Protein is one of the three main macronutrients in any balanced diet. It is super important for a lot of the body functions we take for granted every day. As with everything in nutrition, there are usually some myths that need busted. For example, have you heard any of the following?
- Protein will damage your kidneys?
- Protein can give you cancer?
- As a society we eat too much protein?
- Eating high protein diet damages the liver?
Many of these myths have been debunked. There have been studies that have given people high amounts of protein and looked for signs of liver damage or kidney damage. When paired with a healthy diet and proper hydration, people with 4g/lb of protein were perfectly healthy. I’ve heard all of these and more, but the problem is they are often exaggerated and protein is absolutely essential to life. No protein, no you.
- Protein provides amino acids for our body
These amino acids are the building blocks for almost everything in our body. They are rich in a chemical called nitrogen. Remember when you played with your kids Legos? You use them as the basis for building all of the play structures? That’s very similar to what amino acids do for our body.
- It’s very difficult to become overweight from protein
Our body doesn’t store protein the same way it does with the other macronutrients (carbs and fat). What this mean is that constantly being used and its not stored up for later. This is different then carbohydrates and fats that get stored in our body for if we need them later (if we want them to or not!).
Our bodies need protein. Without it you will either most likely die or become seriously deficient. I know this sounds dramatic and it takes a LOT to get to that place but it’s important to consider.
Now this isn’t just animal protein, if you are a vegetarian there are a lot of protein option that aren’t animal based. One word of warning is protein from animal DOES create a specific amino acid that we cannot produce ourselves and the synthetic version may not be easily digested. So if you think this might be you, speaking to a nutrition specialist might be helpful.
- Nearly all cells, bones, skeletal, nervous system muscles, hair and your fingernails are basically made of protein.
While the body can produce some amino acids, others have to come from our what we consume in out diet. These are called essential amino acids. The proteins our body produces are the non-essential amino acids.
- The general guidelines for protein are about 0.36g/lb. This means if you have a 200-pound individual they should consume about 72 grams of protein a day as a minimum.
- This is your minimum. The bare minimum you need to stay healthy. I don’t know about you but I want to thrive not just live. If you are exercising or just generally being active, you generally need more!
More might be better.
We would recommend somewhere in the range of 0.7-1.2 grams of protein per pound of body weight.
Where you fall in this range is going to dependent on a large number of factors.
- Activity levels (more active people are going to need more protein to repair their cells and muscles)
- Age (there is some research to show that as we age we don’t process protein as well as we used to so we tend to need a little more)
- Sex (Men generally need more protein than women do)
- What our goal is (if you are trying to lose weight, it might be beneficial to keep your protein levels about the same and drop either your carb or fat levels)
When we are looking at each macronutrient individually, no one is worse than the other. This isn’t how food works, each nutrient plays a very important role in the body and they are all necessary. Where most people get into trouble is that they end up, without even knowing or trying, eating significantly more of one specific nutrient over another. Protein is super important and many of the people we see at the gym aren’t getting enough. If you’re looking for more ways to incorporate protein into your diet, reach out to a professional. They can give you tips and strategies!