Research has conclusively proven that exercise increases protein needs. Dr. Peter Lemon is the world's leading researcher on protein requirements and athletes. In the journal "Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise" (19:5, S179-S190,1986) Dr. Lemon writes:
"Several types of evidence indicate that exercise causes substantial changes in protein metabolism. In fact, recent data suggests that the protein recommended dietary allowance might actually be 100% higher for individuals who exercise on a regular basis. Optimal intakes, although unknown, may be even higher, especially for individuals attempting to increase muscle mass and strength."
Dr. Lemon's more recent research published in "Nutrition Reviews," (54:S169-175, 1996) indicates that strength athletes need up to 1.8g of protein per kg. of body weight to maintain positive nitrogen balance. That's .8 grams per lb. of body weight or almost 140 grams a day for someone who weighs 172 lbs. This is very close to the longheld belief of bodybuilders that one gram per pound of body weight is optimal. Some studies have shown that even higher protein intakes may be necessary in hard training strength athletes. In one study of Polish weightlifters (Nutr. Metabolism 12:259-274), 5 of 10 athletes were still in negative nitrogen balance even while consuming 250% of the RDA.
There's been so much research done on protein and athletes, it's amazing that so many conservative dietitians and medical professionals still cling to the outdated notion that the RDA for protein is sufficient for muscle growth. The biggest irony is the fact that many of these "RDA pushers" are overweight, flabby, out-of-shape professors, researchers or "white lab coat types." I don't know about you, but I have a very hard time taking advice from "armchair experts" who don't walk the walk. After years of being criticized by the academic and scientific communities for their "excess" protein intakes, bodybuilders today have received their vindication. It's no longer a theory that protein intakes higher than the RDA are more effective for building muscle; it is now scientific fact. This still leaves one burning question: How do you determine the precise amount of protein that's right for you?
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