Daily Protein Needs: Getting Enough or Going Overboard?



Daily Protein Needs

The recommended daily allowance (RDA) of protein for health adults 19 and older is .8 g/kg/bodyweight.

This amount of protein is estimated to be ample to meet the needs of pretty much all men and women (97.5%) over 19 years of age.  And to be honest, it is not hard to consume this amount of protein on a daily basis. Really, like a cup of milk, a 3 oz. piece of meat, an 8 oz. container of yogurt, and a cup of dry beans should do it, give or take a little. Let’s not forget that protein is in almost everything we eat. This doesn’t even count all the foods we consume that are lower, more insignificant sources of protein.

The Institute of Medicine suggests that we get at least 10%, but no more than 35% of our total calories from protein.  So there is a little leeway for all of you meat-lovers out there.

Recommended Daily Protein for Athletes

There are some exceptions when it comes to each person’s daily protein requirement. Athletes may need more. Research has shown that the RDA’s recommendation of .8 g/kg/bodyweight is “not sufficient to offset the oxidation of protein/amino acids during exercise training nor is it sufficient to provide substrate for lean tissue accretion or for the repair of exercise induced muscle damage.” (Campbell, 3)

The National Strength and Conditioning Association recommends that athletes consume 1.5 to 2.0 g/kg/bodyweight per day with athletes involved in moderate amounts of intense training consuming the lower end of that, and those athletes engaging in a high volume of intense training consuming the upper end. Other factors that should be considered in determining the most advantageous amount of protein to consume are, “timing of protein intake, protein quality, mode and intensity of exercise, energy intake, and carbohydrate intake.” (Campbell, 2)

Good Choices for Acquiring Daily Protein Requirements

Derby Station Dinner East Grand Rapids November 18, 2011 11
Photo credit: stevendepolo

The best choices for getting your daily amount of protein are those that come from whole foods, as opposed to supplements, because of the added nutrients that they provide such as vitamins, minerals, and fiber.  Good examples of this are lean meats (avoid those high in saturated fat), poultry, dried beans and peas, milk and milk products, eggs (be aware of cholesterol levels), nuts and seeds, and soy products.

If supplementation is necessary, research has proven that whey and casein protein supplementation offers a safe and convenient means of consuming high quality dietary protein.

Not Getting Enough

As we know, protein is important to pretty much all physiological functioning of our body.  To keep our bodies functioning at an optimal level, it is important to make sure we are consuming enough. Too little protein can also lead to never feeling satiety.  Protein takes longer to digest, so it helps us to feel full longer, which can help us maintain a healthy weight.

Going Overboard

If your daily intake of protein is over 35% of your daily caloric intake, that is TOO MUCH!

Protein-only diets are a STUPID idea, especially when coupled with a zero-carbohydrate diet plan. The body was designed to use carbohydrates as its primary source of energy, and supplies energy to our brain, heart, and many other organs. High protein, zero carb diets cause the body to go into a whole different metabolic mode called ketosis where the body burns its own fat for fuel. Sounds great right? WRONG! During ketosis, the body develops substances called keytones, which can cause organ damage, kidney stones, and kidney failure.  Other health issues associated with this diet include high cholesterol, osteoporosis, and cancer.

Also, if supplementation is being used to boost your protein intake, this can be pricy!  Research has shown that “protein supplements, although convenient, are not necessary for most resistance athletes.” (Wein,14). Unless you are engaged in high intensity training or bodybuilding, you are likely wasting your money, and chances are you won’t notice a difference in how you feel or look either.

Let’s not forget too, that protein gives us 4 calories for every gram we consume. Whatever our body does not need is NOT stored as muscular solid steel. It is stored as fat.

Wrapping it Up

No doubt, protein is important. Based on your current weight and activity level, calculate your individual ideal daily intake of protein and then select protein sources that are low in fat and high in all the good stuff that our bodies need like vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, etc. Whole foods are best, supplement only when absolutely necessary. There are all kinds of professionals out there who can help you find the right balance. Talk to one. Whatever you do, DON’T be a sucker and fall for one of those fad diets that NEVER work long-term. Just suck it up and do the work. Change your lifestyle. Eat right and exercise. It’s nothing novel and it ALWAYS works!

Campbell, Bill, PhD, CSCS, FISSN. (Downloaded 3/25/2010). Protein Needs for Athletes. NSCA Hot Topic Series. Retrieved Oct. 24, 2011 from http://www.nsca-lift.org/HotTopic/download/Protein%20Needs.pdf.

Centers for Disease Control. (Last updated Feb. 23, 2011). Protein. Retrieved on Oct. 7, 2011 from http://www.cdc.gov/nutrition/everyone/basics/protein.html

High Protein, Low Carb Diets. Retrieved on October 24, 2011 from http://women.webmd.com/guide/high-protein-low-carbohydrate-diets

Protein, Are You Getting Enough? Retrieved on October 24, 2011 from http://www.webmd.com/food-recipes/protein

Wein, Debra, MS, RD, LDN, NSCA-CPT, *D (December 2007).Protein Update: How Much Protein is Enough? NSCA’s Performance Training Journal, Volume 6, No. 6, 14-16. Retrieved on October 24, 2011 from http://www.nsca-lift.org/Perform/Issues/PTJ0606.pdf

Wein, Debra, MS. RD, LDN, NSCA-CPT,*D, Riley, Caitlin, O. (Downloaded 2/15/2011). Protein Requirements for Athletes. NSCA’s Performance Training Journal, Volume 10, issue 1, 15-16. Retrieved on October 24, 2011 from http://www.nsca-lift.org/Perform/articles/100105.pdf

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