Updated: Feb 11
What does the research show?
A review published in The British Journal of Sports Medicine analysed data from 49 studies into whether protein supps improve the muscle mass and strength gains achieved by resistance training. The answer – which of course comes with conditions because nothing is simple – is that YES, protein supplementation does result in greater increases in strength and muscle mass, when compared to control groups who are training without the supplements.
Training experience increases the effect – so an experienced lifter will see more benefit from protein supplements than will a new recruit at the gym.
Age decreases the effect – the older you are, the less results you will see from protein supplementation. (Seems like youth gets to the cheat code there.)
The benefits max out at intakes of 1.6 grams of protein per kilo of bodyweight per day. So in terms of muscle gain, there’s no point dosing higher than that.
The studies used a range of protein supplements (eg whey, soy, whole foods), and they had a decent number of female participants. In fact, 14 of the study groups were exclusively female! This is good news, given the amount of recommendations foisted upon women after only being tested on men.
Do keep in mind that these studies only look at one specific aspect of supplementation. They don’t analyse any other possibly relevant angles such as digestive effects, so they shouldn’t be used as the only factor in deciding whether to rocket up your protein intake.
BJSM kindly made this review free to the public, because it was one of their most popular articles: https://bjsm.bmj.com/content/52/6/376
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