The Surprising Benefits of a Lower Protein Intake

This post is copied word for word from my new (still unreleased) fat loss program! I wanted to give you a taste of it before the launch. 

Here we go! 

The Benefits of Eating just Enough Protein, not More

You may have noticed that the protein intake I recommend is lower than most fitness people say it’s ideal. There are good reasons for that.

Last year Greg and I interviewed Eric Helms who extensively studied the protein needs of resistance trained lean athletes in a deficit (that means you). He found the ideal protein range to be 0.8-1.3 grams per pound of bodyweight or 1.8-2.9 grams per kilogram.

The bodybuilding world has an obsession with protein because amino acids are the building blocks of muscle. The thinking goes: the higher the protein intake the better the rate of muscle growth.

That’s obviously false. Eating protein doesn’t stimulate muscle growth, training does. Amino acids just need to be there to permit the growth to occur. Eric mentioned that he often has his clients reduce their protein intake because it’s unnecessarily high.

The amount of protein you need is scaled upwards with the severity of caloric restriction and leanness. The higher the body fat percentage, the lower the protein intake can be compared to total bodyweight.

In a deficit, it’s usually recommended to get 1-1.3g of protein per pound of bodyweight or 2.2-2.9g per kilogram. The main reason for that is because protein is the most satiating macronutrient and a higher intake reduces the perceived difficulty of the diet. There is evidence that a higher protein intake is also superior for lean mass retention, especially in those who are very lean.

But this doesn’t apply when you’re using Intermittent Fasting.

When you eat 4 or 5 meals a day, you are almost forced to eat a lot of protein because you have to spread it out between those meals. About 30-40g of protein are needed for a small meal to be filling, adding up to a total of 150-200g per day.  

But with IF you eat 2 or 3 big meals a day which means you can achieve the same level of fullness with less total protein. In addition to that, short term fasting has been shown to improve lean mass retention which further decreases the amount of protein you need in a deficit.

If you can eat less protein and achieve the same results, you should do it. You get two major benefits: higher testosterone levels and tastier meals. Let’s talk about each of them.

Testosterone Levels and Protein Intake

A calorie deficit combined with a very low body fat percentage will always reduce testosterone levels to some extent. That is well established. But something most people don’t know is that the macronutrient profile of the food you consume plays a major role in determining your hormonal balance.

Each of the macronutrients are involved in supporting the endocrine system and overall healthy functioning of the body. And the current research shows us that:

  1. Low carbohydrate diets are detrimental for testosterone optimization.

    In one study that measured the effects of carbohydrate consumption on free testosterone:cortisol ratio over repeated days of training, researchers found that free testosterone decreased by 36% in the low carb group and cortisol increased by 15%.
    And the low carb group was consuming 30% of their calories from carbs. This is still considered high carb in some fitness circles. So imagine the effects of a 10-20% carb diet which is often recommended by low carb enthusiasts.
    Adequate carb intake is necessary to support training, and in supporting training it is also supporting a healthy hormonal profile by preventing the chronic rise in cortisol, glucagon and epinephrine.
  1. Low fat diets are detrimental for testosterone optimization.

    In groups of test subjects, those on a 20% fat diet had significantly lower testosterone levels than those on a 40% fat diet. Studies in vegetarians who are known to consume less saturated fat (and fat in general) also show similar results.
    Of course, individual response to low fat dieting varies a lot but a there is definitely a correlation between low fat intake and a decrease in testosterone levels.
  2. High protein diets are detrimental for testosterone optimization.

    Protein intake doesn’t reduce T levels in and of itself. It too plays a role in T production actually.
    But an increase in protein consumption will always accompany a decrease in both fat and carbohydrate intake (arguably the two more important macronutrients for endocrine support) and so it sabotages hormonal balance indirectly.
    It’s entirely possible that the main reason many men who are otherwise fit and appear healthy, still suffer from symptoms of low testosterone because they neglect fats and carbs in favor of protein.

The issue of low T in fitness models and bodybuilders is not often talked about because it’s embarrassing. You would be surprised however how many men with shredded abs actually suffer from low sex drive and erectile dysfunction. Their extreme diets are highly effective at getting you ripped but nobody mentions that you’ll have a life-less noodle between your legs at the end.

For example on show day, some natural bodybuilders have their testosterone so low it’s similar to castrate levels.

I suffered from this issue as well. During and after my first ever cut, when I didn’t know what I was doing, my diet was low calories, high protein, high fiber and low fat for about 6 months. I was ripped but during that period I had no sex drive at all. I had trouble getting erections in bed and I didn’t even get boners in the morning anymore.

After I started eating a more balanced diet it still took 4-5 months for my T levels to go back to normal.

For these reasons I really want you to avoid damaging your T production while losing fat. The macro split that will support the endocrine system is: 25-30% protein, 30-35% fat and 35-40% carbs. Compared to most fitness recommendations, protein is about 10% lower. Protein should be consumed at the minimum level required for muscle support in training and the remainder of the diet should consist of carbs and fat if testosterone optimization is also one of your goals.

If you want to learn pretty much everything about testosterone optimization I highly recommend Christopher Walker’s program called TestShock. I learned this stuff from him.

Protein Intake and Tasty Meals

I think you’ll agree with me that protein without fats and carbs is super boring to eat. Nobody says: Oh man I just can’t stop binging on protein! Think of boiled chicken breast with no sauce, oil or cheese, or a side of carbs.

All the meals we define as delicious contain a combination of protein, fats and carbs: pizza, burgers, pasta, quesadillas, etc.

The more protein you include in your calorie deficit, the more difficult it will be to have these types of meals. The reason for that is because you max out your fats and carbs before you hit your protein intake.

Using Intermittent Fasting and having big meals, a lower protein intake ends up improving how much you enjoy your diet.


What’s your take on eating lower protein to support your endocrine system? Do you have anything else to add? Let me know in the comments. 

The new fat loss program is filled with information just like this. Science based, easy to read and always with practical value. If you liked this sample, you may want to check out the program as well when it comes out 😉

50 Comments

  1. Andrew on June 6, 2016 at 11:46 am

    Video ul nu este inca vizibil pe youtube. Il poti accesa doar cu link ul de pe eatthinklift. Probabil e intentionat, dar am vrut sa mentionez totusi

  2. Jonathan on June 6, 2016 at 4:03 pm

    Radu,
    When are you gonna make some Eat Think Lift T-Shirts? Your videos have changed my life. Not to get all weird on you, but they really have. I randomly clicked on one of your videos and got hooked. I am currently doing WSP with great results. I appreciate your no nonsense approach and the amount of good knowledge you bring to the table. Anyways Thanks for what you do. I will be first inline if you ever get a shirt out there so I can help promote your growing brand.

    Jon

  3. Riccardo on June 6, 2016 at 4:13 pm

    Radu, awesome job! You’re a beast!
    Keep up the good work 🙂

  4. Alex on June 6, 2016 at 4:56 pm

    Loved the content and video but I am confused still… How do you feel about balancing the following two ideas:
    -On an aggressive cut (.5-1% of body weight per week) you need to keep protein intake higher than normal to avoid losing lean body mass
    -When keeping protein high you need to keep fats and carbs higher to support hormone production

    The two are both obviously battling each other, how do you decide which of the two to place more importance?

  5. Hello,its me on June 6, 2016 at 5:08 pm

    Thank you for great videos and content! Im on my first cut now. Im 69kg and about 20% bodyfat. My goal is mabye 17-18% depending how I look. I just started traking my food intake about 2 months ago when I also started my cut. I do crossfit and some lifting almost every day (because I love it), no cardio and sit on my ass the rest of the day at the office. My calories are allways between 2000-2250 calories a day (weekly average). I feel that im almost afraid of dropping low on calories and protein. I eat a high carb, high protein and low fat diet if I eat whatever I like to eat. I have a unwritten goal of 40%40%20% protein, carbs and fat but its never on point. Sometimes over sometimes under. I love IIFYM, but I dont really know what my macros should be as different sites tell me different things. Im afraid I will loose muscle if I go low calorie/lower protein.. If you have any recomandations I would be so grateful! Thank you 😀

  6. paul on June 6, 2016 at 6:42 pm

    Great article. I think the proportions of protein/carbs/fats in this article is pretty close to what was advocated in the diet for Warrior program. Good to know that I haven’t been doing things terribly wrong by following that program.

  7. Ronald on June 6, 2016 at 6:49 pm

    Salut.Imi poti explica pe romana ce e intemrittent fasting si ce inseamna ”Intermittent fasting and having big meals”?Stiu traducerea,dar ce inseamna ca mancare.
    Si daca nu te superi,mai pot pune intrebari?
    1.Acum sunt sedentar.Am 190 cm si 96 kilograme.Daca ma apuc de sport si fac o dieta(sa mananc ca cantitate mai putin si mancare mai ”sanatoasa”,fara calculatul caloriilor) voi slabi?
    2.Am cifo-scolioza,cum as putea face strenght training sau full body workout fara deadlift si fara squats?
    3.Nu pot sa fac nici o flotare,nici un pullup.Cum imi pot mari forta?
    4.Cum imi pot mari forta antebratului si a maini/palmei?
    5.Pentru kilogramele mele si inaltimea mea,cate grame de proteine mi-ar fi sugerate?O estimatie?Si cum pot sa mananc acea cantitate in 3 mese mari?
    6.Cum imi pot mari enduranta,flexbilititatea,forta(fara cursuri de yoga,eventual online)
    7.Daca fac full body workout,cata greutate volum reps ar trebui sa fac(mai strenght oriented,mai putin pe marime)
    8.Eu as prefera un upper/lower body workout sau push/pull/legs(modificat sa lucrezi fiecare grupa de muschi de 2 ori pe saptamna)desi am auzit ca un full body workout e mai bun pentru incepatori.Care ar fi mai potim dintre acestea, 3 care ar fi mai bun pentru strenght si umpic marime,pierdere in greutate ,si cat volum/reps/sets ar trebui pentru a nu face fatigue?
    9.In sala,ar trebui sa lucrez o grupa de muschi,apoi stau 2 minute sau trec la alta?
    Multumesc 🙂

    • Ronald on June 8, 2016 at 1:53 pm

      Imi dau acest reply mie insumi pentru a ma clarifica,caci exprimarea mea a lasat de dorit. :))) Si imi pare rau daca ar trebui sa scriu chestiile astea altundeva,sper ca vei raspunde rapid
      0.Ai putea detalia ce inseamna intermitent fasting si cum anume functioneaza aceasta metoda?
      1.Acum sunt sedentar,am 190cm si 96 kilograme.Daca ma apuc de sport si voi incerca sa mananc mai sanatos(mai multe proteine si mancare mai sanatoasa) voi putea slabi fara a caclula caloriile?Cantitativ,si calitativ mancarea va fi diferita.Crezi ca e indeajuns?
      2.Am cifo-scolioza,deci cum ar arata un strenght training sau un full body workout fara squats si deadlifts?
      3.Cum imi pot mari forta in general?De asemenea,nu pot face nici o flotares au pull up.Cum imi pot mari forta in general,dar si in aceste categorii.
      4.Cum imi pot mari forta antebratului,palmei,deci,mainii.
      5.Cate proteine mi-ai sugera bazat pe aceste informatii?Si cum ar arata un meniu care sa satisfaca aceasta cantitate de proteine?Sau 100-150 grame de protine,fara shake-uri,cum ar arta?
      6.Cum imi pot mari flexibilitatea si enduranta/stamina?
      7.Daca fac un full body workout de 3 ori pe saptamana,volumul seturie si repetitiile vor fi diferite?Cum anume?
      8.Eu as prefera un upper/lower bodyworkout sau push/pull/legs(modificat sa lucrez 2 ori pe saptamana aceeasi grupa de muschi),dar am amzui ca un full body workout ar fi mai bun.Grupa de muschi fiind lovita de mai putine ori,cum ar fi volumul/sets/reps?Sau care din acestea 3 mi le-ai sugera?
      9.In sala,daca lucrez o grupa de muschi si pauza ar fi de 2 minute,stau cele 2 minute sau trec la alta grupa?
      Iti multumesc pentru atentia acordata,si sper la un raspuns rapid 🙂

      • Andrew on June 13, 2016 at 11:18 am

        Radu are pe youtube si video-uri in romana sau cu subtitrare in care explica marea parte a intrebarilor tale. Sunt multe lucruri de spus si nu vad cum cineva ar sta o ora sa iti scrie pe gratis, si atat de bine structurat ca sa intelegi totul din prima.
        Daca nu stii sa folosesti google ca sa iti rezolvi problemele atunci gaseste un antrenor/fizioterapeut/nutritionist capabil pe care sa il platesti si sa te ajute.

        Radu chiar are tot ce ai nevoie sa stii in video uri sau in cartile lui. Dar stiu genul tau, sunt multi ca tine.. oameni care vor sa primeasca totul pe tava fara sa investeasca deloc timp ca sa obtina ceva.

        Cauta pe google si dupa ce dobandesti niste cunostiinte generale intreaba lucrurile de finete. Ce e greu ca afli cum se mareste anduranta, flexibilitatea sau alte prostii banale din comment ul tau?

        Cat despre postura, la fel. Incepe prin a afla de ce esti cocosat si ce ai facut rau pana acum, ca la cat esti de lenes sunt convins ca e destul de rea situatia.
        Defapt iti voi usura putin situatia si o sa te ajut ca macar sa arati mai drept ca imi pare rau ca esti destul de neputincios si neajutorat.
        Umerii rotiti inainte si capul aplecat in fata este cauzat de postura proasta indelungata si este de asteptat ca la 1.90m te cam apleci mai ales daca nu ai incredere in tine si daca nu vrei sa iesi in evidenta. Plus ca toti stam la calculator sau pe telefon deci in permanenta ne uitam in jos.
        Daca vei pune mana in spatele gatului, la intersectia cu spatele si de-a lungul coloanei , vei gasi o mica ridicatura de grasime ce corpul ti-a depozitat-o acolo ca sa iti protezeze coloana pentru ca capul tau nu mai sta drept si vertebrele s-au departat putin.
        Dupa cum vezi corpul tau iti mentine acum pozitia naturala spre inainte pentru ca dupa atata timp muschii spatelui s-au relaxat iar cei din fata( pieptul, umerii anteriori, muschii gatului…) s-au intarit si iti trag umerii in jos.
        Ce trebuie sa faci?
        Pai folosind creierul, ajungem la concluzia ca daca relaxam muschii din fata prin exercitii de intindere, si daca lucram muschii din spate prin execitii de intarire, corpul isi revine la forma lui initiala in cateva saptamani/luni.
        Stiu la ce te gandesti, “dar omule, ce exercitii de intindere sau intarire trebuie sa fac”??.. pai simplu, cauta pe google sau pe youtube..

        Bafta

  8. Dany on June 6, 2016 at 6:53 pm

    Cum as putea manca 100-150 grame de proteina fara shakeuri?

  9. Brian on June 6, 2016 at 11:44 pm

    Hey Radu glad your back up on your feet man ..iv’e been watching your videos for about a month now and they’re great. I was wondering if you could help me out or give me some tips on how can i improve my physique and strength gains. I recently started doing IF for about three weeks now and im just focusing on the main compound movements.. i do both inlcine dumbells and incline barbell but it seems im better and the dumbells ..Im currently lifting 60 for incline dumbells but struggling with the bar. would you recommend me staying with the dumbells or start doing the bar more often? i’ve been lifting for about almost 6 months.. i hope you get a chance to answer my questions and sorry if its all over the place just want to get well informed .. keep up the good work and gotta say you inspired me to start the IF and also look into the warrior program..
    -Brian-

  10. Ronald on June 7, 2016 at 11:10 am

    Sunt tot eu,Ronald.Stiu ca nu am pus acele intrebari in articolul potrivit,dar mi-ar placea sa raspunzi la ele 🙂 Scuze daca am deranjat.Dar mai am o intrebare:Cum iti poti corecta postura?Gen exercitii pentru anumite probleme in postura care sa rezolve pentru fiecare.
    Multumesc ca mi-ai raspuns la toate intrebarile 🙂

  11. Eyad on June 7, 2016 at 1:53 pm

    What program so u recommend for racking cals and macros?

  12. Mike on June 8, 2016 at 12:32 pm

    Hi Radu,

    Thanks for this useful post. Quick question, if I weigh 215 lb. and my ideal weight is around 155 lb., should I multiple 0.8 by my current weight, ideal weight, or some other amount?

    Also, I’m a little confused as to what I should do in light of the 25-30% protein, 30-35% fat and 35-40% carbs ratio you mentioned. I calculated my macros based on the Setting the Macronutrients chapter in MasteR of MacroS, and it mentions in there to set fat at 25%. Using those guidelines, the ratio turns out to be 35% protein, 25% fat, and 40% carbs.

    Thanks again, Radu!

  13. yosef ferdinand on June 8, 2016 at 1:29 pm

    Hai Radu,
    Thank You for sharing….,
    This time i also has similiar problem like you : T problem
    about 1 month ago i started dieting,because my weight is 105 kg ,and my height is 188 cm,i eat a lot off veggies, very low protein and fat and i very starving too..
    right now i had trouble with my erections, but with your sharing, i want to do your diet
    i hope my T problem solved…

  14. Keith on June 8, 2016 at 6:23 pm

    Hi

    I did not come accross any videos that addresses what drinks would be ok when bulking or maybe cutting fat/weight.

    is it just water that would be “allowed”?

    what about sugar free drinks like those sachets that you mix with water?

    thanks
    Keith

  15. Adrian on June 8, 2016 at 10:31 pm

    So, balance diet on calorie deficit is better than having higher on one macro. Nice post.
    I always like to read your article coz you put science on that so I can clearly understand the main reason to do the training or diet. Thanks so much!

  16. Sahil pahwa on June 9, 2016 at 12:51 pm

    Hey bro..recently started watching ur videos…n found them really helpful…
    I wanted to know that when following a keto diet…can these products put me out of ketosis
    1.black coffee
    2.diet soda(coke zero,diet coke)
    3.dairy products (high fat milk,paneer)
    Thanks a ton.

  17. Chris on June 10, 2016 at 12:53 am

    Radu, I’m 5’10, 177 lbs, my waist around navel is 37 in. How much weight and inches will I have to lose to hit 12% body fat?

  18. Ryan on June 10, 2016 at 12:59 am

    Would this balance be good for the warrior shred program?

  19. Ryan on June 10, 2016 at 3:26 am

    Radu

    I noticed that the WSP is much different in ratios than in the actual program calculator on FB…? the split is 40% Pro, 30, 30 fat/carb in the PDF, but 40% carbs, 30/30 pro/fat, in the calculator. What would be your recommendation. I was thinking 1gr pro/lb so 160grams, then 30% fat and rest carbs… What would you recommend? I’m 9-10% body fat want to be 6-8% in 5 weeks or so if possible very active 160lbs – 5-10 33yrs old.

  20. Andrei on June 15, 2016 at 3:55 pm

    Salut Radu ! In primul rand as dori sa iti multumesc pentru clipurile tale fara de care nu stiu ce m-as fi facut. Am 20 de ani, 1.85 m inaltime, momentan 85.5 kg, cu o luna in urma aveam 96 kg. Am descoperit clipurile tale si am aplicat “fasting”-ul care pentru mine a functionat de minune. Problema este ca ma asteapta in mai putin de o luna probele sportive la Academia de Politie si ar trebuie sa ma las de fasting, insa nu as vrea sa fac asta pentru ca am impresia ca ma voi ingrasa la loc. Imi poti da un sfat in legatura cu modul prin care as putea sa ma mentin fara a m-ai face acel fasting de 4-5 ore dimineata ?

    • Andrew on June 16, 2016 at 12:14 pm

      Fasting-ul nu este o dieta magica prin care daca nu mananci 4,5 ore dupa ce trezesti devii o masina de ars grasime. Fasting-ul nu inseamna ca poti manca cantitati infinite de mancare , adica mii de calorii doar pentru ca sari peste mic-dejun.
      Prin simplul fapt ca mananci intr-un interval redus de timp nu iti este asa de foame si nu vei manca peste nivelul tau de maintenance.
      Sfatul meu pentru tine este sa iti numerii caloriile. Atata vreme cat nu vei trece peste ele nu conteaza ca mananci dimineata, noaptea, sau de 5 ori pe zi.. Greutatea ta o sa ramana identica, sau chiar o sa scada daca mananci intr-un deficit.
      Uita-te la video urile lui “How to Set Calories and Macros for Fat Loss” , “How to Track Fat Loss Progress” ca sa inveti cum sa faci asta.

  21. Christian Chester on June 18, 2016 at 12:54 am

    Hey Radu! I’ve been following you for a long time now since basically when you had 10k subscribers. Sorry in advance for any typos as my keyboard has been sticking for a while. I just wanted to say I have really benefited from your YouTube videos and this website. I have read and downloaded your pdf the Path to Your Goal Physique. I have been on this program for almost a month and have dropped my bf % to 8.5% (started at 13.7%). I have made numerous strength gains; especially in my calves and deadlifts.

    I used to barely be able to calve raise 3 plates (135 lb.’s) and can now do 5 plates and a 5lb. (230lb.’s).
    I’ve never been able to go past 6 plates and the bar (315 lb.’s) on squat and now do almost 7 plates (355lb.’s).
    My deadlifts have gone from 4 plates and the bar (225 lb.’s) to 6 plates and a 10lb. along with the bar (325 lb.).
    I recently discovered what squat raises (i’m sure you now what they are!) are and went from BARELY BEING ABLE TO DO 4.5 plates and the bar (250 lb.’s) to 6 plates and the bar (315 lb.’s) comfortabley for 10 reps.

    Basically with your program i’ve made significant progress! I am writing this to thank you and to say i shout out your channel and articles on my website. I also write articles on supplements and vitamins and so on. Basically I made a website to talk about how effective yours are and i just kinda simplify it for others. You’ll see if you check the links where i review your articles:

    https://nexxusofchester.wordpress.com/2016/06/11/kinobody-links/

    I also put my sources and edit the text a bit so i’m not plagiarizing you at all just in case if comes off that way.

    If you want to see some of my progress this is the link:

    https://nexxusofchester.wordpress.com/2016/06/12/my-progress-and-personal-records/

    Thanks Radu and just know i’ll be spreading the word about you and Greg.

    ALSO JUST A COOL THING THAT HAPPENED THE OTHER DAY I MET A FOLLOWER OF KINOBODY YESTERDAY AND HE SHOWED ME A BEFORE AND AFTER PIC AND IT WAS PRETTY IMPRESSIVE. HIS NAME IS TOM I BELIEVE. IF YOU WANT TO SEE HIM OR WHAT I LOOK LIKE JUST EMAIL ME I’LL RESPOND TRUST ME!

    • Magda on July 19, 2016 at 10:51 am

      Your website has to be the elnrecotic Swiss army knife for this topic.

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