Does protein equal strength?
Updated: Jan 29, 2021
The argument regarding the ideal protein needs of strength athletes is very well researched and comes to a very similar conclusion every time. In order for the body to develop and make adaptations, a sufficient supply of protein needs to be consumed every day by an athlete (Phillips and Van Loon, 2011). Some data suggest that high levels of protein diets can help develop lean muscle mass and improvements in strength when compounded with heavy resistance exercise training, i.e., Olympic weightlifting (Cribb et al., 2006).
Olympic weightlifting athletes must therefore have an increased volume of protein as the study suggests, this is so the protein can be adapted and developed into lean muscle mass in order for the athlete to continue lifting heavier and heavier weights. But how much protein? Present data (Phillips and Van Loon, 2011) shows that strength athletes should consume approximately 12-15% of their daily total caloric intake as protein, about 1.5-2.0 g of protein per kg of body weight (Kårlund et al., 2019). However, if an athlete needs to consume 130g of protein per day, the diet will include either a lot of meals or a form of supplementation.
Many meals in a daily diet plan would not do much wrong. However, if the athlete’s caloric intake of fats required per day has almost been consumed, the athlete does not want to eat any non-required fat or carbohydrate. The best alternative is a protein supplement. A protein supplement will give a big boost, usually around 30g of protein per scoop (Kårlund et al., 2019) with hardly any unnecessary fats or a high amount of carbs. The protein supplement best recommended to strength athletes would be whey protein (Kårlund et al., 2019). It can be taken shortly after a training session and be adequately digested in the body. Unlike other protein supplements like casein protein powder, whey protein powder is digested and absorbed into the body quickly after a training session.
To sum up, the short answer is yes with some strings. Only increasing protein within a diet will allow lean muscle mass to increase somewhat and maintain, however without a proper workout plan in place where the muscle can be developed and grow increasing protein will create unwanted fatty stores.
Cribb, P.J., Williams, A.D., Hayes, A. and Carey, M.F. (2006). The effect of whey isolate and resistance training on strength, body composition and plasma glutamine. Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, 34(5), p.494-509.
Kårlund, A., Gómez-Gallego, C., Turpeinen, A.M., Palo-oja, O.-M., El-Nezami, H. and Kolehmainen, M. (2019). Protein Supplements and Their Relation with Nutrition, Microbiota Composition and Health: Is More Protein Always Better for Sportspeople? Nutrients, [online] 11(4), p.829. Available at: https://www.mdpi.com/2072-6643/11/4/829/htm [Accessed 29 Jan. 2021].
Stuart M. Phillips & Luc J.C. Van Loon. (2011). Dietary protein for athletes: From requirements to optimum adaptation. Journal of Sports Sciences. 29 (1), p.29–38.