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1kg protein

Protein, Muscle and Longevity

This is Old Bull Health, not Old Bull Bullshit!

At Old Bull Health, we are always concerned about truth, not THE truth, as in whether the Big Bang happened 13 billion years ago, or whether your mother-in-law is an alien, but rather the truth in our claims. As such we make a genuine effort to get you the best products we can, to meet your genuine needs, based on current science.

Having said that, sometimes this isn’t as easy as it might seem.

Our metabolic systems are incredibly complicated, and beyond the simple chemistry (which is relatively easy) our brains and feedback systems do crazy things to adjust the dials, defend set points, and balance our drivers and reward systems. This is why it can be so hard to lose weight and keep it off (not people's laziness). We all know what to do, and if you don't a couple of Google searches will tell you. It is the actual doing that is the issue. The "how", not the "why".

Even protein is complicated and involves some trade-offs.

We sell Old Bull protein, and we could tell you – “Consume as much as you can to promote muscle growth, especially into old age”. And it wouldn’t necessarily be incorrect. But it wouldn’t be the whole truth either!

There are a couple of issues with this:

  • the first is that although protein does appear to stimulate muscle growth, (not simply as a building block, but also by turning on specific metabolic signalling pathways), it will only do this up to a point, and then your body will start turning protein into fat. Very importantly, this muscle-building metabolic pathway appears to be switched on, not by all protein, but by an amino acid called leucine and that is one reason why Old Bull is specifically high in leucine. This is somewhat trivial, you just need to balance protein in your diet, and increase the ratio as you get older.
  • A bigger problem for me is that too much protein can have the effect of lessening your life span.

Bear with me on this, it gets complicated

When you eat steak, your body doesn’t just turn it into muscle.

Complicated signalling pathways get triggered by all sorts of different things including (and especially) resistance training (but also loads of hormones and pre-existing metabolic conditions). So, if you are sitting on a couch all day, then eat a full dinner, and then decide to eat a 500g steak, your body isn’t going to waste that, it is going to say, “Times are good!", let’s me store this steak as energy for leaner times, in the form of FAT”. As I said, signalling is complex...

As mentioned above, leucine an essential amino acid appears to stimulate human muscle protein synthesis primarily by activating the mTOR signalling pathway. So, Switch on the mTOR pathway and you switch on muscle production.

However, the drawback of this is that if you switch on mTOR, you switch off longevity-promoting processes or, perhaps more precisely, when you switch on mTOR, your body says “Grow!”, and you lose all the longevity benefits of hunkering down into preservation and repair mode.

Basically ‘growth’ is incompatible with the well-proven longevity benefits of calorie restriction.

We pretty much know this because the inhibition of the mTOR complex 1 (mTORC1) with rapamycin is currently the only known pharmacological treatment that increases lifespan in all model organisms studied.

OK, this may not be ideal, but like everything, balance and nuance are required.


Some people are currently using rapamycin to extend their lifespans, but it is potent stuff, and they are really pushing to the edge. Rapamycin in different quantities switches your immune system off, not something I would recommend. At present, I believe it is too dangerous to mess around with, but as mentioned, that is my opinion.


You might now be thinking, protein or no protein? But if you squeeze that end of the balloon, it will pop out in an even more disadvantageous and damaging place.

Here is the rub

Muscle starts dropping off us as we age. It is an inescapable fact.

If you stop getting leucine, if you stop ingesting protein, if you switch off mTOR completely, you are going to be a stick figure (but composed mostly of fat). When you get to your sixties, you aren’t going to be able to climb a set of stairs let alone do any of the things you may currently do now. Not ideal and not my cup of tea.

I do want to live longer. But I also want to live as long as I can.

I want to climb, surf, and ride a freaking horse if I want to. I want to hammer the next physical challenge, whatever it is, and I want to do another after that. I want to keep doing physical stuff as long as I can. And if this keeps us young, we need a trade-off.

I encourage you to study the two graphs that I have pasted in below. Both link to the original article for more information, and I believe they demonstrate my points well. Take some time to digest them, think about them, and apply them to your own life and I will give you my observations below.

Muscle v age graph

Graph 2 muscle v training

 Here are some observations I take away from the graphs above.

  •  We lose muscle as we age. We lose muscle whether we do nothing, or whether we train like Arnie.


  • If you train, you have a lot more muscle to lose.
  • Most importantly, although you lose muscle, if you train you can avoid a ‘disability threshold’ basically, you can stay at the level of a 40-year-old that has never trained, which is both impressive and important.

So, what do we do? How much protein do we consume? What should our protein intake be? 

The answer to that is:

You have to work it out for yourself and balance what you want according to what you value.

To live the longest, and strongest, the data suggests that you should be an extremely lean vegan who supplements protein. But not many of us can attain (or want to attain) that lifestyle.

As far as longevity goes being thin is good, being fat is bad, eating vegetables and fruit is good, eating red meat is bad, being cardio-fit is very good, and being sedentary is bad. Being strong ultimately facilitates many of these things.

So, here is some of my current thinking, and my applications:

  1. Cardiovascular exercise is a must, the more the better
  2. Be as vegan as possible, and hungry, as long as I can stand it
  3. Supplement protein (and reduce protein from animals in my diet). Old Bull protein is obviously my choice of protein supplement. 
  4. Build strength now so I can preserve it into old age
  5. Use a protein supplement like Old Bull protein before or after resistance training, and fast as long as possible the rest of the time.


Signalling in the body is complex and means there are trade-offs. Ultimately being fit and lean however will stand you in good stead as you age.


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