The End Of The Protein “Debate”?


Protein intakes – especially as it relates to strength athletes and those involved in regular resistance exercise – has been a hotly debated topic for decades. That’s due in large part to nutritional authorities simply ignoring the data… While the bulk of the data suggests strongly that there’s benefit to protein intakes well above the RDA for protein for those involved in resistance training looking to improve  body composition, not all of the studies agree. Why?

The reason for that appears to be explained in the recent paper by Bosse and Dixon which covers the protein “spread” and “change” theories as it applies to the bulk of studies that examined the issue. This excellent review postulates the “spread” and “change” theories accounts for  why some studies find clear benefit to higher protein intakes, while others failed to.

Although  the bulk of the studies finds benefits to higher than “normal” protein intakes for those hitting the weights intensely, not all studies find the effect. This review examines why, and answers it.  I highly recommend people read this paper, and stick it under the nose of the next person who tells you  ‘there’s no benefits to additional protein,’ and I have posted the (provisional) abstract below with link to full study.

Finally, my article on protein myths, also explores some of the issues surrounding studies on the typical myths of protein and athletes, and there’s additional articles and vids covering the topic here on the BrinkZone.


J. Bosse, B. Dixon. Dietary protein to maximize resistance training: a review and examination of protein spread and change theories
. Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition 2012, 9:42 doi:10.1186/1550-2783-9-42
Published: 8 September 2012


“An appreciable volume of human clinical data supports increased dietary protein for greater gains from resistance training, but not all findings are in agreement. We recently proposed “protein spread theory” and “protein change theory” in an effort to explain discrepancies in the response to increased dietary protein in weight management interventions. The present review aimed to extend “protein spread theory” and “protein change theory” to studies examining the effects of protein on resistance training induced muscle and strength gains.

Protein spread theory proposed that there must have been a sufficient spread or % difference in g/kg/day protein intake between groups during a protein intervention to see muscle and strength differences.

Protein change theory postulated that for the higher protein group, there must be a sufficient change from baseline g/kg/day protein intake to during study g/kg/day protein intake to see muscle and strength benefits.

Seventeen studies met inclusion criteria. In studies where a higher protein intervention was deemed successful there was, on average, a 66.1% g/kg/day between group intake spread versus a 10.2% g/kg/day spread in studies where a higher protein diet was no more effective than control. The average change in habitual protein intake in studies showing higher protein to be more effective than control was +59.5% compared to +6.5% when additional protein was no more effective than control. The magnitudes of difference between the mean spreads and changes of the present review are similar to our previous review on these theories in a weight management context.
Providing sufficient deviation from habitual intake appears to be an important factor in determining the success of additional protein in enhancing muscle and strength gains from resistance training. An increase in dietary protein favorably effects muscle and strength during resistance training.”

Full paper found HERE

And if you don’t wanna read the full paper, the “money” quote that made me smile:

The ‘lay’ recommendation to consume 1 g protein/lb of bodyweight/day (2.2 g/kg/day) while resistance training has pervaded for years. Nutrition professionals often deem this lay recommendation excessive and not supported by research. However, as this review shows, this “lay” recommendation aligns well with research that assesses applied outcome measures of strength and body composition…”



Will Brink is the owner of the Brinkzone Blog. Will has over 15 years experience as a respected author, columnist and consultant, to the supplement, fitness, bodybuilding, and weight loss industry and has been extensively published. Will graduated from Harvard University with a concentration in the natural sciences, and is a consultant to major supplement, dairy, and pharmaceutical companies.


His often ground breaking articles can be found in publications such as Lets Live, Muscle Media 2000, MuscleMag International, The Life Extension Magazine, Muscle n Fitness, Inside Karate, Exercise For Men Only, Body International, Power, Oxygen, Penthouse, Women’s World and The Townsend Letter For Doctors.


Will is the author of the popular e-books, both accompanied by private members forum access , Bodybuilding Revealed & Fat Loss Revealed.


You can also buy Will's other books on Amazon, Apple iBook,  and Barnes and Noble.

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