Protein and exercise: The secrets of healthy aging?

As we age, our bodies undergo numerous changes, including a decline in muscle mass and cognitive function. For many of us, exercise and diet play crucial roles in maintaining our health and well-being. 

But how can the protein we eat affect our abilities to exercise and stay healthy as we age?

It can be difficult to separate fact from fiction when it comes to the effects of protein. How much do we need? Is it better to eat protein before or after exercise? And what roles do protein and exercise play in brain function?

In today’s episode, Jonathan is joined by Prof. Ben Wall, an expert in nutritional physiology at the University of Exeter. Together, they unpack the latest scientific research on the connection between protein consumption and exercise.

Prof. Ben Wall shares his insights into the optimal amount and timing of protein intake for building and maintaining muscle mass, as well as the potential impact of exercise on cognitive function and brain health into later life.

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Episode transcripts are available here.

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[00:00:00] Jonathan Wolf: Protein is one of the building blocks of life itself. It plays a vital role in keeping us fit and strong, which as we get older, becomes increasingly important. Around the age of 40, our muscles begin to shrink, leading to a loss of strength and frailty. Eventually, even getting out of a chair becomes impossible.

Eating protein is a necessity to maintain our muscles and prevent this decline. This is why protein is now so widely discussed, and so many products now proclaim high in protein myth circulate online about plant versus animal protein. When to eat it if you're exercising and concerns about whether we're getting enough, if things weren't confusing enough, brand new scientific discoveries have revealed that much of what we used to believe is wrong.

In today's episode, we get to the bottom of all of this with help from an expert guest. Ben Wall is professor of nutritional physiology at the University of Exeter, where his research focuses on the role of exercise in dietary protein in supporting healthy aging. Ben, thank you for joining me today.

[00:01:26] Ben Wall: It's a pleasure. Thank you for having me.

[00:01:28] Jonathan Wolf: Why don't we start with something we do every time on this podcast, which is a quick fire round of questions. Ben, we know this is very hard for scientists because you have to give us a yes. No. Or if you have to, you can give us a one sentence answer.

Are you willing to give it a go?

[00:01:46] Ben Wall: I'll give it a try.

[00:01:47] Jonathan Wolf: And as usual, Ben doesn't know any of the questions that I'm going to ask, so let's see. Alright. Is it true that if I stop being active, my muscles will shrink within days? Yes.

[00:01:59] Ben Wall: Yes.

[00:01:59] Jonathan Wolf: If I don't eat enough protein, will I lose my muscles? Okay. As I get older, do I absorb less of the protein that I eat?

[00:02:11] Ben Wall: Yes.

[00:02:12] Jonathan Wolf: Okay. And, and given that, does that mean that when I get older I might lose muscles because I'm not getting enough protein? Yes. Ah, okay. This is one I really wanna ask. Do I need to eat protein straight after I exercise?

[00:02:27] Ben Wall: No,

[00:02:28] Jonathan Wolf: I hope my trainer's listening to this. Is animal protein better than plant protein for building muscles?

[00:02:36] Ben Wall: Not necessarily.

[00:02:37] Jonathan Wolf: Brilliant. Well talk about this, but it's definitely one, one of the first experiences I had, like the first time that I went to the gym, which was probably about a decade ago, and I got introduced into this whole world of like lifting weights and things like this, and I remember one of the very first things was like all the rest of the lifestyle that you're supposed to, Put around going to the gym and definitely one of the things I was told was, oh, you have to eat protein like immediately afterwards, straight after he finish his exercise.

Otherwise, all of that pain that you've gone through is basically wasted.

[00:03:11] Ben Wall: Yes. And that I think it, the general consensus now would be that that's somewhat of a myth. It's

[00:03:16] Jonathan Wolf: Wonderful. Well, I think we'll get into that into a bit more detail, but why don't we start just at the very beginning and you know, some of our listeners will have heard, you know, a previous podcast that we've, we've done talk about protein and, and some of them won't. And for all of them I thinking it's really easy to get confused cuz it protein stuff is all a bit complicated.

Could you just start with what is protein and how is it different from carbohydrates and fat?

[00:03:40] Ben Wall: Of course we eat for various reasons, of course, but one of the main aspects of our diet is energy. We get energy from three major source. Which is carbohydrates, fats and protein. As you say, carbohydrates and fats can broadly be viewed as fuels. They do have other roles, but they're kind of bulk fuel that we use to actually just carry out all the processes that our body require.

Proteins a little bit different. It provides the, the, the structural. molecules that we need to build up our body, replace all the aspects in our body that are actually made of protein, which is all the structural elements that we have. All our structural tissues, our enzymes, largely hormones, everything that makes the body work really is, is constructed of proteins. And this is where

[00:04:19] Jonathan Wolf: it's not just our muscles then that

[00:04:21] Ben Wall: No, no. I mean, muscle gets a lot of focus because it adapts and it's also a big proportion of the protein that's in our body. But no, ev everything that's, a tissue structure comprises protein in the body.

[00:04:33] Jonathan Wolf: and presumably like everything is a ti and like every part of me is full of these tissues you're describing.

[00:04:37] Ben Wall: Exactly. Yeah.

[00:04:38] Jonathan Wolf: Got it. And so I'd love then to sort of talk maybe about how it fits into exercise, which is sort of the, the main topic we wanted to talk about today.

And may, maybe we could just start with like, why do we care about exercise? So, so, you know, I'm 48. I'm not an Olympic athlete. Anyone who sees me will know this. There's the team behind is laughing at this point. Why should I care about exercise and what's the role of muscles within that question of like, why should we care about exercise?

[00:05:07] Ben Wall: Okay. I mean, we care about exercise. On, on different levels. We, of course, as you point out, we've got people that care about the highest level of performance and, and, and maximizing every tiny bit of performance. More at the elite level. But we also care about exercise from a public health perspective, generally, most people would regard exercise as a cornerstone of a healthy lifestyle.

Usually they would tie that into a good diet. The question tends to be what kind of exercise should we do? How much, and what is a good diet?

[00:05:33] Jonathan Wolf: And this is because exercise has a lot of. Proven impact on remaining healthy for longer. Even just living for longer. Isn't that

[00:05:40] Ben Wall: Yeah, and I, I always look at it that the historical focus on healthy living and exercise was about living longer. I think we've moved a little bit more towards the idea now that we can just live better. So the old expression is, rather than, having years in our life, we want to have life in our years.

So there's a, there's a big focus on, on exercise to have a better health span necessarily done just in a lifespan.

[00:06:02] Jonathan Wolf: And so can you help us understand a little bit, I guess, why is the exercise helping without health span and how does that tie into caring about your muscles and things like this? Cuz you might say, ah, so I need to like walk a certain amount in order to be healthy, but why wouldn't I try and get away with like the lowest number of muscles to do that?

Why would I care about ever doing something where I'm, you know, lifting something heavy could just help to, Pick that a bit more to help us understand like what would be the objective. Someone's listening to this and they're probably saying, I'd really like to have that health span for as long as possible.

I think it's something we talk a lot about on this podcast. Can you help us understand a bit more how these aspects of exercise work and like how do muscles and and supporting muscles fit into that?

[00:06:47] Ben Wall: Of course, I suppose we could view it as different gradations of priorities. So there will be some people that just want to get moving, they want to do more steps per day and, and things like target step counts often work to get those people moving. Some people want to do far more intense exercise, whether that's running resistance training, games based sports, things like that.

Everybody's got their own different goals. Broadly, when I'm asked what is a good kind of exercise, what exercise should I do, I, I think the most pragmatic answer to that is, whatever you like to do, whatever you will stick to doing. Cuz generally doing a bit more is generally better, at least from the perspective of health.

Exercise generally, and, and I guess broadly across exercise modalities improves the physiological systems across the body, almost a exercises. Medicine is a nice expression because it's basically improving the physiological systems across the body.

[00:07:35] Jonathan Wolf: Can you give us a few examples? Sorry, just to explain, cause you used some fancy words there for a minute, which sound great. I love the idea of improving all these systems. What are they? Could you give us some examples?

[00:07:43] Ben Wall: so for instance, the cardiovascular system will react very positively to exercise. You'll have benefits to cardiovascular health so that whether that's your vasculature in terms of disease risk will reduce.

[00:07:54] Jonathan Wolf: this is like your heart and your arteries and all these sorts of

[00:07:57] Ben Wall: absolutely your lung function will improve. Increasing attention is paid on the actual, cognitive function improving with exercise of.

[00:08:04] Jonathan Wolf: is that true? Does your brain actually improve with

[00:08:06] Ben Wall: Absolutely. There's lots of evidence to suggest, I mean, one of the things that's always nice about brain function and exercise is the tight correlation that's been observed several times between brain function and the amount of exercise people do.

[00:08:17] Jonathan Wolf: like, is this really true? Because it sounds, I was brought up that like your brain and your body are two completely different things. I was not brought up in a household that was really big on it. My mom's listening to it like, love you mom. But like, that was definitely not like a big part of my life.

So I'm rather stunned that you're saying if I do exercise, actually my brain is going to be healthier.

[00:08:35] Ben Wall: Well, I, I wouldn't purport to be a, a, a cognitive scientist, but the, the nice correlations have always been observed as have always begged the question, which is, do people exercise and then their brain becomes healthier or is their brain healthier and therefore they do more exercise? But there's certainly nice correlations between brain health and exercise.

And it's a, it is, it is a really emerging area of what the mechanism might be.

[00:08:55] Jonathan Wolf: I think lots of people listening to this worrying about dementia, Alzheimer's, things like this. It sounds like you're saying, you know, exercise potentially it sounds like could actually help with that.

[00:09:04] Ben Wall: Absolutely. I mean, I would probably say it's a reasonable comment to say there isn't a physiological system such as the brain, the heart, the lungs, the musculature, the skeleton that hasn't been associated with positive benefits of engaging in regular physical activity.

[00:09:18] Jonathan Wolf: Got it. So, so just to make sure I, I've got that you're sort of saying if I'm doing regular exercise, It's gonna help almost every part of my body. And that's not just saying it makes you stronger, you're saying Actually it helps me, my, I'm less likely to have a heart attack, my less likely to have a stroke.

My, I might be less likely to have, you know, dementia. Hence your exercises. Like, it's like taking medicine.

[00:09:43] Ben Wall: Absolutely, and I, I guess that's the, when we talked about whether or not exercise is gonna improve the length of your life and the strength of your life, the next level down is, this is why, because it's improving all the how we function every day, which is again, making us live longer, but making us live better.

The next level of analysis down after that is probably what kind of exercise are we doing to target different organ systems or functions of the body that we care most about?

[00:10:08] Jonathan Wolf: and how do the muscles fit into this? Because I think that's where we started with this and the food we're eating to support them. Why do I need to make my muscles any stronger in order to do any of this?

[00:10:21] Ben Wall: There's a very strong correlation between the amount of muscle tissue we have and how strong it is and how well we live, particularly as we get to our older years. So how much we have and how strong it is, is important. But it's not just how much we have and how strong it is, it's also how metabolically efficient it is.

Muscle tissue isn't just what we use for locomotion, for moving around and lifting things up. It's also what we use.

[00:10:44] Jonathan Wolf: me smile cuz locomotion makes me think of that eighties song. It's about the last time I've heard anybody use it. Gone. So that's like walking around doing the locomotion.

[00:10:51] Ben Wall: Indeed doing the locomotion. But it's also what we use to metabolize the majority of our nutrients.

So when we take in a meal, whether it's carbohydrate, fat, or protein, by virtue of how much muscle tissue we have, even in a relatively lean person, the muscle tissue's, the depo for disposing of all those nutrients and using them to create energy or to create new proteins.

[00:11:12] Jonathan Wolf: Can you help explain that a bit more? Cause I think I have quite a simple idea of this, which is like, well, it's really your guts breaking all of this stuff down into like little pieces, and then it's sort of getting dispersed in your blood and put somewhere. Can you help us to understand a bit more what the muscles are doing as you've just described?

[00:11:28] Ben Wall: Absolutely. Take for example, one of the most commonly used markers of metabolic health, which is how much sugar we have in our blood, that sugar in the blood is, is there largely because of what we've eaten. So if we eat a carbohydrate rich meal, As you point out that carbohydrate will be digested, it'll be absorbed and it'll enter into the bloodstream.

So the blood, the blood sugar will rise in a healthy individual with a reasonable amount of muscle tissue, and also that muscle tissue sensitive as well. So metabolically healthy, the muscle will suck up that sugar out of the bloodstream, which is why if we're metabolically healthy, we have relatively stable and low blood sugar.

[00:12:08] Jonathan Wolf: So the muscles are playing this really important role in sort of dampening down what would otherwise be these big spikes. Exactly. And they can. Sort of take it in,

[00:12:16] Ben Wall: It's like a reservoir

[00:12:17] Jonathan Wolf: and you described it as though if they're metabolically healthy. So what is an unhealthy muscle and what happens in that situation?

[00:12:25] Ben Wall: if you consider the example we've just given, which is taking up all the sugar after a meal, imagine if we lose some of that muscle tissue or that muscle tissue. Reduces its ability to take up the sugar. If we take in the same amount of sugar in our diet, that now stays in our bloodstream and gives us elevated blood sugar, which we often use as a marker for pre-diabetes.

Or when it becomes too, too, regular or too high, we call it type two diabetes. So you've got two aspects there, which is you need sufficient amount of tissue to act as this reservoir, and then you need that tissue to be healthy. So what we say, quality muscle. So what we've just described there is something called the insulin sensitivity of the muscle, which is the ability of the muscle to respond to the hormone insulin to take up sugar into itself and, and, and act as that storage depo.

If it does that, let's say in somebody who's regularly exercising, it can do that very sensitively and it can use all that sugar for exercise and it, and it, it also has fats in the muscle that it uses for exercise. It uses as the fuels. When muscle tissue becomes less healthy, it reduces its ability to use both that fat and the sugars.

For actually creating energy, so it stays in there as a kind of inert molecule that basically just causes problems with the process of disposing of nutrients. This basically leads to the overspill of having additional fats and sugars in the bloodstream, and this is what we call metabolically less healthy, and a lot of it stems from the muscle being less healthy.

[00:13:50] Jonathan Wolf: that's really interesting. So you're saying that, you know, there's almost like two things here. One is that you need a level of muscle in order to do the sorts of exercise that's important. And I think we'll, we'll talk a bit later. Later I think about aging, where I think we all know that you can start to reach the point where you just can't get around and you have this massive loss of quality of life.

But there's also something here really about the quality of the muscles really affecting health and that feels like a brilliant point to ask about how we get there and, and maybe. How does protein fit into this story? You said that protein is important for helping to build all of these different parts of our body.

How, how does the protein fit in and the nutrition fit into this idea of, of healthy muscles,

[00:14:33] Ben Wall: If you consider what we've just discussed about. Trying to improve the quality of muscle tissue. We often use terms like reconditioning. We want to recondition our muscle tissue, which is quite an accurate term because if you engage in physical activity now, whether it's going for a run or lifting weights, what will happen in the hours and days following that bout of exercise is you will recondition your muscle tissue.

What we generally mean by that is you're going to break down and rebuild up. The proteins that comprise that muscle, relatively slow rate. Muscle proteins turn over, like all proteins in the body do relatively small amount about one or 2% per day, but that still means over weeks and months that you are replacing all your muscle proteins.

This is what we mean by reconditioning. The reconditioning that you're gonna do will depend on the goal that you want. So we've just talked about increasing insulin sensitivity. If you want healthier muscle, that's better at doing that. You want to replace the proteins that make you more insulin sensitive.

If you want to be stronger, you want to replace and add the proteins that make you stronger. That's going to come ultimately from meals. So in the hours after exercise, we were gonna consume food. So we've got two stimuli there. We've got the. Exercise itself is stimulating the muscle to rebuild itself, and we've got the nutrition is providing the building blocks and also a stimulus to help it rebuild itself.

So it's a really a synergistic effort between exercise and nutrition to actually recondition that muscle to become better, healthier, stronger, faster.

[00:16:07] Jonathan Wolf: And, and one of the things that, you know, when I first got introduced to this idea of the gym, a as I said, which I'd never understood before, is like you don't go to the gym and just sort of by doing some exercise, your muscles actually grow. Actually, you're doing this really weird thing where you're going into the gym in order to like break your muscles, which sounds really crazy, right?

There's not many other things in life where like, I'm gonna make this better by going in and like smashing it up. But sort of what I was explaining to me is like, you're going in and you're. You're lifting these things or you're running whatever these things are, you're actually like breaking your muscles.

How does that fit in with this idea of just the sort of steady, sort of, you were saying one to 2% of these things are just sort of turning over. Why do we think it's a good idea to, to break these and could, could you just help me puzzle this one out?

[00:16:55] Ben Wall: It's a nice way of putting it because it, it, it's, it's pretty accurate what you've just said. I mean, if you consider that just sitting here, we're building up and breaking down all our muscle proteins anyway, relatively slowly, as I've said,

[00:17:06] Jonathan Wolf: Because that just happens a little bit steadily every time, like it's getting worn out and it's being

[00:17:11] Ben Wall: Exactly. All protein pools of the body have to replace themselves gradually, and all tissues do this at different rates depending on their different function. It's basically the replacement of damaged proteins and the renewal of, of, of new proteins. So this is a constant process that's always going on.

What you said about going to the gym, And basically breaking something down is true because there's some nice early work that demonstrates that if you go and do a single bout of heavy exercise, you increase the rate at which you're breaking down your proteins and you increase the rate that you're building them up.

So as a result of that, the overall turnover rate is increasing and this is the reconditioning response of muscle. However, what that work also showed that if you as often is done in laboratory based experiments, do this in young, healthy people who are having no food. The rate they're breaking down their muscle is still actually greater than the rate they're building their muscle.

So without the addition of food into the equation of exercise, you will still remain in a situation where it's actually quite difficult to build muscle or build stronger, faster muscle because the exercise itself has also broken down some of that muscle.

[00:18:13] Jonathan Wolf: and so. You need to eat enough protein to both deal with like just the constant background level of needing to replace a fraction of the muscles. And then because you're doing this extra exercise, you're like, you're breaking down more. So you've gotta get like more protein in order to first, I guess, just fix it back to the level it was.

And then for people who are listening, it's like, yeah, I want to have more muscles. Then they need to have even more protein on top.

[00:18:39] Ben Wall: Yeah. I mean, it refers back to the initial question you asked me about having protein straight after exercise, because once researchers have demonstrated that while exercise was increasing this. Building up of proteins. It wasn't doing it enough to actually outweigh the increase in breaking down of muscle.

They, of course, performed an experiment under the laboratory conditions where they immediately gave somebody protein after the exercise. And this solved the problem because it meant that you've now got all the extra protein coming in from the gut. You've got the anabolic effect of the exercise and hay presta.

You've got a much more anabolic environment. So therefore, everybody said you have to have protein directly after exercise. To create this, this, this muscle building response. But of course, this was a, a virtue of doing things under laboratory conditions where you are tightly controlling human volunteers for 10, 11, 12 hours with various different invasive procedures happening to them not having any other food or anything else, rather than looking at whether or not that would be different on meals of different times of day, for example.

So while those experiments did show. Quite simply that the addition of nutrition or dietary protein ingestion with exercise was better for building muscle than exercise alone. They didn't really address when we should have it or how much we should have.

[00:19:50] Jonathan Wolf: and for normal people. So again, putting aside. The Tour de France cyclists and Olympic athletes that sometimes people are talking about for, for normal people, including people who maybe are working out a lot and really trying to be healthy. You are saying you don't really need to worry too much.

Like you might finish your gym and not eat for two or three hours. You don't think it really makes any difference?

[00:20:14] Ben Wall: No, I mean the, the attention then was paid on what was called the anabolic window, and it was often purported that the anabolic window was within an hour.

[00:20:21] Jonathan Wolf: just explain what the anabolic window is, which sounds cool, but you've lost me.

[00:20:26] Ben Wall: It sounded so cool that it created a lot of traction without so much research behind it, but it's basically a.

[00:20:31] Jonathan Wolf: a, that happens on the internet a lot.

[00:20:32] Ben Wall: Yes.

It basically is the, the term used that the idea of when you finish exercise, you have an anabolic window, and this window is a time period in which you should eat protein in order to maximize the gains of muscle tissue that you've achieved during your workout. So, It's exactly what you said to think, will I lose all those gains of muscle if I don't have protein straight after exercise?

And it is, it is unfair to say that the evidence didn't support that claim because that's all the evidence we had, which is it was either protein after exercise or not, and you had a greater muscle building response. But research then went on to look at, does it matter if we delay that protein by an hour or two or is there a difference?

Because does every meal following exercise for 1, 2, 3, 4 hours or even up to a day or two, have the same response in terms of the additional effect of exercise, nutrition. And I think the consensus is, is broadly that I've heard it described by others quite, quite articulately as it's, rather than an anabolic window, it's more like a garage door that's left open for at least a day or two. And, and really what happens is we do a bout of exercise. It does give our body the stimulus we need to remodel itself, and then we extract the nutrients we record. Choir from several meals for the next day or two, quite effectively without worrying too much. If it's in the first hour, the body doesn't know if it's one hour or one hour 10 minutes.

[00:21:49] Jonathan Wolf: I think that's incredibly reassuring. And we had a previous podcast with Christopher Gardner, who's a good friend of ZOE's, and he gave this great analogy that I found really reassuring. He was like, you know, when you do a lot of exercise, after you finish, do you tend to be hungry?

And I was like, Yeah, you know, you, you're quite right, like if you've gone out for a really long walk somewhere, or he'd done something really hard or he was saying, you know, I've got a 15 year old son. Like, he comes back, he's starving. He's like, yeah, you're really hungry. He saying like, what do you do?

He's like, oh, like I eat lots of food. And he say, sort of bingo. So that in a sense, Once again, what a surprise. I think his message was, your body tends to tell you when you need this and that, you know, for most people, probably your hunger is going to help to, to drive, drive this. Do you think that's a, would you agree with Christopher, I guess on this?

[00:22:36] Ben Wall: I, I would, I mean, we, we, we always have to try to, use the best laboratory controlled experiments to understand the fundamental mechanisms and then have some level of pragmatism to how that rolls out into real life. So if you do increase the protein requirement of the muscle by exercising it, the muscle's gonna be quite good at extracting that protein requirements from subsequent meals.

It's not, it's not going to say, if I don't get it in the next half an hour, I'm gonna stop using it.

[00:23:01] Jonathan Wolf: We talked a lot about muscles. We actually had a lot of questions from our listeners about the impact of menopause, so maybe perimenopause, post-menopause. Is protein also important for things like bone health or is it very much focused on, on muscles? This, this conversation?

[00:23:16] Ben Wall: No, it's important for bone health as well, and that's been a relatively controversial topic over the years. There was a narrative suggesting that higher protein diets to support exercise may be less good for bone health. I think that's largely been debunked in terms of it's probably quite good for bone health.

There's less data on bone health. One of the reasons there's so much on muscle tissue and exercise A, because people care about muscle tissue because it's got such a key role in how your muscle tissue adapts, ultimately dictates the function that you want to do with it. But also because it's, it's slightly easier to investigate.

People forget that a lot of what we know about muscle metabolism is because we can directly sample muscle tissue from healthy people and we can, we can measure all

[00:23:56] Jonathan Wolf: Sample means cut out. Does it?

[00:23:58] Ben Wall: It does. Lovely.

[00:23:59] Jonathan Wolf: Well, you can't sample my muscle tissue today. Thank you, Ben.

[00:24:01] Ben Wall: No, no problem. I didn't, I didn't bring a needle with me today to do it

[00:24:05] Jonathan Wolf: Maybe next time if you told me it was a clinical study, I'd let you do it anyway. I'm like a total, I'm totally up for every clinical study, but Okay.

[00:24:12] Ben Wall: but it is harder to do those things in for instance, bone, tissue or, or all of the tissues where it is more invasive to sample those.

[00:24:20] Jonathan Wolf: Got it. But protein is, just to understand, cuz I think I sort of grew up with the idea of bone has somehow been like sort of inert, almost stonelike substance. But protein plays a role in bone health.

[00:24:32] Ben Wall: Yeah, it's one of the things that's been realized relatively recently or not realized but appreciated, is that there is the turnover rates of protein and bone. Heart, even brain is always occurring and it's still extracting amino acids, the building blocks of protein from the protein in our diet. So we're not just replacing muscle proteins with what we, we are replacing proteins across all these other organ tissues as well.

And they also similarly respond to exercise. We know less about how they adapt to every meal than we do muscle tissue, but we do know that they're influencing it. Absolutely.

[00:25:03] Jonathan Wolf: And so how, and this helps to explain why healthy diet is important for bone health. You know, we're particularly talking here obviously about menopause, but more broadly,

[00:25:11] Ben Wall: Absolutely.

[00:25:13] Jonathan Wolf: last question before, we wanna talk more about how this ties into aging and things like this. But is there a maximum amount of protein that actually our bodies can absorb?

Or is this a myth?

[00:25:26] Ben Wall: This, this was one of the, the real hot topics, maybe 10, 15 years ago, and there were some really nice studies that kind of, I, I think, do give us some quite clear answers. And, and sometimes I think it's about how, how you phrase the question, if you say, is there a maximum amount of protein that we can absorb?

Probably not. we, we, we will absorb everything that goes into the gut to some extent. It might just take longer. It might be slower if we have a lot. But how much we absorb versus how much we use metabolically is a different question. So if we imagine that we take in a, a very large. Meal containing, let's say we have a, a really large steak, lots of protein in it.

It might sit for, at various levels of the gut for, for, for several hours. But ultimately we will absorb a set amount of the amino acids in that protein, and we will use those for metabolism over time. Another way of asking it is, is there a maximal amount of protein that we can use to stimulate muscle growth, for example?

And that became something that was then investigated with sort of systematic approaches using state-of-the-art techniques to look at muscle tissue itself. So there's a study from Stu Phillips’ lab, I forget the date now, but Dan Moore was the first author and he looked at gradations of ingestion of egg protein and what he did there is, I think it was, 20 grams.

You could see there was a maximal response of muscle tissue in terms of this building up this synthesis response we're talking about. And this was either rest or post exercise. If you had 40 grams of protein, you've still absorbed it, it's just not being used to build up muscle tissue. You've reached a plateau there.

And actually what you use then is more of the protein is just, oxidized. It's used as energy and, and, and generally disposed of.

[00:27:01] Jonathan Wolf: So just like extra calories?

[00:27:02] Ben Wall: Extra calories. Exactly. You're not...

[00:27:04] Jonathan Wolf: might mean just eventually stored as fat in your body as well, right? Like just not necessarily disposed of. This is what I discovered from Christopher a few months ago.

[00:27:12] Ben Wall: Absolutely. Ultimately, if you're having excess calories of any macronutrient, you've only really got one place to store them, and that's in fat. Tissue protein can only really be stored in very, very minute amounts in this synthetic response of tissues after eating, and there's no other way of storing protein.

So yes, disposed of. That sudy's also been repeated several times with different proteins, and it's a similar story, which is once you go above 20 grams in a meal, you're not getting any extra muscle building response. The only caveat I would give to that is there's one study recently that showed that you might be able to, use a little bit more for muscle building if some of these laboratory based experiments that only use single leg exercise.

Or using whole body exercise where all of a sudden you're increasing the protein demands of the muscle across the body rather than just one leg. So there is some suggestion there that it might be a little bit higher than 20, but there will always be a maximal limit that we can use.

[00:28:06] Jonathan Wolf: And can we talk about those numbers just for a minute? Cause we had so many questions around this and what I understood from this podcast we did a few months ago. Is there's a sort of recommended daily amount of protein. I think it was about sort of 0.8 grams per kilogram of body weight and that for most people this was probably sufficient.

Is that your view also? But then how does that change four people who are maybe. Doing a lot of exercise, really trying to build up muscle and how does that fit with the amount per meal? You just sort of mentioned this sort of 20 grams per meal because it seems like, well if you're eating three meals a day, that's sort of capping you at 60.

That still feels way less than when I went to the gym and spoke to. My training, I think he was more like two grams per kilogram or something that I was supposed to be eating in order to like maximize the benefit of this new amazing buff Jonathan, which if you see me, you see it hasn't really entirely delivered.

So I think there's lots of questions and I think this pushes people to eat a lot of foods as a result. So I think it's really important and like what are the facts? What does the science say?

[00:29:13] Ben Wall: Okay. so, the no 0.8 grams per kilogram body mass is a recommended daily amount. Without going into the too much detail on that, that's, that's broadly the amount we should eat to remain in something called nitrogen. Balance. So that's, that's taking in a similar amount of nitrogen, which is the only place we take that in is within protein and excreting the same amount of nitrogen.

So that's balance. So basically retaining our tissue as it is that's derived from nitrogen balanced studies, which is, by necessity at a whole body level. So it's in encompassing all the tissues of our body, and it's by definition in, comes in the majority of the population. So it's a very good benchmark amount that we should have to remain healthy.

The, the, the difference there when we're talking about an a, a recommended daily amount for health is, is, is kind of a minimum requirement to maintain health. When we're talking about exercise, what we're generally talking about is trying to optimize something like an adaptive response to exercise.

[00:30:08] Jonathan Wolf: An adaptive response means with,

[00:30:10] Ben Wall: the, with the most obvious example to use here is if the example you've just said, you're going to the gym, the trainer's trying to give you exercises to try and increase your muscle mass.

So you're saying you need to increase your protein. That's a different question to whether or not this is protein for health. This is trying to, or general health across the body. This is, will having more protein increase the amount of muscle tissue I have. So that's really a slightly different question.

It's almost like an optimal. Versus a minimal requirement for health. When we do this, then we can look at whether or not broadly just consuming more protein is beneficial even before we look at the amount per meal or the timing. And the answer to that is I'll perhaps start with the answer and then, and then.

And then explain what, where we've come to this answer is it does having more than the RDA does increase the amount of muscle mass we can gain while training, but it's a relatively small amount. The majority of muscle that we gain is a direct result of the exercise and an adequate protein in our diet.

We can add a little bit on top of that by actually increasing our protein intake.

[00:31:09] Jonathan Wolf: So it's the first part of that message is if you're not. Not training hard at the gym. Your RDA is just fine. I think you're saying if you are training hard or it doesn't have to be just at the gym, I guess. Like you could be out walking miles or you wanna get yourself stronger and fitter.

I think you're saying you probably do want to be higher. How much higher? Cuz I think this is where a lot of us have been told these numbers, which are hugely higher, causing us to worry about having enough protein. Like give us the truth, Ben.

[00:31:35] Ben Wall: I'll, I'll start with the resistance training cuz there's, there's some clearer answers on this front. Some nice systematic review and, meta-analysis type approaches that encompass. Lots of the studies in this field have generally arrived at a fairly similar conclusion, which is always reassuring in science when, when, and when different groups come to the same conclusion.

But really, if you push up from that knot 0.8 grams per kilogram body mass per day, Up to one or 1.2 all the way up to 1.6, you generally get slightly better outcomes in terms of gains of muscle mass and strength beyond 1.6. There seems to be a plateau where no additional benefits are, are, are available.

A kind of, you know, a kind of breakpoint analysis will, will, will show you that. So really that's, I would say you can find a lot of papers, recent papers now that will generally agree that about 1.6 grams per kilo is gonna give you the maximal benefit that you can expect from additional protein or diet on top.

Of training per se, the answer when we want to actually refer to something that's different than just gaining muscle, but for instance, what we discussed before, the reconditioning of muscle tissue with, for instance, more endurance-based exercise is a little bit more complicated, similar to lots of things in endurance athletes, they, they use a lot of energy.

So they consume more food so they automatically consume more protein. It may well be that it's rather similar. The nitrogen balance studies do suggest that endurance, exercise pushes up the requirements of protein close to 1.6 or even, or even, or even higher just because of the additional caloric use.

You still use some of that protein while doing exercise, but I think this is a. Quite an exciting area that's going on now because there's a lot of people using more modern approaches to actually look at whether or not the requirement for protein joint exercise and the requirement of protein to push adaptations associated with endurance exercise in the muscle, making it more energy efficient can actually benefit from that additional protein.

I would say that's a less clear answer than I can give you on the 1.6 for resistance training.

[00:33:31] Jonathan Wolf: So I think that's a really important point. This was, this came up in a, in a previous podcast, I think was looking at American and British data and suggested, you know, the RDA, like the recommended amount is this 0.8 per kilo. Actually, on average, everybody is eating double this of protein already. So that would sort of take you to this 1.6 level, which would suggest that, you know, when I went into the gym, I'm probably already eating all the protein I need for actually building muscles, nevermind holding it still.

Is that right? Do you think people need to worry about adding more protein? Take me sort of as this example, you know, in your mid forties doing this.

[00:34:07] Ben Wall: I think the vast majority probably don't need to worry if, if they're undertaking exercise and they're eating sufficient food, they're probably eating sufficient protein. They will be above the no 0.8. What we're really talking about is trying to maximize adaptations for people who are really concerned with squeezing out that ev, that last percentage of every exercise bout, and that really brings us to.

When it might be advantageous because eating 1.4 or 1.5 grams per kilo is not too difficult. If you're eating two and a half, 3000 calories, which a lot of young exercises already are, it is a lot harder if you are trying to, for instance, reduce the calories that you're consuming in your diet for weight loss.

You can't consume as many calories cuz you've got a reduced appetite or illness or inactivity because then your overall energy intake decreases, which of course then result means your protein intake decreases without particular attention to that micronutrient.

[00:35:00] Jonathan Wolf: And can we talk about that? Because I think we had a lot of questions around sort of aging people I think very interested right in maintaining that health span that you were talking about at the beginning. And I think we all know that sort of our muscles, our muscle mass, right? The amount of muscles sort of tends to decline as we get older.

To the point when, you know, we've had guests here talking about it, like you just can't get out of your chair. And at that point all these bad health things happen. I guess two questions. Why does the muscles decline? Because you know, that doesn't seem obvious and. You mentioned at the beginning that like older people may find it more difficult to get protein in as well.

So could you just explain what's going on there? And I guess therefore, as we're thinking about either ourselves or maybe, relatives, how should we thinking about nutrition and protein as we get, you know, later into our lives?

[00:35:56] Ben Wall: I think, I think aging is probably a really interesting model to discuss when some of the aspects that we've perhaps said are take care of themselves with protein and younger people. It's far more important to consider, so we lose muscle tissue as we get older. We generally call this sarcopenia a nice way of thinking about sarcopenia, and it goes back to the quality of muscle that we discussed earlier is on, on a population basis.

We tend to remain a relatively stable weight as we get older.

[00:36:22] Jonathan Wolf: I feel like despite all my best efforts, we all naturally put on a little bit of weight over time. You don't see that Ben,

[00:36:28] Ben Wall: it, it fluctuates over time. But if you look across decades, for instance, what the bigger factor is what comprises the weight that we are. So we lose muscle tissue and gain fat tissue. So it's an undesirable shift in composition and that's often called sarcopenic obesity. So you might get somebody that's not particularly, hasn't put on a lot of absolute weight, but they've actually put on a lot of fat.

But they've lost the muscle. And this is what we talk about when we get their less functional, less metabolically healthy because they've just got more fat of muscle ratio. There was a suggestion put forward by paper from Cuthbertson from Mike Rennie's lab to show that something called anabolic resistance to protein.

So this was the idea that when we have a protein meal, as we get older, we don't respond quite as effectively to it as when we were younger. So the good way of viewing that would be if we have a piece of chicken. An older person, a younger person has it. More of that piece of chicken becomes the muscle tissue of the younger person than would be the case if it was the older person.

[00:37:28] Jonathan Wolf: so this is like a very slight reduction. It's not like I'm suddenly only able to get half as much out of a protein bar or something as somebody who's 30.

[00:37:37] Ben Wall: Exactly. it is a really insidious response. and, and it basically results in the kind of what we classically see as the frail, older person in their seventies or eighties. That process probably started when they were more like 35 or 40. It's just happening much more slowly and. And one reason that is being suggested is this antibiotic resistance to protein intake.

But, the important question about that is whether or not there's anything that can be done about it, because of course, we all know that we're probably going to get frail as we get older.

[00:38:07] Jonathan Wolf: Tell us the answer.

[00:38:09] Ben Wall: Well, my answer is always there is something we can do about it because otherwise, which is what underpins how exercise and nutrition can ultimately help us live healthier lives.

Regrettably, there is some inevitability about the decay of the human body with age.

[00:38:23] Jonathan Wolf: Ben looks very young by the way, for those who listen on the podcast, so he says that, but it's very hard to feel, he can really feel it in his heart cuz he's clearly evidence for the good exercise and the good nutrition.

[00:38:34] Ben Wall: You'd have to, you'd have to verify that with my wife, whether the nutrition's good at home or not. So some studies have demonstrated that an older person can simply consume more protein within a meal. And then they can actually increase their response to a protein intake. So we discussed before about 20 grams being a maximum for a, for a kind of muscle building response.

In a younger individual, it's been shown a few times now that that is higher in older adults. So you could probably, benefit from 25 or 30 grams of protein, whereas the younger person wouldn't benefit from it.

[00:39:04] Jonathan Wolf: it and how, because there's two parts to this, I think, right? So one is that. You may well just not be doing as much exercise as you're older than. Certainly you were probably when, you know, I'm thinking about my 15 year old who's kind of at this point where like there's a lot of exercise in his, in his day, which is already not true for me unless I make it happen.

And then there's also, I think you're saying sort of declining appetite. So you're just eating less food. Is it a combination of the two that is leading to sort of this loss of muscle? And can you fix it just by eating more protein or do you have to lead with the more exercise and then the nutrition is on top?

[00:39:46] Ben Wall: It's a great question. I mean, in some respects, some people have. Tried to take the, the, the real extreme stance of saying we, we don't decay. Cause we get older. We decay because we get less active because of course the two go hand in hand as you have just pointed out. And we can certainly, this anabolic resistance that I speak of, which we can, which we can detect just in, in populations that are 30 years apart, we can detect in two, three, or four days if we just immobilize the leg of a healthy individual.

So what I mean by that is if we measure the anabolic response, the muscle building response to a meal in a young, healthy individual who has walked around with one leg in a cast for a few days and the other leg not. So we isolate the variable of activity, nothing to do with age. We see anabolic resistance straight away in every individual we look at.

[00:40:32] Jonathan Wolf: and just to make sure that I've, honestly, anabolic mean like somehow the leg that was in this cast just can't use this protein successfully compared to the other leg that's still been walking around.

[00:40:43] Ben Wall: Precisely. We actually showed a few years ago that from a meal of, 20 grams of protein, 40% less was used by the immobile leg compared to the mobile leg.

[00:40:54] Jonathan Wolf: So coming back, I guess to my question, can you fix this just by eating more protein or really you need to exercise and the protein is, Is secondary,

[00:41:03] Ben Wall: The exercise still becomes paramount. So the other thing that an older person can do is perform a bout of exercise and a performing bout of exercise. Basically sensitizes the muscle to the amino acids, the, the protein and the diet. So it makes muscle respond a little bit more youthfully, if you like.

But we can then we, we, we can also then go a broad picture back, look cross sectionally, older people who are more active, older people who consume more protein, older people who do both. And we can say yes. Generally these cohorts of older people lose muscle tissue, a slightly lower rate than those that don't exercise or consume sufficient protein.

However, the regretful bit that I said at the beginning is they are still losing muscle tissue.

[00:41:44] Jonathan Wolf: And if I try to pin you to the ground, which I know scientists hate to do, Without really all the data and you were saying like, I want to make sure that I don't have this muscle loss cuz it's really gonna affect the health you were describing in my brain and my heart and all the rest of it. I mean, is this 80% exercise and 20% making sure I'm getting enough protein?

Is it 50 feet? Like how much of those two should I be worrying about as I think now about like my action, somebody's listening and saying, what do I need to do? Is it to go and eat more chicken or is it to like go for a walk?

[00:42:16] Ben Wall: I would, I would say it's 80% upwards on the physical activity side. We see that the. Consuming protein becomes less and less effective as we become less and less active. In fact, when we immobilize people, we struggle to pick up the benefits of protein.

[00:42:30] Jonathan Wolf: I'd love therefore to come on to sort of this question about. Where you get your protein. And I think that we are living currently in this environment where there's this enormous amount of advertising about, you know, ultra processed foods that have all of this protein. And I was thinking about, you know, those bars that say 10 grams of protein added or people thinking about I need to have.

Like some sort of shake with whey powder in it in order to get the protein that I need. I think everything that we've learned through this podcast makes me feel very negative about those sorts of foods, but they do have lots of protein in it. Right? So very high levels compared to most foods. How would you think about them?

[00:43:11] Ben Wall: there's an argument to say if you want to get every single percent out of your workout at the more elite level, that it might make a difference. The exact protein that you have following exercise, you might get slightly more out of it if we. Step back slightly and look at all the protein that we consume across a day.

This tends to pale into insignificance compared to just getting sufficient protein for your goals, whether that's training or whether that's living a healthy life as we get older. An important point of view there would be is the pragmatic view though, because we've just discussed older people maybe have a slightly increased requirement for protein, for muscle health.

But that's concomitant or in parallel with the idea that they might eat less or find it harder to eat more. So there's a role then for how much protein is just available in foods. So something like chicken, it might not just be that chicken protein's great, or whey protein's great. It's just got quite a lot of protein in it.

And if you wanna get the same amount of protein from broccoli, you've got to eat a lot of broccoli to get that same amount of protein. So there's a level of convenience and practicality to something like a supplement that might be. Far more important than the actual protein that that happens to be in it, for example, being particularly magic.

[00:44:22] Jonathan Wolf: It was a bit on both sides. There, there, Ben, like let's say I'm listening to this, I'm just thinking about my, like actionably what I should do, you know, maybe take me as an example. So I am going to the gym three times a week. You know, I'm, I'm lifting some heavy weight cause I'm told that's good for me to help maintain all the health things that you're, you're describing.

I've sort of came away from the last conversation that we had about protein thinking. I really don't need to worry about protein, that's not really a problem. I need to make sure that I'm eating a really good, healthy diet and it's balanced, and that's gonna give me all that I need and that therefore, you know, the sort of these protein shakes that I had when I first started doing this definitely don't make sense.

Would you agree with that or actually saying, well, actually, maybe I need to worry a bit more if I'm, I'm doing that about whether I'm getting enough protein.

[00:45:08] Ben Wall: No, I don't think you need to. I mean, if, if, if you take the example you give, let's, let's take a real textbook example. You're exercising, you're working, you're, you're using, two and a half thousand calories a day. You're consuming two and a half thousand calories a day. The protein comprises 15 to 20% of that, you're probably getting sufficient protein.

I suppose the situation changes. If you are trying to cut down your calories. You wanna have 1500 calories a day. You want sufficient protein to support the adaptations of the exercise, but you don't want excess calories. You'll then be seeking protein dense foods.

[00:45:38] Jonathan Wolf: Got it. This is like, I want. To look incredibly buff for my next Hollywood movie. So I need to have all my muscles and like 7% body fat. That's your, I'm looking forward to being asked to be in that next Hollywood movie somehow. I haven't had the invitation yet for

[00:45:52] Ben Wall: It could be that, or it could also equivalently just be wanting to lose weight for health reasons, but wanting to retain some muscle tissue for health reasons as well. So there's an element there of just wanting to make sure protein doesn't drop at the same time as calories. Dewdrop things like protein shakes or protein container foods become just a, a, a feasible strategy for not having a full meal, but having the same protein.

It's not necessarily if you are having sufficient protein, you know, the additional gains from that are probably so small as that most people wouldn't notice. I think the interesting element there is if you want to replace something like, meat proteins with non meat proteins,

[00:46:32] Jonathan Wolf: was gonna say I'd love to talk about, cuz I think, you know, one side is the ultra process. I don't think many people listening to all of these podcasts will be very excited about that. I think lots of people are really interested to understand. Plant versus animal protein. You're talking about whe, right?

That comes ultimately from dairy, doesn't it? So what does the science say about plant versus animal? We had lots of questions around this.

[00:46:56] Ben Wall: Again, if I go back to the traditional literature, some very nice studies, these laboratory controlled studies that have looked at the hours following exercise compared originally the muscle building, following a bout of exercise. In conjunction with the consumption of dairy proteins, whey and casein, and generally compared that to soy protein.

Soy protein was generally lower in some of the essential amino acids that we think are important in muscle building. And in line with that, they showed a lower muscle building response. Largely following these studies, there was the narrative, therefore, that if you want to go to a gym and build as much muscle as possible, then you've got to stick with animal proteins.

And I think that we've probably moved from that narrative now in the current literature because we now have studies on more, more divergent protein sources from plant origin.

[00:47:43] Jonathan Wolf: So rather than just eating this one plant from protein, you're now saying like lots of different plants with lots of different mixes

[00:47:49] Ben Wall: Exactly

[00:47:50] Jonathan Wolf: the amino acids

[00:47:51] Ben Wall: there's, because one of the main criticisms of a plant protein would be that it might be lower, you can use the word deficient, but at least lower in key amino acids. That's definitely true. The question is how consequential that is. When we think that we actually multiple plant-based proteins from different sources, complimentary proteins.

If we, again, coming back to the idea that we are getting sufficient protein, the studies. More recently now looking at that more consequential question, which is if I'm getting sufficient protein and training, does it matter where it comes from? Generally show? No, it doesn't matter. We recently published a paper, this year demonstrating that people training five times a week, very, very hard intense training for 10 weeks.

They gained about two and a half kilos of muscle tissue. Half of them were obtaining most of their protein from animal sources, half from plant-based sources. There was no difference at all. And, and that was the, that was the goal of the study was to. Drive the biggest adaption to the big, the biggest amount of muscle tissue we could gain in, in, in a, in a relatively short period of time, as we could and give them the optimal diet with animal protein and everything that will people say, and then see if that was, impaired, if we made them virtually, exclusively vegan for that time, and it didn't impair it. So that's how, and it's also in line with. Papers from other groups such that the, the only caveat I would say there is in all the papers so far, that is people having sufficient protein.

[00:49:13] Jonathan Wolf: And assuming. Cause I think, you know, we, we, we talked a bit about some of this sort of particular issues around aging, but we all know that most people's issue is not that they're not eating enough food, right. It's. That they're eating too much of the wrong sorts of food, cuz that's the environment we live in.

Was there anything special about the sorts of plants that they were eating in this, in this study that you did?

[00:49:32] Ben Wall: Yeah, I mean, we hinged that to using fungal derived proteins, myprotein, mainly because we'd used those, those proteins before, and we demonstrated that they, they were, under. The more controlled laboratory environments that we've discussed. They were as anabolic as animal proteins. So they're a kind of controlled agriculture really with benefits in terms of sustainability, in the same way that people want benefits on the plant-based proteins and these other various aspects.

The caveat I always give to this work is, is is just a bit harder to feed somebody on on relatively high protein diets when you take away animal proteins. When we talked earlier about. Easily consuming 1.2, 1.4 grams. If you actually look at the diet diaries of people that do that, a big proportion's coming from dairy and meat.

So when you do take those out, you perhaps have to be a little bit more cognizant of where that's going to come from, and then selecting protein sources that can actually fulfill that.

[00:50:25] Jonathan Wolf: That makes a lot of sense. And I think there's a lot of people listening who may have really cut back meat in their diet but are actually still having quite a bit of dairy. And that definitely describes my diet, for example. And it's clearly what you're saying is that's really quite easy if you go to being vegan and you're cutting out all of dairy, then I think it's sort of raising the bar and making sure you're having this healthy, balanced diet.

And I know that there's, there'll be lots of people listening saying, I have this fantastic diet doing that. You sort of have to be a bit more thoughtful. Am I right in saying that in order to make sure you're getting the right protein?

[00:50:53] Ben Wall: I think so. I think it's kind of inescapable. You've got to be more thoughtful. But I think what we and others have shown in those kind of papers is it's eminently achievable.

[00:51:02] Jonathan Wolf: Amazing. We were following up on exactly what sort of fermented mushrooms you can have, because I think if Tim was, Tim's will be listening as late, you know, that's, he's got all the things he's going to love. Plants, fermentation, all, all the rest of it. Ben, there's many more things that I could ask, but I, I think we're definitely at time.

I'd love to try and do a quick summary of what we covered and please, you know, let me know if I've got anything wrong as I, as I run through it, if that's okay.

[00:51:28] Ben Wall: Absolutely.

[00:51:29] Jonathan Wolf: brilliant. So I think we started by just saying exercise is incredibly important and there's just this new emerging evidence about how it affects all parts of our health.

I was particularly excited to hear about this, this, that it may even affect your risk of dementia. It's not just about your cardiovascular health and things like this. Muscles are a really big part of this and an interesting this, such a thing as a healthy or an unhealthy muscle. It's not just how, how big it is, which was completely news to me.

And if you can get to these healthier muscles, actually they're really gonna. Port you by, for example, reducing these blood sugar spikes, being able to sort of balance your, your body out more. They're constantly replacing themselves. I think you said like one to 2% of the muscle is basically turning over and if we exercise, we actually increase that.

So that's even more. So we need to keep eating these, this protein just to maintain our muscles and then we need to eat even more if we want to, get more muscle, which will probably support that exercise and the health. Most people don't need to worry about having enough protein that the nor 0.8 grams per kilogram is sort of what you need for balance.

Now if you're trying to put on more weight, and that could be like my 15 year old son who just frankly is putting on that cuz he's growing but also wants to get stronger. Or somebody saying, you know, I really need to get fitter. Maybe I'm. The person you described who's seen their weight stay fairly stable, but actually over time that, you know, the muscle has gone down and, and the fat has gone up, then it, it needs to be higher.

And you said it does depend the sort of exercise you're doing, you said for resistance training. So this is sort of like the weights and the strength that I think we've spoken with Javier and others have been really great for your health. Probably 1.6 grams per kilo is really the top. So once you go above that, it doesn't matter anymore.

Might be a bit higher for endurance, not sure. And again, most people are getting this, and I think the two people that you described you need to think about is one, is as you're getting older and then you know, getting relatively late, I think in your life you're describing, you'll find it harder to absorb this protein.

You may also just be eating smaller amounts so it can be a problem and to look at. And yet in all of these cases, fundamentally it's, it's, the exercise is 80% of this, the nutrition is the 20% that you are, you're putting around in terms of the, the muscle control and all the rest of it. 

Then final couple of things. You definitely killed a few myths. Don't worry. There's this anabolic window of when you eat after exercising. Don't worry about it. It doesn't matter if you have to delay. and I was just thinking about, you know, our ancestors going out for a hunt and killing an antelope and thinking, yeah, they probably didn't like eat the antelope straight off to killing, did they?

They worked out harder than I've ever done and presumably they went back and they made a fire and they cooked it. So it sort of makes sense that actually, we are designed to be able to wait. And then finally we talked about what sort of food you should eat. You don't need to eat these protein shakes and things like this and that.

Actually, interestingly, you've just done this brand new study that showed when you had people exercising really hard and putting on a lot of muscle, actually you could feed them an entirely plant-based diet, and they were able to put on this same, very high amount of muscle as animal. With the proviso that if you are eating no dairy, it probably is a bit harder in that situation to get all of the protein that you need so you can get it to work as a, as a vegan, but it's clearly like a, a higher bar than if you're having some cheese or whatever it is in your diet.

Where I think you were saying it was, it was pretty easy.

[00:55:01] Ben Wall: A remarkably precise and concise summary. I wish I could do it so succinctly.

[00:55:06] Jonathan Wolf: Well that's cuz I don't understand anything more than what you've just described to me. Ben, I thought that was fantastic. Thank you so much for coming in. I am sure we will have a whole host of follow on questions after this, so I hope we can get you back again in the future.

[00:55:20] Ben Wall: It's been a pleasure. Thank you very much.

[00:55:23] Jonathan Wolf: Thank you, Ben. Bye-bye. 

[00:55:25] Ben Wall: Goodbye. 

[00:55:28] Jonathan Wolf: Thank you, Ben, for joining me on ZOE Science & Nutrition today. If you want to understand how to support your body with the best foods for whatever exercise you are doing, then you may want to try ZOE's personalized nutrition program to improve your health. 

You can get 10% off by going to As always, I'm your host, Jonathan Wolf. ZOE Science & Nutrition is produced by Yella Hewings-Martin, Richard Willin, and Alex Jones here at ZOE. See you next time.