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How Much Protein Do You Really Need?

Hint: Might be more than you think!


meat chicken fish avocado nuts seeds beef protein


Why Is Protein Important?

As the building block for almost every structure and tissue in they body, protein is essential for supporting the health of bones, skeletal muscle, the gut, hair and nails. It promotes satiety, helps with weight loss, supports immune health and hormone production and is a critical component of blood-sugar stabilization.


In terms of healthy weight management, protein is critical especially due to its role in building muscle mass. Not only does lean muscle increase metabolic rate, but increased muscle mass is directly correlated to improved blood glucose control as it aids in the absorption of glucose from the bloodstream into cells where it can be used for energy.


More lean muscle > higher metabolic rate > fat loss


How Much Protein Do I Need?

The RDA suggests that 0.8 grams of protein per kilogram of bodyweight per day (g/kg/day). However, this amount is based on the minimum needed to prevent illness but not to function optimally. While protein needs vary considerably based on several factors including age, sex and activity level, generally speaking, experts suggest the following:


Physically active adults/athletes: Most experts recommend 1.2-2.0 g/kg/day (which is double the current RDA).


Older adults (40+ years of age): 1.2-1.8 g/kg/day.


Goal of weight loss: 1.2-1.6 g/kg/day.


Distributing protein consumption throughout the day is important. The body cannot store protein for future use so consistent consumption of protein at each meal (and/or post workout) is ideal. Significant research suggests that consuming protein-rich meals throughout the day (~1/3 with each breakfast, lunch, dinner) will help curb appetite, stabilize blood sugar levels, minimize cravings and promote consistent energy levels.


It is important to note that when it comes to protein, too much of a good thing can be detrimental. Consuming protein at higher levels than the body needs over extended periods of time can result in bone loss, kidney damage and dehydration. Additionally, as with any intake that exceeds energy demands ( input > output), excess protein could potentially be stored as fat. Working with a nutritionist to identify your personal needs is recommended.


What Type of Protein Is Best For Me?

Animal proteins (e.g. meat, fish, eggs, dairy, animal-derived protein powders) are “complete” proteins meaning that they contain all nine essential amino acids which is critical for muscle protein synthesis. They are also highly digestible ( ~95%).


Plant proteins (e.g. beans, lentils, nuts, seeds, etc.) are “incomplete” proteins because they do not contain all nine essential amino acids and have lower levels of digestibility. You need to consume (much) more of a plant protein vs an animal protein to reach your intake goal. For example, 4 oz of salmon has 27g of protein and you would need to consume almost 2 cups of chick peas to reach that amount.


Protein powders are a convenient, portable way to increase protein intake if you’re on the go. Clean, high quality options include:

Thorne Whey Protein Isolate (21g protein/serving).

Metagenics Perfect Protein Pea & Rice (20g protein/serving). Plant-based.

Thorne Collagen Fit (14g protein/serving).


Please message me and I can put together a plan based on your personal preferences (and a professional discount to access high quality protein powders).



If you are interested in learning more, let's talk! Schedule a FREE 15-minute call.




Cheers to living well,





Disclaimer: The information on this website is for educational purposes only. It is not intended to replace a one-on-one relationship with a qualified healthcare practitioner.


References:


Carbone, J. W., & Pasiakos, S. M. (2019). Dietary Protein and Muscle Mass: Translating Science to Application and Health Benefit. Nutrients, 11(5), 1136. https://doi.org/10.3390/nu11051136


Ciuris C, Lynch HM, Wharton C, Johnston CS. A Comparison of Dietary Protein Digestibility, Based on DIAAS Scoring, in Vegetarian and Non-Vegetarian Athletes. Nutrients. 2019 Dec 10;11(12):3016. doi: 10.3390/nu11123016. PMID: 31835510; PMCID: PMC6950041.


Daly, J. M., Reynolds, J., Sigal, R. K., Shou, J., & Liberman, M. D. (1990). Effect of dietary protein and amino acids on immune function. Critical care medicine, 18(2 Suppl), S86–S93.


Morton, R. W., Murphy, K. T., McKellar, S. R., Schoenfeld, B. J., Henselmans, M., Helms, E., Aragon, A. A., Devries, M. C., Banfield, L., Krieger, J. W., & Phillips, S. M. (2018). A systematic review, meta-analysis and meta-regression of the effect of protein supplementation on resistance training-induced gains in muscle mass and strength in healthy adults. British journal of sports medicine, 52(6), 376–384. https://doi.org/10.1136/bjsports-2017-097608


Ortinau, L. C., Hoertel, H. A., Douglas, S. M., & Leidy, H. J. (2014). Effects of high-protein vs. high- fat snacks on appetite control, satiety, and eating initiation in healthy women. Nutrition journal, 13, 97. https://doi.org/10.1186/1475-2891-13-97


Schoenfeld, B. J., & Aragon, A. A. (2018). How much protein can the body use in a single meal for muscle-building? Implications for daily protein distribution. Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition, 15, 10. https://doi.org/10.1186/s12970-018-0215-1


Wu G. (2016). Dietary protein intake and human health. Food & function, 7(3), 1251–1265. https://doi.org/10.1039/c5fo01530h

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