Training Frequency and Protein Intake

April 20, 2009

The Serious Strength team of instructors are a unique bunch of dedicated professionals. I have the honor of working with them each and every day. One of the best things we all share is the common belief that if we can make the training better or more productive for the client (all the while focusing on safety), we should.

In other words, we are not tied to a way of training for the sake of sticking to a set and previously accepted training paradigm. No - we are all instead tied to obeying well done research and, when we discover new training territory - even if it disagrees with what we are currently doing for clients (and even if the evidence is purely anecdotal), we strongly consider it.

Case in point, I  just received this email from one of our instructors:

“Fred - Update: I weighed 154 pounds in November."

(Note: he was training 1-2X a week for many months and gained well, but was topped out at 160lbs. He asked me what to do and I said add a
training day and see what happens. He is NOT a 'genetic freak' meaning, he is not someone who has the genetics for super-man like muscles.) 

"I started training 3x a week in January. When I started, I weighed 160. 13.6% body fat.

Today is 3 months of 3x week training and eating more. I weigh 167
and my body fat is 11.5%. I have put on a little under 10 pounds of


Woohoo indeed. Now to make further gains I feel he'll need to up his fat/protein intake a tad more and perhaps add a tad more volume to each session.Bear in mind that he is trying to maximize his muscle mass. Most people are not interested in doing this. One or better still two weekly strength training sessions are more than enough to halt and reverse sarcopenia (age related muscle loss) so long as you are eating enough protein. If you do not eat enough protein you will lose lean tissue at an accelerated rate. And that's bad!

If the key to productive training is recovery from the training (and it most certainly is), then logically we need to boost recovery if we are not seeing the gains we wish to see. To boost recovery, we need to eat enough fat and protein and keep carbohydrate low to moderate. But the timing of
the protein intake is CRITICAL.

This is something I had not fully considered for the past 20 years. Now, due to some very good research, I hold a different view.

I just returned from the 2009 Eastern Regional Obesity Conference hosted by the American Society of Bariatric Physicians which included the Nutrition and Metabolism Symposium in Charleston South Carolina. One of the speakers, Dr. Douglass Paddon-Jones, presented some extremely well done research indicating that if one is not getting at least 30 grams of protein per meal and especially at breakfast, muscle loss is accelerated. And you can't make up for it by eating 60 grams (even if you could) at lunch. If you miss the window, you miss it. This is especially important for seniors who usually shun protein because of the fat content which they have wrongfully been told is bad for their health. The 'lipophobes' (fat haters) are everywhere in the medical community and it is causing our seniors a slow and painful demise. Sad indeed.

So, even though more frequent strength training sessions seems to maximize lean mass gains a bit better (so long as adequate protein is ingested), it is still very apparent that 30-40 minutes of training twice per week is
sufficient for good gains. BUT again, the frequency and timing of the protein intake is a major player.

There is a good deal of research which indicates that people have a wide
variety of recovery times. But in these studies, the researchers fail to address diet. The fact is that some people eat a lot better than others for anabolism (lean growth) even though they are not consciously trying.  

As the saying goes: Eat, train, grow.

My twist to this is:

Eat enough, train enough, grow better.