- Updated on August 13, 2020
Bodybuilding and other intensive and prolonged types of sports and exercise require additional amounts of protein in the diet to build muscles and for faster adaptation of the human body, recovery, better performance and improved overall health. Thus, while most sedentary people are well nourished with 0.8 g of dietary protein per kg of body weight per day or 0.4 g/lb (FDA’s suggestion), bodybuilders often use up to 2-3 g/kg per day or 1-1.5 g/lbs. But it is possible to use less protein and build even more muscles.
“In order to achieve outstanding results in sports one must use all capabilities given to humans by Nature. In my program of training, I apply the metabolism stimulation system using the Frolov Respiration Training Device. Breathing exercises using the Frolov Device have helped me to increase the efficiency of eutrophy and workouts, and to surpass my previous achievements!” Sergey Dmitriev, Threefold World Champion (2000, 2001, 2004), International Federation of Body-Builders IFBB
Triple World Bodybuilding Champion Uses the Frolov Breathing Device based on the idea to have more CO2 and slower/less breathing 24/7. Why?
Here is a sample of calculations. If your body weight is 150 lbs, your normal protein intake with a sedentary lifestyle should be about 60 g/day. If you do weightlifting and bodybuilding exercises, as well as intensive types of other exercises, you may need up to 150-215 g of protein daily. This causes some health risks due to bodybuilding and this high-protein diet (see references below).
What are the main dangers of high protein diets? Medical studies have not found any evidence that excessive use of protein in the diet can cause problems with kidneys in people with healthy kidneys (Faber et al, 1986; Poortmans & Dellalieux, 2000). However, it has been known in physiology for many decades that high protein diets, and especially with animal proteins, have a negative impact on automatic breathing patterns and body-oxygen levels causing poor health and development of chronic diseases (that are very common in many bodybuilders). Furthermore, tissue hypoxia leads to anaerobic cellular respiration during physical exercise, elevated plasma lactic acid levels during and after workouts, production of free radicals (oxidative stress), acidic environment in body cells, chronic inflammation, immune dysfunction, reduced efficiency in protein metabolism and other negative effects.
How high protein diets for bodybuilding cause poor health
The main negative health effect of high protein diets is increased minute ventilation at rest (a heavier or faster/deeper automatic breathing pattern at rest and during sleep). Since oxygenation of the arterial blood during very small and slow normal diaphragmatic breathing at rest is about 98-99%, breathing more cannot improve oxygen transport. Hence, the main initial effect of heavier breathing is less CO2 in the lungs. Then low CO2 causes negative effects related to alveolar and arterial hypocapnia (lack of CO2) in the lungs, arterial blood, and other body cells.
Among the central effects of arterial CO2 deficiency are constriction of arteries and arterioles (for studies and details, see vasodilation) and the suppressed Bohr effect (reduced oxygen release in tissues). Hence, cell hypoxia (low body-oxygen levels) triggers the cascade of negative effects described above (high lactic acid in the blood, free radical generation, immunosuppression, and reduced protein metabolism – i.e., it becomes necessary to eat more proteins to counteract its ineffective use).
As a result, many modern bodybuilders often suffer from chronic diseases, frequent infections, poor sleep, anxiety, and other abnormalities. In addition, hypocapnia suppresses synthesis of amino acids and proteins (see CO2 and Glutamine Synthesis research links below).
Thus, athletes and bodybuilders with heavier breathing at rest (or during sleep) require much more protein in order to build the same amount of body muscles, while breathing retraining allows to reduce protein intake and increase body muscle mass at the same time.
This conclusion is in complete agreement with the clinical experience of Russian MDs practicing the Buteyko breathing method and Frolov breathing device therapy. These doctors found (and I have observed the same effect in hundreds of my students) that improved breathing at rest (slower and easier breathing patterns) increases body-oxygen test results. With more than X seconds of oxygen in the body, my students report that they require less protein in their diets. Thus, it is common that even sedentary people start to eat fewer proteins themselves after their achieve easier and slower automatic breathing. This effect, as bodybuilder Sergey Dmitriev testifies, is very beneficial for overall health in bodybuilding.
There is no general need to stop eating animal proteins. Dr. Konstantin Buteyko suggested that some people are better off with eating animal proteins, like meat, fish, dairy, and eggs, while many breathing students drastically reduce their previous protein intake (up to 20-30% less) naturally with improved health and stronger body.
An additional benefit of correct breathing for bodybuilders relates to training and dietary manipulations during different seasons to perform better and have less fat (increased lean mass) for competitions and contests. There are several hazards of very low -alorie diets that include hypokalemia, hypophosphatemia, rhabdomyolysis and flaccid tetraparesis (Britschgi & Zund, 1991). Improved body-oxygen levels greatly reduce negative effects related to blood composition, retention of minerals, and kidney function before and during competitions.
What can be done in order to increase body oxygenation? Gradual breathing retraining (slowing down automatic breathing at rest) requires correction of lifestyle factors (causes of hyperventilation) and breathing exercises (e.g., with the Frolov breathing device). One important lifestyle factor that can lead to quickly noticeable results in all bodybuilders and athletes in training is to breathe only through the nose during any exercise. Nose breathing only (both in and out) makes work-outs more challenging, but it delivers nitric oxide (synthesized in nasal passages from arginine, another crucial amino acid) into the lungs, increases arterial CO2 tension, reduces heart rate for the same workload, and increases body-oxygen level during and after exercise (additional information about nose breathing during exercise is on the page Effects of Exercise on the Respiratory System). More details about lifestyle for better body oxygenation are in the Learning Section (see the menu above).
Therefore, improved body-oxygen levels provide double benefits for athletes and bodybuilders involved in intensive training:
– greatly improved quality of life and overall health
– reduced amount of dietary protein with increased efficiency in building body muscle.
Right below here, as your bonus content, you can find the number X (in seconds) for the body-oxygen test (Control Pause) that, in my view, makes bodybuilding safe and protein metabolism effective, while preventing nearly all chronic diseases that are so common these days.
Get up to 30+ s for the body-oxygen test to have healthy and safe bodybuilding.
For abstracts of these studies, click here: Bodybuilding risks and protein intake.
Sports Med. 2004; 34(5): 317-27.
Macronutrient considerations for the sport of bodybuilding.
Lambert CP, Frank LL, Evans WJ.
Nutrition, Metabolism, and Exercise Laboratory, Donald W. Reynolds Center on Aging, Department of Geriatrics, University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences, Little Rock, Arkansas 72205, USA.
Int J Sport Nutr Exerc Metab. 2000 Mar;10(1):28-38.
Do regular high protein diets have potential health risks on kidney function in athletes?
Poortmans JR, Dellalieux O.
Department of Physiological Chemistry, Institute of Physical Education and Kinesiotherapy, Free University of Brussels, Belgium.
Eur J Clin Nutr. 1996 Nov;50(11):734-40.
Effect of chronic dietary protein intake on the renal function in healthy subjects.
BrÃ¤ndle E, Sieberth HG, Hautmann RE.
Department of Urology, University of Ulm, Germany.
S Afr Med J. 1987 Dec 19;72(12):831-4.
Nutrient intake and dietary supplementation in body-builders.
Faber M, BenadÃ© AJ.
National Research Institute for Nutritional Diseases, South African Medical Research Council, Parowvallei, CP.
Int J Sports Med. 1986 Dec;7(6):342-6.
Dietary intake, anthropometric measurements, and blood lipid values in weight training athletes (bodybuilders).
Faber M, BenadÃ© AJ, van Eck M.
Phys Sportsmed. 2009 Jun;37(2):13-21.
Protein for exercise and recovery.
Kreider RB, Campbell B.
Exercise and Sport Nutrition Lab, Department of Health and Kinesiology, 158H Read Building, 4243 TAMU, Texas A&M University, College Station, TX 78743-4243, USA.
Crit Rev Food Sci Nutr. 1999 Jul;39(4):317-28.
Nutritional supplements to increase muscle mass.
Clarkson PM, Rawson ES.
Department Exercise Science, University of Massachusetts, Amherst 01003, USA.
Int J Eat Disord. 1995 Jul;18(1):49-57.
Weight loss, psychological, and nutritional patterns in competitive male bodybuilders.
Andersen RE, Barlett SJ, Morgan GD, Brownell KD.
Department of Psychiatry, School of Medicine, University of Pennsylvania, USA.
Schweiz Med Wochenschr. 1991 Aug 17;121(33):1163-5.
[Bodybuilding: hypokalemia and hypophosphatemia].
[Article in German]
Britschgi F, ZÃ¼nd G.
Medizinische Abteilung des Kantonsspitals Obwalden, Sarnen.
Sports Med. 1999 Feb;27(2):97-110.
Dietary supplements and the promotion of muscle growth with resistance exercise.
Department of Human Movement Sciences and Education, University of Memphis, Tennessee, USA