Tip: Protein Intake for Natural and Not-So-Natural Lifters

How much protein should you eat? It depends on a few factors. Check out the guidelines here.

Who Needs to Eat More Protein?

Steroid users actually need more protein than natural lifters. Enhanced lifters have an elevated rate of protein synthesis around the clock. In addition to blunting the effect of cortisol, steroids increase how much protein you can use to build muscle.

An enhanced body is more efficient at using amino acids to build new muscle tissue. And since protein synthesis rate is elevated 24/7 they'll benefit from a higher protein intake as well as more frequent feedings. An enhanced lifter will, in fact, benefit from a constant influx of protein in their bloodstream.

A natural lifter won't. While it's undisputable that increasing protein intake to a certain point will help build muscle, a natural body has a limited capacity to use it to build tissue. Studies show that increasing protein intake up to 1 gram per pound when in a caloric surplus, and to 1.2 to 1.4 grams per pound when in a deficit, has benefits. But increasing it above that will provide no added benefit.

Protein Pulsing for Natural Bodybuilders

Furthermore, natural lifters might benefit more from more of a "protein pulse" approach rather than keeping a more constant protein intake. A sudden increase in blood amino acid levels (especially leucine, glycine, isoleucine, and valine) can be an anabolic trigger itself.

The key word is "sudden." You want a peak, but you can't really have a peak if protein intake is constant throughout the day. So you either need periods of higher protein intake preceded and followed by periods of a lower intake to create that spiking effect, or the use of a rapidly absorbed protein like casein hydrolysate. The faster a protein is absorbed, the greater the peaking effect.

Excessive protein intake for a natural might actually "program" the body to turn protein into energy (gluconeogenesis) instead of muscle tissue. And the more efficient your body becomes at that process, the harder it will become to build muscle and even lose fat. A decently lean natural who consumes more than 1 gram of protein per pound of bodyweight when in a mass phase, or more than 1.2 grams when cutting, is doing himself a disservice.

On the other hand, enhanced bodybuilders can and should consume more protein than that to maximize the effect of the substances they're taking. Up to 1.5 grams per pound, and sometimes more depending on the substance(s) they're taking.

For example, trenbolone doesn't increase protein synthesis much. But it does drastically decrease protein breakdown, so the net effect is muscle building. But it doesn't require an increase in protein intake because your rate of protein synthesis isn't elevated.

Christian Thibaudeau specializes in building bodies that perform as well as they look. He is one of the most sought-after coaches by the world's top athletes and bodybuilders. Check out the Christian Thibaudeau Coaching Forum.