Kale - Soon at McDonalds? - © nrm.com

Building Strength: More Protein Alone Not The Answer?

For the past several decades, the cardinal rule for body builders – or anyone looking to boost strength – has been to consume a lot of protein supplements and do a lot of exercise. Now, researchers say protein alone may not be the key. Two separate studies support each other…

Skinny Bryson – 2020: Before the training program.

Study #1

Researchers at the University of Illinois (Uof I) have published a controversial report on the effects of increased protein consumption among those who undertake strength training diet and resistance exercise programs. That’s got to be a disappointment for folks like rising PGA Golf pro like Bryson deChambeau, who spent the PGA’s tournament play suspension last year due to COVIV-19 working out and cramming protein supplements in an effort to become the first PGA star to exceed the 400-yard drive mark and achieve an off-the-tee ball speed of over 200 m.p.h.

Now researchers the U of I say they have solid proof that consuming more protein, over a certain level, by itself does not result in increasingly greater strength over time, all other training conditions remaining equal.

According to an abstract of the study report: ‘A 10-week muscle-building and dietary program involving 50 middle-aged adults found no evidence that eating a high-protein diet increased strength or muscle mass more than consuming a moderate amount of protein while training. The intervention involved a standard strength-training protocol with sessions three times per week. None of the participants had previous weightlifting experience.”

Study team spokesperson Dr. Nicholas Burd noted: “We found that high protein intake does not further increase gains in strength or affect body composition,” Burd said. “It didn’t increase lean mass more than eating a moderate amount of protein. We didn’t see more fat loss, and body composition was the same between the groups. They got the gain in weight, but that weight gain was namely from lean-body-mass gain.”

It’s easy to see, just by watching the latest week’s PGA tournament coverge on TV, that deChambeau got he weight gain he wanted from his protein-only regime, but he also seems to have hit a glass ceiling on strength, as Burd and his team saw in their test subjects.

Study #2

At about the same time as the first study was published, in the American Journal of Physiology: Endocrinology and Metabolism, another by researchers from Edith Cowan University (ECU) released results of their independent study on the effects of other foods or supplements on strength gain.

Bulked-Up Bryson - © myavidgolfer.comBulked-up Bryson – 2021: After the training program.

According to an abstract of the study report: “Poor muscle function is linked to greater risk of falls and fractures and is considered a key indicator of general health and well being.”

“Researchers examined data from 3,759 Australians taking part in Melbourne’s Baker Heart and Diabetes Institute AusDiab study over a 12-year period. They found those with the highest regular nitrate consumption had 11 per cent stronger lower limb strength than those with the lowest nitrate intake. Up to 4 per cent faster walking speeds were also recorded.

Lead researcher Dr. Marc Sim from ECU’s Institute for Nutrition Research said the findings reveal important evidence for the role diet plays in overall health.

“Our study has shown that diets high in nitrate-rich vegetables may bolster your muscle strength independently of any physical activity,” he added. Nitrate-rich veggies include, predominantly, Leafy Greens like Lettuce, Kale (see photo, top of page) and Spinach.

“To optimize muscle function we propose that a balanced diet rich in green leafy vegetables in combination with regular exercise, including weight training, is ideal,” Sim notes.

My take

DeChambeau was frequently videoed marching the fairways of various golf courses during the first few weeks of the PGA’s resumption of play, earlier this year. He was often seen slamming back back single-serving bottles of protein shakes as he went. Water remains the almost-universal beverage of preference of other pro golfers during a tourney.

Yo! Bryson! Keep doing what you’re doing with the protein supplements… But alternating them with Spinach or Kale Smoothies for best overall results in your strength building program! We’ll all be watching with interest when you show up for round one of your upcoming weekly tournaments!

~ Maggie J.