The growing wave of fitness and wellness has brought with it many nutritional myths that unfortunately still hover within the industry and from which many products have emerged and become part of our shelves, yet in the end we do not know if they do more harm than good. So today we want to talk about the myths around protein and its role in toning or gaining muscle. Here are the 5 most common statements that I find among my patients or clients and their reality talking on a concept of fitness and health and not in high-performance athletes.


1. I need to supplement my diet with protein- rich shakes in order to create muscle gain and tone. (False)

Many believe that the protein consumed from natural foods is not enough to achieve a toning or muscle growth. The truth is that the vast majority of people, especially men, exceed the daily protein requirement, simply from what they eat, not including supplements. The need for protein varies from person to person, but for people who train for fitness and health (not including those professional athletes that live from sports and train 3 hours or more a day) protein has a limit that is stated in grams per kg of body weight and which must not be exceeded. If this limit is exceeded all that we are doing is overloading the kidneys with work. Simply put, an excess protein consumption might result in a kidney stones scenario, or in the worst cases a long-term renal dysfunction. So people who consume protein shakes and protein packed (powders, pills, etc. ) exceed this protein requirement by far, thus overloading the kidney, but thinking that this excess protein will then become muscle. The only truth is that the excess protein as everything that comes in excess is either excreted or stored as fat. So it is important that a nutritional counseling takes into account the type of sport that each practices in order to establish the optimal protein requirement to ensure the growth of muscle mass without affecting the kidneys and of course without overeating.

2. Before and after training I must consume protein so that I can build muscle mass and tone (False)

This statement is true only and exclusively for high-performance athletes, for those who do exercise for health and fitness is not true. Only people who have a muscular deterioration because of high intensity workouts due to long hours and short recovery periods, are the ones who should be very aware of the exact contribution of protein before and after the sessions in order to optimize the recovery and prevent muscle wasting. For those who train 1-2 hours a day, strict grams of protein does not play an essential role, as in this period there is no muscle wasting in fact to meet the requirements we mentioned above from natural foods is perfectly possible and there is no need to be worried about at what time the protein is consumed, since it will still provide muscle gain and tone. So if you train daily between 1 and 2 hours, do not worry about doing specific protein shakes before or after training, what is really important is that you never get to a workout on and empty stomach. You can consume protein according to your needs throughout the day and the muscle gain and toning will just happen if you workout properly. What really makes the difference between loosing or gaining muscle mass in this case is the intensity and frequency with which you train and type of exercise you do.

3. One of the best sources of protein are protein powders, used to make protein shakes (False)

From our nutritional perspective nothing beats a natural source of protein. Protein powders are processed and packaged to last months, if not years in our kitchens, and that’s clearly not natural. If you read the ingredient list of protein powders they are always added with chemicals including stabilizers and often we can’t even pronounce them, this makes the protein that you are giving the body a protein loaded with unhealthy compounds. The chemical we consume throughout life whether they are medical prescriptions or additions of packaged foods, are also filtered in the kidneys, causing these proteins to generate a pretty high load from protein and chemicals. So the best sources of protein are natural proteins, from animal sources and plant sources, and as you read above it is perfectly possible to consume everything we need from natural foods without using supplements. Even in high-performance athletes, enlarging portions and managing a rigorous diet it is possible to cover a higher protein requirement from natural foods.

4. My diet is based on high-protein, low carbohydrate, in order to tone every muscle in my body (True but unhealthy)

It is true that today many people have been faced with diets or regimes where they are prohibited or restricted from carbohydrates consumption, then inducing a diet high in protein. While we talked about some of the consequences that entails a diet high in protein, we have not talked about why many people feel they actually have an effect on weight loss and muscle toning. When we eat carbohydrates they are converted into glucose for energy through metabolic processes, either to workout, to think, or just to live. When we eat, we usually eat more than your body uses at that exact moment as glucose, so the excess is stored in the muscles and the liver as glycogen. Glycogen is a molecule that stores a lot of water, so when we limit or eliminate the consumption of carbohydrate, water stored with glycogen is lost, so it is easier for people to perceive muscle definition, or the otherwise evidence a weight loss of up to 2 kg in a short time. What we do not know is that once we consume carbohydrates again, glycogen stores will store water so that weight variation will come back up, and that’s when we think it’s better to have a diet free of carbohydrates in order to maintain our weight. Unfortunately restrictive diets do not have a good result because eventually we will come back to eating what we like, so limiting carbs is not the way to define muscles and much less to lose weight. Also remember that carbohydrates are our source of energy, thus we need them to exercise properly.

5 Although I have compassion for animals I would never go vegan since I wouldn’t be able to get the required protein to tone and gain muscle mass. (False)

From my personal experience I can say that animal protein is not the only source of protein in the world and indeed many foods that we see daily provide even more protein than just a steak. From a nutritional perspective, different sources of animal protein (no meat, chicken, fish, etc.) bring more benefits than simply avoiding cruelty and slaughter of animals, such as weight loss from fat, cardiovascular risk reduction, an increase in energy and reduction of constipation, among others. Now a days is not extremely easy to be Vegan, but it’s clearly not impossible, and each day it becomes easier. The truth is that today there are many high performance athletes who carry a vegan lifestyle as American athlete Carl Lewis, 10 times world champion in his discipline and Canadian triathlete Brendan Brazier just to mention some.


Remember it is important to have a thorough assessment to find out your protein needs and thus structure an appropriate menu. Live Life provides you with professional consulting in order to meet these needs and get to know how to manage your nutrition properly. For more information contact us at

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