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588: Nutrition Facts: Protein Intake Tips for Muscle Building and Longevity with Jorn Trommelen

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588: Nutrition Facts: Protein Intake Tips for Muscle Building and Longevity with Jorn Trommelen

Are you wondering about the appropriate amount of protein you should consume per meal? Are you concerned that maybe you might be eating too much protein per meal because you can’t digest so much of it?

In this episode, Ted will interview Jorn Trommelen, an expert in protein metabolism and they are going to get into all those questions and more. They will discuss the misconceptions and myths surrounding protein intake and the changing perspectives in scientific research.

Jorn will share insights from his recent research paper on protein digestion and the impact of meal timing on muscle protein synthesis, will provide practical tips on how to optimize your protein intake for muscle building and longevity, will discuss the importance of protein for older adults and the concept of anabolic resistance and more. Listen now!


Today’s Guest

Jorn Trommelen

Jorn Trommelen is an expert in protein metabolism. He is an assistant professor at Maastricht University, he has a PhD in Muscle Metabolism and is the founder


Connect to Jorn Trommelen



X: @JornTrommelen 


You’ll learn:

  • Understanding protein metabolism and its impact
  • The evolution of protein research
  • Busting common protein myths and insights from new research
  • Practical protein intake advice for muscle building and longevity
  • The importance of protein for older adults
  • Debunking intermittent fasting myths
  • Optimal protein intake for muscle growth
  • And much more…


Related Episodes:  

514: Facts & Myths About Protein For Health And Longevity with Dr. Stuart Phillips, Ph.D. 

Ted Talk 89: How Do I Make Sense Of All The Conflicting Information About Nutrition? How much Protein Should You Eat For Longevity? & More – Ask Ted 

Ted Talk 76: The Link Between Protein & Weight Loss, High Resistance Training For People Over 40, Carb Backloading Explained, The Best Meal Plan For You, How To Stay Consistent With Your Nutrition & More 


Podcast Transcription: Nutrition Facts: Protein Intake Tips for Muscle Building and Longevity with Jorn Trommelen

Ted Ryce: Jorn Trommelen, thanks so much for coming on the show today. Really excited to dive into all things protein with you. 

Jorn Trommelen: Thanks for having me. 

Ted Ryce: And let's start out with talking a little bit about yourself. I gave you, I gave a bit of a bio in the, in the opener of this podcast, in the introduction of this podcast, but how do you like to describe what it is that you do? 

Jorn Trommelen: Well, very briefly, it's protein metabolism, which comes down to I want to know when people eat protein, what happens with it? Do they use it to build up muscle? Is it burned as a fuel? Do you simply pee it out? Just what happens with it? And then related to different populations, you have different questions. So obviously the bodybuilders want to know how do we get as much of it in our muscles?  

Maybe older people have the same goal. They don't want to lose muscle tissue as they age, but it can really depend on every population. There's some suggestion that maybe protein might be bad for either longevity or diabetes. So there's so much that we can look into, but my main interest is how much protein should different populations eat for their goals. 

Ted Ryce: Yeah, I love that. And you're already bringing up the big questions. However, the question I want to jump into is setting a, or helping people who are listening right now create a framework for understanding science a bit better. Because one of the reasons that I reached out to you is that you just did this new research paper on protein and you were giving people much larger more boluses or servings of protein than in the past.  

And you, like you just said, wanted to see what happened. And it goes directly in opposition to a previous paper that came out and the media picked up on it and it circulated everywhere. I forget maybe five or 10 years ago. And it was all about how small amounts of protein, maybe 20 or 30 grams is all you should eat because that's the only amount that your body can process at a time. And that has still made it into the narrative, or at least on social media today.  

So can you talk a little bit about why does, I mean, you know, why does science change like that? 

Jorn Trommelen: Yeah, well, the very short answer is usually a study looks at something from a specific angle and quite often it's legit. If you would do the study exactly the same way again, you get the exact same result. But if you look at it from a different angle, you might get a very different result.  

So most people can understand this quite easily that maybe a 12 year old girl doesn't need the same amount of protein as a gigantic bodybuilder on steroids, for example. So if you see, oh, this much protein for this situation, I think most people instinctively know that doesn't apply to every situation.  

So what's important for people to realize is when you see a study, okay, what did they do? They found that in that situation. Does that situation translate to me, for example? 

Or is it completely different? And that's really all that science is trying to do is like we did something in one context. What if we change one variable? Do we get the same thing or does it change? And that can be how much protein you give, the type of protein, the sex of the subjects, whether or not they do exercise. I can think of 600 things. But it's often not that studies are completely in contrast from each other. 

It's simply in a slightly different context, then you come to a very different conclusion. 

Ted Ryce: That's a great point. And the issue I think also is that the media and the let's say new media like me, podcasters and TikTok influencers, we take something and we do our best to understand it and to educate people with it because let's be honest, nobody wants to read research papers, right? 

They want to read articles or listen to podcasts like this. Um, although I read a lot of research, but I could understand if someone's very busy, you have to read the introduction and the results and the, you know, all the things, the methods, it's very tough to read research. And, um, so what will happen is people have either an incomplete understanding of it, like I used to, and, or people use it and just blow it out of proportion.  

For example, I could think of some of the people, people use it to back up their own agenda, meaning the people who, and I know you know this, Jordan, but just for, if you're listening, an example would be the people who are like, hey, people in the health and fitness space just promote protein too much. And this study just came out saying what I've been saying all along, protein, you can't even use that much of it in one sitting.  

And so people use it to confirm their biases. What do you have any follow-up in your, what is it like as a researcher who actually does the research, who reads research, who understands research, conducts research? How do you, when you see that happening, what are your thoughts about that? 

Jorn Trommelen: It's kind of mixed. Sometimes it's a bit frustrating, but at the same time I really enjoy that a lot of people are interested in the research. They could also be like, whatever, science is always contradicting themselves. Some mostly uneducated people have that belief, so it's just easier to ignore it all.  

But I'm mostly sympathetic, I would say, because I wasn't always a professor. I started out as a simple kid, so to speak. And well, I really liked nutrition, so I started studying it in college and went to the gym and stuff like that, tried to read whatever I could online. And when I got my college degree, good grades, everything, I did my internship in a group that does this type of research.  

And I was like, cool. But do I really understand all these papers? Like I can kind of follow the conclusion, oh, the authors are saying this protein is better than that protein, but I understand like 50% of the methods. I understand that they had two different groups and the subject numbers were, and do I know exactly how all these measurements work and what maybe the limitations of these studies were? And then I mean real limitations, not like I'm a trained athlete. 

These were untrained people doesn't like that's a very superficial point. They're really like, does, does the measurement make any senses? Are their claims truly valid from a methodology point of view? So even the people who try to read research, it's just not that easy unless you've been trained in it. And actually when, usually when you've done the research, um, then to your point, do people have biases? Yeah, that's, that's just how humans work and what I find very interesting is some of my previous research kind of suggests that maybe you need to distribute your protein throughout the day.  

That's not really what we investigated but people always said like oh that's what you're suggesting right because I did a lot of research on pre-sleep feeding and this new study that we'll probably get into kind of suggests no protein distribution doesn't matter and now back then I was attacked like, no, that's not true. Protein distribution doesn't matter.  

And now I get attacked by the other, I don't know, 50% of the people who say like, no, of course it matters. And it's so funny to like, if anything, I would say like, I must be super unbiased if my research is seemingly giving contrasting things.  

You just can't win ever in the sense that it will never be that everyone is like happy with your research because if bmillions of people, they all have slightly different habits and by definition some of them will be like, oh yeah, this confirms what I wanted to hear and by definition a large group will be like, no, I haven't been doing this, this sucks. 

Ted Ryce: Yeah, that's a really good point. And if you're listening right now, one of the things that one of those, uh, things that you have to watch out for is that confirmation bias. If you truly want the best information, you have to check your biases and it's not easy. And also I want to say what you said that I just started reading research.  

Well, I've been reading research for years, but I started to being mentored on how to read research better, and it's such a slow process, and I still don't understand it, right? To your point, like, can I look at a study and go, oh, well, here were the limitations right here. Here are the methodological errors that invalidates this study. I don't know, right? Although I'm working on it. So. 

Jorn Trommelen: but it's also impossible right like I am quite comfortable to say that there's not that many people in the world who have my knowledge about protein and about metabolism in general there's a little more people ahead of me like in general metabolism then you go to maybe exercise science know a lot about it am I like the top one percent of all scientists no and like so you just you like you have the general concepts of science. I understand that quite well, but only truly in protein metabolism am I comfortable saying like there's maybe five people that I would consider like above me. But as soon as you go one step to the left or to the right, you simply cannot be an expert because you need to have worked with these methods for years to have to really know all the pros and cons and in which context what works.  

So it's unrealistic. If there's someone who appears on a podcast claiming to be an expert in protein, carbohydrates, metabolism in general, exercise science, that kind of means that he's mediocre at everything. 

Ted Ryce: Yeah, it's a good thing to keep in mind. Yeah. That's why I say I'm very good at helping people with body transformations with fat loss, not necessarily with the understanding the individual components.  

So yeah, you wouldn't want me on your research team. So, well, listen, um, so, uh, since we have the honor of having one of the top five people in the world who understand protein, can you talk about some common myths about protein and, and I want to get into your paper. And if any of those myths tie into your paper, like, please, you know, feel free to bring that up as well. But what are some, what are some myths that people have that you've seen? Like, Oh, people believe that about protein. What are some of those? Your top three. 

Jorn Trommelen: Well, let's start with a quick correction. Like I wouldn't say I'm top five in all of protein, but just in my niche of protein, because you have people who do research on protein in the ICU, intensive care, for example. So again, before everyone thinks that I think I'm the world's greatest, like you can't be the world's greatest in everything, even within protein field is gigantic. But let's cover some myths. Well. 

One that I think there's just a lot of debate about is whether or not you can build muscle on a vegan diet. That's in general you see at least in the Western world more and more a trend towards more plant-based nutrition for either because people think it's healthier, more sustainable, or just more ethical and also governments seem to promote it more and more. And people think that it's horrible. Like vegans have like the image of being weak. Like sounds very bad to say it, but if you look in the bodybuilding world and you would say you're a vegan, they would look down on it. Where does this idea come from? It comes from the idea that not all protein is equal. So protein provides the building blocks for your tissues, including your muscle tissue. 

And it needs to provide different types of building blocks. So the explanation that I always give is to build a house, you need bricks, you need doors, you need windows. And if you have 10 million bricks and 10 million windows, but you have like one door, you can maybe build one functional house, but that's about it. And it's a little bit the same with protein. It needs to provide different amino acids, the building blocks from protein. And if it doesn't have the right composition, it doesn't matter how much you get because you need doors. And the issue with plant-based nutrition is that some plants are just lower in specific amino acids. But that concept is kind of taken out of proportions. Like, oh, plant protein is of lower quality, so it's essentially useless, but that's not how it is.  

So I can comfort the vegans. You can absolutely build muscle and recover on a vegan diet might take a little bit more effort. You kind of need to be strategic about which types of protein you eat. So you get all those right amino acids or you eat a little bit more to compensate for the slightly lower quality. There's some other issues like digestibility. But main point here is that yes, there can be differences between different proteins. But as long as you have a relatively high protein intake, those small differences in quality probably don't matter that much.  

Then the other few other ones just very briefly. You have the recommended daily allowance for protein intake, which is 0.8 grams per kilogram per day for adults. Every dietitian would say that's all you need. But that's a flawed concept because it comes down to the goal of the population. 

That's the value you need as a healthy adult to not lose protein mass. It's like what you need to not be deficient. But if I tell that to an athlete, they would laugh me out of the rooms. Like, that's not my goal at all. I want to, for example, build muscle and I want to optimize recovery. Some other ones, yeah, there's quite some protein myths that protein causes, for example, kidney disease. That's... 

very clearly not correct in healthy humans. If you have no pre-existing kidney disease, high protein diets are not increasing the chance on kidney disease. Well, I can go on. How many do you want me to list that? 

Ted Ryce: I think that's a good start. And I want to get into your research paper here and how it goes in opposition. Or again, like you clarified in the beginning of our conversation here, it doesn't actually probably go in opposition to what your paper says, but it was taken out of context and misunderstood and misrepresented in the media. So can you talk about your paper? And what you did, what you looked into and what you found. 

Jorn Trommelen: So I'll briefly cover first what previous research suggested and why we were skeptical. So there's several studies that all seem to suggest that in healthy adults, you need about 20 grams of protein in a meal to get a near maximum anabolic response.  

So what do we mean with that? Is the stimulation of muscle protein synthesis still sounds kind of complicated, but it's just the process of your muscles using the building blocks from proteins to either grow themselves or adapt. So you can think of muscle protein synthesis as adapting to the situation. It's the easiest to think of it as for exercise with strength training, that will be bigger muscles. But if you do endurance, you build more mitochondria, for example just adapting to whatever is necessary.  

Even if you don't do any exercise you still want protein synthesis because it allows you to replace damaged proteins. Where does that come from? For example just oxidative stress. So just living causes damage. So you always need protein synthesis to keep your tissues healthy. So the idea was that you only need about 20 grams of protein and you have a near maximum stimulation of muscle protein synthesis. If you go higher it has very little added benefit and the majority of protein that you would eat more than 20 grams in a single meal. Your body simply can't use it to build for your muscle tissues and the only other thing your body can do with it is oxidize it which is just a fancy word of saying burning it as a fuel which for protein is a waste. 

I was kind of skeptical of that work. Don't get me wrong, like our lab did a study very similar to it. You have, often what we do in studies, you have a study and then you start challenging it in slightly different contexts. So you do it after exercise, you do it after rest, we did a variant after endurance exercise and all of those slight variations, more or less all came to the same conclusion, about 20 grams is what you need.  

More protein doesn't seem to have much of a benefit. But still I was skeptical because that concept that you can only use 20 grams in a single meal that was used as an argument that it's better to distribute your total protein intake in a day in various meals rather than one big meal for example. The idea there is everything above 20 grams or a very at least a large percentage you would burn it you would essentially waste it. 

So it's better to wait a few hours than give a new 20 gram meal so that the efficiency of all the protein that you eat is relatively high. Now, that sounds pretty logical, right? If there's a certain amount you can't use and you would burn it, it's better to distribute it over time. But when you actually looked at studies who put people on certain protein diets with either three meals a day or six meals a day, that benefits of distributing your protein in various meals didn't seem that clear in studies. And then, um, intermittent fasting became very popular.  

So just the concept of eating all your food in a small portion of the day, for example, the most popular approach is eat all your food in coneight hours of the day and then be fasted during the other 16 hours.  

And then people do it for various reasons, either for fat loss or for longevity bdoesn't really matter. But when all that research into intermittent fasting came out, that's a very suboptimal protein distribution. But even in those studies, you didn't really see that it was detrimental for muscle mass.  

So it really went against that theory of you need to distribute your protein throughout the day. So it's like, OK, if these two things don't add up, there's something we're missing in one of those two types of research. 


And I got a little bit of inspiration by pythons, snakes, who can eat up to 25% of their body mass in a single meal. So I am 80 kilograms. That means I would eat 20 grams, sorry, 20 kilograms of steak in a single meal. 

Good luck with that. But when snakes do that, you see that they are digesting their meal for over a week and protein synthesis is elevated for over a week. Now, of course, snakes, it's not humans. Why are we talking about snakes? Was just an inspiration until one night I woke up in the middle of the night, just had to pee, and I kind of felt like I was still digesting my meal. And I don't know the exact timeline, but let's say like 8, 10 hours earlier. 

I had a barbecue where I ate a lot of meat. And I was like, I just feel I'm still digesting this food. So that made me think about the studies, those muscle protein synthesis studies, what they usually do, they give subjects different amounts of protein, for example, zero, 10, 20, and 40 grams of protein, and then they measure muscle protein synthesis. But they usually only measure to four up to six hours after that meal, which sounds pretty logical because very often after four to six hours normal people have their next meal.  

That's true for breakfast, that's true for lunch, but that's certainly not true for dinner, for example. So I started thinking maybe you don't really see a benefit of these big doses of protein because it needs much more time to be digested and absorbed and reach the muscle. If I feel that the protein I ate like 10 hours ago is still in my gut, by definition it cannot be used as a building block for muscle tissue. It's never been in contact to my muscle tissue. So that's why we did our recent study where we did 

Why not do like one of those, what we call dose response studies, test different doses, but now measure over a much longer period, in our case, 12 hours. So you give the high dose of protein, the chance to actually be digested, released into the circulation and then reach muscle tissue. And we try to make it as extreme as possible. So we gave one group nothing, we call the control group, one group 25 grams.  

So round that optimal dose slightly higher so people wouldn't say, no, 20 grams is not optimal. You should have taken 25. And then one dose was 100 grams, which we considered more or less the upper limit of what was feasible in humans. Not because we thought it was the optimal dose or something, simply higher than that seemed like really silly. And we really just picked a very high dose to all we wanted to do is to show whether or not with a dose higher than 25 would you see an added benefit. So whether it was 80 or 100, we didn't really care about that number. It was just to challenge that existing notion that 20 grams was all you need. So people always focus on the 100 grams, but it could have been any number as long as it was much higher than 25 to challenge whether 25 was optimal.  

But the result was pretty basic based on this story you saw that at the end of the 12 hour period, that 100 grams of protein was still digesting. So that concept that if you give more protein, you absolutely need to give it more time to digest and to do its magic, that was absolutely true. But then of course, the main question is, was muscle protein synthesis higher? And the answer is yes, it was much higher than in the 25 grams.  

So is that research in contrast with the earlier work? Not really, because our results were very similar with that earlier work, that there was only a small benefit of a dose higher than, in our case, 25 in the first couple of hours. However, we measured most longer, and then the 25 grams of protein basically ran out of steam.  

Whereas the building blocks were all used, but then in that long period, the 100 grams was like, we got plenty of building blocks. Let's keep going. So our study was not in contrast with other research. If anything, we confirm that there was not that much benefit of a dose higher than 20 grams in the first couple of hours after the meal. It's just after that, then you really start seeing the benefit. So I'll wrap up here with just a very simple analogy. The way I think of it is, if you have two cars and one has half a gas tank and the other one has a full gas tank, 

The one with a half a gas tank is not driving slower than the one with the full gas tank. It's just half the gas tank at some point has to stop because it's out of fuel while the other one can keep going. So it's a little bit the same principle with the large dose of protein. It's not that you have that much benefit early on. It's just that the muscle building continues much longer. 

Ted Ryce: Yeah, and if I'm thinking about the practical implications of that, especially for people who do something like intermittent fasting, it's that if you shorten your meal time to an eight hour window, like you, you know, the 18th, uh, the, uh, 18 six, the eight 16 rather sorry, not a huge intermittent fasting fan. I like to eat my, all my meals, but, uh, the eight 16, or if you're doing something where you're just skipping a meal, and you're having two meals per day, you're really, you're not gonna lose anything as long as you bump up your protein.  

So first takeaway, what would you say are some other takeaways that are practical for people listening to the show who care about, you know, building as much muscle as possible for longevity, you know, within the normal limits, let's say, the normal on people who aren't on TRT limits, right? So what are some other takeaways? 

Jorn Trommelen: Yeah. So yeah, if we just look at this study, I think the main takeaway, so people now often ask, so should I eat a hundred grams of protein? Again, that was not the purpose. It was just a dose higher than the 25 to show the concept that 25 is not like the maximum you could use. I think theoretically, if we would have given 200 grams, although I think it will be challenging to fit that in a stomach and we would have measured longer like the 200 grams would have been better than the 100 in the sense it would just take way longer to digest and again the animalism would simply be prolonged so there is no optimal dose the dose you need in a meal depends on when you eat next so in your case you said like i like my meals if you eat somewhere between well 20 grams give you most bang for your buck if you have your next meal in like four to five hours. If you have a breakfast and then for whatever reason, you know you won't have any food availability till dinner, then I would say, please eat at least 40 grams, maybe even 60 grams, depending on how important every percentage of muscle protein synthesis is to you. So eat more because your next meal is much longer away. 

Another example is, so my previous research, we focused a lot on pre-sleep protein and people always thought that was very focused on the distribution of protein, but for us it was more. 

One, it's an extremely convenient habit. Eating protein during the day, a lot of people have their job in the morning, they have to rush to work. But almost always you have control of what you do just before you go to bed, because you're at your own home, no social obligations to eat with the family. So you can easily take an extra protein shake.  

What we saw from that research kind of was in line and part of the inspiration of this study that there you needed a larger dose as well to see a clear benefit. And the reason there is that you're not eating within four to five hours after a pre-sleep meal because most people will sleep seven, eight hours. So how much protein should people eat in a meal? Again, it depends on how long their next meal is away. So what I, as the most simple guideline that I give, it's 

Consume about five to max 10, 10 is quite high. Consume five to 10 grams of protein for every hour till your next meal. So if your next meal is in five hours, 20 grams, perfect. If you want a little bit more to get a small extra increase, perfect. If it's your last meal of the day and you won't consume anything till breakfast the next day, your meals should probably be a little bit higher. 

Maybe one more quick thing, because you mentioned the intermittent fasting. This study kind of challenges intermittent fasting in some sense, not in others. Like the idea of intermittent fasting, that's why it's called intermittent fasting, is to induce fasting. But we saw that for more than 12 hours after a meal, you're still digesting that meal. You're not fasted at all. So I mean, research, intermittent fasting is called. 

Ted Ryce: So you're gonna make some people really sad right now, really  . You're going to get some hate messages on your Twitter for sure for saying that  

Jorn Trommelen: So in research, intermittent fasting is usually called time-restricted feeding, which is more accurate. That's what you're doing. Because not eating simply doesn't mean you're fasted. So the basic concept of are you inducing as much fasting as you think? Probably not. If you simply maintain the amount of food you eat, you just do it in a shorter window, that doesn't necessarily guarantee you'll be fasted for all that much. 

Now we can make this discussion much more complicated because ultimately the question then is why were people interested in fasting and that's to trigger all kinds of, let's call it metabolic response in the body and people kind of assumed you needed to be fasted to trigger that response but it's I guess luckily for them not as black and white as that.  

So it's often assumed that when you're fat certain metabolic responses are just not happening. For example, generally believe that protein breakdown is actually a healthy process. So you want the protein synthesis, but you need the breakdown to remove damaged proteins. Otherwise they just accumulate over your life and that's simply not healthy. And then a lot of people have this black and white view where either you're building protein or you're having breakdown, but we didn't see that at all. 

So protein breakdown was exactly the same in the group that fasted the whole day, as in the group that got a hundred grams of protein. So our study challenges that you're fasting, but at the same time it says, well, you don't really seem to need to fast to impact protein breakdown. Like it's, it's irrelevant whether or not you're consuming protein anyway. Of course, it's a bit more technical than that. 

But I guess the intermittent fasting community needs to figure out what is causing the benefits we believe fasting has. Is it the fact that you're fasted or is it specific signaling pathways? And those two things don't necessarily one-to-one align. So they have to really figure that out. 


Ted Ryce: Yeah, you're not actually fasted because it has to do with when your meal is completely digested versus when you ate your last meal. And to your point from your paper, the Python example, right? It just sits in our stomach and it continues to digest even up to and beyond 12 hours in the case of that hundred protein, hundred grams of protein that you used in your study.  

Yeah, fascinating. So for all of you who are doing intermittent fasting and you think it's the magical benefits of autophagy, it's a little, you would have to fast longer, especially depending on the size of your last meal. So that's a good takeaway there. Sure. 

Jorn Trommelen: So a quick note there is so in my study, we found that the protein feeding simply had no impact on autography, which in a sense is a good thing. It seemed that you can just like autography does is normal thing even when you have the benefits of protein. That's one interpretation of the data, which in that sense is a good thing. Like that means 

It's just, you need to do less work to reach the thing you wanted. Um, but a quick disclaimer there is we only measured it in muscle tissue. And muscle tissue is of course quite special in the sense that, uh, autography and the muscle is mostly dependent on whether you do exercise. So I don't want to give a blanket statement like, see, my study, uh, shows that it doesn't matter at all, at least in muscle. Um, it doesn't seem to be that easy like, oh, you need to fast or you need to fast very long to induce autography. 

Ted Ryce: Got it, yeah, thanks for that clarification. And that's what we try to do on this show is get into the nuances so we can really understand, I would be lying if I didn't say, I take some joy in completely obliterating the more vocal people on social media. But if I didn't take some joy in it, I do. I typically don't get into arguments though, Jorn. I just don't find them.  

Jorn Trommelen: Now you're going to get all the... Thanks for covering.., 

Ted Ryce: Yeah, no, I'm going to get on it. Yeah, you're welcome, man. Anytime. Yeah. So, um, so yeah, what are the next thing I want to ask about is cause you gave some practical recommendations, right? You're, you're talking about, well, all you need to do is think about, you know, how often you eat and, and depending on that, you adjust the amount of protein you eat per meal. However, if 

The people who are listening to the show, they're interested in changing their body first and foremost. That would be the foundational thing that people listen to this podcast for. And also that's what we do in our program. That's the foundation of our program. So we help people lose fat. And so what we do is we follow the guidelines of the 0.8 grams per pound or 1.6 per kilogram, roughly 1.6 per kilogram. Or sorry, it's the other way around. But 1.6 per kilogram and whatever that turns out, the 0.8, whatever it is for per pound. But based on your research, your knowledge, your review of the literature, 

What is the best amount of protein for someone to eat looking to maximize muscle growth? Is it that point eight or one gram per pound or feel free to use kilos? 

Jorn Trommelen: Yeah, so in the literature we often use kilograms. Just as a quick reference, one kilogram is 2.2 pounds. Why do I know that so well? It's because back in the old days, my country had a currency called the gulden, and then we got the euro, and one euro was 2.2 guldens.  

So I'm very used to the 2.2 conversion whether it's from pounds to kilograms or for old money, so to speak. Yeah, so there's 1.6 gram per kilogram per day is what you often see referred to in the literature.  

Where does that number come from? It comes from a meta-analysis, which basically means that through all the studies that are done on a topic altogether and then you do your statistics basically on the collective of all the data rather than looking at one specific study.  

And that analysis kind of seemed to suggest that 1.6 gram per kilogram per day was the optimal amount and higher than that simply didn't increase, in this case, lean body mass. Now, there's a few disclaimers that need to be made there. If you simply look at the dots in the graph, so to speak. 

It's not like, oh yeah, clearly at that point, everything plateaus. It's like a lot of dots. And then if you have to pick a point somewhere, you say, okay, probably 1.6 is our best guess, but it's not like it's highly accurate. It's 1.6 for sure. We know what it is. Then another challenge is that those protein intake, so essentially what they did is a lot of studies just look, hey, if we give these people extra protein, 

For example, every day after training and before bed, we give them an extra protein shake. So that's 40 grams of protein extra. That's how a lot of studies are designed. And then as part of that study, they ask their subjects to keep a dietary log for several days to get an impression of their habitual protein intake. Because it's possible of course, that the 40 grams of extra protein is beneficial for someone with a relatively low protein intake, but not with someone with an extremely high protein intake.  

But the problem with that is that all those protein intakes are essentially self-reported and people are horrible at recording, like there's a lot of research on that. But 

Ted Ryce: No, I don't eat that much, right? But I can't lose weight, but I don't eat that much. Sorry. 

Jorn Trommelen:  Yeah, so there's a couple of things. So in weight loss research, there's a couple of things. One, if you have to write something down,  

you become aware of what you eat. So you start making different choices anyway. Like if you were feeling like having chocolate, you're like, oh wait, I have to write this down. Oh wait, chocolate is bad, let's not do it. So the fact that it makes you think already changes your behavior. Then the other thing is, very often you're like, okay, I'm taking my food and then at the end of the day, oh yeah, I have to fill in this annoying diary. So people forget things. 

And then finally, it's just wishful, not wishful, it's, how do you call it? It's desirable, desirable behavior. So people, like if you're a little bit overweight or maybe a lot, it's kind of confronting to admit you eat 5,000 calories a day. So some people are a bit embarrassed. So they, instead of the 5,000, they simply report the 4,000. 

When we do research with those diaries and we look at protein, we see that even athletes tend to underreport protein intake by about 25%, just with objective biomarkers based on urine. And that's athletes where you think, if anything, maybe they overreport it because they kind of know it's a useful nutrient. So just based on that, I think the data in that MEN analysis, there's a good chance those values might be underreported a little bit. 

So there's kind of two challenges. One, I think maybe the true value is a little bit higher based on under reporting. And then the other challenge is, even if the data was perfect, the 1.6 is just the best guess on a lot of, in a very wild pattern. And it's not like, see, we have pinpointed it exactly and this predicts exactly when additional protein works or not. So all that is to say, we don't exactly know what it is. 

But I still use in practice 1.6 grams per kilogram per day as a starting point for people. It's probably a good target to work with. But that is entirely based on research with resistance training. And then the question becomes, is that true for endurance training? What if you don't do training? What if you're on a weight loss diet? Now, what you also very clearly see is that protein intake strongly correlates with energy intake. Makes a lot of sense, right? If you eat more food in general, you're going to eat more protein as well. So especially if weight loss is the goal, being quite conscious of your protein intake is important because that protein intake is going to get challenged as you eat less. But generally the 1.6 grams is... 

For most situations with motivated individuals, that's what most people advise and I at this moment would agree with that. 

Ted Ryce: Got it. And just to be clear here, at least what's said, for example, Alan Aragon, Brad Shewinfield. 

It's 1.6 grams per kilo for people who are, let's say in the normal weight range of BMI, but for overweight people or obese people that gets really difficult to achieve, especially at the higher end weights. So the practical, um, the, the practical approach there is to say, well, what is your. 

What is your ideal weight? What was you in the best shape of your life as an adult? What did that look like weight wise? And then use that as the weight to calculate your protein goals. Is that correct? Or do you agree with that? 

Jorn Trommelen: Yeah, so there's various approaches to tackle that problem. So one is indeed to use your ideal weight. Something that you also quite often see is recommendation based on the amount of lean body mass you have, where the idea is your protein is the building block of your lean body mass, whether or not you have an extra layer of fat is kind of irrelevant for your protein needs. 


Especially there with the lean body mass. I'm not a big fan of it because you'll probably notice as a coach. But if you ask people what their body fat percentages is 

Ted Ryce: No idea. 

Jorn Trommelen: they have no idea. And three different electric skills will give a Delta of 5%. So like the concept makes sense of trying to do it per lean body mass. But in practice, it probably increases more randomness than improving the estimate. So the ideal body weight seems to be a reasonable approach. 

Ted Ryce: Let's say I'm your client and my goal is to get as jacked as possible. I want to build as much muscle as possible. And let's say there was a competition I was getting ready for, and that was a part of, that's how I'll be judged. What protein would you give me? Would you start at 1.6? Would you do something different? What would you do?  

Jorn Trommelen: Well it's a little bit challenging because in the bulking phase, so in the phase you're just trying to build as much muscle as possible, I would say hey try to go pretty high in protein, two grams or even a little bit higher. There's almost no downside to it, but once you start competing you don't have that much calories to work with because your goal is to get to the 

It's challenging to maintain a very high protein intake when you're cutting for a show. So I would again, definitely not go lower than that 1.6 gram per kilogram per day, but it's very individual in the sense that how's the hunger of the athlete, where generally protein is a little bit more satiating than other nutrients.  

But also if someone is miserable because their caloric intake is so low and they barely have any carbs, at that point, giving them a little bit of carbs so they can at least feel decent. Their immune system is not too weak and at least have some training intensity. Like it becomes more practical consideration there than, Oh, this is the perfect number. But yeah, again, I would definitely not, if when possible, try not to go lower than the 1.6, but when, when it fits your overall caloric targets there's only potential upside with going a little bit higher, I would say. It's probably very diminishing returns, right? So if you do the RDA, which we discussed, the 0.8 grams per kilogram per day, that's what you need to not clearly loose lean body mass. If you go a bit higher than that, that's clearly gonna improve your gains. Once you start getting to that 1.6 or higher, it's probably gonna translate to relatively little additional gains. So as much as I love protein, people should not have the impression that if they change their protein intake by a little bit, that that's going to break through their next plateau. 

 Ted Ryce: Yeah. Thanks for, thanks for clarifying that. And, um, I should have been, I'm not a physique competitor, by the way. So I didn't perhaps build up, but I was just like, I, it's not about being lean. It's just about how much, uh, muscle mass, I put on, but there you go. You still answer the question. Well, there's just no downside to going higher in protein.  

You really need to personalize it for yourself. Like I do for my clients, I start them out with you know, the protein that we're talking about using 1.6 or perhaps even one. And if they can't stick with it, we have to change it because of adherence. So if you're listening right now and you're trying to figure out what to do and you're trying to take these numeric or research-based values and apply them into your life, just understand, yeah, sure, but make sure you can do it consistently because if you can't, you won't get the benefit anyway.  

And if it if it becomes frustrating for you to the point where you want to quit, then lowering the protein intake because it's more doable and something that you can stick with is going to be, you know, my, my coaching tip takeaway there for you. Yoran, I have two more questions if you got the time for it. So. 

One thing that I think I don't do a good job of, and I think other people in my field don't do a good job of and starting to change now because I'm 47, but there's this belief that, well, this whole talk about getting building muscle and protein synthesis and 1.6 grams of protein per kilo, that's for younger people who, you know, want to get super fit and want to build a bunch of muscle. 

But let's say I'm in my fifties, the hypothetical person I'm talking about here. I'm in my fifties or perhaps even sixties. I don't, I just want to be healthy. Can you talk about the importance of protein and, um, you know, what changes happen as far as our bodies, like there's talk of anabolic resistance as we get older, can you talk about protein and how it factors into people with the goal of best life for as long as they can through increasing their health span. 

Jorn Trommelen: Yeah, yeah, that's kind of two people treated as two separate topics. So longevity in general and sarcopenia. And it's not that clear whether it's more or less the same topic are quite different. So I'll address both perspectives. So sarcopenia, the official definition is age related muscle loss. As we tend to get older, we tend to lose muscle mass as a result. We walk less smoothly, therefore we stay home more, get more social isolation, even less, because we do less, we lose even more. So you just start this downward spiral of every aspect of your life, basically.  

Now, what is causing this? Because what's interesting is when you measure muscle protein synthesis, as well as breakdown in healthy young guys, as well as females and much difference in a fostered state. When you don't give any food, it's not like, oh, grandpa, muscle protein breakdown is much higher. It's more or less the same. But what changes is when you give that 20 grams, for example, to a young guy, you see a big spike in muscle protein synthesis, while you only see a small spike in the older adults.  

And that's what we call anabolic resistance. So protein is an anabolic stimuli turns on animalism, but older people don't respond to it as efficiently as a younger individual. And the question is what is causing that and it's most likely a variety of things. For example, digestion is worse in older adults, that's probably part of it. Usually just their blood vessel system is a little bit less, so there's less perfusion, so the amino acids can't reach the muscle as well. There's probably inflation. Typically the older adult has a slightly higher inflammation than younger adults. That's probably part of it.  

And probably it's a list of 50 things, lower hormone levels. It's probably a bunch of things. But the end result is protein just has less of a stimulatory effect in older adults. And that is the main reason why there's sarcopenia, so muscle loss. Now, I'll quickly jump to the longevity field. The longevity field, at least some in the longevity field have a quite contrasting view, where they believe that you should try to restrict protein to increase longevity.  

Now that is mostly based on animal work. That's not necessarily it is because you can't do those studies in humans. Like if I say that you wanna participate in my study, you don't know whether it's a high protein diet or a low protein diet, which you have to do it until you die because we wanna see if that goes soon. Like you're not even allowed to choose which one. Like if you were allowed to choose, maybe like, okay, I wanted to do high protein anyway. Oh, sorry, that you get the low protein diet.  

And I hope that you die early because it fits my hypothesis. Like you just can't do those studies. So it's largely based on animal work, but there is some suggestion that too much protein might not be good. And there the idea of orthography comes back where you have this concept protein stimulates animalism, which you And you don't want that, you want them to be broken down so they don't accumulate in your body. I have some concerns with that research. I'll give you an example. If you're a rat, it's not like you'll have social isolation because you're weak and you cannot go out of your house, which would happen in a human if they have sarcopenia.  

The rat is alone in his cage anyway. So for example, that simple, the negative impacts other than the direct metabolic negative impacts of low muscle mass don't apply to a rat, for example. So it's not necessarily that I'm saying, well, human has to be different than a rat. There's just so much more than just, oh, I have more lean body mass, so my insulin sensitive. That's one aspect of it. 

So now we get back to the sarcopenia. What can you do again? So how do we stay healthy? Well, I would say that it's just quite clear that if you do some type of exercise, protein helps improve muscle mass and that just strongly improves your quality of life as you're older. So my ideal scenario, number one is, do exercise, ideally resistance exercise, but any exercise is good. Endurance, fine, but we even see that if you just take extra steps on a day, you walk more, that already has impact on muscle protein synthesis. So that's number one, do exercise. But what's also quite clear is that protein on its own is not gonna help you maintain your muscle mass. You need that exercise stimulus. 

So exercise is a stimulus where your body says, okay, we can use muscle mass essentially, and then protein provides the building blocks. Just giving the building blocks on its own doesn't seem to be that effective. And we kind of know that, otherwise you wouldn't have to go to the gym, just eat protein and you would become a bodybuilder. But that doesn't work. But it's the same with older adults. You need to have the exercise to make use of the protein you have. 

So if you're concerned about potential detrimental effects of protein, definitely don't have a high protein diet if you're not exercising, because there's almost no benefit of protein in that context, but you do have the potential concerns.  

But I think once you do exercise, which kind of takes away all the scary things like insulin resistance, because exercise is just that powerful. In that context, I think protein intake is very beneficial to combat sarcopenia. So that's my main advice. Number one, absolutely do exercise if you can. And if you do exercise, then I think protein intake is beneficial.  

Now, my recommendation. numbers wise do I have for older adults? It's very difficult to say, because when you look at the data, it does seem that older adults, if they do exercise benefit from protein, but it's just not clear what the optimal amount is. And there's two lines of thought right now. One is, older adults have that anabolic resistance, protein is less efficient, so it doesn't add all that much, which seems to be the case.  

Like if you supplement with protein, the added value is less than in younger guys when you add the protein. But there is this other line of thought, it's like, yeah, they have lower sensitivity to the protein. Therefore you need to give more because it is less effective. So you have to give the double dose to compensate it. But that's difficult to do because if you take these frail older adults and you say, come train three times a week in the gym with us, oh and every day eat 60 grams of protein extra.  

The people that would want to do that already do it and by definition are excluded in the study. So it's not that easy to do like a very high protein diet in elderly because the average elderly is like I don't want to change my whole life for this study. But to get back to the practical point, please do any type of exercise. The more it resembles resistance training the better. But 

Again, even walking is great. And if you do a lot of exercise in that context, my personal belief is that some additional protein has more pros than cons if you simply wanna stay healthy, even aside from just having better training adaptation.not different. It's like your research expanded on the previous research by giving a higher amount of protein and expanding the time that you tested people to see if muscle protein synthesis was still happening.  

And also getting into where that 1.6 grams per kilo, the magic number, um, the magic evidence-based number, because the, the bro science is one gram per pound, right, or 2.2, um, grams per, per kilo. But yeah, you, you shed light on all, uh, so many things.  

We'd definitely love to have you back on the show. Uh, you, you only kind of touched on the protein restriction. But it but it seems like you're not in favor of because of the reason you gave them the rat is not going to have the issue of being, you know, not going out as much to hit the rat parties because isolated in a cage versus what we deal with as human beings is the isolation that tends to happen as we get older and if we're struggling to move it just compounds to having that social life, which we know is a huge part of, uh, or a huge factor in how healthy we'll be and perhaps even how long we'll live based on, on the evidence.  

So thanks so much today. Um, if you're interested in following your own, which I follow him. Um, that's where I found out about a big fan of what he does. He puts up these great graphs so you can go to his website, nutrition You can follow him on Twitter. Yorn Tromelin, uh, J O. 

Jorn Trommelen: Good luck with that. 

Ted Ryce: Yeah. I'm going to try anyway, but J O R N T O R, you know what? I already messed it up. I'll have it on the show notes for this page, but you can also find them on Instagram at Nutrition Tactics. Although my favorite place is to follow you on Twitter, but you can find the information there as well on Instagram Nutrition Tactics.  

So we'll have all that and some other links to this episode on the show notes for this interview today. So Jorn, thanks so much for being on the show today. and definitely want to do a follow-up with you. If you're up for it, we got to make it happen again. 

Jorn Trommelen: Sure, I'll try to do some cool research in the meantime, and then hopefully I have something interesting to talk about. 

Ted Ryce: Yeah, absolutely. Thanks so much for sharing your knowledge today and most importantly, your time, my friend. 

Jorn Trommelen: Thank you. 


Ted Ryce is a high-performance coach, celebrity trainer, and a longevity evangelist. A leading fitness professional for over 24 years in the Miami Beach area, who has worked with celebrities like Sir Richard Branson, Rick Martin, Robert Downey, Jr., and hundreads of CEOs of multimillion-dollar companies. In addition to his fitness career, Ryce is the host of the top-rated podcast called Legendary Life, which helps men and women reclaim their health, and create the body and life they deserve.

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