutrients because it alone contains nitrogen. Protein averages 16% nitrogen. The purpose of the NBT was to precisely measure the input and output of ingested nitrogen, which would indicate how much protein was actually being used in the body. This entailed measuring . . .