With the launch of my B.rad Whey Protein + Creatine Superfuel I have been fielding the common question: “Is a protein supplement necessary—can’t I get all the nutrients I need from a healthful diet?” Indeed you can, and whole foods are always the best source of macro and micronutrients. The benefits of supplementing a healthful diet with things like protein or creatine is to improve convenience and consistency. Most of us simply fall short of eating that much steak or that many eggs on a consistent basis to optimize protein intake; and yes, optimized protein is much different than the familiar “recommended” intake as we’ll discuss shortly. When it comes to creatine, we are talking about the most extensively studied and validated sports nutrition performance supplement ever. Creatine is directly responsible for energy production in the cell, so supplementation is highly beneficial for muscle performance, recovery, and hydration status. Creatine is found mainly in red meat, but even someone who consumes ample amounts of animal products will get a gram or two of creatine per day. This intake is well short of the widely recommended intake level of 3-8 grams per day (range based on body weight.)
There are numerous benefits to making protein the priority in your diet. First, protein is the most essential macronutrient for survival and the basic function of the organs and systems of your body. We have a powerful, hard-wired genetic drive to consume sufficient protein, and can quickly get into big trouble when we neglect protein. Second, protein (and creatine) are the most important dietary components to support muscle performance and recovery, and the maintenance of lean muscle mass throughout life. Third, high protein foods like meat, eggs, and fish also represent some of the most nutrient dense foods on earth—so a “high protein” diet is also a nutrient-dense diet by default. Fourth, protein has an incredibly high satiety factor, so focusing on protein can help keep you away from indulging in hyper-palatable, processed foods (typically high in fat and carbs).
This concept is explained by the “protein leverage theory” we’ll discuss shortly. A high-protein diet (aka carnivore-ish for example) can be a great way to reliably reduce excess body fat without the struggling and suffering associated with calorie-restrictive diets. Protein is king in so many ways, and this is not disputed in the world of nutrition science, medicine or peak performance. However, there has been some dispute about what constitutes sufficient or optimal protein intake and what is too much.
Interestingly, emerging research has compelled many experts to reframe the dire warnings about excess protein consumption that have long been part of conventional dietary dogma. Assertions that excess protein will damage liver and kidneys, or excess protein will convert to sugar and make you fat, or excess protein will overstimulate growth factors and increase cancer risk, and now widely refuted by most nutrition and health science experts. Instead, there is an increasingly popular assertion that making protein a dietary centerpiece, and consuming more protein than has long been “recommended” can help you perform better, recover faster, and promote the development and maintenance of lean muscle mass/muscle strength throughout life.
Consequently, leading-edge longevity and peak performance experts have elevated their protein recommendations, especially for healthy, active folks. Experts like Robb Wolf (author of The Paleo Solution), Dr. Paul Saladino (author of The Carnivore Code), Dr. Tommy Wood (former head of Society of Ancestral Physicians), Mark Sisson (Primal Kitchen founder) and many others assert that consuming adequate protein is the best way to ensure you maintain lean muscle mass throughout life. While protein consumption and supplementation have long been the focus of athletes and bodybuilders, it’s also critical for aging fitness enthusiasts, because our ability to synthesize protein declines with age.
You may be familiar with conservative USRDA numbers for protein, but this flawed and dated calculation is based on needs for bare survival, not optimization. If you are active and athletic, remember the simple calculation of striving for one gram of protein per pound of ideal body weight on average daily protein intake. This will give you a sufficient bump from the recommendations of various health authorities that usually range from 0.5 to 0.7 grams of protein per pound of lean body mass. In my example, I’m aiming for 162 grams of daily protein at my body weight of 162 pounds. Someone weighing 182 pounds but carrying 20 pounds of excess body fat would also shoot for 162 grams per day—matching their ideal body weight. In contrast, consider the long-standing recommendations in my example. If I’m eight percent body fat, my lean mass is around 150 pounds. Using the 0.5 value, my target would be 75 grams; using the 0.7 value, my target would be 105 grams. The new and improved recommendations are not extreme. In my example, 162 grams of protein per day is only 648 daily protein calories—not more than a quarter of a typical daily total.
There is minimal risk of overdoing it on protein, because the satiety factor is so high (e.g., hard to overeat steak, easy to overeat ice cream) and the body can utilize what you consume to boost muscle growth and repair, immune function, and other critical processes. Note: you may come across a counter-opinion on this matter. For example, there are many longevity enthusiasts who contend that calorie restriction will increase lifespan. The important overriding concern here—something that is without dispute—is the critical objective of maintaining lean muscle mass/muscle strength throughout life. Hence, you can comfortably proceed with the goal of doing whatever it takes with diet and exercise to stay strong throughout life. This might mean experimenting with increased protein intake and tracking the results, especially if you are coming from a plant-based perspective or someone who doesn’t achieve baseline recommendations for resistance exercise.
Now let’s talk about what happens when you under-consume protein. If your deficiency is significant to extreme, you will start to experience chronic weakness/exhaustion, become emaciated, and experience intense cravings for high protein foods (bestselling Paleo author and functional medicine expert Chris Kresser emphasizes this important point.) Extreme restriction will quickly prompt an extreme reaction to compel you to consume more protein. If your eating strategy results in chronic mild protein deficiency, you are going to tamp down important metabolic and hormonal processes like muscle recovery from exercise, libido, and immune function. Chronic mild protein deficiency is common among the over-exercising population (CrossFit or endurance extremists), and those adhering to a plant-based (vegan/vegetarian) diet. With chronic mild protein deficiency, you may not notice anything except a “normal” of sub-optimal energy, body composition, and workout performance and recovery.
Over years, you may not notice anything unless you are extremely protein deficient. A mild protein insufficiency might result in a new normal of mild lagging in workout performance and recovery, and the all-too-common condition of sarcopenia—a loss of muscle mass associated with aging.
Furthermore, as many successful weight loss strategies have discovered, emphasizing dietary protein will give you tremendous dietary satisfaction at a deep cellular level. When your appetite and satiety hormones are optimized, you will be less likely to drift over to the nutrient-deficient, hyper-palatable foods that derail well-intentioned weight loss efforts. The main culprit here are processed foods that combine carbs and fat. These indulgent foods light up the dopamine pleasure receptors in the brain to promote habitual consumption, but fail to provide much nutrition. This leads to cravings and excess caloric intake.
These emergent insights are detailed beautifully in books like Robb Wolf’s Wired to Eat and Dr. Stephen Guyenet’s The Hungry Brain. In Dr. Ted Naiman and William Shewfelt’s The P:E Diet, they elaborate on the protein lever theory, which contends that our overconsumption of processed “reward” foods is driven by a genetically hard-wired intense drive to consume sufficient dietary protein. Because ice cream and potato chips are deficient in protein, our brain commands us to consume more and more in a futile attempt to meet our protein needs.
For those who don’t care to eat too much protein, or would rather supplement with a powdered form of protein, the good news is that powdered supplements provide extra calories, but these protein calories do not promote fat storage. Instead, they help to regulate appetite and promote fat loss, and go toward meeting your daily biological and repair needs. And since muscle protein synthesis (a naturally occurring process in which protein is produced to repair muscle damage caused by intense exercise) is an important part of the way our bodies ultimately maintain and build muscle, upping dietary protein intake acts an an opposing force to muscle protein breakdown (MPB) in which protein is lost as a result of exercise.
Protein supplementation is the most reliable way to ensure that you can successfully optimize your overall dietary intake with a convenient and do-able strategy of simply taking one scoop a day. Studies focusing on high protein diets have found that those who eat more protein live longer, and research on the effects of following a low-protein diet has shown just how detrimental this decision can be. If you want to live longer, recover better from exercise sessions, have more energy and strength, experience increased muscle mass and bone density, have lowered blood pressure, or just lose that last 10 pounds and enjoy a faster metabolism, then the solution is simple: make sure you’re meeting your daily protein requirements, whether that’s in the form of a steak or through my sensational new product called B.rad Grassfed Whey Protein Isolate Superfuel. We have been working hard to source and develop an absolutely premier quality product with the very best whey protein in the world, and infused with 100% pure creatine to create a true superfuel for comprehensive health, performance, and recovery—there is truly nothing else like it on the market.
Consuming adequate protein and making it your dietary centerpiece is the best way to shed excess body fat, recover from workouts, and build and maintain lean muscle mass—widely regarded as the key to healthspan and longevity. Not only will this help you maintain your weight, since protein consumption increases fat burning and your metabolism, but it’s also integral to bone health—studies show people who eat more protein are able to better maintain bone mass as they age, and their risk for osteoporosis and fractures is much lower. This is really important, particularly for women, as they have a high risk for developing osteoporosis after menopause, but it’s an issue that really does effect everyone, so regardless of your gender or age, just remember to consume enough high-quality protein so you can continue kick ass in all your endeavors. Supplementing with a high-quality protein powder will give you a convenient and consistent way of easily meeting your daily protein requirements without having to prepare and take time for an elaborate meal. What’s more, the micro-filtered, cold processed grass-fed whey protein isolate in B.rad Superfuel is widely regarded as the most bioavailable source of protein on the planet. I am so excited to share that it’s finally available, so please check it out here.