Improvements in both strength and muscle mass occur as a result of your training and are also dictated by your genetic makeup. Dietary protein simply provides the amino acid building blocks needed to make protein and facilitate neuroendocrine connections. Thus, you will not receive the training gains you deserve—muscle strength and muscle mass gains—if your diet is lacking in either energy or protein.On the other hand, you will not magically gain strength or functional muscle if you consume amino acid building blocks in excess. 

A classic study conducted at McMaster University in Canada in the early 1990s nicely illustrates this point. In this study, researchers randomly assigned both male strength athletes and sedentary subjects to receive one of three protein-modified diets for 13 days. One diet supplied approximately the U.S. RDA for protein (0.86 g protein/kg body mass/day), one provided close to the current recommendation for athletes (1.4 g protein/kg body mass/day), and one provided an excessive amount of protein(2.4 g protein/kg body mass/day). 

The researchers found that the diet containing approximately the U.S. RDA for protein did not provide adequate protein for the strength athletes and impaired whole-body protein building compared to the other two diets. The diet providing 2.4 grams of protein, however, did not increase whole body protein synthesis any more than the diet providing 1.4 grams of protein did.In contrast, the diet that followed the RDA recommendation supplied adequate protein for the sedentary men. Not surprisingly, increasing protein intake in the non training men did not increase protein synthesis.

What happens to excess protein intake? Quite simply, if you consume more than you need, the nitrogen group is removed and it is either used for energy or stored as fat. This makes for an expensive source of energy, both from a personal metabolic and ecological viewpoint. Although it is not known whether habitually high protein intake causes long-term detrimental effects, some nutritionists question whether such diets place added stress on the kidney (which is the organ responsible for eliminating the excess nitrogen) as well as the liver. One recent study found that an Atkins-style high-protein diet increased the risk for both kidney stones and calcium loss from bone.

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