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THE ENZYMATIC EDGE
How To Build More Muscle With Less Protein
When it comes to building more lean muscle mass, there are three important requirements: Intense overload through a heavy weight lifting workout program
Proper nutrition providing the raw materials your body needs to generate more lean muscle mass
Adequate rest in order for the process of muscle tissue assimilation to take place
If you’ve been doing your research, you likely have a very good handle on all of these things. You’re hitting the gym regularly, you’re making sure to get in 5-6 meals a day at regular intervals, and you’ve started prioritizing your sleep, making sure that you’re obtaining at least 7, if not 8 or 9 high quality hours of rest.
All seems to be under control, right?
As you go about the process though, you may find yourself hitting a plateau. You might find that it seems like you just aren’t getting bigger and stronger despite doing everything right.
It might even feel like your body is broken or something. It’s just not responding the way it should.
Frustrated, you consider tossing the towel. Maybe you just aren’t meant to be big and muscular.
For many men, especially those who have done their ‘research’, this is how the story plays out. Sadly, often one of the biggest reasons they’re struggling is because of that ‘research’ they conducted.
Let me explain.
THE TYPICAL ‘BODYBUILDING NUTRITION SCIENCE’
Go on any bodybuilding forum out there and you’ll find one thing: guys talking about how much protein they take in.
Everyday people also back this up. Just ask anyone on the street what they think about when hear the term bodybuilder and at least a few will say something to the effect of ‘slamming back protein shakes’.
It’s common knowledge that those who are hitting the weights hard need to be eating more protein. Almost any site you read online will tell you just that.
But, this is precisely the information that has led you astray.
Truth is, you don’t need more protein. You instead need to make sure that your body is using the protein you are eating more effectively.
And this is where most bodybuilders and fitness enthusiasts alike fail miserably. Allow me to introduce myself. My name is Wade
Lightheart. Like many of you reading this right
now, I started my bodybuilding journey young. For me it was at the tender age of 15. I was excited about the body I could build and couldn’t wait to hit the gym each day and
see what I could do. I was a naturally small guy and all I wanted was to build more muscle.
I kept at it, working hard day in and day out. Over the next 15 years or so, all while being a vegetarian bodybuilder, I was able to capture 13 different bodybuilding titles, in five different weight classes. I was constantly hungry for more and after winning at one weight class, I would set my sights on advancement. My goal was to constantly be improving – constantly be getting bigger and stronger.
I was able to win three national titles and competed at both the Mr. Universe and Natural Mr. Olympia contests. Throughout this time, I learned a few things. And some of those things, I learned the hard way.
One of the most important lessons I learned however was that there is more than one way to go about building muscle mass. I saw guys using all kinds of different strategies – and seeing results from those strategies. Sometimes to my utter amazement.
What I really came to understand however was that the real champions were the ones that had really dialed into their own body and had figured out the ultimate diet that was best for them. They weren’t following some cookie-cutter approach some contest prep coach gave them. They had been fighting the battle for years and throughout, and had learned exactly what their body needed and when.
Then I saw those who hadn’t yet learned this important lesson. Instead of tuning into their own body, they were simply chasing the latest information in the ‘bodybuilding industry’.
And, by and large, this means eating more protein. These individuals get to a point in their career where they know they need to advance but aren’t entirely sure how go about it. So they start eating more protein. Everyone else seems to be doing it and they’re constantly bombarded with information about protein supplements and how it’s so important for recovery that they take their consumption to sky-high levels.
I was one of those individuals. In 2003, after coming off my first Mr. Universe, my intake was up to 250 grams of whey protein every single day. 250 grams of whey protein! This wasn’t even accounting for the whole food sources of protein I was eating each day from the fresh fruits, vegetables, beans, and grains I was eating. This was an astronomical level by anyone’s standards, but I felt it was going to get the job done and help me come in looking my best.
And I did look good. I walked on stage and felt I had achieved success. It was only after the show that I realized the consequences of my decisions. Over the next 11 weeks, I proceeded to gain 42 pounds of fat and water in just 11 weeks, not to mention I felt absolutely terrible. I was riddled with fatigue and felt like all the energy I once had was now gone.
My body had become so acidic thanks to the dietary practices I was using that I had actually reduced my protein digestion efficiency. In addition to this, in my acidic state, my energy was depleted, and I was at risk for increased acid load on my kidneys, increased risk for kidney stone formation, as well as increased bone loss (Brinkley L, et al., 2002).
Despite the fact I was doing everything that some of the top coaches in the industry told me to do, it wasn’t until I learned from a doctor who gave a presentation about enzymes that I learned what was really going on inside my body.
This doctor helped me learn that thanks to my high protein intake, my body was so incapable of digesting protein efficiently that no matter how much protein I consumed, I was only actually obtaining just a fraction of it because all of my enzyme reserves had been exhausted.
Let me back up a little and explain how this works.
A LESSON IN DIGESTIVE PHYSIOLOGY
Each and every time you consume food, your body is going to go through a number of different processes all aimed at breaking that food down. Digestion is a highly complex process and in order for you to reap the nutrients your food provides, it needs to be completed smoothly and effectively.
When we look at all other species, they eat their food raw. If you’re a tiger living in the wild, you prey on zebra and when you catch one, you eat it raw. If you’re a cow, you’re feasting on grass all day long, another raw source of nutrition.
It’s only humans that have come to cooking their food, which is where the problem begins.
Now, I’m not telling you to go eat a raw chicken breast or start requesting your steak to be blue rare. Far from it. But what I am going to tell you is that you may not be actually delivering the protein to your muscle tissues like you think you are.
Foods in the raw state, as we see in the wild, contain all the digestive enzymes that are necessary in order to break that food down in the stomach. These digestive enzymes are designed to help break down all the foods we eat into smaller molecules, which our body can then absorb and utilize as it is meant to be.
When we heat our food however, many of these digestive enzymes are destroyed (Gatellier, P., & Sante-Lhoutellier,V., 2009). So now you have a whole load of protein delivered to your body without a way to break it down. In addition to this, heating certain proteins can also lead to them becoming denatured, which then renders them nearly useless to your body, if not dangerous in some cases. One study published in the British Journal of Cancer noted that barbequed meat was positively associated with renal parenchyma carcinoma, illustrating that it could potentially put you at a higher risk for kidney cancer development (Colt, J.S. et al. 2011). In addition to this, another study published in the Cancer Epidemiol Biomarkers noted that when ‘well done’ or ‘very well done’ meats were most often consumed in subjects, there was a 1.26 fold increase risk of incidence of prostate cancer (Cross, A.J. et al. 2008).
When you cook your foods, you destroy the digestive enzymes present that help your body absorb the food.
Your body is smart however and will find a way to deal with this. You can’t have undigested food sitting in your gut for the rest of time, so it has worked out a solution.
This solution is to utilize its own resources to assimilate digestive enzymes so that food can be broken down. How does it do this?
It breaks down bodily protein to do so. Since digestive enzymes are made from protein, if they aren’t present and your body has to create them, it needs those raw materials to do so.
Do you know where protein is found in your body? In your muscle cells.
So in essence, when you take in that large dose of cooked protein, your body realizes it needs some digestive enzymes in order to break this food down and as such, rapidly begins breaking down your lean muscle mass in order to create them.
And it only gets worse. The more protein you eat, ‘supposedly to preserve lean muscle mass’, the more muscle breakdown you start to see.
And that’s precisely what I did. I started using a proteolytic enzyme, which then provided my body with the enzymes I needed, while also helping to bring my body into a more alkaline state too. This in turn helped me feel better, giving me more energy to train hard while also helping to prevent some of the issues noted above associated with being so acidic.
If you don’t do something about your enzyme supply, your muscles will eventually be broken down.
As this process continues to go for months, if not years, eventually your body just becomes inefficient. Soon your body won’t be able to keep up and next thing you know, you’ll have undigested protein sitting around in your body, making you feel miserable.
If you constantly suffer from gas and bloating, and can barely stand your own smells when you go to the bathroom, chances are good you have undigested protein lurking in your body.
Without enough enzymes in your body, it’s easy for protein to remain undigested in your intestinal tract.
Basically, this means that much of the protein you’re eating is simply going to waste. You might be spending hundreds of dollars each month on protein supplement products only for those supplements to be completely wasted, harming your body in the process.
So, how can you resolve this?
GETTING THE HELP YOU NEED
In order to get yourself out of this situation and to a point where your body can actually start assimilating and digesting the protein that you’re eating properly again, you need to look at the root cause.
The root cause is all that cooked protein you are eating that contains no digestive enzymes and as a result, is forcing your body to create these on its own.
Reduce the need to create the digestive enzymes, and you’ll have reduced the muscle breakdown that is occurring – and helped that protein you just ate to be digested.
In addition to this, I also switched all of my protein to plant base sources so that I could begin eating them raw. Now, if you aren’t in quite the state I was in, this won’t be necessary. Simply by using a quality enzyme while you eat your cooked sources of protein, you should be easily able to break down and utilize the protein that you’re eating.
Now for the part that might shock you. While under this same doctor’s care and using these enzymes, I also reduced my protein intake to just 85 grams of protein per day.
Immediately, you might think that this means I lost a great deal of muscle mass.
‘85 grams of protein per day?!?’ At over 200 pounds of muscle and 7% body fat, this seems simply absurd. Most typical bodybuilding recommendations will tell you to eat at least 1 gram of protein per pound of body weight, if not more. Prior to starting this protocol, I was eating 250+ grams of protein per day.
10-20% of total
The current protein recommendations based on research and science: 0.54-0.72 grams
of protein per pound of body weight per day. Or 10-20% of total calories for endurance athletes.
So far, the evidence does not show any benefit to consuming more. (Phillips, S et al, 2007).
I continued on this path for six months and was able to continually build more lean muscle mass, bettering my physique.
Most people are simply under the notion that they need these high levels of protein to build muscle, but once your body is operating efficiently and making good use of every single gram of protein you take in, the actual requirements are really quite low.
Professional athletes however have known this for years. And this is why the vast majority of them are taking digestive enzymes on a regular – if not permanent — basis. This helps
them not only boost their performance, but also increase the lifespan they’ll have in their chosen sport.
WHERE TO GO FROM HERE?
So, if you’re currently in a place where your protein intake is way higher than it should be, you can’t just drop it way down and expect to be okay. You need to give your body time to adjust and adapt, learning how to properly utilize the protein you’re eating.
Quality digestive enzymes will assist with this process. By making sure that you start taking those immediately, before even decreasing your protein intake, you’ll kick-start your body’s ability to begin assimilating and digesting the protein you eat.
When looking for a digestive enzyme, you want to be sure that you find one that contains the enzymes that can digest all nutrients, including proteins, carbohydrates, and dietary fats.
Remember that it isn’t just protein you need enzymes for, but for every single food group you consume.
In addition to that, you may also need specific enzymes for any intolerance you may have.
For instance, if you can’t have dairy because every time you consume lactose you break out with such a bad case of gas no one can stand to be around you, you’ll need to have a digestive enzyme to handle this milk sugar.
In some cases, you’ll also need this in order to consume whey protein, because it has the same lactose-causing effect.
Finally, one last thing to note is that you’ll want to get what’s called a three stage protease. Protease is the enzyme that will break down protein rich foods, but the problem is that when the protein you eat travels from your mouth through the digestive tract, it’s going to change pH levels along the way. For instance, after about 30 minutes of consuming protein, hydrochloric acid will enter your system, adjusting the pH of the contents. If the enzyme you’re using doesn’t work in high levels of acidity, it won’t help you complete the job.
When looking for a high quality digestive enzyme, make sure to compare the total protease content.
Most companies will cut costs here because protease is the most expensive enzyme to produce.
By using a three stage protease though, you ensure this doesn’t happen. That’s because a
- stage protease will function optimally at different pH levels (Tang, J., 1977). Instead with this type of enzyme, you’ll begin breaking your protein down the minute you consume it and you will continue breaking it down until all the nutrients have been absorbed, regardless of what pH level it’s at within your digestive tract.
In addition to this, you’ll also want your product to contain plant-based enzymes, because they have a wider pH range than animal or pancreatic enzymes, making them more effective (Taylor, J.R, & Mitchell, D, 2007).
Look for enzymes that digest protein along the entire pH spectrum.
USING YOUR ENZYMES
Now that you understand the problem with most bodybuilders’ high protein intake, and how to fix this problem with a good digestive enzyme, let’s now finish up by talking about how to put those enzymes to use.
One of my favorite ways to use the enzymes is for the process of pre-digestion. For instance, let’s say you’re heading to the gym for a particularly intense workout that’ll last around an hour or so. You know this session is going to be hard on your body and as such, you must be doing everything possible to optimize the recovery process.
The best way to do this? Prepare your protein shake before your workout by adding in some digestive enzymes too. By doing this, the digestive enzymes will begin pre-digesting the amino acids in the protein powder you use, leaving you with the most rapidly-digesting source of protein available.
RECOVERY AND MUSCLE GROWTH
Empty 1-2 capsules of enzymes into your protein shake to sip throughout your workout. This will enhance recovery and muscle growth.
Now you can sip this throughout your workout, helping jump-starting the recovery process. This way you’ll already begin repairing muscle tissues before you’ve even left the gym.
This will radically improve the results you get from training, and can even help increase the total time you can spend in the gym before you hit that fatigued state.
If you aren’t gearing up for an intense workout session, then you’ll simply want to take your enzymes prior to eating each meal. This will give them a chance to break down in your body as your food enters your system, so they can immediately start digesting what you’re eating.
ENHANCE DIGESTION AND ABSORPTION
Take 1-2 capsules before meals to improve digestion.
For those of you looking to burn fat and boost your overall metabolic rate, consider taking them outside of mealtimes and outside of workouts as well.
Having them two to three times per day on an empty stomach can significantly help improve the rates of fat oxidation taking place in the body, allowing you to get leaner far faster.
You can also do the same if you’re preparing for a fasted cardio workout as well.
Take 2-3 capsules on an empty stomach to enhance your metabolism and improve fat oxidation.
Aim for three to five enzymes per day to see optimal effects.
So before you go slam another protein shake, or increase your protein intake thinking that it’ll help you build lean muscle mass faster, think again.
All that protein may be doing you far more harm than good, and only setting you up to feel miserable. Instead, invest in high quality digestive enzymes and you’ll actually start seeing the muscle growth you deserve.
For more information on the most proteolytic enzyme available, visit
- Reddy, S. T., Wang, C. Y., Sakhaee, K., Brinkley, L., & Pak, C. Y. (2002).
Effect of low-carbohydrate high-protein diets on acid-base balance, stone-forming propensity, and calcium metabolism.
American Journal of Kidney Diseases, 40(2), 265-274.
- Gatellier, P., & Santé-Lhoutellier, V. (2009).
Digestion study of proteins from cooked meat using an enzymatic microreactor. Meat science, 81(2), 405-409.
- Phillips, S. M., Moore, D. R., & Tang, J. E. (2007).
A critical examination of dietary protein requirements, benefits, and excesses in athletes. International journal of sport nutrition and exercise metabolism, (17 Suppl), S58-76.
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- Koutros, S., Cross, A. J., Sandler, D. P., Hoppin, J. A., Ma, X., Zheng, T., & Sinha, R. (2008). Meat and meat mutagens and risk of prostate cancer in the Agricultural Health Study. Cancer Epidemiology Biomarkers & Prevention, 17(1), 80-87.
- Tang, J. (Ed.). (1977). Acid proteases: structure, function, and biology (Vol. 95). Plenum Publishing Corporation.
- Taylor, J. R., & Mitchell, D. (2007).
The Wonder of Probiotics: A 30-Day Plan to Boost Energy, Enhance Weight Loss, Heal GI Problems, Prevent Disease, and Slow Aging. Macmillan.