2019 Update: I cut my protein intake even more to 0.5g. Read my update here.
The last 3 months, I did something I thought I would never do.
I did something that would make every bodybuilder, powerlifter, fitness model, and athlete want to shoot themselves.
I cut my protein intake.
And not just by like 5-10 grams.
I’m talking about a dramatic 35% decrease.
To be more specific, I cut my protein intake from getting around 1 gram of protein per pound of bodyweight to around 0.6 grams of protein per pound of bodyweight.
Why did I dramatically cut my protein intake?
2 main reasons:
- At this point, I just want to maintain a certain level of muscularity, leanness, and strength and be healthy. I don’t really care to build more muscle or lose more fat right now.
- Eating 1 gram of protein per pound of bodyweight is impractical as fuck.
I’ve been getting between 0.8-1 gram for the better part of the last decade.
Part of it was because I wanted to constantly get stronger, build more muscle, and lose more fat (while preserving muscle).
But a much bigger reason was purely out of fear.
Fear that I would look “smaller.”
Fear that I would undo all my results.
Fear that others would judge me for not being as lean or muscular.
“Oh, just eat 1 gram of protein per pound of bodyweight.”
I really do not understand how all these fitness guys say “Get 1 gram of protein per pound of bodyweight.” like it’s no big deal.
If you’re a normal 180 pound guy who lives a typical life, getting 180 grams of protein per day doesn’t just happen naturally.
Every time you eat, the meal has to be protein centric.
Which is fine, but it also means you can’t hit up a ramen joint and just eat some fucking ramen without getting double meat or whatever.
Your “protein radar” needs to be one 24/7 which is stressful as fuck.
These days I really don’t have to think about protein at all. My protein powder intake has gone down dramatically and life is just so much more simple.
Is getting 0.8-1 gram of protein per pound of bodyweight a myth?
No absolutely not.
This isn’t me trying to discredit people who go on super high protein diets.
In fact there are some people who should still eat more protein.
[thrive_text_block color=”note” headline=”Who should still eat a high protein diet?”]
If you are any of the following, you should still try to get 0.8-1 gram of protein per pound of bodyweight:
- Trying to maximize the amount of muscle you’re building
- Trying to maximize the amount of muscle you retain while cutting
- Any competitive bodybuilder, fitness model. powerlifter, or athlete who needs the maximize performance.
This post is geared towards those who already put in the groundwork to build their foundation of muscle and strength and just want to take it easier now and not obsess about their body.
You can still build muscle or lose fat on less protein, you just risk not being able to maximize muscle growth and retention.
What happened after I reduced my protein intake?
Surprisingly, not much.
I’m 6 ft tall and weigh 190 pounds.
I went from getting 160-190 grams of protein per day down to averaging about 114 grams of protein per day.
Here’s what happened to me:
- Even after 3 months, my overall weight hasn’t changed much. I flux between 188-192 pounds now depending on what I eat. But if you look at the pic above, it definitely looks like I gained some fat.
- I can definitely tell I lost some muscle but the amount is so small that it doesn’t affect my day to day life. If anything, my muscles just don’t feel as full.
- My desire to track my calories has gone dramatically haha. Probably explains the increase in body fat more than anything else. I’m definitely not eating like a dumbass, I’m just not tracking as tightly as I used to.
- Strength has stayed up across the board, with the exception of my main chest movement (incline dumbbell presses at a 30 degree angle). Those dropped from 120 pound dumbbells for 9 reps to 5-6 reps. Everything else has stayed exactly the same.
- Workout recovery hasn’t been impacted at all.
- Energy wise, I actually feel better since I don’t have to force myself to eat so much protein.
- The sense of freedom I now have with my diet beats the shit out of having slightly bigger shoulders. Instead of going to restaurants and forcing myself to get the chicken or steak, I can just order some fucking pasta without feeling guilty.
So what’s the takeaway here – should you go lower protein?
If you think I’m some weak fuck for cutting my protein, fine.
I’m not telling you to dramatically cut your protein intake.
Your life, your rules.
I’m just saying, if you’re sick and tired of all this protein talk and can live with being slightly less muscular, try cutting back to the 0.6 gram range.
But make sure to keep everything else the same – your workouts, training intensity, sleep, fruit/veggie intake, any vital non-protein supplements, water intake, etc…
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Do it for 30 days and have an open mind about it.
If you really can’t live with yourself after the 30 days because your arms shrunk by 1/4 of an inch and you lost all sense of self-worth, then you could always bump back up your protein.
But I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised by how little you’ll actually lose and how much you’ll gain.
This makes no sense. All the fitness models in the world eat 1-1.5 grams of protein. Why should I listen to you.
Yo Kanye, read the fucking article.
Just read the text. Or just the conclusion^^
Ey, Kanye! Read the fucking article, bro!!
Fcuk keith that nigger lying sack of shit!
Dude,i just started to gym since a month.I am 60 kg now(lean) and i wanted to gain wait.I am eating to my maximum ability (almost 1g of protein per a pound).How many times should i go to gym per week to see maximum results?
3x per week is plenty for a beginner.
Check this out – https://www.fitmole.org/beginners-muscle-building-guide/
I appreciate the content and tone of your writing. I tend to fall into the real science over bro-science camp and have two questions for you:
1. In light of all the media coverage of Tom Brady’s anti-inflammatory diet for supreme health, have you ever read Brad Pylon’s (eat-stop-eat author) content analysis on inflammation? It explains why small frequent meals actually has a collateral benefit by reducing acute inflammation, increasing hormonal activity/efficacy.
2. It’s commonly accepted that a 500 calorie deficit from maintenance will consistently burn a pound of fat per week if the right protocols are followed — but I don’t see a lot of guidance on the necessary calorie surplus and protocols to gain X amount of muscle per week. Obviously individual differences tilt the needle, but surely there is some scientific foundations for this kind of guideline.
Anyway, great anecdotal article promoting lower protein intake. I’d wager water retention from your increase in carbs caused the bloat in your photo — and you incline press may just be suffering from inflammation if your portions got sporadically bigger.
Thanks for the site and any response!
I used to follow Pilon a ton when he first released ESE, but not so much these days. Not sure which work on inflammation you’re referring to.
For building muscle, genetics/age play a big part. The older you are, you’ll not only gain less muscle but at a slower rate. I find most guys starting do fine eating at a 16-18x multiplier. But if they gain too much fat, they should eat closer to (or at) maintenance on rest days.
Ya could be water weight, me giving less fucks about tracking calories, the lowered protein intake, or prob a combination of all 3 haha.
Excellent Sir your columns are very useful as always
You always think out of the box and your methods are tailor made for the common man who is just looking to look good naked 😉 I weigh 158 pounds and I consume 100 – 120gms only per day. I always felt guilty for not meeting my protein requirement 100% everyday. This article is a huge relief especially with the proofs(before after pics) 😛
Thanks Keith, appreciate it. 🙂
Thanks Sanjay, glad this helped.
I guess I break all of the ‘muscle building / maintaining rules’. 1. I have gone to a whole plant foods based diet (no animal products at all). 2. I eat one meal a day at night. 3. I train in a fasted state in the morning and do not take post workout nutrition. 4. I’m OLD! I’m a 62 year old male. 5. I don’t take any additional protein supplements.
I’ve been training with weights for 50 years. At 62, I’m 6’2″ and 245 pounds. I carry a large amount of muscle mass and I’m not ‘fat’ like most 240+ old men would be. I’ve been eating a WFPB diet for around 3 months now. I feel much better and have not lost any strength or muscle mass (that I can tell in the mirror). I have lost weight, from a previous weight of 260ish.
I think the ‘high protein’ myth is nonsense. Protein powders are basically high priced, processed CRAP. It sure is funny that human babies, grow and develop at a rapid pace on ‘mother’s milk’ that is a mere 6% to 10% protein in composition, but full grown adults need 30% to 60% of their diet to be protein, in order to be strong and healthy!!
Awesome that you’ve been training so long and still going 🙂
Wouldn’t say all powders are crap…a lot are but not all of them.
Keep doing what you’er doing!
Reducing protein makes sense, but not necessarily for the reason given. The advice to eat 1 gram of protein per pound has always been whack. The original and good advice was 1 gram per kilogram. Some genius decided to equate the two metrics, basically doubling the sensible consumption for bodybuilders. And, hey, reducing protein does not require eating a lousy diet. Carbs aren’t enlisted to build muscle, as far as I know.
There’s def benefits of doing 1 gram per pound of BW.
I’m not eating a lousy diet, I’m just eating more and not tracking as tightly as before.
Carbs are HIGHLY enlisted to build muscle..
Ever heard of sarcoplasmic hypertrophy?
Google it.. I don’t feel like writing a novel.
Also to address the author..
You were eating way to much protien anyway lmfao.. your supposed to eat .8 per pound of lbm! Lol.
So let’s say your 180 lbs @15% body fat
That leaves you with 153 lbm
153 x .8 = 122 grams of protien.
The only reason to do high protien is if your dieting down.. and have LOW calories ..
Helps with satiety!
Just saw this. Um, dude, I don’t wanna write a book either, but I’ll refer you to this one:
It’s borderline bro-science without verification at this point.
It’s definetly NOT broscience…
Your muscle store MORE glycogen…
Which is what sarcoplasmic hypertrophy is…
Check out pub med…
How much protein should a female consume? certainly it must be different than a male.
Can you brake it down into categories by including age groups, bodybuilding, cutting, weightlifting just for fitness/maintenance, weight loss.
It will naturally be less since girls in general weigh less than guys.
0.6 is still good if you’re just starting out.
If you lift, you need more. If you truly want to maximize muscle growth, i’d aim for at least 0.8-.9
great article. I also cut my Protein Intake (5’10 current weight: 177) and eat between. 100-120g of protein every day and i cant see any difference. U are fine as long as u can make progress or maintain strength (while cutting) in the gym.
fuck this high protein bullshit.
Have a nice day brother!
Thanks man. I def noticed a small difference especially when cutting but that was after years of super high protein intake. Higher protein intake is def more important when cutting than maintaining.
Hello, per body total weight or per lean body mass?
But I guess its total weight if have no idea how to measure muscle percentage, right?
What if I know my lean body mass number? still stick with total weight?
I just use total body weight.
i just have sex as often as i can…cures everything!
Well I slightly doubt that, but whatever works for you.
I like the concept of not giving a fuck but I don’t understand how eating 1 gram of protein per pound of lean body weight is even remotely difficult. That’s like 12 ounces of most fish.
Uh that’s like maybe 80g protein.
If you’re 180 pounds, you still got 100 grams of protein to go.
I recently took my protein levels down due to being sidelined by an injury. I picked back up to training after a couple weeks off and I was shocked at first because I dropped in weight without trying and I looked smaller and my abs disappeared. I’m almost 39 maybe my age is fighting against me too.
That’s prob not due to lowered protein intake as much as it is to simply not training.
I’m mostly vegetarian (but eat eggs). It was very painful and expensive to keep drinking whey protein. So I’ve dropped my protein intake for the last 3 weeks to about 0.5 gram per lb. I dont feel any shrinkage in size but some-what reduced strength in my benchpress (both flat and incline). My drop in strength seems more in my dumbbell benchpress and not so much with the barbell. I recently read the book by T.Campbell titled “The China Study”. Your views on protein actually being carcinogenic?
I havent read china study only bits and quotes from it. But everyone i know in the industry has blasted it for being highly flawed. I’m never going to stress about meat. Life’s too short.
I haven’t payed attention to my protein intake in well over a year. I think I consistently ever go above like 50g, and it’s not like I lost any muscle off of when I used to consistently track it and take supplements. Even getting 80-100g in it’s own right feels mildly restrictive in my diet, while keeping within a calorie deficit.
I have a theory it’s more related to hormones. A balanced diet of a mix of carbs and fat can help hormone regulation. I doubt the body is as impractical within it’s adaptation mechanism that it constantly needs only certain food/s to build muscle. And it’s not like my lifts are getting worse…if anything, I’m getting stronger from proper rest days and sleep. I don’t even eat a good diet, I just watch my calories.
Like you, I don’t mean to contraddict or discredit formal studies and the like. I’m mostly just giving my take on it.
Another thing worth pointing out, but I saw this vegan bodybuilder on Youtube. He looks like any other (natural) bodybuilder on simple sight. He says you can get away with like .5g, and even more if you have more fat on top of lean mass.
ya but I would never tell a bodybuilder to go that low haha.
nice man. 100g is doable. Even the whole 1g per lb of bw shit is “doable”, you just have to structure ALL your meals around protein which becomes a pain when you go out to eat.
Dude, I’d those pics are 3 months apart your actually looking worse. Keep that going for a whole year, and probably end up skinny fat. I do agree that trying to hit at the minimum bodyweight in protein is a bitch every day, that’s for sure! But .6 is way too low and it showed in your photos. In a 3 month time frame. Seeks about right