Strength Myths and REAL Protein Requirements (w/ Dr. Jim Stoppani)

Today I’m talking to legendary fitness researcher and bodybuilding Dr. Jim Stoppani, the founder of JYM Supplement Science. When it comes to influencers in the space, Dr. Stoppani’s resume is almost unparalleled. He’s an active research scientist who has also spent decades in fitness publishing. And he’s a straight shooter, not afraid to separate fact from fiction and to admit when the research is still coming up short on topics in strength. Stoppani joins us to talk about everything from training myths to protein requirements as we age. Don’t miss out on this conversation with one of the most knowledgeable people in strength.

Before we get into that, I want to give a quick shoutout to today’s episode sponsor, Colter Dillon. Do you struggle finding a t-shirt that fits as well as that ONE t you loved until it wore out? Do you wish a standard medium was JUST a little bit longer, or maybe a large wasn’t so baggy for you? Then you’ve got to check out Colter Dillon. They personalize the fit for YOU, and they have tons of color options — you can even personalize artwork on the shirt! They deliver your perfect t-shirt every time. Check out Colter Dillon today.

Jim Stoppani

In this episode of The BarBend Podcast, David Thomas Tao and Dr. Jim Stoppani discuss: 

  • The fitness and muscle-building myths that just refuse to die (2:20)
  • Bodybuilding splits and International Chest Day (6:30)
  • We can’t prevent decline with aging — but here’s what we CAN do (11:00)
  • The easy math of protein intake, according to Jim (14:00)
  • Under-studied populations in strength research (19:00)
  • The changing world of fitness content, including life pre-internet (22:00)
  • What did CrossFit really change? (25:10)

Relevant links and further reading

 

Transcription

The two tips that I can give to people as they’re aging is to eat more protein and do not just heavy. It’s not just about going in and doing a one-rep max. It’s about the lightweight but with explosive reps for building power, which is going to target those fast-rich muscle fibers.

David TaoDavid Tao

Welcome to the BarBend Podcast, where we talk to the smartest athletes, coaches, and minds from around the world of strength. I’m your host, David Thomas Tao. This podcast is presented by barbend.com.

 

Today I’m talking to legendary fitness researcher and bodybuilder, Dr. Jim Stoppani.

 

When it comes to influencers in the space, Dr. Stoppani’s resume is almost unparalleled. He’s an active research scientist, who has also spent decades in fitness publishing. He’s a straight shooter. Not afraid to separate fact from fiction, and to admit when the research is still coming up short on topics and strength.

 

Stoppani joins us to talk about everything from training myths to protein requirements as we age. Don’t miss out on this conversation with one of the most knowledgeable people in strength. I can’t emphasize that enough.

 

Before we get into that, I want to give a quick shoutout to today’s episode sponsor, Colter Dillon.

 

Do you struggle finding a T-shirt that fits, as well as that one T you loved until it wore out? Do you wish a standard medium was just a little bit longer, or maybe a large wasn’t so baggy on you?

 

Then, you’ve got to check out the custom cut and sewn T-shirts from Colter Dillon. They personalize the fit for you. They have tons of color options. You can even personalize the artwork. Get that perfect T-shirt every time. Check out Colter Dillon today.

 

Now, let’s get on with the show.

 

Jim, thanks so much for taking the time. I know you’re a busy guy. It seems like everything that can be done in fitness, you do or you touch in some capacity.

 

One thing I want to dive right on into is something I’ve seen you talk about a lot. It’s something that we’ve worked on some content collaboratively with Generation Iron and BarBend on. Let’s talk about some training misconceptions.

Sure.

David TaoDavid Tao

For your average gym-goer who’s looking to build muscle, maybe get a little stronger, improve their physique and their quality of life through resistance training. I’m not talking about the elite-elite elite here right now. We can get to that in a bit. What are some of the most common misconceptions you think that have stuck around the space?

Well, there’s always that “Should I lift weights or do cardio if I want to lose weight?” The answer is lift weights. In fact, what’s interesting is as a scientist, I’ve been attending American College of Sports Medicine, I’ve been aware of their guidelines.

 

It’s interesting because going back when I was a student going to ACSM, the guidelines were all about cardio. They were all about cardio. The misconceptions aren’t the people who’d want to do the work and get the results. It’s not their fault. It’s sort of the misconceptions that have been put out there by other experts.

 

So many misconceptions with the cardio, but back to the ACSM, finally if you look at their guidelines now, it’s flipped. Now, their guidelines are all about resistance training.

 

It used to be nothing, then they peppered and they would say, “Oh, and you should also consider doing some resistance training.” That was about the gist of their guidelines. Now, it’s all about purposeful guidelines on resistance training because we know how critical it is for all aspects.

 

Really, I’ll say one person’s name, Joe Weeder, where I started, cut my teeth. Back in the ’50s, the ’60s, and the ’70s, he was the one saying, “Someday, scientists and doctors will finally give weight training. It’s due.”

 

I know I’ve gone on a rant here, but getting to the fat-loss thing, if you want to lose weight…Obviously, we’re talking about body fat and trying to maintain or build muscle at the same time. We’re talking about weight. We’re talking about body fat. If you really want to maximize your fat loss, it’s with resistance training.

 

Of course, cardio is important for keeping, especially if you’re doing high-intensity interval training, keeping your metabolic rate up. Weight training is high-intensity interval training when you really think about it.

 

You know what I mean? You do something intense, then you take a small break. Then you do something intense, and you take a small break. That’s how our sets and rep schemes go.

 

Really, weightlifting is high-intense [laughs] through training in a way. Oftentimes intervals are quite long, but that misconception about “Should I do cardio or should I…?” I still get it. I still get it everywhere, on TikTok, that question comes through from a peer. Again, not their fault because they’ve been misled.

 

“Should I do cardio or should I…?” Do both, but please lift weights. Not only for the fat-loss benefit, but the health benefit, the bone density, decreasing sarcopenia, which is muscle loss in older individuals. There’s only one way to do that, and that’s with lifting something heavy, and that’s a relative term.

 

When we get to the fat loss, if we really look at resistance training and the types of splits, we look right at whole body training where you do a full-body workout. Again, I’m maybe answering some questions that you didn’t ask.

David TaoDavid Tao

 [laughs] I love it. You’re making my job easy. You’re saving me time at the end of this podcast. It’s great.

When you talk about resistance training for maximizing fat loss, a full-body program seems to be the best one, because when you think about it, what are you doing? You’re activating all those muscle fibers in the body versus, say, just coming in and activating chest.

 

Then that whole recovery process that has to take place is a calorie-consuming process. When you’re recovering the majority of your muscle groups after a workout, you’re burning more calories the rest of the day. I’ll say it over and over again if you want to maximize your fat loss with weight training, full-body training is the way to go.

David TaoDavid Tao

I have to put that in the check column against international chest today. I hate to say it.

 

That has a time and a place, but for, I think, the majority of the general population, the traditional single body part split isn’t going to maximize their time in the gym, if you’re a professional bodybuilder.

Well, I mean, it depends on your goal, right?

David TaoDavid Tao

Yeah.

I mean, if your goal is to build a giant chest, then yes. [laughs]

David TaoDavid Tao

But here’s the question, which day? Is it Monday? Should Monday be international chest day or should we move it?

 

 I just did a video on that and it’s like, “What do you do as your first…” For bodybuilders, this was a question I put out there and I answered it obviously in the same video, but what do you do, for myself, at least?

 

There was no real answer, correct answer here, but as long as your answer has a reason. I put out there, “What muscle group…” If you do a typical bodybuilding split, whether it’s a four-day, five-day, or three-day, what do you train first? Is it legs or chest? A lot of bodybuilders would do legs so that they don’t skip it, and while they’re freshest and strongest.

 

It’s for myself. Again, I’m recovering from massive leg surgery. My leg day is mainly a rehab day. It’s not like I’m…Still, even back in the day when I was squatting 6, 700 pounds on my leg days, I would typically do chest first as a body.

 

Again, this is when I was competing in NPC Bodybuilding. I would do chest first in the week, possibly with other another muscle group, but typically because when you’re training chest, you’re incorporating triceps, you’re incorporating shoulders. Those are involved in all your other upper body movements.

 

If you came in and did arms first, then your chest would suffer. If you did shoulders first, you’re…You know what I’m saying? What I do is I like getting that chest day in there to get it out of the way. You could put a leg day in there. That’s fine.

 

I’m not saying that’s wrong, but then when you put your chest day, you have less time for recovery, the upper body’s. I like to also use that leg day as a recovery day for, if I came and did chest, I don’t want to do shoulders the next day because I already checked the shoulders.

 

The leg day is a nice rest day for the upper body, and then you come back. You see what I’m saying? Again, there’s no answer here. [laughs] There’s no correct answer, as long as you gave me, and that’s the question I put out there, is tell me, “This is how I do it for bodybuilding splits, but how do you do it?”

David TaoDavid Tao

Well, I mean, that’s part of the fun of it…

Exactly.

David TaoDavid Tao

…is figuring out the customization and the personalization. That’s the never-ending story of training.

It’s endless, seriously. It is endless.

David TaoDavid Tao

Let’s talk a little bit about, you talked about some of the anti-aging effects of resistance training.

Sure.

David TaoDavid Tao

Fighting muscle wasting. I hate the term bulletproofing your body because there is no such thing as a bulletproof body. Things happen. You just underwent and are recovering from major leg surgery. It doesn’t matter what you do.

 

No one is completely immune to massive injuries, maybe unless you’re LeBron James, that dude’s a robot. But beyond that, let’s talk about what you suggest, what your research and your work has shown regarding the “anti-aging effects” of resistance training on an aging population.

Of course, and I’ll remind everyone. I’m 54, so I know this area well personally.

 

There is no anti-aging. [laughs] There’s no stopping it. It’s unfortunate to tell this to younger people that you’re going to get old. It happens. There’s no way to prevent the systems in the body after years and years and decades of exposure to all types of toxins and sunlight.

 

Sunlight is great. We need sunlight, but also after years and years of exposure, it starts taking its toll. We don’t have to give up. That’s really what it’s about. It’s not giving up. It’s like aging gracefully if you will. It’s about preventing the decline. The decline’s going to happen. There’s no way to prevent the decline from happening.

 

You’re going to lose muscle mass. Literally, at 54, that’s what I’m fighting all the time, because as we get older, talking a lot of different topics here, our ability to jack up muscle protein synthesis goes down. How old are you? In your late 20s?

David TaoDavid Tao

That’s so nice of you to say. I am definitely on the other side of 30, but I’m honored.

On the younger side compared, you’re 20 years younger than I am. If you eat 30, 40 grams of protein, your muscle protein synthesis is going to shoot through the roof. If I do that same thing, mine won’t spike quite as much. It takes far more protein to get the same response in an older individual.

 

Older individuals, A, need to eat more protein. B, the other thing is, it doesn’t have to be and shouldn’t be, we think about old. Again, when we think about old, I’m talking about 70 or 80-year-olds here. They don’t have to work out gingerly if you did.

 

Explosive training is one of the best things for sarcopenia, the muscle wasting with aging because it’s primarily the fast-twitch muscle fibers that you lose, which are the ones that are the fastest, the strongest, the most powerful.

 

Those are what give us those normal, the quality of life, the ability to move and pick up things. You know what I mean? As you lose that, the quality of life goes down. The two tips that I can give to people as they’re aging, is to eat more protein and do not just heavy.

 

It’s not about going in and doing a one-rep max, it’s about the lightweight, but with explosive reps for building power, which is going to target those fast-twitch muscle fibers.

David TaoDavid Tao

We’ll get back to that. Just a second, but before we do, a quick shoutout to today’s episode sponsor, Colter Dillon, makers of custom cut and sewn T-shirts. Perfect for you. If you want that every time, you’ve got to check out Colter Dillon.

 

They personalize the fit. They have tons of color options. You can even personalize the artwork. Don’t settle for less. Get that perfect fit every time for a fraction of the cost you might expect. Check out Colter Dillon today.

 

Let’s get on with the show.

 

Let’s talk a little bit about protein requirement. You gave me a great segue there. This is something I want to talk about a little bit. Your recommendation is people need to eat more protein as they get older in order to trigger muscle protein synthesis since that ability lessens as we age.

 

Let’s talk about protein requirements. It’s become an old adage at this point, where it’s one gram of protein per pound of body weight. Obviously, protein requirements are going to vary even across athletes, even across active individuals.

 

An IFBB pro bodybuilder is probably going to need a lot more protein relative to body weight than someone like me who’s doing kettlebell sport or functional fitness training. What are some general guidelines that you might suggest to different types of individuals regarding protein intake?

We will start with the 1g/lb., that’s typically what I recommend as your minimum. It’s easy math. What do you weigh?

 

Those are grand. I started incorporating that when I was at Muscle & Fitness back in the day even before they would admit that athletes needed more protein. Then finally they would say, “The research shows that they need 0.7 to 0.8g/lb.”

 

Then I’m like, “OK, that’s horrible math for most people. Let’s round that up to one.” It’s close enough in most people. Then you started seeing them admitting that “OK, particular athletes like strength and power athletes, not endurance athletes might even need more than 0.7 or point…”

 

Do you know Joey and Tony in International Society Of Sports Nutrition at all? Are you familiar?

David TaoDavid Tao

Oh, yeah.

If you look at the work that they’ve done, and a lot of the research that’s been published in their journal and their position stand, they admit, you may need to go up to 1.5g/lb. at particular times to get that response. There’s a huge debate of, whoa, high-protein diets don’t work. Again, I’m bouncing around here.

David TaoDavid Tao

 I wouldn’t have invited you on this podcast if I didn’t expect to cover a broad range of topics. It’s OK.

Sorry, I completely forgotten now the topic that we were on. Let’s see. We were talking about protein, right?

David TaoDavid Tao

Protein intake.

[laughs] Like I said, the ISSN now admit you need 1.5g/lb. A lot of the research was saying, “High-protein diets aren’t really necessary to build muscle.” If you look at the research, the research is flawed.

 

This is the one thing I want to remind people on any topic is, you cannot do a perfect study as a real research scientist there. [laughs] I was in the Yale School of Medicine, department of Cellular Molecular Physiology with a grant from the NIH doing real research.

 

Trust me, when you do a study, you can bias a study. Also, when you’re looking at subjects, you can’t expect what college-age males are going to respond to the same way that a trained individual is. The research shows that the reason that a lot of the research hasn’t shown that high-protein diets work, is because they don’t use enough protein, and there’s something called protein spread.

 

Meaning that to see an adequate response from higher protein, the bump between, either the baseline and then the high-protein diet has to be big enough between the person, or if there’s a group that’s on a low-protein diet, it has to be adequate enough.

 

None of the research studies, you’re talking about comparing 0.7 to 0.1g/lb, that’s not a big enough spread to see real results. If you look at the position stand from International Society of Sports Nutrition, they’ll tell you at least one and up to 1.5 grams per pound of body weight for those who are interested in maximizing strength and muscle mass.

David TaoDavid Tao

Well, the good news is if you’re listening to this podcast, you’re probably interested in maximizing strength and muscle mass.

 

We got a self-selecting audience here. We can actually make some assumptions that might be unfair in other outlets. I do want to talk a little bit about the current research climate.

 

You mentioned a bit of a stereotype, which is “Hey, a lot of these studies are done on young college-age males early on in their training careers or early on in their training history.” Yeah, they’re going to get different responses.

 

I don’t know about you, but I reacted to a lot of things differently when I was 19 years old. Whether it’s a night out on the town or what I was eating, you could get away with a lot more. What are some understudied populations when it comes to the impact of strength training, muscle gaining nutrition in this general sphere we’re talking about?

 

Right about getting stronger and building muscle mass. What are some of those under-study populations that if you had a magic wand, you just whip up a thousand studies on these groups?

Well, I mean, it’s the highly-trained individual because again, when we’re looking at research on whether it’s muscle hypertrophy or strength, a lot of times, it’s not like a direct study because the NIH isn’t giving out grants to figure out how bodybuilders can get bigger arms. [laughs]

David TaoDavid Tao

That’s a real shame. I want my tax dollars to actually do something. Dr. Stoppani, come on.

We’re trying to figure out how to cure diseases.

David TaoDavid Tao

OK. Fair, fine.

A lot of the things that we take from protein intake is from burn victims. The University of Texas Medical Branch, which has done a huge amount of work with protein synthesis back in the day.

 

Bob Wolf’s lab, I’m not sure if you even know that name. That was a Shriners Burn Ward, and that’s where a lot of their subjects came from. They were burned, patients. Again, that’s a different response than say, “Muscle”, but it’s still very similar, and we could glean things from that and take away things from that.

 

To be honest, we don’t know how muscle grows. We know about muscle protein synthesis. There’s things like microRNAs that then break it all down after it was just built up. Why? [laughs] These are the things we don’t understand.

 

We know a lot of the pathways. The picture on muscle growth and just how the whole human body works is, we’re barely there. We’re literally just scratching the surface now in 2022.

David TaoDavid Tao

 That’s a really humbling revelation that, I think, for a lot of folks to hear. Hey, these are our bodies. We kind of assume that at this point in technological development, in human advancement, the thing that we understand is ourselves. Pardon my French, we don’t know shit compared to what actually happens, right?

 Exactly. [laughs] The more you know, the more you realize you don’t know because it just opens up more questions that we can’t answer.

David TaoDavid Tao

I ask you as someone who has been in this for a while. You’ve been on the research side. You’ve been a competitive bodybuilder. You’ve been an editor. I’m underselling your resume even after listing off all these accomplishments and all these positions and roles that you’ve filled over the years.

 

How do you think the mainstream perception of strength training and strength development has changed over the past 20 years? Now, I ask a lot of people that. I get a lot of folks pointing to CrossFit as something that has made strength training more mainstream, more accepted.

 

People actually know what barbell training is now or at least a lot more folks do. But I’m curious, from your perspective, because you’ve also come at this from the publisher’s standpoint, so you have those data points to see.

Yeah, I started before there was a real Internet.

David TaoDavid Tao

The Internet was like two computers sending smiley faces to each other.

Literally, right. I was working doing books and magazines, “Muscle & Fitness” and “FLEX Magazine,” and Bodybuilding.com was sort of just making a blip.

David TaoDavid Tao

I’ve heard of them. I’ve heard of them.

[laughs] I’ve been at it so long. They came. They were huge. Now, no one knows who they are. You know what I mean? Times have changed so greatly due to the way we consume. You know what I mean? That’s what these publishers make the mistake of doing, is they think they’re a magazine or a book publisher.

 

It’s like, “No, you’re a media. You are fitness media. You need to change with the way, or you’re going to die.” When I was at Muscle & Fitness…I know this isn’t the question you were asking.

David TaoDavid Tao

No, I’m still curious. I mean, look, I’m in this world, I’m curious.

We love bodybuilding.com because I didn’t have to write…Imagine writing how to tie your shoe or just doing a video?

 

What’s this? What’s the easier way to teach somebody that? With a video. Finally, we could take these complex training things like how to do a deadlift, but you can’t show in still photos. You know what I’m saying? Trying to teach somebody when the…You know what I mean? How to set up and all that? Then Olympic lifting, you could not do in a magazine.

 

I would not do any Olympic teaching in the magazine because it’s impossible to do that. You cannot expect the person to read photos and look at photos and read texts and figure out how to do it clean and jerk. That’s not the medium for that, video was.

 

They told us we couldn’t do video because it would cannibalize the magazines. There was a big fight for that, but we really pushed to get things like musclefitness.com going and that sort of thing.

 

The fitness has changed because of how accessible information is now. Then in the way that it’s perceived by the general population, yes definitely…I’m not sure we can say the word CrossFit now with all the legal… [laughs] But you know what saying. I’ll say cross-training or whatever.

 

The CrossFit and the CrossFit box is popping up all over the country and the world really mainstreamed Olympic lifting like no other. I mean, the Olympics couldn’t even do that. You know what I mean? People were at least in America.

 

You go to other countries and Olympic weightlifters are heroes, bigger than NFL stars in certain countries. In the United States, nobody wants to be an Olympic weightlifter until CrossFit changed that and made it, not just accessible, but also made it fun.

 

I’m not a person who does…I do my own style of training. I don’t do CrossFit or anything, but you have to give them credit for making it an enjoyable way to exercise. Most people don’t want to come in and do a set of squats and then rest two or three minutes sitting around then do…That sounds like a great day to me [laughs] and a few other people, but for 99% of the population, hell no. [laughs]

 

David TaoDavid Tao

If that sounds appealing to…If you’re listening to this and you’re like, “Wait, is there a sport where I can do a couple of sets of squats and I can take a long rest in between?” Do I have the sport for you? It’s called powerlifting.

 

Right.

 

David TaoDavid Tao

Look, I will say, if anyone’s going to get in trouble for using the word CrossFit on this broadcast, it’s going to be me because the head of PR and comms at CrossFit has my number. If I get a call after this one goes live…

 

 …that’s on me. You recused, Jim. You’re completely good. Let’s talk about predictions moving forward for how people are going to consume fitness media in the next five years, the next 10 years. How do you see that evolving?

 

Look, no one’s going to hold anyone to predictions because 10 years ago, who could have predicted TikTok, who could have predicted some of the things we have now? To be fair, those who…

In general.

David TaoDavid Tao

…those who did made a lot of money. That wasn’t me.

 

How’s that going to evolve over the next decade?

Great. I mean, it’s a great question. I certainly don’t have a crystal ball to predict it, but like I was saying, back when I was working in print, when, and literally that’s how people consumed, before the Internet even, the mistake that people make is being a magazine or a website or a social media channel.

 

I don’t know how it’s going to change, but anybody who’s listening, who is an influencer online or YouTuber, or has a similar barbend.com type of…if you’re out there putting out information on fitness, you need to be flexible enough that you don’t have to predict the changes, but as you see it happening, you need to roll with it. You definitely need to roll with it.

 

I had what started…Oh God, I can’t even remember. Twitter was the real first social media handle. I mean, not Facebook obviously, but Twitter finalized that streamlined version of what Facebook…You know what I mean?

 

We think of social media now, these quick interactions. I had a Twitter before the Muslim Fitness did because they saw it as cannibalizing what they were doing in print, and you can’t think of it that way.

 

You need to be…You know what I mean? I still do a book with my publisher, human kinetics, encyclopedia muscle, and strength. Obviously, there’s a digital version of it, but we still put out the print version for those who still read, believe it or not. [laughs] I can see some books behind you as a matter of fact.

 

[laughs] You need to be in all those spaces. Rather than figuring out and worrying about predicting it, my message would be more to roll with it and accept that change versus fighting it.

David TaoDavid Tao

I’m glad you called out these books, Jim because these are just ones I make sure to place in every backdrop when I’m doing a podcast. They’re fake.

 

 I just want to seem smarter, so I just surround myself…You’ll come on in another two months and there’ll be just stacks and stacks of books behind me.

 

It’s all you’ll be able to see. It makes me feel good. I appreciate you sharing that. Honestly, there are some answers that guests will give on this podcast and I feel like they’re talking to our audience, and there are some answers where I feel like they’re talking directly to me.

 

As the CEO of BarBend, I feel like you’re talking directly to me. I’m going to take some notes, and this is one I’m going to go back and listen to…

 

…maintain that flexibility. Where is the best place for people…The best places I should say, because you are a flexible media brand yourself. You’re the man and the brand in many ways. Where are the best places for people to follow along with the work you’re doing, training, research you’re involved with, all that good stuff?

 

Yeah. I mean, obviously Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, all the typical places you can find me.

David TaoDavid Tao

Appreciate that.

 

I’ve got jimstoppani.com as well, which is my member-based site where all the programs…and that works with my app and whatnot.

David TaoDavid Tao

He’s fully integrated folks. I’m actually just going to start following what Jim Stoppani is doing, and that’s what BarBend’s going to be doing about four months behind. You take my word for that.

 I really appreciate you taking the time to join us.

David TaoDavid Tao

I know we covered a broad range of topics. That was my goal. I love hearing what you have to say about a litany of things. I appreciate you sharing some of your experience and insight.

Well, I appreciate you asking the questions and the inputs. Thank you so much.