Date Published: 6 July 2007

Researchers ask if a high protein diet helps athletes build muscle (Birmingham Uni)

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 commented:

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.


Other speakers at the conference include:

  • 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.

 

Source: Birmingham University.

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