Wits & Weights | Smart Science to Build Muscle and Lose Fat

Weekend Q&A: Whey vs. Plant Protein, Essential Amino Acids, Too Much Protein Myth

May 18, 2024 Philip Pape, Nutrition Coach & Physique Engineer
Weekend Q&A: Whey vs. Plant Protein, Essential Amino Acids, Too Much Protein Myth
Wits & Weights | Smart Science to Build Muscle and Lose Fat
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Wits & Weights | Smart Science to Build Muscle and Lose Fat
Weekend Q&A: Whey vs. Plant Protein, Essential Amino Acids, Too Much Protein Myth
May 18, 2024
Philip Pape, Nutrition Coach & Physique Engineer

Today we're answering a question about protein intake and supplementation. We'll cover the differences between protein sources, optimal timing, and what happens if you exceed your target intake.

Veronica asked 5 sub-questions:

  • Does every Whey Protein Isolate contain all essential amino acids?
  • Are Essential Amino Acids supplements needed if one meets the daily protein intake from animal protein?
  • Would plant protein have the same effect?
  • Would it matter or would it be better if I take most my protein in my breakfast and dinner and not so high at lunch?
  • What happens in the body if I go above the target protein intake? Will my body use it or store it? Can glycogen be converted to glucose?
Get the answers in today's Weekend Q&A bonus episode.

---

This is a special Weekend Q&A edition of the Wits & Weights podcast, where we supercharge your Saturdays with an answer to one burning question so YOU can put it into action this weekend.

These questions are taken from the Friday LIVE #AskPhilip thread in our free Wits & Weights Facebook community. If you’re feeling overwhelmed by the endless amount of information and, let’s be honest, MISinformation online and just want a straight up answer without the jargon, that’s what this free service is for.

With the LIVE Friday #AskPhilip thread, you can post a specific question relevant to your unique, individual situation that week and have it answered live by me on Friday. If you’d like to experience it yourself, I invite you to use the link in the show notes to join the Wits & Weights Facebook group. It’s totally free and you’ll quickly find out what a positive and supportive community it is.

Join our FREE community here to get access to the #AskPhilip thread!


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Show Notes Transcript Chapter Markers

Today we're answering a question about protein intake and supplementation. We'll cover the differences between protein sources, optimal timing, and what happens if you exceed your target intake.

Veronica asked 5 sub-questions:

  • Does every Whey Protein Isolate contain all essential amino acids?
  • Are Essential Amino Acids supplements needed if one meets the daily protein intake from animal protein?
  • Would plant protein have the same effect?
  • Would it matter or would it be better if I take most my protein in my breakfast and dinner and not so high at lunch?
  • What happens in the body if I go above the target protein intake? Will my body use it or store it? Can glycogen be converted to glucose?
Get the answers in today's Weekend Q&A bonus episode.

---

This is a special Weekend Q&A edition of the Wits & Weights podcast, where we supercharge your Saturdays with an answer to one burning question so YOU can put it into action this weekend.

These questions are taken from the Friday LIVE #AskPhilip thread in our free Wits & Weights Facebook community. If you’re feeling overwhelmed by the endless amount of information and, let’s be honest, MISinformation online and just want a straight up answer without the jargon, that’s what this free service is for.

With the LIVE Friday #AskPhilip thread, you can post a specific question relevant to your unique, individual situation that week and have it answered live by me on Friday. If you’d like to experience it yourself, I invite you to use the link in the show notes to join the Wits & Weights Facebook group. It’s totally free and you’ll quickly find out what a positive and supportive community it is.

Join our FREE community here to get access to the #AskPhilip thread!


📲 Send me a text message!

Support the Show.


🎓 Join Wits & Weights Physique University

👩‍💻 Schedule a FREE nutrition/training audit with Philip

👥 Join our Facebook community for live Q&As & support

✉️ Join the FREE email list with insider strategies and bonus content!

📱 Try MacroFactor for free with code WITSANDWEIGHTS. The only food logging app that adjusts to your metabolism!

🩷 Enjoyed this episode? Share it on social and follow/tag @witsandweights

🤩 Love the podcast? Leave a 5-star review

📞 Send a Q&A voicemail

Philip Pape:

Today we're answering a question about protein intake and supplementation. We'll cover the differences between protein sources, optimal timing and what happens if you exceed your target intake. Stay tuned for science-based answers on today's weekend Q&A. Welcome to the Wits and Weights Podcast. I'm your host, philip Pape, and this twice-a-week podcast is dedicated to helping you achieve physical self-mastery by getting stronger, optimizing your nutrition and upgrading your body composition. We'll uncover science-backed strategies for movement, metabolism, muscle and mindset, with a skeptical eye on the fitness industry, so you can look and feel your absolute best. Let's dive right in. Absolute best. Let's dive right in. Hello and welcome to the special weekend Q&A edition of the Wits and Weights podcast, where we supercharge your Saturdays and Sundays with an answer to one burning question so you can put it into action this weekend. These questions are taken from the weekly Ask Philip thread in our free Wits and Waits Facebook community. If you're feeling overwhelmed by the endless amount of information and, let's be honest, misinformation online and just want a straight-up answer without the jargon, that's what this free service is for. With the weekly Ask Philip thread, you can post a specific question relevant to your unique individual situation that week and have it answered live by me on Friday. If you'd like to experience it yourself, I invite you to use the link in the show notes to join the Wits and Weights Facebook group. It's totally free and you'll quickly find out what a positive and supportive community it is.

Philip Pape:

With that, let's get to today's Q&A. The question today is here we go Question as to protein and protein powders as a supplement to meet daily intake, and there are one, two, three, four, five specific questions in here, and so I'm going to actually ask. I'm going to say the question and then I'm going to provide my answer. I've got all my notes together here. So the first question does every whey protein isolate contain all the essential amino acids? Okay, this is a pertinent question because you've probably heard, we want to get all our amino acids for maximum muscle. Protein synthesis to build muscle, preserve muscle, optimal health, protein synthesis to build muscle, preserve muscle, optimal health.

Philip Pape:

Whey protein is one of the most pure forms of getting all the essential amino acids. It's from an animal product, from milk, and it contains them all, so it's a complete protein and it especially has a high level of leucine. It has about 10% by volume of leucine, so in a 30 gram scoop you're going to get about three grams of leucine and you might've heard about the leucine. So in a 30 gram scoop you're going to get about three grams of leucine and you might've heard about the leucine threshold, which is like two and a half grams. I don't want to get hung up on that. In fact, you'll hear me cover this in some of your other questions but the answer is yes. So that's why I love whey protein and also casein protein and also animal sources of protein in food form and milk and dairy and all of that stuff Anything you can tolerate or that you have in your diet.

Philip Pape:

Right, if you don't eat any of those things, that's fine. You could always go to plants as well, and plants and I think you're going to ask this question a bit later but the right combination of plants and it doesn't take that much manipulation will also get you all the amino acids. I've definitely come around on that topic over the past few years. I used to be one of those like well, plants don't have all the amino acids, so you really need to mix and match very precisely. It's not that crazy. A lot of this stuff you're going to find has a very low practical threshold, even if it has a higher optimal threshold. That makes sense, right? So we always have to think of like are we even doing the practical thing for us first before we think of the optimal thing beyond that, because optimal sometimes requires trade-offs that we're not willing to make or don't even need to make. So, yes, whey protein, all the amino acids, and it's high in leucine, so it's an excellent source of protein.

Philip Pape:

Your second question is are essential amino acids? So this is EAAs are essential amino acid supplements needed if one meets the daily protein intake from animal protein? Now, the way you phrased that question is an emphatic no, they're not needed if you get all your protein from now. You said animal protein, but I would just say from any source of protein if you get it all. I've definitely commented on this before on a previous Q&A and I may have commented on it in a podcast as well, but I think they're a waste of money for 99% of people. If you're meeting your daily protein intake with high quality protein, they're not needed. All right, because, again, you have your complete amino acids.

Philip Pape:

Why do you need to take amino acids? The only people these possibly could be slightly beneficial for are people who train fasted and want to avoid the reduction in, or want to stimulate some muscle protein synthesis that would otherwise be less optimal or even low low if you didn't have it in there. But then I'd be asking you, why are you training fasted? Because I don't think most people are going to perform their best training fasted, and out of the 10 reasons people give me for doing it, nine can be quickly. Um, I don't want to say shot down, but eight or nine can probably be reframed, and you realize that they're not a direct reason to train fasted. But maybe one or two reasons remain, having to do with how you feel and your schedule taking a medication that requires you to wait before you eat, and so you end up working out quickly after you wake up, or something like that. And even then I would say there are ways around it to get some protein from food or some whey protein or whatever in your system as you're starting to work out, and you don't need EAAs. So that's my thought on that.

Philip Pape:

Your next question is would plant protein have the same effect? All right, let's just lay it out there. Plant protein can be just as effective as animal protein for building muscle, for maintaining muscle during fat loss, especially if your diet is full of diversity, right, and I don't think it takes as I mentioned earlier, I don't think it takes a severe level of engineering to figure out the right combination of plants. If you have diversity, you're going to be fine. I think some plant proteins even have complete proteins, like quinoa, soy. But again, you don't have to do it that way. Just enjoy a bunch of different grains, a bunch of different plants, different vegetables, different fruits. Well, most foods aren't going to have protein, but legumes, soy-derived products, if you enjoy those so many. So the answer is yes, it can be just as effective.

Philip Pape:

Where I think people run into trouble is when they don't have enough protein. So, a lot of vegans and some vegetarians although many vegetarians will eat eggs or they'll eat dairy and that helps offset it a bit Vegans. That's a tough place to be and does take a little bit of thought and preparation. But, just like anything we do, takes a little bit of thought and preparation. Constructing your own routine meal plan early on as we go through that metabolic conditioning and that pre-diet maintenance phase, and figuring out what works for you. How do you get enough protein, how do you get enough carbs? You still have to think about it and plan for it and have a roadmap. So vegans, it's just a different way to do that, and so when you look at the evidence anytime, you see that vegans underperform when it comes to muscle building. It's simply because they don't get enough protein. And if they do get enough protein, that difference goes away.

Philip Pape:

So I'm all for plant-based diets if that's what you want. I'm not plant-based, I'm an omnivore. I know some people are plant-based for omnivore. I know some people are plant-based for health reasons, which I feel is more of a dubious reason than for ethical reasons. Meaning, if you're doing it for ethical reasons, there's no argument against that, because that's your values, right? You can't argue against that. If you're doing it for quote-unquote health reasons, I'd want to understand why and I'm going off on a tangent here because I think it's important A lot of people think, oh, I don't eat meat for health. I want to understand where you're going with that, because if it's because of studies that say red meat's bad for you, we have to look at, okay, is that actually processed red meats that are found in people who have unhealthy lifestyles in general and they're confounded with that variable right or the different sources of oils, or the different dairies or the saturated fats. There's so many things we can tease out. I think a plant-based diet or an omnivorous diet can be healthy, and if it's for moral or value reasons, that actually makes the most sense to me. But if, hey, if you want to argue the point that a plant-based diet is quote unquote healthier just on its face, I'd love to have that discussion. And I'm not saying that I won't definitely see reason in that if the evidence supports some of it, okay.

Philip Pape:

The next one is would it matter or would it be better if I take most of my protein in my breakfast and dinner and not so much at lunch? Okay? So this is a great question, veronica, because here's what I'm going to ask you to do. Anytime you have a question like this, the first question I want you to ask yourself back is what's the most practical thing for me, like what fits within my lifestyle, the best that I'm not forcing? Then I want you to ask is that approach good enough to meet my goals? And the reason I did it that way is because when you ask me a question, it's better to take it in breakfast and dinner and not so high at lunch. Are you eating a lot at lunch and worried that that is hurting your gains Because, let's say, it's all concentrated at lunch and dinner and not so much at breakfast. And now you're like, oh, but maybe I should spread it out more and you're worried that that's going to be more difficult or whatever. So I want to tease apart those things.

Philip Pape:

These lifestyle and practical factors are actually important and relevant in my opinion, and they're the foundation of everything I believe in here when I work with clients, because the journey I went through required a lot of cognitive dissonance, meaning things in my brain didn't compute and I would go on a diet and say this doesn't feel right, but I'm doing it because I think I have to do it. So same thing If you don't feel right about something, do you need to do it? Do you need to make that trade-off Now? Sometimes we do. If you just tell me I almost eat no protein right now and you're telling me I have to eat a lot of protein oh, that's so hard Then I'm going to say you know what? Suck it up. My wife would say suck it up, buttercup.

Philip Pape:

I don't mean that in a disparaging way, I mean it in a sometimes there's hard things we have to do, and sometimes, if we have a goal, we have to make choices that support the goal. If we don't want to make those choices, we're not going to get that goal. That's it, just to be a very objective about it. So you don't have to do anything in life, right? But you need to do certain things to cause an outcome Fair enough. Okay, to cause an outcome Fair enough, okay. Anyway, again another tangent, I'm going on. For some reason I'm fired up today. It's probably because I'm on my second cup of coffee and I had a pre workout with caffeine today, probably hitting that limit of milligrams of caffeine, but I make no apologies for it.

Philip Pape:

So your question here's the thing when it comes to protein distribution number one are you getting total daily intake? That is the most the thing. When it comes to protein distribution number one, are you getting total daily intake? That is the most crucial thing. So if you're getting that, veronica, I'm happy to answer your question. If you're not getting it, I'm not going to answer your question Now. I'm going to answer it for everyone now, but you get what I'm saying.

Philip Pape:

So if you get your total protein I don't care if it's in one meal get to that total protein in some practical way that works for you. Then you can say okay, can I optimize it further? Sure, we think that eating two or three times a day instead of one is a decent bump in optimality when it comes to muscle protein synthesis, because you are spiking it more often, you're passing that loosening threshold more often and maybe that means that as your body turns energy amino acids into muscle tissue, it's going to take more of that and put it into muscle instead of fat storage. You know, assuming you're not in a diet right now, that's what we're talking about and you might, over time over like a six month building phase maybe you'll have a 1.1 to 0.9 ratio of muscle to fat instead of just a one-to-one ratio of muscle to fat. That's the kind of difference it makes. That's why we call it optimal and why it's not the thing you should be focusing on.

Philip Pape:

Until you've covered the practical, okay, so, number one, get your total daily intake. Number two sure, spread it out to at least two or three meals. I used to say four or five. You don't have to do that. That gives you a point of diminishing returns above the three. But that's a practical thing. And what do I mean by that? If you're at maintenance or you're building, you probably want to eat four or five times a day anyway, just so you're not stuffed in any given meal, so that you don't feel hungry between long stretches, so that you have a decent amount of energy throughout the day, and just practically it tends to work out that way for most people's schedules. Excuse me, I feel like I'm about to sneeze here. So, but whether it's breakfast, lunch, dinner, whatever, it almost doesn't matter. If you're going to have protein two or three times, I mean, it kind of just practically makes sense that they're going to be a few hours apart, cause I doubt you know, when we say two times, we don't mean I'm going to eat lunch at 12 and I'm going to have a big snack at 1230. It doesn't work that way, right? So I think I answered your question in that it doesn't matter. It doesn't matter. Um, if you eat protein in most snacks or meals, you should be fine, and it helps with things like satiety and the practical nature of it all. So there you go.

Philip Pape:

Last question what happens in the body if I go above the target protein intake? Ah, this is another great question and, by the way. Yes, I get these questions all the time. Yes, I've probably answered them five times on the podcast and, yes, keep asking them because, for some reason, people no, not for some reason, not everybody has received the information. They've received lots of misinformation, and I'm happy that you asked these questions and it also lets me see and observe that those answers aren't so clear still and we need to keep doing a better job communicating them. So I'm happy that you answered them, because that gives more opportunities for people to hear them, hear their answers. Okay, let me know if I'm rambling too much, guys, but I think I'm covering some good stuff, some helpful stuff here that has helped me as well and my clients.

Philip Pape:

Okay, so what happens if I go above the target protein intake? Will my body use it or store it? Can glycogen be converted to glucose? Okay, these are really good, and there's a lot of discussion lately online and with influencers, with YouTubers and podcasts, about what happens when you go above protein. So there's a few different things that come to mind.

Philip Pape:

First of all, there's no upper limit to protein that's considered negative to your health. I just want to get that out of the way. I think that myth has been put to bed. Already. People talk about kidney failure and all this. There's no upper limit. I mean you could eat hundreds of grams of protein and probably be okay. Practically you're probably not going to want to do that because it doesn't leave enough room for fats and carbs, especially carbs.

Philip Pape:

Okay, and again we're talking about being at maintenance or in a gaining phase. When you are in a fat loss phase, you actually do want a lot of protein and probably even more protein, but you're not going to have a lot of room for fats and carbs. So, anyway, what happens if you go above your target protein intake? Nothing, all right, other than it takes away from fats and carbs. If you have a calorie surplus, some of that's going to go to muscle, some of it's going to go to fat. So let's say your macros are 180 grams of protein I'm just saying that because that's what mine are typically and I'm in a gaining phase I'm eating like 3,000 something calories.

Philip Pape:

Again, this is for me as a male. Yours might be 1,000 calories less, it doesn't matter, it's the principle that matters. And my target is 180 grams of protein, leaving me say I don't know, 100 grams of fat and, let's say, 300 grams of carbs. Just to use round numbers, if I eat 400 grams of protein, I will simply have less fat and less carbs. If I want to stay the same calories, however, my body all it's going to do, it's going to hit its maximum point of muscle protein synthesis to create muscle, which I was easily already meeting with that amount of protein and overall calories.

Philip Pape:

And so what happens to the extra protein? Well, it depends on, like your cycles of muscle protein synthesis and breakdown during the day. But some of it may go to muscle, some of it may go to fat storage. No matter what the net calorie surplus, think of it as getting distributed a little to muscle, a little to fat. And for most people, if you're at the optimal rate of around 0.2, 0.3% of your body weight a week, it's around 50-50. So, again, as long as the surplus is where you intend, the protein, fats and carbs almost don't matter, unless you don't get enough protein. That's a different story. We want enough protein because if you don't get enough protein, well, there's just not enough resources for the muscle synthesis side of the equation and then you get kind of the breakdown wins out, but the other direction doesn't matter as much.

Philip Pape:

Okay, now your question about glycogen being converted to glucose, or really, what I think you might be asking is whether protein is converted to glucose. That's gluconeogenesis, and the body can convert amino acids into gluconeogenesis and this is a totally normal thing. The body's really good at saying, okay, what am I short of, I'm going to pull it from here, I'm going to pull it from here, and this again, doesn't matter during a surplus, because you have plenty of energy coming in from either protein or carbs, it doesn't matter. Now, with the caveat that if you were eating like 500 grams of protein and like zero carbs, then I think, yeah, your body would convert some of that protein into carbs. And we know carbs are anti-catabolic, they're muscle sparing, and we also know that you will build significantly less muscle if your carbs are low during the muscle sparing, and we also know that you will build significantly less muscle if your carbs are low during the muscle building phase. And so in that case I think, yeah, you're hurting yourself, but the gluconeogenesis process is normal. So we kind of let the body do its thing.

Philip Pape:

Now, in fat loss, or if you're fasting or you're low carb diet right, I just mentioned the low carb, but especially during fat loss, there could be some conversion going on as well.

Philip Pape:

Anyway, it doesn't matter, is my point, and don't worry about it Make sure you have enough protein for the muscle protein synthesis, enough carbs for sparing, especially during fat loss, and enough for your energy and how you feel, and you should be good. That's it for today's weekend Q&A bonus episode. Remember this is just a small part of the weekly Ask Philip live Q&A in the Wits and Weights Facebook group, which you can join totally free using the link in the show notes. I invite you to join us as we improve our health and physique together. Thank you for tuning in to another episode of Wits and Weights. If you found value in today's episode and know someone else who's looking to level up their wits or weights, please take a moment to share this episode with them and make sure to hit the follow button in your podcast platform right now to catch the next episode. Until then, stay strong.

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