What is it?
Written by Dr. Chad Kuntz, PT, DPT, OCS, SCS, CSCS, CISSN, TPI-1
Protein is essentially composed of amino acids and is defined as the building block of muscle. Protein is essential for the body and although hundreds of amino acids exist out there, the body only utilizes around 22 of them.
Where is it Found?
Protein can be found in meat, dairy, beans and nuts. However, we can further divide the quality of protein in different meats based upon how many essential amino acids are in its composition as well as the amount of fat that comes with it as well.
Good Protein: Bacon, Hot Dogs, Sausages, Bratwust
Better Protein: Pork Chops, Quinoa, Nuts, Lentils
Best Protein: Eggs, Turkey, Salmon, Tilapia and Cottage Cheese.
How much do I need?
This is a great question and if only surfaced, can be misleading. The reason it can be misleading is because the RDA (recommended dietary allowance) suggests 0.8 grams per kilogram or less. However, this number is much too low if you are an active individual. If you find yourself being a “couch potato,” then 0.8 g/kg is probably fine.
If you find yourself being active, weight lifting and/or running, the suggested amount is around 1.6 to 2.0 g/kg per bodyweight. This is due to the fact that there is an increased requirement for amino acids to rebuild and support the muscles that have been broken down amidst the process.
To make it simple, rather than the calculations above, take in around 1 gram of protein per bodyweight and you should certainly meet the requirements of protein per day and reap all of its benefits such as; improved thermic effect of food, improved controlled appetite (increased satiety), improved nitrogen balance, and increased time spent in a muscle building state.
- If you weigh 200 pounds and are an active individual, look to achieve 200 grams of protein throughout the day.
- 200 lbs x 1g per pound = 200 grams of protein
- If you are a couch potato and find yourself sedentary, then 72 grams of protein would meet the requirements if you were the same 200-pound man/women.
- Equation: 200 lbs /2.2= 90.9 kg x 0.8 g/kg= 72 grams of protein
“I heard it makes you fat”
- While it is possible for amino acids to be converted into fat, this does not contribute a large amount of the body fat that you store. In fact, eating a larger amount of protein per diet leads to increased satiety (meaning you stay fuller, longer), increased thermogenesis (meaning the thermic effect of protein itself burns calories), and increases your time being anabolic, meaning you are more often in a state of building muscle than building fat.
“It makes you look bulky”
- Absolutely not. Simply eating protein alone will not equate to building muscle. While it’s true that your muscles require amino acids to function, only when you overload your muscle tissue via working out do you truly start to build muscle. Not to mention it takes years to become appear incredibly muscular.
“I’m older so I don’t need as much protein as I used to”
- Believe it or not, this is actually false. In fact, it is quite the opposite. As we get older, our kidneys, liver and digestive system actually slow down to an extent and aren’t as effective. As we get older, we may actually need more protein per day and per meal to achieve the same, beneficial effects that we once achieved with protein as when we were younger.
“It’s bad for the kidneys”
- This is probably one of the most often recited myths out there regarding protein. To truly trace the roots of this answer, you have to go back to the 1970’s where Dr. Barry Banner, a physician at Brigham and Women’s hospital, proposed that protein was bad for the kidneys solely based upon an animal study where the animals had an existing renal disease condition. This obviously doesn’t translate at all into a healthy, human population. In fact, if you take in roughly 2x your body weight in protein per day, there still has not been proven to be any damage to the kidneys in a healthy population. That would be the equivalent of 400 grams of protein for a 200 lb male!
“I need less when I’m dieting”
- False again my friends. When you are dieting, you may actually be better served by an increased amount of protein compared to when you are bulking. Reasons include increased satiety, increased thermogenic effect of protein, increased anabolism, and improved ability to repair muscle. Now, understand that you may likely benefit from dropping some carbs, fats, or a healthy combination of them both, but, it is crucial to keep protein high throughout your period of dieting.
I hope everyone learned a lot about protein and the fallacies that you often hear spread in the community. While it is always a good idea to consult with a physician and/or a nutritionist prior to drastically changing your diet, it may be a good idea to look into the amount of protein you are ingesting per day in order to receive the maximal benefits derived from it.
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