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Catabolic Dogma: The Protein Rabbit Hole

Dave Palumbo going anabolic, maybe.

I remember reading an interview with a massive bodybuilder named Dave Palumbo back in the mid 90s. He never won any of the big contests, but he was famous for being one of the largest specimens of the time. He mentioned needing some sort of gigantic daily protein intake, like 400+ grams a day, or he'd go "catabolic." Now at the time, I was trying to gain some mass, and bodybuilders were the media darlings of the day who seemed to have the answers. But something about that struck me as ridiculous, for multiple reasons.

That was one of the big turning points in my early training life. I remember reading that specific article and thinking how it was a shining example of time wasted. And what about this protein thing? My shaker cup was full every day. But did I still have to worry about "going catabolic?"

The golden age of muscle mags.

Anyone who has been in the iron game for any length of time has wondered about protein intake. I have a good friend who wondered so much, he's got his PhD in protein research. If anyone cares to look up Eric Helms, he may have some info for ya. I might be able to sum it up: Yeah, most folks could benefit from a bit more. But let's not get crazy about it. He'll probably get you to aim for a gram per pound, maybe more, but that's if you're competing at something that requires large participation from your muscles.

I have a sweet spot that I aim for daily that falls into my "moderation" concept. If you're not a member of my website and haven't watched my vlogs about food consumption, then here's a quick recap on my moderation concept. Food is the one area of life I that I strive for moderation. The rest of life is about finding balance. Yup, there's a difference. Balance is a game of pushing limitations, then backing off to process the outcome, striking the magic pivot in the center of the scale by finding the right amount of testing the edge, and then pulling back to recover. Moderation is staying near the center of the scale all the time. My experiences have found this works best with our choices in grub consumption.

strongman, gym, training, yoke walk, bodytribe
Not so moderate in my play pursuits.

Now my version of protein moderation is for a middle-aged strength athlete/mover/explorer who is very average in the DNA department and isn't concerned about making leaps in hypertrophy, but is continually focused on improving performance. If I dwell in my sweet spot, I can manage my goals and not feel put out by having to meet high intake standards. And yes, I'll bump it up just a tad if going into a competition phase.

But my sweet spot will seem quite high for folks who haven't had half a lifetime wondering about their own protein zone. For instance, getting a client to up their protein, even a little, is often like trying to sleep in when my dog has to go out to pee in the morning. It's not going to happen. For many understandable reasons. So for folks embracing intensity and movement skill, I suggest seeing how much of a change in their life it would be to aim for triple digits. What would it like trying to hit 100 grams of protein a day? That may seem overwhelming to many, yet, in terms of calories, it's 400. Even in a low 1600 calorie a day diet, that's only 25%

Yet many goals become a bit more attainable with just that change.

Oh, but for a body and lifestyle not used to finding extra protein, this small goal becomes a huge challenge. I don't remember ever liking protein powder, but I've had years of practice tolerating it. A 40 gram shaker cup is now a simple way for me to add protein to my day. But to the uninitiated, or even the very initiated who are fond of real food, a 10 gram shot may be like choking down gag-inducing medicine. Maybe we can think of increasing our protein like adding weight to a barbell. It's part of our training. We've got to up the intensity a little.

yoke walk, strongman, bodytribe, strength
Going catabolic can be fun.

So what's my sweet spot, you may be asking? Doesn't matter. Let's just say yesterday I didn't hit it. Am I going catabolic? Yeah. We all are, all the time. catabolic, and anabolic, in a perpetual cycle. For everything created, something is destroyed.

That was one of the big take-aways from that pivotal article. I knew just enough to know I didn't know enough to know why I felt I knew that what he said made no sense. Now I know a little more. Just enough to know that I know better than to think I know everything. But I do know that what I read that day was one of the key moments that made me question a lot of things.

What's one of your key moments?

Bodytribe, chip conrad, flow master,
Thoughts? Ideas? Share 'em.

_______________________________ Many key moments together sometimes turn into a book. Or Two. Both available on the website (digital) or HERE for the analog version.

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2 Yorum

26 Kas 2021

Gross. I'd rather stay skinny than constantly drink, digest and poop that shit. But I'm not much of an athlete. Interesting article, nonetheless.


Justin Lewis
Justin Lewis
11 Eki 2021

I've always felt best going for about 1g per pound of "lean mass". Too much and it feels like work, too little and it feels like I'm not progressing. The 1.2-1.5g per plan messed me up and I my bank account couldn't keep up with all the toilet paper purchases. But as I get older, I feel like I need to worry more about 7-8 hours of sleep than I do my protein intake. Like everything, your mileage may vary. (ps: the collagen based proteins, if you do the animal-product stuff, seem to mix into everything with a lot less gut-upset.)

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