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No Benefit to Athletes from Greater Protein Intake

This increased requirement is believed to be necessary in order to aid in the protein synthesis that is needed in the process of repairing and creating muscle fibers that become damaged during sessions of resistance exercise. However, exceeding the current recommended levels of protein intake with the belief that it will further enhance muscle strength or increase the formation of muscle fibers may be misguided.

In a study published in the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition it was found that protein intakes greater than the recommended levels produced no significantly greater improvement in strength, nor did it have any effect on body composition or
hormone levels.

The study, led by J. R. Hoffman and researchers at The College of New Jersey, was conducted on 23 male college athletes specialising in strength or power sports. The subjects were not allowed to use any performance-enhancing drugs during the six months prior to the start of the study. All the volunteers had at least two years of resistance training experience and underwent the same training program for 12 weeks. Weekly protein intakes were averaged for each volunteer and they were divided into three groups: below the daily recommended protein intake, at the recommended daily protein intake, and above the recommended daily protein intake.

Significant increases in strength were seen among all the groups, however, no significant difference in strength was shown between any of the groups. In addition, resting hormone levels showed no significant changes in any of the groups.

Previous studies had shown that the combination of elevated caloric intake along with resistance training was important for stimulating any significant increase in body mass and lean tissue. Researchers concluded that despite protein intake either at or above recommended levels, it is a lack of adequate caloric intake that restricts gains in body mass and lean tissue.

Though there are numerous protein supplement powders that athletes can use for the sake of convenience, there is no reason they can't achieve their daily protein goals through eating whole foods. Based on meta-analysis of studies on protein intake for weightlifting athletes, the optimal intake of protein for strength training was found to be 1.6 grams per kilo of body weight. Half that requirement could be met with a 6-ounce chicken breast and 16-ounce glass of milk.

Though no harm has been shown in those who take in more than the recommended level of protein in any form, this study has shown that there is no strength advantage in taking above the recommended protein levels for those athletes looking to improve performance.

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