5 questions with Jose Antonio, Ph.D. about high protein diets

Jose Antonio, Ph.D. FNSCA FISSN CSCS is the CEO and Co-Founder of the International Society for Sports Nutrition (ISSN) and an Associate Professor and the Director of the Exercise and Sports Science program at Nova Southeastern University in South Florida.

January 31, 2019

Jose Antonio Ph.D.
Jose Antonio, Ph.D. FNSCA, FISSN, CSCS

Q1: A lot of your recent research has examined how VERY high protein diets affect body composition in folks that are weight training. According to one of your studies a guy like me weighing 100 kg or 220 pounds would’ve consumed over 400 grams of protein per day for a few months! To put that in perspective that would be eating 10 chicken breasts throughout the day! What has been the intent of these high protein studies and what are some of the highlights?

Answer: When I first decided to conduct these high protein diet studies, I’d sometimes wonder if I was wasting my time. Why? Because it makes no sense at all that eating dietary protein could adversely affect renal function in exercise-trained men and women. And that is the ONLY population that deliberately eats a higher protein diet. Obese sedentary people don’t go out of their way to down a protein shake one hour before going to bed. No. Instead they eat a slice of apple pie slathered in whipped cream. But being outnumbered 100,000 to 1 (with me being one of the few who thinks it was hogwash), I decided, what the heck; let’s investigate this. And a half dozen investigations later, what did we find? Not a darn thing. Meaning, high protein intakes don’t affect renal function. Nor does it affect bone health. But even with this data, there are some people who still believe that dietary protein is harmful. Maybe I need to get a new job.

Q2: I know that you’ve monitored blood markers for liver and kidney damage, and have performed body scan for bone physiology changes. Overall, have you all seen any negative side effects with these very high protein studies?

Answer: None. Zero. Zilch. And this is after at least two years of a diet that exceeds 2.2 g per kg daily of protein.

Q3: This is tough to forecast without numerous studies, but would very high protein diets be something that could be sustainable over years? Or, rather, would this be a good 2-3 month approach to hitting a body composition goal?

Answer: If one defines high as 2.2 g per kg daily, then that is sustainable. Once you get closer to 3 g per kg daily, then it literally becomes “work” to eat that much protein. Out of the 200 plus subjects that we’ve monitored over the course of these studies, there are maybe 5% of them that consume > 3.0 g per kg daily. Most however are pretty good at hitting the 2.2 target. For performance athletes, I think 2.2 should serve as the baseline. I know this differs from most scientists. However, it makes absolutely no sense…no sense at all, to purposely limit dietary protein. There are only two others you can eat: carbs and fat. I have never, and I mean never, had an athlete say to me, “I am having such a hard time eating enough fat and carbs. Help me please.” 

Q4: Switching gears, I’ve read physique and bodybuilding online posts and have gathered that numerous competitors think that eating peanut butter during their cutting phase should not negatively impact their ability to lose fat. You are the only researcher to put data behind that theory. First, why do folks think this? Second, what’s been your laboratory’s findings on this topic?

Answer: Heck, I’ve also read that eating less calories makes you fat! Now that’s some serious flat-Earth kind of thinking. Yeah, about peanut butter… What is this weird love affair folks in the physique world have with PB? They say that they can eat jars of the stuff and stay lean. Not a chance. We did the only PB overfeeding trial. For one month, folks consumed excess energy in the form of PB only. And guess what happened? They gain a few pounds of fat. Yeah. Calories still matter. Though if you ask some of the wacky keto and paleo types, you’d think calories didn’t exist. Just eat as much as you want as long as you hit our macro percentages! Now that’s some seriously funny and nonsensical stuff.

Q5: You’re a co-founder and the CEO of the International Society of Sports Nutrition (ISSN) which is an organization that I love and promote to my own students here at Auburn. Briefly, what is the mission of ISSN, what are some of the events that you all put on, and can you describe the advantage of holding the CISSN credential?

Answer: Thanks! The ISSN’s mission is to promote the science and application of sports nutrition and supplementation. We hold several one-day workshops throughout the year as well as several international events. For example this past year we were in Italy, England, and Brazil. However, our best and most fun conference is held every mid-June in the USA (and usually in Florida, aka the Sunshine State!). That’s our yearly ISSN Conference and Expo. It is by far the best combination of networking with the experts, learning the latest science and most importantly, fun. We are not the typical boring science conference. And if you really want to make a name for yourself, take our premier sports nutrition certification, the CISSN. It is by far the most difficult sports nutrition certification anywhere, period. The folks that put it together are the ones who have actually done the research. No other certification can claim that.

Thank you for your time and insight, Dr. Antonio! See you at the 16th Annual ISSN Conference in June!

For more information on Dr. Antonio and his research, check out the links below:

Twitter: @JoseAntonioPhD
Nova Southeastern website
ISSN website

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