by all the protein bars, shakes and powders out there, you get
the impression you need more protein. There are claims it
curbs appetite, helps with weight loss and builds muscle. But
what’s the real story?
to all the hype that everyone needs more protein, most
Americans get twice as much as they need," said Kristi
Wempen, a Mayo Clinic Health System registered dietitian
nutritionist. "This is especially true for males 14-70
years of age, who the 2015 Dietary Guidelines for Americans
advise to decrease meat, poultry and egg consumption. Even
athletes are often getting more protein than they need,
without supplements, because their calorie requirements are
higher. And with more food comes more protein."
false: Big steak equals bigger muscles
adequate protein throughout the day is necessary, extra
strength training is what leads to muscle growth — not extra
protein intake. You can’t build muscle without the exercise
to go with it.
body can’t store protein, so once needs are met, any extra
is used for energy or stored as fat," added Wempen.
"Excess calories from any source will be stored as fat in
explains extra protein intake also can lead to elevated blood
lipids and heart disease, because many high-protein foods are
high in total fat and saturated fat. Extra protein intake,
which can tax the kidneys, poses an additional risk to
individuals predisposed to kidney disease.
protein do you need?
from 10 to 35 percent of your calories should come from
protein. So, if your needs are 2,000 calories, that’s
200-700 calories from protein (50-175 grams). The recommended
dietary allowance to prevent deficiency for an average
sedentary adult is 0.8 grams per kilogram of body weight. For
example, a person who weighs 75 kilograms (165 pounds) should
consume 60 grams of protein per day.
you hit 40-50 years old, sarcopenia starts to set in, which
means you start losing muscle mass as you age," Wempen
said. "To help prevent this and to maintain independence
and quality of life, your protein needs increase to about 1
gram per kilogram of body weight."
who exercise regularly also have higher needs, about 1.1-1.5
grams per kilogram. People who lift weights regularly or are
training for a running or cycling event need 1.2-1.7 grams per
kilogram. Excessive protein intake would be more than 2 grams
per kilogram of body weight each day.
you are overweight, your weight is adjusted before calculating
your protein needs in order to avoid overestimating,"
Wempen said. "You can see a dietitian to help develop a
does protein come from?
says the healthiest protein options are plant sources, such
nuts, seeds, beans and lentils
meats, such as skinless, white-meat chicken or turkey, and
lean cuts of beef or pork
variety of fish
your dietary protein needs with these whole foods as opposed
to supplements," she said. "Supplements are no more
effective than food as long as energy intake is adequate for
building lean mass. Manufactured foods don’t contain
everything you need from food, nor do manufacturers know
everything that should be in food. There may be compounds in
real foods that we haven’t even discovered yet that may be
beneficial for the body. So always be careful of foods created
in a lab."
the best time to consume protein?
recommends that you spread out protein consumption evenly
throughout the day. On average, she says, people tend to get
most of their protein during evening meals and the least at
breakfast. Certain recent studies show moving some protein
from supper to breakfast can help with weight management by
decreasing hunger and cravings throughout the day. Of course,
more research is needed before these claims can be verified.
recommendations are to consume 15-25 grams of protein at meals
and in the early recovery phase (anabolic window) — 45
minutes to one hour after a workout. Studies show higher
intakes (more than 40 grams) are no more beneficial than the
recommended 15-25 grams at one time. Don’t waste your money
on excessive amounts.
I do want to use a protein supplement?
want to use a protein supplement, Wempen advises to look for:
200 or less calories
grams or less of saturated fat
trans fat or partially hydrogenated oils
grams of sugar or less
does 15-25 grams of protein in whole foods looks like? Eating
a banana, Greek yogurt and a hardboiled egg will get you 19
grams of protein on average. A three-ounce chicken breast with
a half cup rice and half cup vegetables amounts to 25 grams of
protein. The recommended 15-25 grams per meal or post-workout
snack is attainable. If these were meals, you would want to
balance them out by including all food groups: protein, grain,
dairy, fruit and vegetables. Most people — even athletes —
can reach their protein needs by including a serving of dairy
at each meal and a piece of meat the size of a deck of cards
at lunch and supper.
should be an accompaniment to fruits, vegetables and whole
grains. It should not be the entire meal," Wempen said.