Researchers Question whether a High Protein Diet Helps Athletes Build Muscle

Posted on Saturday 7th July 2007

Eating a diet that is very high in protein may not help athletes build muscle bulk, according to a senior sports scientist from the University of Birmingham.

Speaking at the Sport Nutrition Conference, which takes place at the University of Birmingham on July 5th-6th  Dr Kevin Tipton will say that that recent research challenges the view that athletes need a high protein diet to increase their muscle mass.

Nutritionists from Olympic Institutes, major European Football clubs, the main professional cycling teams and other major sports bodies, will be attending the two day conference at the University's School of Sport and Exercise Science.

Currently many athletes in sports like weight lifting and athletics favour a high protein diet, including specially designed protein supplements for its supposed muscle building properties.

However, Dr Tipton who studies the bio-chemical effects of protein on muscle tissue  comments: “It is possible, if not likely, that athletes need more protein than less active individuals. However, a number of studies have shown that the vast majority of athletes eat ample protein in their normal diet.

Although protein in our diets does play a role in developing protein in the muscle, for the majority of athletes there really isn’t much evidence that they need more protein than in a normal diet. In fact excess protein is oxidized, rather than utilized for muscle building.

Generally athletes should assess their diets carefully to see if they actually need more protein before they start making a  concerted effort to increase their intake.”

Dr Tipton also believes that protein supplements don’t have any benefits over protein from our everyday diet:  “We see the same biological response from protein in food as we do from protein in supplements. What seems to be more significant is planning protein intake better in relation to exercise and making sure it forms part of a balanced nutritional intake.

Our recent studies conducted at the University of Birmingham have focused on how to maximise the benefits of protein intake for athletes. Assessing how athletes respond to different types of protein and when in a training cycle those proteins should be ingested may prove to be the most useful information for optimizing the benefits of protein nutrition.”

Amongst the other speakers at the conference are:

• Dr Bret Goodpaster from the University of Pittsburgh who will be looking at how athletes can use diet to manage the balance between muscle and body fat.

• Dr Phil Watson from the University of Loughborough from will discuss the chemical effects of exercise on the brain and how this could be used to help athletes train harder.

• Professor Bengt Saltin, one of the world's leading physiologists who will look at energy metabolism and success in endurance events.

The conference will be supported by Nestle PowerBar who are also an official supplier and sponsor of the Tour de France.

Ends

Media information: Ben Hill, University of Birmingham Press Officer: 0121 4145134/ email b.r.hill@bham.ac.uk

Notes to Editor:

• This is an invitation only event. Anyone wishing to attend should contact the Press Office on the number above.

• The University of Birmingham’s £16.4 million School of Sport and Exercise Sciences was officially opened in June 2007 by Dame Kelly Holmes. The new building is the largest purpose built sports-science facility in the UK, containing state-of-the-art facilities for teaching and research.

• The school is one of the leading UK centres for research in performance sport, exercise physiology and sports psychology and was awarded the maximum 6* rating at the last Research Assessment Exercise. Current projects include research tackling psychological barriers to exercise, optimising nutrition and training interventions to improve performance of athletes, the chemical processes that influence diabetes and obesity, and studies of the links between stress and our immune systems.