strength training question

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strength training question

Postby mommyz51 » Wed Jan 02, 2008 7:04 am

I am new to this discussion board, but not new to healthy eating. I have been told by a personal trainer that if I want to really see results in my strength training I need to eat 5 - 6 meals a day and get in 30% of my calories in protein. I am vegan and only eat 3 meals a day. My protein is probably 10-15% of my diet, fat about the same and the rest in complex carbohydrates.

What are your thoughts on this. Can I still get good results and continue to eat the way I know is best?
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Postby serenity » Thu Jan 03, 2008 8:48 am

Sorry for the lack of replies. I guess we get weary of this question coming up. I don't know why trainers (or Americans in general) are so obsessed with protein.

Here is a thread with some good replies to a similar question: ... ein+muscle

In addition, go to Dr. McDougall's main page (tab at the top of this page) and click on Search. Type in athlete. You will get a bunch of articles he has written that addresses this.

Best wishes.
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Postby DianeR » Fri Jan 04, 2008 8:19 am

Hi. I meant to respond yesterday but didn't have the time to give this topic the time it deserves. It seems like I've been discussing and researching this one a lot recently.

The 30% protein (or even higher :eek: ) recommendation is common, as is the idea of eating at least one gram of protein for each pound of body weight. However, I've never found anyone who cites any proof that: (1) this level of protein is healthy for one's body, or (2) that it makes any difference in one's training results.

Dr. McDougall, in the protein section of his medical information and in many newsletters, cites the problems caused by excess protein as well as the body's actual needs for the nutrient. As he points out, human mother's milk is only 5% protein and babies grow quite well on it. The RDA for protein, to make sure that people get what they need, is set at twice that. You get into these weighttraining recommendations and they are multiples of the RDA.

I've heard that the most common cause of death among bodybuilders is kidney failure. The logical assumption is that this comes from all the protein.

You can't eat 30% protein with a regular vegan diet. You couldn't get there even if you ate nothing but beans. You would have to supplement with protein powders. I have my doubts about the safety of nutrients isolated from the foods they come from. Dr. McDougall has mentioned the problems with isolated soy protein, which don't happen with regular soy foods, for instance.

I've heard a dietician say that, with even heavy training, one's protein needs are probably only 10% higher (in terms of grams of protein, not percentage of calories). Of course, if you are training like that, you are eating more and thus will naturally consume more grams of protein (not a higher percentage of calories, though).

Vegetarians have more strength and endurance than meateaters. How can this be if protein is so critical? To quote from Robbins:

"At Yale, Professor Irving Fisher designed a series of tests to compare the stamina and strength of meat-eaters against that of vegetarians. He selected men from three groups: meat-eating athletes, vegetarian athletes, and vegetarian sedentary subjects. Fisher reported the results of his study in the Yale Medical Journal.25 His findings do not seem to lend a great deal of credibility to the popular prejudices that hold meat to be a builder of strength.

"Of the three groups compared, the...flesh-eaters showed far less endurance than the abstainers (vegetarians), even when the latter were leading a sedentary life."26
Overall, the average score of the vegetarians was over double the average score of the meat-eaters, even though half of the vegetarians were sedentary people, while all of the meat-eaters tested were athletes. After analyzing all the factors that might have been involved in the results, Fisher concluded that:

"...the difference in endurance between the flesh-eaters and the abstainers (was due) entirely to the difference in their diet.... There is strong evidence that is conducive to endurance."27
A comparable study was done by Dr. J. Ioteyko of the Academie de Medicine of Paris.28 Dr. Ioteyko compared the endurance of vegetarian and meat-eaters from all walks of life in a variety of tests. The vegetarians averaged two to three times more stamina than the meat-eaters. Even more remarkably, they took only one-fifth the time to recover from exhaustion compared to their meat-eating rivals.

In 1968, a Danish team of researchers tested a group of men on a variety of diets, using a stationary bicycle to measure their strength and endurance. The men were fed a mixed diet of meat and vegetables for a period of time, and then tested on the bicycle. The average time they could pedal before muscle failure was 114 minutes. These same men at a later date were fed a diet high in meat, milk and eggs for a similar period and then re-tested on the bicycles. On the high meat diet, their pedaling time before muscle failure dropped dramatically--to an average of only 57 minutes. Later, these same men were switched to a strictly vegetarian diet, composed of grains, vegetables and fruits, and then tested on the bicycles. The lack f animal products didn't seem to hurt their performance--they pedaled an average of 167 minutes.29

Wherever and whenever tests of this nature have been done, the results have been similar. This does not lend a lot of support to the supposed association of meat with strength and stamina.

Doctors in Belgium systematically compared the number of times vegetarians and meat-eaters could squeeze a grip-meter. The vegetarians won handily with an average of 69, whilst the meat-eaters averaged only 38. As in all other studies which have measured muscle recovery time, here, too, the vegetarians bounced back from fatigue far more rapidly than did the meat-eaters.30

I know of many other studies in the medical literature which report similar findings. But I know of not a single one that has arrived at different results. As a result, I confess, it has gotten rather difficult for me to listen seriously to the meat industry proudly proclaiming "meat gives strength" in the face of overwhelming evidence to the contrary."

Quoted at

I have tried to find research about protein and training to see what fuels these recommendations one hears. I couldn't find anything. Instead I found:

"Scientists have recently put protein supplements through rigorous
tests, and the results have fallen far short of the promises. Two
studies described in the February 1999 issue of the scientific
journal Sports Medicine tell the tale. In one study, six inactive men
and women and seven highly trained athletes spent 13 days on a diet
that included a whopping 2.4 grams of protein for kilogram body
weight (that's roughly 218 grams for a 200 pound person). They gained
weight no faster than when they ate just 0.86 grams of protein per
kilogram. An earlier study of 12 beginning bodybuilders, all men,
produced similar results. During four weeks of intensive training,
the subjects who got 2.6 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight
each day didn't gain muscle or strength any faster than those who got
only 1.4 grams of protein per kilogram. A 10-week study of 33 men in
2004 similarly showed no difference in strength between those who
consumed a protein supplement and those who didn't."

I think you can get perfectly fine results eating a healthy McDougall diet, or as you put it, "the way I know is best." I put my trust more in Dr. McDougall's knowledge of probably thousands of studies and experience with as many patients (and all those doctors, dieticians, nutrition scientists, etc. who agree with him) than what some trainer says (based on what?) I notched up my strength training substantially last year and added muscle and a great deal of added strength. I kept to McDougall and just ate as much and as frequently as my hunger indicated I should. I had no problems sticking with the diet, fatigue, etc. Meanwhile, I see on the board for my exercise program that lots of people struggle with the 50 to 30% protein recommendation, they feel fatigued and find they have to "cheat" with carbs, and the like. My results are just as good if not better than theirs.

As far as multiple meals I don't see the point. If you can't get enough calories in otherwise or are training for hours and otherwise can't keep your blood sugar up, maybe. If you are trying to lose weight and mini-meals cause you to eat less, maybe. But I haven't seen any evidence that 6 meals give you a better training result than 3 meals.

Perhaps this recommendation comes because, contrary to what many people believe, protein doesn't maintain one's blood sugar that well, as compared to complex carbs. So high protein folks feel the need to eat frequently to keep from "bonking," to use a term I've heard.
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Postby jp17 » Wed Jan 16, 2008 9:09 pm

I too, strength train and have wondered about this topic. And may even have postd about it recently myself.

What I've read in a few sources is that in regards to strength training on a vegan diet, as long as sufficient calories are consumed to satisfy the increase in hunger that comes from exercise, sufficient protein will be obtained. And of course, a varied, whole foods vegan diet as opposed to junk vegan.

I do most days add 2 tablespoons of ground hemp seed (sold at my health food store and called "Hemp Protein Powder" but is whole, ground seed) to a smoothie. It adds 15 grams of protein, 137 cals and 6 grams of fat, i think all omega 3,6 &9. With this I achieve about 15% calories from protein. I usually get 1/2 to 3/4 gram per pound of bodyweight. My trainer also recommended 1 gram per pound. That would be 117. I get 60-80 a day.

I think another barometer is how you feel, can you see improvement, have you been able to increase reps or weight? Also, I think bodyfat percentage measuring with the calipers could tell you how you are progressing.
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Postby Karen » Tue Jan 29, 2008 4:25 pm

The reason that fitness club trainers recommend high protein intake is because they make a huge margin on selling protein products, drinks, supplements, and candies.

Most independent trainers who are worth their money will not tell you to force more protein down your throat. Yes, they still recommend more than you need, but they don't push it nearly as much as gym rats do.
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Postby boardn10 » Sat Mar 22, 2008 10:59 am

I was a trainer for years and also have been body building and just lifting weights for health for over 20 years as well. I have always found a few protein drinks a day to be a nice addition and seem to help me in my goals. However, you should be able to get most of what you need form food. You'll know based on your gains and/or goals met.

One thing though, I am a huge believer in grazing, which means eating smaller meals throughout the day. 5-6 meals is about right. There is substanial research on this subject and has been proven. I have a lot of experience myself and with training people that smaller meals through the day make a big difference in metabolism and also muscle gain, fat loss. I even eat right befor ebed and sometime sin the middle of the night...but that is me. I am much leaner than when eating three meals a day. At least make the meals smaller and snack in between.

I am also starting another thread on veggie protein shakes.

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Postby Clary » Sat Mar 22, 2008 11:24 am

boardn10 wrote:I was a trainer for years and also have been body building and just lifting weights for health for over 20 years as well. I have always found a few protein drinks a day to be a nice addition and seem to help me in my goals...

...I am also starting another thread on veggie protein shakes.

And yet, Rich, almost every thread you start on this board is one about confusion over your health conditions, or being scared over a new personal diagnosis or physical or mental health problem.

Maybe drinking those few loaded protein drinks each day possibly contributes to your many health problems. I certainly don't know, but it might be worth looking at the possibility, especially in light of what Dr. McDougall teaches if you are attempting to follow his program. (Dr. McDougall doesn't recommend any kind of "Protein Shakes"--"veggie", "vegan" or otherwise.)

It's worth a thought.

Did your McDougall books ever arrive? Which of Dr. McDougall's programs did you decide to follow?

There is really great support here on this Dr. McDougall Discussion Board for those wanting to follow Dr. McDougall's programs (as well as "tons" of other information!).

--but if you are more comfortable with other guidelines and programs, and supplements and excess protein and such, that are not in agreement with the McDougall program; and more in agreement with other authors, and bloggers, and doctors and merchants and websites who/which have philosphies and dietary/nutritional/exercise guidelines opposed to Dr. McDougall's teachings, you could possibly get more personalized support and recommendations for your personal choices on a board geared more to your personal interests and practices.

Good Luck to you in whatever ever you choose.
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Postby boardn10 » Sat Mar 22, 2008 1:31 pm

Very true Clary, I still have a lot of confusion as you can see. I keep getting sucked back into believing certain things. I just got scared recently when Dr. Colgan recommended I increase my glutamin intake via whey protein as did some of my doctors. Colgan has a great track record like Dr. McDougall, but I like the fact that Dr. McDougall has a great track record without all the supplements! This is a great board and thanks for setting me straight! :)
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Postby Jackie J » Sat Mar 22, 2008 2:40 pm

I think you should post your confusion about protein to Jeff Novick on this board -- he will give you an irrefutable scientific explanation about the relationship between animal protein, and protein drinks and weight training. It would be beneficial for all of us to read...
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One post by Jeff Novick about protein and supplements...

Postby Clary » Sun Mar 23, 2008 7:20 am

Jackie J wrote:Hi,
I think you should post your confusion about protein to Jeff Novick on this board -- he will give you an irrefutable scientific explanation about the relationship between animal protein, and protein drinks and weight training. It would be beneficial for all of us to read...

Good Idea. I agree that Jeff's explanation would be beneficial for us all. His information is comprehensive and presented clearly and supportive of Dr. McDougall's program. I greatly appreciate his contributions and enjoy and benefit from his posts. His forum is a goldmine of information! :nod: (--and often filled with humor to help us lighten up a little! :!: )

He has addressed the subject from time to time in answer to specific questions about protein or soy or supplements, etc. Here is one example:

Posted: Tue Mar 18, 2008 5:14 am

Pink Princess wrote: What are your thoughts on creatine monohydrate and/or isolate soy protein powder for shakes (assuming they aren't used long term)? I've head a lot of mixed things.
Do you suggest any sort of supplementing with powder?
What about vitamins? Or Cliff protein bars (20g veggie protein per bar)? What about fake meats? Are their any natural foods that he should begin incorporating more into his already McDougallish meals to help him (such as beans)?
Thanks so much for your help!

Excess protein, and isolated proteins are not necessary nor do i recommend them. I do not recommend isolated soy protein, creating monohydrate, protein bars or fake meats. In regard to supplements, in general, no, I do not recommend them. If you are a vegan, than B12 would be an important consideration.

There are some sites out there about vegan bodybuilding, if that is you goal, but I am not familiar with the differences between them nor would I endorse them without knowing more about them.

While I am not sure why you want to "bulk up". To maintain adequate muscle mass that is required for optimal health and long life, does not require extreme exercise and/or modifications to a normally healthy diet, "Bulking up" may not always be healthy and often times, many of the techniques and dietary recommendations to bulk up are in direct conflict with health. So, you may have to make some compromises.

If you were looking to increase protein in your diet, then I would recommend making a shift in your choices and focusing more on known healthy whole foods that are not only higher in protein but also wont harm you, like beans

In Health
Jeff Novick, MS, RD[/quote]

This quote from one of his posts is representative of what he has posted on other occasions, also:

In general, I do not recommend supplements, (though vegans should take a B12). Identifying a deficiency in someones diet, is not a rationale to take a supplement but a reason to try and improve ones diet. While it does take a little advance planning and time and effort in the beginning of making a change, overtime, it becomes much easier and a way of life, that is really worth it. --Jeff Novick
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Re: strength training question

Postby JeffN » Sun Mar 23, 2008 9:19 am


mommyz51 wrote: I have been told by a personal trainer that if I want to really see results in my strength training I need to eat 5 - 6 meals a day and get in 30% of my calories in protein.

What are your thoughts on this.

You need a new personal trainer. :)

It is very important that personal trainers, unless they are qualified, trained and accredited to do so, refrain from giving out nutrition advice. In some states, it is illegal.

However, if you like the trainer, than use them only for exercise help and not nutrition.

I also have a theory, never take nutrition advice from anyone whose bicep is bigger than their brain. :)

mommyz51 wrote: Can I still get good results and continue to eat the way I know is best?

Strength training exercises, along with a proper diet, that includes adequate protein, which is easily obtained on the McDougall program is what will build strength.

Here is a study where people on a low protein diet (less than what you get on the McDougall program, not only increased strength, but also built muscle. As you will see, the difference wasnt in the protein but in the exercise.

In both groups, the subjects were maintained on a very low protein diet due to kidney disease. One did strength training, one did not. The on who did the strength training, despite the very low protein diet,...." total muscle fiber increased by 32 percent, and muscle strength increased by 30 percent after 12 weeks of strength training"

(Full article is at the link and I have included the press release. It doesnt list the exact protein content of the diet, but typically speaking, .8g/kg is considered the RDA and for kidney disease, they often use .5g/kg.) ... co0505.htm

Strength Training Is an Antidote to Muscle Loss By
May 3, 2005

Resistance or "strength" training has repeatedly been shown to be a safe and effective method of reversing sarcopenia, or muscle loss, in the elderly. The condition actually starts around age 45, when muscle mass begins to decline at a rate of about 1 percent per year. Scientists funded by the Agricultural Research Service (ARS) have been studying the factors involved in gradual muscle loss since 1988.

The work is conducted at the Jean Mayer USDA Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging at Tufts University in Boston, Mass. Carmen Castaneda Sceppa, a physician specializing in nutrition, led the research at the HNRCA's Nutrition, Exercise Physiology, and Sarcopenia Laboratory (NEPS).

While older adults need strength training to maintain their muscle mass, exercise can also help reduce the risk and symptoms of many chronic diseases, such as arthritis, coronary artery disease, diabetes, frailty,
obesity and osteoporosis.

Exercise is by definition different from moderate physical activity. Actual exercise--by design--improves the five key components of physical fitness: muscle strength, muscle endurance, body composition, cardio-respiratory endurance and flexibility.

The findings show that in a group of volunteers with osteoarthritis, a joint disease, muscle strength increased by 14 percent and balance improved by 55 percent after a 12-week strength-training program. Flexibility also improved by 17 percent, and pain, based on self reports, decreased by 30 percent.

In another group of volunteers, with chronic kidney disease and on low-protein diets, total muscle fiber increased by 32 percent, and muscle strength increased by 30 percent after 12 weeks of strength training. Those who did not exercise lost about 9 pounds, or 3 percent of their body weight.

Instruction by a trained individual is important for strength-training older adults, according to HNRCA senior exercise physiologist Jennifer Layne, who started a grass-roots exercise initiative for older adults inspired by NEPS studies.

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Thank you all for your information on protein and training

Postby cuddles » Sun Apr 06, 2008 5:30 pm

I have found the postings very interested here regarding protein and strength training. I have personal trainer who has suggested I get the powdered protein stuff to make. My personal trainer has suggested that I get 5 times a day and that I need to get a lot of protein. The personal trainer is new to me since I have only recently joined a gym and hired a personal trainer. I've never worked with a personal trainer until now and eating so much protein with eating 5 times a day is all new to me and confusing.

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Postby DianeR » Mon Apr 14, 2008 5:58 pm

I just read a description of an interesting study about diet and muscle mass. (I'm too cheap to purchase the entire article so I'll give you someone's description LOL)

Researchers at the Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging, at Tufts University, looked to see what dietary components correlated to the amount of muscle. They found a strong link with potassium. As explained in Science News," The more of it indiviuals consumed, the more muscle they had, all other things being equal..."

The explanation given in Science News is as follows: "It boils down to pH (level of acidity). They body converts protein and cereal grains, major parts of the U.S. diet, to acid residues. Excess acid triggers breakdown of muscle into components that ultimately make ammonia, which removes the acids. Potassium-heavy diets, being alkaline, can buffer those acids without sacrificing muscle."

Fruits and veggies are what provides potassium.

So this is something I hadn't heard before. Yes, excess protein can hurt your bones. But it can also, apparently, hurt your muscles, despite all the magical "eat protein and you'll get muscle" thinking out there.

The article is in the March issue of the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, lead researcher Bess Dawson-Hughes, if anyone wants to read more and is less cheap than me :D
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strength training question

Postby rogermoore » Mon Apr 21, 2008 9:52 am

I am a vegan and I pump iron 3 days a week and I ride my bike long distances and take 1 1/2 hour long spin (cycling) classes and I used to run marathons. Yes I eat at least 6 small meals (a meal may be a snack of an apple, some carrots, a small amount of brown rice or even garbonzo beans). I continue to build lean muscle and have greater endurance on the bike. If you are eating vegetalbes & whole grains you will have plenty of protein.

I encourage al of my weight loss clients to eat 5 or 6 small meals each day and I use Dr. McDougall's Maximum Weight Loss as basis of healthy eating recommendations.

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