February 24, 2024

Great exposure for Masters Mr Universe Mark Taylor – but his lower-protein diet has attracted much attention

NABBA Masters Mr Universe Mark Taylor has received widespread media exposure in the past week – with the BBC even reporting the secret behind his victory last November was a lower-protein diet.

The website BNNbreaking.com also picked up the story, in which Taylor reveals how a switch to a higher carbohydrate and lower-protein diet paved the way for his Universe success.

This is all very good exposure for bodybuilding and excellent for Taylor, but it is worth looking further as just why BBC Scotland decided to look at the sport, especially given the Universe was three months ago.

The story includes quotes from a Professor Lindsay Jaacks, of Global Health and Nutrition at the University of Edinburgh, who appears keen to “debunk” the idea of high-protein diets.

In isolation, there would be nothing wrong with lower-protein diets. But it is worth adding some context.


Right now, Climate Change is being highlighted by governments around the world. You would no doubt have heard the phrase “Net Zero”, which is being trotted out repeatedly at every opportunity.

To achieve Net Zero, those in power believe the farming of meat – protein – must end, or at least be restricted to an absolute minimum. This has led to widespread protests across the globe from farmers, who are being put out of business.

Billionaire Bill Gates, a strong advocate of Net Zero, has also been quoted publicly about his goal of producing lab-grown meat. Gates, it must also be noted, now owns the largest amount of farmland in America. The World Economic Forum has also published reports into what they see as the "benefits of insect protein".

So we “may” have a reason why – seemingly out of the blue – the mainstream media, never a branch of press to cover our sport, are suddenly interested in bodybuilding; because those in power are keen to push lower-protein diets.

Whether you agree with this theory or not, Taylor’s story is nonetheless interesting.

He told frontdouble that he implemented a lower-protein diet by essentially cutting his protein by more than 50 per cent, adding that he “put my carbs through the roof” in a bid to secure the coveted Mr Universe title.

Speaking the BBC Scotland interview, he added: “I got ripped with carbs. I’m delighted and wouldn’t go back to a high-protein diet.

“I had 10 Scotland titles and had all the Mr Scotland titles but I couldn’t progress any further at British level as I wasn’t big enough or hard enough until I met my coach Vicky McCann and she introduced carbs into my diet.

“People don’t believe they need carbs for bodybuilding but this is the most successful I’ve ever been. I wish I had known sooner.

“At first when I started eating a lot more food and carbs I felt in a lot of pain because my body wasn’t used to it as I had been dieting on very little food for so long. In the past on my high protein diet I had felt tired a lot.

“But suddenly on this high-carb diet I had all this energy so I could train for longer and harder and I felt stronger. Then I noticed my muscles looked bigger and fuller and harder, I just couldn’t believe it.”

Frontdouble has reported on this subject before, with American coach Justin Harris of Troponin Nutrition a big believer in high-carb diets. His views on protein, however, are slightly different, with some of his nutrition plans using higher protein – 60g per meal over six meals for some and 30g per meal over six on higher-carb days.

Also speaking in that BBC interview, Prof Jaacks also targeted the use of supplements. While she may well be right on this, supplements are exactly that – to supplement. What is perhaps more true is that they are for convenience; is might be easier for someone to consume protein from whey in a liquid meal alongside blendable carbohydrates and fats than it would be a steak or chicken breast for example.


She said: “I’m not at all surprised if he was restricting carbs in any way that he wasn’t getting very far, because carbs are absolutely the most important of the macros when it comes to thinking about exercise.

“Carbohydrates are absolutely critical because that’s what the brain and the muscles use for energy sources during exercise. You really need to have sufficient carbs if you are going to be exercising particularly at that kind of elite athlete level.

“It is really great to debunk this idea of high protein diets because it’s generally overstated. Even people who are going to the gym a couple of times a week are likely getting perfectly sufficient protein and don’t need to do anything in terms of increasing protein through taking supplements.

“There is a lot of public emphasis on protein and bodybuilding and taking the supplements and protein shakes but really it’s not required for most people even people who are going to the gym a couple of times a day.

“Athletic associations now also emphasise actually a food first approach to getting protein rather than supplements and there are other nutrients in food itself that are good for health.

“So my recommendation is to try to get what you need from food and most people can do that in their usual diets.”

McCann, chairwoman of the British Natural Bodybuilding Federation and Taylor’s coach said: “Bodybuilders will eat slightly elevated protein from your average person because they need muscle growth. However, the way I train my athletes is that we have a much higher percentage of carbohydrates than protein because carbohydrates are muscle sparing.

“When your body is low in energy, if it’s lacking carbohydrates it will use protein as a source of energy, so it means you are actually using your protein as a source of energy rather than a source of growth which is not what you are looking for as a bodybuilder.

“Keeping the carbohydrates high through a diet works. It doesn’t work very well for sedentary people but if you are training hard you do need carbohydrates.”

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Next show

April 27: PCA First Timers, London

April 28: UKUP Scottish Open, WABBA Universe, Glasgow; FitX Wolverhampton; PCA First Timers Ireland, Millenium Forum, Derry


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