What is the best protein – How much protein you need to eat?
Hey, after years controlling and seeing how my clients eat and what is one of the biggest struggle they have, I wanted to share my thoughts with evidence based facts in this 1/2 part blog text.
“I thought I was eating enough protein, how much and what I should eat? How many times a day I should eat protein? Can it make damage to my kidneys?”
These are typical questions I get from my clients. This guide is about science based facts or what actually is known about proteins. You might have your own opinions, either you drink protein powder after every workout or you have heard bad things that too much protein will damage your kidneys. I ask you to leave your own opinions for a while background and read this article very carefully. It might help you a lot, whatever your goal is to lose weight, gain muscles or just eat healthier.
Proteins or actually eating NOT enough proteins is the most common problem what I see in my work. To find foods which you love and eating amount of proteins you need is not easy. But I will show you later exactly how you can count correct protein amount and find protein sources.
Let´s get started with some basics. I try to explain everything that you can understand text without being a doctor.
What is protein?
Protein is one of 3 main macronutrients that makes up the food we eat. It is made up of amino acids. Amino acids are like legos, they are building blocks for most things in our bodies. You can break them down and build again in different ways.
Your body is not storing a lot amino acids. Protein is always getting used, recycled and sometimes your body is removing it even with urine. It is not like fat what is getting stored in your belly.
If your body is not getting enough protein, it will steal it from parts that you would need proteins, like your muscles. So you need consistently to eat protein in order to refill your storage.
How much protein you need?
It depends and it is individual.
European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) is currently recommending 0,83g/ Kg. It means more weight you have, the more protein you need. For example person with 70 kg would need 70 x 0,8g (=56g) protein per day. It is around 10 % of your energy need per day.
These required values, however, have been developed as a way to count minimum amount of nutrients you need to NOT get sick or die.
Required values are counted to survive and values you really need to be successful are different.
In other words like difference between “I am alive” or “I am rocking it”
Recommendation is not in fact considering how much total calories you eat or need, when you eat protein or how active you are.
How does High-protein diet look like?
Picture on right is not recommendation how you should eat. It is just typical south tyrolean meal plan, where you see that you might think that you get enough protein but in fact you have been eating 2000 calories but “just” 70 grams of protein. It is an example of “LOW PROTEIN meal plan”.
You might have heard “low carb” diet and you assume that it means “high protein” diet.
Or “low-carb” is the only way to lose weight.
In general you can eat more protein without making any radical changes to other things in your diet.
Many types of diets can be considered as high protein diets.
Average protein intake for adults in Europe according surveys is in good level (15% or around 0,83g/kg)
Most researchers would say that once you get 25% of your total calories, you are in “high protein territory”.
The Institute of Medicine suggest that up to 35% percent of total calories is still ok for normal healthy adults.
Now you might think is that not too much? Currently there is no established upper limit for protein. It doesn´t mean that you can eat as much protein as you want without any side effects. It only means that researchers haven´t found it out yet.
What is proven in studies, is the fact that there was no short term health problems when eating up to 4,4g/ kg protein.
Will eating too much protein hurt you?
Past years people have been concerned about how safe it is eating too much protein. Questions like will it damage my kidney? What about my liver?
Let´s take a closer look for claimed kidney damage. It is true that doctors say tell people to eat low protein if they have kidney what is working poorly or is already damaged. It doesn´t mean that protein will damage your healthy kidney.
Same doctor would tell you not to run if you have broken leg. If you are healthy, there is no reason to not to run. It will just increase total work of your legs, like eating much protein does to your kidney.
Eating much protein will increase your metabolic waste like urine, so it is really important to drink a lot of water to avoid dehydration.
There is no evidence that eating high protein (up to 2,2g / kg) will cause kidney damage for healthy adults
Protein source – is too much animal protein risk or should you eat vegan?
There was more than 130.000 people participating and were asked how much protein they ate and if it was from animals or plants. This study took more than 35 years to do from 1980.
Results what were found pointed that eating more animal protein was associated with higher risk of death! But only if you were doing something like what was a risk factor such as smoking, being overweight, not exercising, having a history of high blood pressure, drinking alcohol or eating less, vegetables, fruits, whole grains or fibre.
So before you want to reduce animal proteins from your diet, there was more into it. If you were doing everything else “correct”, eating animal protein doesn´t seem to be a problem.
Most likely, it is not only animal protein, but your lifestyle that come with eating more animal protein what seems to be a “problem”.
Eating more plant protein was found to be associated with lower risk of early death. But like you might still remember, all doctors told in the 80s to eat less fat, meat and avoid eggs.
So if you were in that time person who was interested about your own health, you would avoid all these things. Same time you were most likely doing many of other health supporting decisions like working out and not smoking.
Problem is with these types of studies that they are correlated, you can never be sure what is real reason, because there are many things happening at the same time.
Part 2/2 will be published next week.
Sources and credits: Precision Nutrition (https://www.precisionnutrition.com/will-a-high-protein-diet-harm-your-health) , Juha Hulmi; Lihastohtori (2015)