The final word on protein(?)

Protein is just one of those somewhat controversial topics that there just doesn’t seem to be a clear consensus on. How much, how often, what types of protein – fast, slow, whole food or supplements.

The research also seems to be conflicting – until you actually read the studies. The lab of, among others, Stuart M. Phillips have been publishing a lot of interesting research the past few years. He’s sort of the go-to guy on protein synthesis and muscle growth in general since he’s also recently shown that it’s the amount of WORK you do that determines how big your muscles can get – not necessarily the load… but that’s a topic for another time, and something I’ve talked about before.

Here’s their recent review, with a nice summary of the current state of affairs:

Nutritional regulation of muscle protein synthesis with resistance exercise: strategies to enhance anabolism.

I’ll make it easier for you by providing you with the Cliff’s Notes version, as well as my own addendums:

1. Dairy protein seems to be the superior protein source, probably due to a higher leucine content (10-12%) as well as a fast delivery (whey). The rapid rise in amino acid (AA) levels is a determinant in the anabolic response. Whey is suggested as the primary source, but other studies show that a combination of whey and casein is probably much better as it prolongs the effect beyond the first 2-3hrs of meal ingestion, and this ties into the next point:

2. A certain time off from protein is probably better than a constant influx, due to something called the refractory response – meaning that the protein synthesis machinery stops responding to input if it is constantly bombarded with food. Unpublished research from Phillips’ lab shows that 4 meals were 30% better than both 8 meals and 2 meals, and this is in line with research done a few years ago (the PhD dissertation of our own Therese Fostervold-Mathisen) where 3 meals were superior to 6 meals for muscle gains. There’s one minor caveat, though – the 4 meals used a protein intake deemed to be optimal at 20g (providing 2,5g of leucine), whereas the 8 meal group only used 10g and the 2 meal group (which was too infrequent, apparently) used 40g. So 80g total of protein per day, which sounds a little on the low side, doesn’t it? This brings us to the next point:

3. Their studies show 20-25g of protein to be the maximum effective intake on a meal-per-meal basis, at least if you are young and healthy. Older people seem to require more protein, approximately double (40g) to overcome some sort of “anabolic resistance”. We´re not sure what the mechanism is, we just know it exists. Let’s expand on that: 20-25g of whey is 2,5-3g or so of leucine, the branched-chain amino acid which is the primary driver of all the good stuff happening. That’s for someone at an average bodyweight of 80kg, so we can probably round it up to 3,5g if you’re bigger and 2g if you’re smaller. Now, a diet comprised of whey protein drinks isn’t very satisfying, so what happens if you want to eat some real food? Leucine content is about 7-8% in red and white meat, fish and eggs, so the equivalent of whole food protein required for 2g of leucine is 25g (about 100-120g of beef/chicken/fish or 4 whole eggs) and for 3g it’s 40g (170-200g of beef/chicken/fish or 6 whole eggs) – and not too far off from the generic recommendations. This goes to show, though, that protein supplements are quite cheap when you look at how much bang for your buck you get (high leucine content, 80-90% protein content).

4. The next point I’d like to make is the recent study showing a pre-bed intake of a slower digesting protein ensures you get a high anabolic effect throughout the next 8-12hrs until the next meal (or 16 if you belong to the Intermittent Fasting crowd). This was in comparison to 20g of whey ingested after a late workout, though – so in the real world, 40g of protein from casein (found in cottage cheese and quark/curd) isn’t necessarily a requirement. A composite meal with carbs, fiber from veggies, and fats would also slow down the digestion rate of meat and fish. Eggs in particular are even slower digested than casein. So, you should be fine just following the regular Biorhythm Diet concept of having a large meal a couple of hours before bedtime. I tend to have slightly more protein in this meal, anyway.

(Addendum July 15th: In personal dialogue, Stuart Phillips recommended 0.6g/kg for the final meal based on unpublished data).

5. Pre- and post-workout intake is still a little back-and-forth, since many studies have been done in a fasted state, which isn’t necessarily how it’s done in the real world. In fact, one recent study showed that whey + leucine ingested in one big gulp (bolus) 45min before the workout was inferior to the same spread out over the next 3hrs (pulse), mimicking a “slow” protein. The reason for this is probably that with the bolus, amino acid levels were already declining when the workout started. Most people have at least 1 or 2 whole food meals in them before they hit the gym, so unless you are very hungry and/or the last meal was more than 3-4 hours ago, there’s not a real need for any super-magic hydrolysates or BCAAs pre-workout. I do admit that I like to be “better safe than sorry”, so I usually add 5-8g of BCAAs here or some whey with added leucine/BCAA. Post-workout, a 50/50 or 60/40 combination of whey and casein (as in MyoProtein, which I designed for MyRevolution) is perfect, and as the studies indicate, 20-30g (the equivalent of 25-35g product) may very well be plenty unless you’re a heavyweight bodybuilder.

Practical recommendations, based on the above research and my opinion and experience:

  • 25-40g of whole food protein per meal x 3-4 meals per day. The final meal of the day could have a higher protein intake of 30-60g with the inclusion of a “slow” protein source such as eggs or casein.
  • Add in some (optional) pre-workout whey(15-25g) or BCAAs (4-8g).
  • Post-workout, have a whey+casein blend, 20-30g worth. If you’re having a whole food meal within an hour, that’s perfectly fine and you could just have a small amount of whey and some fruits when leaving the gym, then cook and eat when you get home. Or have your girlfriend/boyfriend do it for you, gotta recover those arms, obviously. The 3-4 meal recommendation includes this post-workout protein feeding (either whey+casein or whey with a whole food meal within an hour), but 5 meals is also feasible if you have particularly long days.
  • Total protein intake – and I usually don’t count protein from carbs or fat sources, except eggs –  is going to be around 1,5-2g/kg bodyweight or even 1,2-1,5 with the predominant use of high-quality whey or milk proteins. This is probably quite a bit lower than what you’re doing now and have been led to believe is needed, and also quite a bit lower than what I’ve recommended in the past. The benefits – less digestion issues, saves $$$, and makes room for more carbs and fats in your diet – are worth it. You’re not going to lose muscle, and you might even gain some muscle (not sufficient research yet, but there are certain indicators).
  • If you’re restricting calories for fat loss, there are so many benefits of a higher protein intake (satiety and thermic effect to name a couple), that I think you should increase the recommendations given by 20-30% (2-2,5g/kg bodyweight).

Oh, and I’ve said it before, but it bears repeating – white rice is a perfectly fine carb source, whole grains or brown rice can actually inhibit nutrient uptake. Get your fiber from fruits and vegetables.

So is this the final word? Probably not, but for the most part I doubt there will be any major surprises. Over-anal-yzing and going back and forth on a gram here or a minute there is, more often than not, irrelevant in the grand perspective of things. Over the span of months and years where so many other things can go wrong anyway…

Until next time, may your farts smell like flowers instead of rotten eggs.

219 Comments

  1. Nei, samme her 🙂 Poenget er vel at selv om det ikke trenger å ha noen negativ effekt om du spiser en stor saftig biff til hvert måltid, så er det heller ikke nødvendig.

    Translation: point being that while there might not be any negative consequences if you eat a large, juicy steak every meal, it’s not really needed either.

  2. Borge what about carbohydrates, fats and total calories? I’m assuming since your protein recommendations are lower, carbs and fats goes up dramatically, when trying to put on mass? For an 100kg lifter to maintain his weoght he need at least 3200cals, if he takes 1,5g/kg protein (150g/day) that leaves 2600 cals for fats and casb, if the fats are at 30% (about 100g/day) carbs must be 410g/day, just for maintaining his weight and to add weight (~20% more cals or 500-600kcal more) he need another 100g carbs and 20g fats. Am I right?

    • You don’t need as many calories to grow as you think, so why would carbs and fats go up “dramatically”? But those numbers seem quite normal for a 100kg guy, I’m dieting now on 300-350g of carbs whereas in the past I would gain fat on anything above 250g…so you can reprogram your metabolism over time if you go about it the right way. It even seems that quality mass gains are better (less fat gains) without having to force feed, and without having to feel and look bloated.

      I’ve talked about it here: http://myrevolution.no/blade/2011/11/03/your-body-is-listening-what-are-you-telling-it/

      btw – try calculating the cost of 1lbs of rice to cover those carb needs, vs the cost of 3-4lbs of meat and chicken to eat the equivalent in protein.

      • Very interesting. So at the end of the it’s all about calories in vs calories out (when those calories are from clean/nutritious foods)? You have obcisouslly dieted on lower carbs/higher protein in the past, what the main differences you’ve noticed (muscle fullnes, easier/harder to lose bf, water retiontion, strenght in the gym etc)? How much protein you are taking in on 300-350g carbs? I’m assuming your fats are kept very low?

        • Well, sorta…I think food selection is VERY important, but having said that – my experience with less protein is that my stomach is flatter, my muscles have more fullness (since I can have more carbs) even though overall calories are slightly lower (TEF of protein is 10 times that of carbs) I’m not really hungry. I used to do high protein (400g), moderate fats, low’ish carbs and no carbs for the last 1-2 meals – and I would wake up several times in the night starving. No such thing now, I go to bed with almost 200g of carbs in my last meal and sleep great through the night. I wake up at 7am without an alarm clock. I’m not even hungry until a couple of hours after getting out of bed in the morning.

          My protein intake is around 200g right now, and my fats are in the 60-90g range – my diet is kinda intuitive and based on hunger right now so it varies according to what I want to eat.

  3. Well written article. I’m on the high end of protein consumption, of the ‘better-safe-than-sorry’ crowd though I have never used supplements. By the way, is your forum open to regular mortals?

  4. Great summary Børge. Is 1.5 g protein pr kg (mostly whey\casein and meat\fish and some crappy tasting bcaa) enough to maintain lbm at a diet? (max 0,5 kg weightloss pr week, usually less). I have no problems with satiety, but due to food preferencies and economy I find it hard to eat more protein than this all week (some days though I easily hit 2 gr pr kg). I try to follow IF most days and eat bio-rythm-ish (due to vacation I can`t do it every day).

    • It should be, but depends on the caloric restriction. I would go higher on a PSMF-type diet, but a more moderate deficit should be fine at 1.5g/kg, especially if some of it is comprised of whey/casein and BCAA.

  5. Hey Børge,
    I wonder if a low(er) meal frequency in general would lower the protein requirements, since science has repeatedly shown, that a lower meal frequency reduces AA oxidation?
    Also, I would appreciate studies, where the protein threshold is taken account of in every meal, instead of a total protein intake, that only allows the lower frequencies to consistently reach the threshold. What are your thoughts on this?

    • What science is that? The study mentioned in the article I talked about, they compared eight, four and then two meals of more protein (40g) and the 4 meals with less protein (20g) was still 30-40% better.

      • Alan Aragon has talked about it, the respective studies showing that 3 meals were better than 6, 1 meal better than 3, and so on. Muscle sparing on a deficit, that is.
        What you just said makes perfectly sense, when you consider the threshold theory as true for building muscle/anabolism. Like 4x full MPS response is better than 2x full MPS response & 8x “nothing” (not necessarily nothing, but since not reaching the threshold…i hope you get what I mean). But when a study would compare, say, 150-200g of quality protein, split up on the same frequencies (and everyone reaching the threshold), would the outcome be the same?

  6. Tjark: I believe my blog post is pretty clear and i would hate to repeat myself. Again – 8 meals was tested and there was indeed a refractory response, i.e. even if we could say 10g protein is below the optimal level, the difference in MPS between 10g and 20g (5-15%) is less than the total loss of efficiency from eating every 2hrs (30%) so I think this points to a refractory response as the most likely explanation.

    The Stote et al study – they used maintenance calories, it wasn’t a diet per se.
    “However, when consuming 1 meal/d, subjects had a significant increase in hunger; a significant modification of body composition, including reductions in fat mass; significant increases in blood pressure and in total, LDL-, and HDL-cholesterol concentrations; and a significant decrease in concentrations of cortisol.”

    BIA for body composition measures is very unreliable under conditions where you would expect severe alterations in electrolyte and fluid balance.

    If indeed the 1 meal/d group lost both weight and bodyfat, it indicates some sort of “wastage” factor, not that 1 meal is better than 3 meals.

    I also find this weird: “Our study withdrawal rate was 28.6%. Typical rates of withdrawal from human feeding studies at our facility are ≈4–7%”

    Even though only 1 subject reported that the problem with following the protocol was the 1 meal.

    “subjects did not become habituated to the 1 meal/d diet. Over time, hunger, desire to eat, and prospective consumption increased, whereas feelings of fullness decreased.”

    I really don’t see the point in arguing for this anymore. I prefer to design diets that active individuals not confined to metabolic wards are able to follow.

    • In no way I was arguing for 1 meal a day or anything of that nonsense. Personally I prefer 3-4 Meals a day, just as you advise here and in various blogposts. I was just curious.
      Thanks for your effort of clearing this up, appreciate it!

  7. Yes, that’s me. I saw your post linked on another forum and thought I would take a look. I have some experience with middle eastern bodybuilders and many of these simply can’t afford the same protein intake that many american and european bodybuilders can, but still they get results (growth, muscle retention when dieting). So clearly 1.5-2g/kg bw/day can be sufficient.

    • Good observation, and I actually had that one in mind, too. They’re also not (in general) using boatloads of insulin, GH and AAS either – it is very simple and many can obviously not afford GH or any exotics. I think that’s saying something.

      But then obviously, when I see that the average Joe’s and Jane’s I’m working with are growing nicely on that protein range, that’s saying even more. Some nice unpublished research from elite athletes at Olympiatoppen (connected to Norwegian School of Sports Sciences) is confirming this (as well as that 3 vs 6 meal study).

      • You probably know this but in many of those countries AAS is cheaper than protein powder ;). In general protein sources are expensive.

        • Though anecdotal to the point, I was recently in Nigeria, Africa and noted saw many individuals who were absolutely ripped and large. Curiously, these individuals had a substantially larger carb intake daily and ate probably 50
          grams of protein a day. The underlying factor in most of these guys was their NEPA. They worked in jobs like stone masons, car mechanics, labourers etc. I also found that the general populace ate the same levels of protein but with less resistance training and generally looked skinny fat(for the guys) and over weight (for women). I know genetics play a role but the amount of muscle built by these individuals on very little protein was absolutely impressive. I believe Brad Pilon has a book out that questions the current recommendations for hypertrophy.
          ps Borge, I don;t know if you’ve already done this, but I would like to see the same treatment given to Carbs as well(best sources, how much for growth, fat loss etc). I absolutely trust the thoroughness of your work .

          • Exactly! People overplay the role of protein (as well as genetics and drugs, but that is a different discussion) and think that training a lift on consecutive days their muscles will deteriorate and fall off their bones. Go tell a farmer, construction worker or someone else involved in physical labour that they can only work for one day then take several days off to “recover” and they will laugh at you. They would probably love it if it was true and they really could work for just a few days per week, but still – they will laugh at you.

            I’ve had a discussion with Pilon about this, and although we don’t agree on everything (70-120g for everyone regardless of size, age, deficit/surplus or training history), he is also on to something.

            I will cover carbs, although that’s not really all that complicated IMO. I just let it scale with training volume, and adjust according to bf% and insulin sensitivity (the leaner you are, the more carbs you can handle) – and staple foods are fruits, white rice, sweet potato/yams and potatoes. Or maybe it is, come to think about it 🙂

      • So Olympiatoppen was right all along, with their claims of a normal, Norwegian diet being optimal for protein requirements? Kinda makes me ashamed of hating on them for so long if thats the case.

        • Well…sort of. See, what is a “normal” diet these days? Look into the shopping cart of the person next to you in line at the grocery store. The average protein consumption of a normal, Norwegian diet is in the range of 60-80g (from food logs recorded throughout my 15+ years of working with people) – so about half of what I recommend here.

  8. Many thanks for this very instructive article. I workout three days a week from 17:30 to 19:00. My post workout meal is even my dinner. If I’ve good understood I do well if I eat the great part of carbs (and calories) in this meal also in the rest days without impair insuline sensitivity. On training days I skip breakfast (leangains style IF). On rest days I eat a low carb breakfast (2-3 entire eggs, 15 gr of almonds and peanuts, 150 gr of yougurt with fat milk) to take advanced of enhanced protein synthesys. My lunch is always low carb. My actual goal is to burn body fat and maintain (or add a little of) muscles.

      • Yes Borge. After the reading of this interesting discussion I’m not sure anymore if it’s better to eat my usual amount of carbs (abt 150 gr) every evening, or if it’s better to limit carbs in the training days to 30-50 gr and eat more carbs in the rest days (always 150 gr). Many thanks in advance for your answer.

        • I would never limit carbs to 50g on training days unless your bodyfat is really high and you’re doing a short-term low-carb diet. I have 50kg girls on 200g of carbs and losing fat just nicely.

  9. I’m currently doing a PSMF which I plan to wrap up at the end of this week at about 11-12% bodyfat. Because of the severe deficit I’ve had my protein at 270g/day (I’m a small lifter at 160 lbs with a maintenance of around 2200-2300 kcal).

    I’m planning on moving towards a more moderate deficit of 500kcal/day after the PSMF. This would put me at about 1700kcal/day. I was going to aim for Lyle’s suggestion of 1.5g/lb of LBM and get in about 225g protein/day. From there I was going to get about 1g of carbs per lb of LBM and the rest of the calories from fat.

    After reading this I’m doubting I need close to the 225g of protein per day and personally I’d rather eat more carbs.

    Would I spare LBM if I kept the same 1700 kcal/day intake but lowered my protein intake in order to raise my carb intake? Maybe 180g-200g of protein a day?

      • This is true. I’m curious to know how protein-sparing carbs are on a diet. I’m guessing it’s not a 1:1 ratio with protein.

        How low could I bring protein while keeping a 500kcal deficit and still spare LBM if carbs replace the protein? Some days it can be difficult to get in enough protein when I’m out and about, busy all day.

        • Carbs are always protein sparing. If you bring fats really low you can bring carbs higher, as well. The recommendations in the post still stands. 2g/kg LBM or 0.8g/lbs is my recommendation – if you use whey or some BCAAs you can get away with less, obviously.

    • This is very interesting. For my curiosity, your current intake of 1 gr of carbs per LB of LBM is for a precise reason or it’s only the result of your experience? I’m also involved in a sort of rapid fat loss program. My bodyweight is 153 lbs (BF 15%) and in three months I’ve not registered visible muscles loss. Instead It seems that in certain body zones the muscle mass is augmented. My protein intake is about 90-100 gr and, how I’ve I wrote above, I train my entire body (with the myo-reps) three times at week. As Brat Pilon often underlines, studies indicate that weight training is the key to spare muscles, and a very big amount of protein perhaps is only a waste of money. This seems plausible if carbs intake isn’t almost zero as in a PSF but it’s above 100 gr.

      • Carbs are always individualized and this range is what works for me at the moment, at my current macros, at my current training setup – don’t take it as a guideline.

        I love that you named him “Brat” Pilon…

  10. Excellent article as usual, Borge!

    How do fat macros fit into this then? Taking for example someone who’s dieting on an average of 1,900 cals/day (varies, using a zig-zag approach) and 145g protein or 580 cals covers protein needs at 2.0g/kg/lb of lean mass, how would you distribute the rest of the macros?

    I’ve currently been doing 33/33/33 as I definitely do better on higher carbs, with smaller protein w/ fruit carb based meals during the day, and usually one large feast at night making up the majority of calories. However I haven’t been restricting fat in the evenings, just hitting my macros whatever is still called for. Some days fat is as high as 120g/day, and as much as 40-60g of this can come in the large evening meal. Usually eating 4-5 meals/day and currently mid 8% bodyfat.

    Thinking I may be better off limiting overall fat intake more, and especially in the evenings, while keeping protein around the 2.0g/kg/lb lean mass and making up the rest with carbs. But just how much fat is enough, or recommended?

    Any clarification would be appreciated! Thanks, and keep up the good work!

    • Depends on what works better for you, fats or carbs. I have an extensive questionnaire I go through with clients before setting up diets for them, so without knowing anything about you I can’t really give you a useful answer. You have to look at if your current setup is working for you, and if not – adjust it. That doesn’t mean you should flip-flop everything at the same time, but if you lower protein to 2g/kg (0.8g/lbs) then I usually suggest increasing carbs – at least on training days.

  11. A further thought about the protein issue. It seems that last researches confirm the old statement about the maximum amount of 30 gr of protein for each meal that body can handle. So this isn’t a mith as many people say today.
    I want also report to your attention the following article of Mauro de Pasquale on carbs eating after exercise (post-exercise carbohydrates may be counter-productive). I know that de Pasquale emphasizes the “bad side” of post-workout carbs assumption due to justify his Metabolic Diet also for mass gaining, but I think It’s however a good article.

    • The body can handle as much protein as you throw at it, that’s not the issue here – the issue is seeing how many grams it takes to max out Muscle Protein Synthesis (MPS), so it’s not as if the rest is just wasted.

      I’ve read Pasquales article and a couple of years ago I, in fact, also recommended the no-carbs PWO approach. There is, however, no proof that this has any beneficial effects except for perhaps a prolonged higher insulin sensitivity. Most all research shows that placing carbs post-workout will lead to improved recovery and nutrient partitioning. In practice, the no-carb PWO led to insatiable hunger – I could eat 2lbs of meat with added fats, we’re easily talking 100g of protein and 100g of fat…and still be hungry. I can now have 30-40g of protein and 30-40g of carbs and feel great.

      I still place the majority of carbs for the evening meals, though – if I train around 4-5PM I usually split the carbs evenly between my post-workout meal and the evening meal.

      • This thread is a true mine of useful informations. 🙂 Can we say that if I will eat abt 80-100 gr of carbs in the evening meal (which is also my post-workout meal) I will have some of the advantages of eating carbs togheter proteins without saturate glycogen depots and this leads to a better insulin sensitivity during the next day of rest? (my WO lasts 1,5h and is quite intensive). If this is true, then in the rest day a bigger amount of carbs could be gradually eaten. Better if in the evening meal according to the Biorythm Diet principles (i.e. 200 gr in the evening meal and 40-50 gr during the rest of the day… considering my personal intake).

        • Yes, but I really don’t see why you wouldn’t refill muscle glycogen when you have the chance. Why wait until the rest day when you’re not really burning a lot of calories and creating a sink for incoming carbs?

          • The sink was created by the previous workout and it will be filled slowly in more than 24 hours rather than in few hours. if I’ve understood correctly the Dipasquale’s article, insulin sensitivity and protein synthesis will decrease when glycogen depots are filled. So if I won’t replenish them immediately after WO but slowly during the next day of rest, perhaps it can be more productive for muscle gains.

            He wrote: “capacity for glycogen synthesis, and everything that goes with it, can persist for several days if the muscle glycogen concentration is maintained below normal levels by carbohydrate restriction. By keeping carbs low and protein and energy high after training, you can increase protein synthesis over a prolonged period of time and get long term anabolic effect.”

            So glycogen depots won’t be refilled within few hours but at the end of the rest days. If calories on rest days are below the maintenance level (for body recomposition purposes), the risk of gaining fat due to any excess of carbs (if any) will be avoided.

            Or not?

          • Except that there is no evidence I am aware of that amino acid sensitivity or protein synthesis tracks with insulin sensitivity, nor does it decrease with glycogen compensation – quite the contrary in fact.

        • Hi Borge,

          According to BioRhythm Diet these are the reasons why not to completely refill muscle glycogen, and the role of glycogen compensation in amino acid uptake.

          Could you please clarify?

          Keep up the good work, Clood

          “Also, I’m going to argue that slightly delaying complete glycogen (super)compensation will maintain a higher insulin sensitivity, i.e. insulin can do its job at shuttling nutrients into the muscle more efficiently if it’s not completely full.

          Noted scientists Kevin D. Tipton specializing in amino acid and protein research has mentioned in a paper I just can’t seem to dig up right now, that a cell-full phenomena which would happen if you supercompensated glycogen stores decreases amino acid uptake and increases oxidation (it is burned off as energy instead of used for growth).

          Hence, keeping a slight nutrient deficit by prioritizing protein intake and saving up carbs for later seems like an even more interesting thought, doesn’t it?”

          • Yeah, I’m not completely convinced that one should delay glycogen supercompensation post-workout, so depending on the individual diet setup I might have someone load hard after training. If it’s early in the day, some find that loading up on carbs makes them sleepy and bloated – so saving up for the evening meal is a good thing from an adherence perspective even if we can’t find any hard evidence that there are some protein synthesis benefits from it.

  12. Borge, two questions on this great blog post:
    – will a combination of recommendations on maximum protein per meal given in this article and general principles of BioRythm diet work best? So, for example, four meals, 50 gramms of protein each, first three lower in calories and higher in fats and the last one giving the majority of carbs, but lower in fats? I ask because to slowly gain I have to eat about 3800-4000 cals a day and to cover this much calories, I would have to eat like 250-300g of carbs in the last meal, that is, if I limit fats to about 120-150g per day.

    – do you think that these recommendations would also be optimal for ”assisted” lifters?

    • Slightly more protein in the last meal, but yes – I always use the Biorhythm principles. I have 60kg girls eating 300g of carbs in the last meal, so I don’t think you will have a problem with that.

      For assisted lifters, I can go either way. A lot of research shows that amino acids are utilized with an even higher efficiency – i.e. less protein is needed, but we also know that the rate of MPS is higher – i.e. more protein should be beneficial. I’d say that anything beyond 2.5-3g/kg protein (>1.3g/lbs) is unneeded, even for assisted lifters.

      • >Slightly more protein in the last meal, but yes – I always use the Biorhythm principles.

        Here i guess you would opt for slower digesting source (casien).

        Last few meals and post-workout meals are usually heavier in calories as well?
        My first three meals on a non-workout day are usually 700-800 calories each, while last meal is about 1600-1800 cals.

  13. Last question, Blade:
    – Do you agree with Layne Norton’s idea on supplementing with BCAAs in between meals to keep MPS active?

    • I’m still not sure that it will add any long-term results when protein intake is sufficient, so I just find it a little OCD for my tastes…but sure, go ahead and try it.

  14. Top notch information, as always!

    Limiting protein intake to 25g per meal during the day really does make life easier (and cheaper).

    I got one question though:
    Nowadays, how important do you think it is to keep carb intake in those meals equally low? (carb to protein ratio of max. 1:1 as per your earlier article on that topic)
    Any real-life drawbacks of having meals with about 25g protein and 40g carbs, while the majority of carbs are still being consumed before bedtime?

    • Depends on what your goals are. If you feel good with a 40g/25g ratio that’s all that matters. I personally prefer to save up carbs for post-workout and the evening, but I also feel tired and sluggish with carbs earlier in the day.

      • Ok, so if I feel fine with slightly more carbs, there is no additional favourable partitioning effect to be gained from sticking to a 1:1 ratio? (in the context of slight overfeeding, “lean gaining”)

        Thanks!

        • I would say there definitely seems to be some positive partitioning effects by keeping carbs under control prior to the workout, yes. But if you have high insulin sensitivity and handle carbs well, have a higher activity level and generally do some damage in the gym – you should be fine with a higher carb/protein ratio, though.

  15. What do you of oatmeal as a staple carb source? Believe it or not, I’m not a big fan of white rice/rice in general. :p

    • Not a big fan personally, lots of people (including myself) get bloated and sleepy from it – but if it works for you, go ahead.

        • What about it? You are a grown man I assume, so I’m not going to give you validation on every imagineable food choice you can think of. I personally stick to fruits, veggies, white rice and some sweet potatoes (food intolerance with potatoes, but they are also a great carb source). I don’t freak out over it if I happen to eat a cinnabun or a piece of chocolate, if that’s what I want – I just know what makes me function best and feel good so 90% of the time those are the foods I stick to. YMMV

  16. Another good reading. Question from a typical overanalyzer: I see that you’ve left out carbs in your pre-workout meal (different from previous recommendings, i.e regarding Nitrofuel). Is this because you don’t think it’s necessary, or because your current setup consists of “short” trainings? And do you think Nitrofuel still has its place in trainings which lasts longer (in my case, high intensity martial arts with1,5-2 h passes)?

      • Ok. When you follow your own guidelines stated in the article, I guess you get lots of carbs in your diet. So I wonder if you then bother to refeed as well? Would think that some of the effect with refeeds is gone with a higher carb intake in the diet?

        • You get a nice refeed effect by eating carbs in the evening, yes – but I do prefer to have a day per week where I go above maintenance calories, IF the rest of the week is a calorie deficit and IF someone is lean enough to need it.

          • What? So I shouldn’t refeed if I’m on a high calorie surplus and hav duble digit fat percentage? Damn:-)

            Thx again. And mad props for sharing your knowledge!!

  17. Hvor mye anbefaler du å ligge på når det gjelder fettinntak på diett for en mann? Tenker pr. kg kroppsvekt. Hva er minimum og hva er anbefalt? Lurer forøvrig på karb med det samme, selv om karb vel er vanskelig å si med tanke på forskjellig aktivitetsnivå osv.

    Men det er vel en viss minimums fettgrense man ikke bør gå over for å ikke forstyrre vitale funksjoner?

    • Det kan jeg ikke gi deg noe godt svar på, det handler om kontekst. I stor grad klarer du deg med kun 2-3g EPA+DHA pr dag, men det er jo studier som indikerer at fettinntaket på lengre sikt med fordel kan være minst 20% av kaloriene for å bevare testosteronproduksjonen. Det må imidlertid sees i sammenheng med hvordan du setter opp dietten forøvrig, og om du er i overskudd eller underskudd, her er det få fasitsvar. Som regel havner det et sted mellom 0,5-1,5g/kg kroppsvekt. Når kcal og protein er bestemt, kan du skalere karb og fett ut fra dine behov og ønsker.

  18. Ok, so I apologize if I’m being a pain in the ass (I probably am), but I was wondering if this is a good setup wrt the Biorythm-guidelines? Is the carb intake in the last meal too high? Training day, btw.

    M1 (11-12am) – 25g protein, 20g carbs, 20g fat
    Before training (3:30pm) – 20g protein, 20g carbs, 5g fat (trace)
    Training from 4-5pm
    After training (5pm) – 30g protein, 40g carbs, 15g fat
    1hr walk with the dog from 6-7pm
    M4 (8-9PM) – 45g protein, 300g carbs, 10g fat

    Total: ~2500kcals, 120g protein, 380g carbs, 50g fat

    62kg, male (I think). Goal is to gain weight.

    Thank you for sharing your wealth of knowlegde with us, Borge. I greatly admire your character.

    • As for calories, as long as it is slightly above what you are maintaining on, it is fine.

      I would move a lot more carbs post-workout, you could easily triple it there.

  19. Adding onto Chris’ question, would a proper set-up look about the same as the one he posted if someone’s goal was fat loss, so long as overall calories were kept below maintenance? IE still eating a ton of carbs in the evening/post workout taking into account scaling fat intake up if a person’s bodyfat level is higher, and scaling fat intake down if they are already lean (under 10%)?

    Also, “I would move a lot more carbs post-workout, you could easily triple it there.”… 900g of carbs for a 62kg guy? Wow!

    • Ummm…he was having 40g of carbs post-workout in the plan he posted, so 120g not 900.

      A fat loss plan would require a deficit, that is correct. The specific setup would depend on the individual, obviously.

  20. Doh, my bad – I was looking at the largest carb intake (300g in M4) for the total evening/PWO window. That makes sense, thanks!

  21. Hey Borge,
    quick question: For off days, I am going to lower my carbs…probably down to around 100g (250ish on training days). These carbs are partially to rebuild from the training day before (I lift MWF) and prepare for the next days session. Do you recommend starchy carbs or fruit? And should I have them generally around my last meal of the day?

    I hope I’m clear with my question. I recently found your sites and have been diving into your articles. So far I’m really enjoying what I’m reading and looking forward to a book if you’re still working on it!

  22. After experiencing a bunch of weird symptoms for some time now, as well as monitoring my blood glucose levels, I’ve come to the conclusion that I have (mild) reactive hypoglycemia.

    Do you think it’s wise for me to continue following the Biorythm guidelines, especially in regards to the high carb intake at night? One advice given to people with reactive hypoglycemia is to decrease the total intake of carbs, and since my goal is to bulk, I’m currently consuming in the range of 350-450g carbs per day (60g fat, 120-150g protein, 62kg bodyweight).

    An example of a training-day:
    6-7am: 30g carbs, 30g protein, 20g fat
    11-12am: 40g carbs, 30g protein, 15g fat
    3:30pm, before training: 40g carbs, 5g BCAA
    5pm, after training: 140g carbs, 40g protein, 15g fat
    8pm: 160g carbs, 50g protein, 10g fat

    Total:
    2800kCal
    410g carbs
    150g protein
    60g fat

    I go hypoglycemic at 9-10-11am, as well as 1-2-3pm…

  23. Does a higher proteinintake with some of the meals and hence higher leucine content lower overall protein-synthesis, or is just 2,5-3 g the lowest amount that gives optimal results? You may have explained this, but my english isn`t 100%…

    Does it matter if you use fish-oil at larger doses a couple of times pr week instead of daily? From what I understand I gets stored i fat tissue and used at demand?

    Anyways, I really like that you share stuff like this with “weekend warriors” like many of us. Keep up the good stuff. I guess there will be a few more words on protein from you, though they may be more of a evolutionary and not revolutionery kind 🙂

    • A higher protein intake increases protein oxidation, I’m not sure we can say that a single meal would lower overall protein synthesis and I suspect it won’t. A chronically high protein intake might, thought.

      I think you should be fine with a higher intermittent intake of fish oil, yes.

      The final word on protein has yet to be published, I’m sure – but nowadays I’m thinking that just eating more by hunger and demand is much better than a static and predetermined intake. Both wrt meal frequency/patterns and macros/calories.

  24. Hey Borge!

    I have a few questions. I am a 120 lb male at 5 9 and obviously trying to gain weight lol. I have been getting in around 50 grams of fat, 220 grams of protein (!), and 275 grams of carbs. WHat digestive issues did you notice went away with less protein, just less bloating? Its funny because many people seem to blame bloating on carbs (they could just be eating the wrong carbs as well, but like you I stick to white basmati and jasmin rice, white potatoes, yams, and fruit. Post workout I will use a karbolyn drink or a drink with cyclin dextrins.).

    I also am curious in trying the biorythm diet. I have normally just spread carbs throughout the day and focused the majority around my workout, which is normally around noon. How do you recommend structuring carb intake if I can only train at that time?

    I have only tried eating the majority of my carbs in the evening a few times and when I did I always felt a bit bloated the next morning. Do you think it was just such a major change in eating habits could take a few days or a week or two for the body to get used to before it becomes “normal” to it?

    • my usual day normally looks like

      my fats split evenly over 5 meals, and carbs are

      meal 1/pre workout meal = 50 carbs
      post workout shake = 55-60
      meal 2/post workout meal = 50-60
      meal 3/mid day meal = 20-30
      meal4/dinner = 50-60
      meal 5/small meal or shake before bed is 10-20 grams carbs

    • First of all, your protein intake is way to high. I am 220lbs and eat less than you. So try lowering your protein to 120g and increasing carbs to 375 first.

      • THanks borge,

        Would it be worthwhile shifting some of the carbs from the periworkout period (maybe 10 or so from pre/post shake/post meal, each) and moving them to dinner to make it the largest carb meal, or is keeping it the way it is fine? WHich do you find leads to the best results in most of your clients?

  25. Will do. Do you think that alone without a calorie increase (since I will be eating the same cals, just more carbs) may translate tomore growth? Also, should I count any supplemental bcaas or eaas I use during the workout towards y overall protein intake?

    You think there is no need to do the bio rythm style now either?

    Thanks again borge (that (r)ice cream with protein, rice, and pumpkin looks pretty dan tasty btw. Try mixing some greek yogurt in there too to give it more of an ice cream consistency!

    • I still see a Biorhythm pattern in your food intake, carbs focused around workout and in the evening. I have no problems with 20-30g of carbs for the other meals or a small protein feeding just before bedtime.

      You may see some differences from the changes, but you will also have more room for a calorie increase once you get the ratios optimized.

  26. hey borge. I wanted to ask you about something that I never get a clear answer. I’ve read that a normal sized meal (with protein carbs fat fiber) takes about 6-8 hours to get digested. So if I have such a meal 2-3 hours before my training does it mean that I don’t need to eat for even 4-5 hours after workout?In general ,does pre workout nutrition eliminate the need to eat something soon after training? I know all studies have been done on fasted subjects so does any of post workout benefits apply to not fasted trainees? thanks alot!!

    • It varies on the meal composition and size, so some meals might just take 3-5hrs to digest. Even if you have food still digesting from the last meal you can get a protein synthesis response, depending on the protein source – i.e. some hydrolyzed proteins, EAAs and BCAAs bypass the other nutrients during digestion.