Industry Presented Blog | Protein Myths vs Facts: More Truths About Protein for the Active Individual

Industry Presented Blog | Protein Myths vs Facts: More Truths About Protein for the Active Individual

Dr. Mike Ormsbee - Clif Bar |  Dec. 20, 2018

Clif ACSM Active FAQ

Clif Bar & Company recently hosted an industry-presented webinar where Dr. Mike Ormsbee dispelled common myths about protein and discussed the latest research and recommendations on the amount, type and timing of protein needed to maintain overall health, improve body composition and maximize exercise performance. Watch a free recorded version of the webinar. The webinar is also available for two (2) CECs via ACSM ceOnline.

Several questions were asked by attendees during the webinar. This post serves as an extension to the Q&A portion of the webinar – providing answers to questions that were asked but were left unanswered due to time constraints.

  1. Are proteins from animal or plant sources better for active individuals?

    Both sources provide high-quality protein that meet the needs of active people. However, animal- and plant-based protein sources differ in their amino acid profiles. Animal proteins and soy protein are considered complete proteins because they contain all nine of the essential amino acids necessary for protein synthesis. Most plant-based proteins are considered incomplete proteins and may not contain one or two essential amino acids. Studies show that greater amounts of plant-based proteins need to be ingested compared to animal proteins to achieve the same level of muscle protein synthesis.1,2 In the end, both types will meet overall protein needs and have varying health benefits. There are a variety of factors that impact protein selection (e.g., quality, taste and environmental impact), so it’s recommended to consume a variety of sources to optimize protein synthesis, particularly for those choosing more or all plant-based options.


  2. I have heard that higher-protein diets increase calcium excretion; will eating above the RDA in protein damage my bones?

    No, eating protein will not damage your bones. In fact, the evidence shows that increased protein intake is associated with increased bone mineral density when calcium intake from your diet is normal. One study found that even during an energy deficit (when you eat fewer calories than you burn), protein intake did not affect urinary calcium excretion.3 The National Osteoporosis Foundation concludes that higher protein intakes have no adverse effects on bones and may even benefit bone density.4


  3. Can increased protein intake affect kidney function?

    In healthy individuals who do not have kidney disease, protein intake will not harm kidney function. There is also no evidence that a higher-protein diet will influence kidney function. In protein overfeeding studies that lasted for up to one year, there were no reported changes in kidney function.5 Furthermore, a recent meta-analysis that pooled all the available data on this topic concluded that higher-protein diets had no influence on kidney function (glomerular filtration rate) in adults without kidney disease.6


  4. What resources can help me determine how much protein my clients need (and ways they can achieve this amount) based on their level of activity?
    The Active Nutrition Guide is a comprehensive resource for health professionals working with a wide range of active people. The guide helps explain the role of food in fueling healthy, active bodies. All active people benefit from nutrition that considers their fitness goals and is personalized to the day-to-day intensity, frequency and duration of their activity. Using the guide, you can develop custom nutrition plans to best support the changing energy and nutrient needs of each day. The guide includes sample performance meal patterns – examples that showcase how the nutrition recommendations translate into real-life meal patterns across various activity scenarios in four popular sports- running, triathlon, mountain biking and cycling. The Active Nutrition Guide is also accompanied by a series of modules that provide activity-specific nutrition advice from spots nutrition experts, alongside real-world tips from athletes. Currently, modules are available for running, cycling and soccer, with more to come in the future.


  5. How do endurance cardio exercise events impact net protein breakdown? Should protein requirements remain at 1.6-2.0 g/kg/d?
    Intense or prolonged activity causes an increase in muscle protein breakdown, which is typically followed by an increase in muscle protein synthesis over the next 24 hours. The consumption of high-quality protein during this period enhances this process – accelerating the recovery process and stimulating skeletal muscle growth. While 1.6-2.0 g/kg/d should be used as the base recommendation on days with prolonged cardio exercise, additional protein can be added to the diet post-exercise to improve recovery. The recommended amount of protein consumed after exercise increases as the duration of exercise increases. For exercise lasting 90-120 minutes, add 0.275 g/kg post-activity. For exercise lasting 120-240+, add 0.3 g/kg post-activity. On average, this equates to approximately 25-40 grams of protein post-workout, depending on body weight and duration of activity. Refer to the Active Nutrition Guide for additional recommendations.

As more people aspire to lead a more active lifestyle, the role of protein in your meal pattern is becoming increasingly important. Refer to the Active Nutrition Guide and webinar for more evidence-based facts on protein and personalized nutrition recommendations.


  1. Hoffman, J. R. & Falvo, M. J. (2004). Protein – which is best? J Sports Sci Med 3: 118-130.
  2. Babault, N. et al (2015). Pea proteins oral supplementation promotes muscle thickness gains during resistance training: a double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled clinical trail vs. whey protein. J Int Soc Sports Nutr 12:3.
  3. Cao, J. J. et al. (2014). Calcium homeostasis and bone metabolic responses to high-protein diets during energy deficit in healthy young adults: a randomized controlled trial. Am J Clin Nutr 99: 400-407.
  4. Shams-White, M.M. et al. (2017). Dietary protein and bone health: a systematic review and meta-analysis from the National Osteoporosis Foundation. Am J Clin Nutr 105(6): 1528-1543.
  5. Antonio, J. et al. (2016). A high protein diet has no harmful effects: A one-year crossover study in resistance-trained males. J Nutr Metab 2016: 9104792.
  6. Devries, M.C. et al. (2018). Changes in kidney function do not differ between health adults consuming higher- compared to lower- or normal-protein diets: a systematic review and meta-analysis. J Nutr 148: 1760-1775.

About the Author: Dr Mike Ormsbee
Mike Ormsbee, PhD, FACSM, FISSN, CSCS*D is the Associate Director of the Institute of Sports Sciences and Medicine and an associate professor in the Department of Nutrition, Food and Exercise Sciences at Florida State University. From his days as an NCAA collegiate ice hockey player, to competing in 70.3 Ironman races, to helping others achieve their performance goals, he has always used evidence-focused training and nutrition strategies to optimize performance and body composition. As a member of the Clif Bar & Company Nutrition Advisory Council, he uses his nutrition and sport science expertise to support Clif’s commitment to providing sustainable, nutritious food for athletes and active people.


About Clif Bar & Company: Clif Bar & Company crafts nutritious and organic food to feed and inspire adventure, including CLIF BAR® energy bars; CLIF Kid® energy snacks and LUNA® nutrition bars. Family and employee-owned, the company is committed to sustaining its people, brands, business, community and the planet.