Among athletes and fitness enthusiasts, it’s hard to find a more heavily emphasised nutrient than protein - and rightfully so!
Proteins make up structural components of our cells and tissues, as well as hormones, enzymes and immune system agents. Simply put, they are “building blocks” of our bodies!
Being such an important component of our diets, protein intake is also surrounded by a myriad of myths, especially in the fitness industry. Is there a point even trying if you’re not drinking protein shakes? Will a high protein diet make you bulky, or damage your health?
Let’s review 5 popular protein myths! 👀
Myth #1: Protein makes you bulky
As protein is so important for building muscle, and especially since bodybuilders often consume high amounts of protein, it may seem like elevated protein intake equals uncontrollable muscle growth!
As a result, many women fear that upping their protein consumption will make them “bulky” and change their shape completely.
However, this could not be further from the truth! High protein intake is only one of many conditions required for gaining this level of muscle mass, including:
💪 A consistent calorie surplus (eating more than you burn)
💪 A specific, intense training regime geared towards gaining lots of muscle
💪 YEARS of very hard, consistent, purposeful work in this direction
BOTTOM LINE: Protein as such will NOT make you bulky - so don’t be afraid to up your protein intake if this is recommended for your goals!
Myth #2: High protein intake is bad for health
Another popular myth is that protein is terrible for your health, as it may have adverse effects on kidney function, bone density, and overall well-being.
Too much of anything can be detrimental for health - but just how much protein is “too much”?
Surprisingly, a lot - more than most people would ever consume in any situation!
It’s important to note that for those living with certain serious health conditions (e.g. advanced kidney disease), it can indeed be recommended to limit protein intake. However, for healthy people, the situation is different!
👉 The basic recommendation for protein intake is 0.8 g/kg body weight per day. Consuming below this amount consistently may lead to a downright protein deficiency, with devastating health consequences.
👉 Somewhere between 0.8 - 1.6 g/kg per day can be sufficient for many people, depending on lifestyle, body composition and goals.
👉 For active individuals, especially those aiming to build muscle, consuming around 1.5-2.7 g/kg per day is a well-established appropriate range. For most individuals, the “sweet spot” will be somewhere between 1.6-2.2 g/kg. This promotes preserving or growing lean muscle, depending on the rest of the diet and training regime.
👉 Beyond ~2.2-2.7 g/kg, there are no added benefits for muscle growth/preservation - however, higher protein intake can still be recommended for other purposes, such as helping reduce hunger!
👉 And as for “how much is too much”...the truth is, it’s actually quite hard to tell within practical limits! Research demonstrates that in healthy individuals, consuming as much as 4.4 g/kg protein per day for 2 months does not appear to produce any adverse effects. For a 60 kg female, this would equal 264 g of protein per day! 😱 In comparison, the highest BBR-recommended protein target is 150 g/day.
BOTTOM LINE: For healthy individuals, high protein intake has not been shown to cause any ill effects - even in amounts 5.5 higher than basic recommendations.
Myth #3: You can only get enough protein from animal products
While eggs, meat, seafood and poultry are widely known sources of protein, this does not mean you can’t get your protein elsewhere!
We have summarised a variety of protein sources below - from meats to plant-based products, there is something for everyone! 😍
BOTTOM LINE: There is a wide variety of protein sources, beyond familiar animal protein sources. Experiment with plant-based proteins, and you’ll be pleasantly surprised!
Myth #4: A high-protein diet guarantees fat loss
This is almost a reverse myth to the “protein makes you bulky” one - and similarly, it doesn’t hold true - not entirely, at least!
See, high protein diets are always recommended when fat loss is a goal - in fact, at BBR we also implement this approach, often recommending higher protein targets to clients wanting to reduce body fat %.
This is because high protein intake helps preserve existing muscle mass, as well as promotes fullness after meals, therefore helping maintain the most important condition for fat loss…
Without a calorie deficit - or ensuring you burn more calories than you consume - it’s not possible to lose fat. So if you’re eating lots of protein, but also getting lots of energy from carbs and fat, you may pull yourself out of the energy deficit, resulting in maintaining or even gaining weight.
BOTTOM LINE: High protein intake alone will not promote fat loss - you need to be in an overall calorie deficit to achieve this goal.
Myth #5: Protein supplements are essential
While you will find protein powder in BBR Meal Guides, the sole reason for this recommendation is convenience, not necessity!
As a bonus, I also know that most gals love them a sweet treat - and a sweet shake/smoothie made with protein powder hits the spot while also helping reach protein requirements!
BOTTOM LINE: You don’t need to use any protein supplements, being that shakes, bars, or otherwise, as you can meet your requirements completely from whole foods (such as eggs, lean cuts of meat, and more - see above for more examples).
From building and preserving muscle mass to supporting a healthy immune system, protein is an important macronutrient that is not to be overlooked!
We hope you enjoyed debunking the popular protein myths with us!
BBR Dietitians xx