Nutrition Myth Busting- Does Protein Help With Muscle Growth?

Nutrition Myth Busting

Maybe you don’t feel as strong as you used to be. Maybe, you decide that you want to go to the gym to get a little stronger. So, you set a goal to build more muscle in your body. Does that also mean that you need to buy large bottles of peanut butter flavored whey from GNC for a little extra protein boost? After all, doesn’t protein build muscle? Well, first, before you decide to take out a bank loan’s worth in protein shakes and gym accessories, you might want to check and see if protein can even build muscle mass in the first place.


Does Protein Help with Muscle Growth?

Copyrighted: Sanrio

This is an interesting health rumor with a little grain of truth to it. Combined with the right workout protein can help you build body mass. But protein alone cannot increase your muscle mass. You also need a consistent workout and diety before you would see the benefits in the first place.

This was discovered in a 2015 study, published by the Sports Medicine periodical from New Zealand,”For untrained individuals, consuming supplemental protein likely has no impact on lean mass and muscle strength during the initial weeks of resistance training. However, as the duration, frequency, and volume of resistance training increase, protein supplementation may promote muscle hypertrophy and enhance gains in muscle strength in both untrained and trained individuals.”

In fact, according to the International Society for Sports Nutrition, the difference between college athletes that use excessive amounts of protein, vs the ones that had the regular dietary intake were too slight. “The results of this study do not provide any support for protein intakes greater than recommended levels in collegiate strength/power athletes for body composition improvements, or alterations in resting hormonal concentrations. Inadequate energy intakes likely contributed to these results.”

So, if the differences are slight why is it such a huge deal today? And what started this misconception in the first place?


Bodybuilders and Mad Scientists

The Origins of the Rumor

While bodybuilding and peak performance was popular in Ancient Greece, it did not kick off in European and American culture until 1910, thanks to protien Eugen Sandow. He was coined as the father of modern bodybuilding. He started his career by his mentorship with a popular entertainer, Ludwig Durlacher. From there, he entered into strongmen competitions and defeated several champions.

He noticed that the crowd was more drawn to his muscled physique than how much he could actually lift and started to perform stunts for the crowds, increasing his popularity in the entertainment industry. When he retired from his performances, he opened the first gym, The Sandow Institutes of Physical Culture.

From there he taught nutrition, exercise, and strength training methods that were gained mass success for its novelty. It was at this institute where he first recommended the use of extra protein as a nutritional supplement for bodybuilding.

“He co-wrote several early bodybuilding instruction books encouraging the consumption of ‘beef juice’ or ‘beef extracts’ to promote muscle growth and recovery,” according to  

So, if that was how the protein craze started, what was the deal with the whey powder as part of workout culture?


It’s Alive!

About 30 years after the death of the original bodybuilder, an eccentric chemist decided to take protein and nutrition to the next level. In 1950,  Irving Johnson ( aka. Rheo Blair), decided to invent and sell a “miracle food” in his kitchen laboratory. He claimed that it would transform ‘weaklings’ into ‘supermen’. A magazine editor tried the protein himself and claimed that it worked wonders and gave everyone more muscle mass in almost an instant. He made a killing in the nutritional supplement industry by creating a whey that was based on egg and milk, which had a better taste compared to other soy-based whey products. He sold and advertised many supplements to the Hollywood circuit, and died a rich man.

So, if it was all a marketing ploy and there are some small differences in performance between takers of supplements and those who don’t use them, how do you curb the odds in your favor? It’s all about balance.



How to Best Use Protein

There are two rules of thumb with protein.

  • Don’t eat too much

Too much of anything would be considered toxic but protein is terrifying when you have too much of it. For starters, it will drastically increase your weight gain, increase your chances of cancer and heart disease and will dehydrate you with excess nitrogen. It also gives people an upset stomach and constipation as well as increase the chances of kidney failure and calcium loss.

  • Pay attention to Protein Types

Some of them contain a specific molecule, mostly found in grasses, lean nuts, whole grain and lean fish that are crucial to the process of muscle mass building. When it is part of a balanced diet, you are creating a long-lasting way of doing things that are good for your health. Just be smart about how much and what kind of protein you eat on a regular basis.



This post and more like it was done for the Nutritionist Bekah Dewitt of Bek’s Bites in Huntsville Alabama. Call me if you want to set up an appointment.