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How Much Protein is Right for You?

How Much Protein is Right for You?

1/11/2018

With so much conflicting information floating around, it is hard to know what is or isn’t a quality nutrition plan.  How large should your portions be? Do those portions have the correct amount of macro and micronutrients?

Here is a question we hear quite often: what amount is too much or too little protein?  Some people think eating too much protein can be harmful on your kidneys or that it will make you gain weight.  Some believe that if they don’t eat massive amounts of protein their muscles will shrink up. But is any of this really true?

Let’s first talk about protein and why it is so important.  We are made up of DNA – it is the building block of our bodies, and it is how we are able to heal when we get a cut, or how our body keeps generating new blood cells to keep us healthy and alive.  DNA is made up of amino acids, which are also the building blocks of protein.  Protein is what makes up hair and nails, as well as muscles and organs.  It is also involved in the creation of certain hormones which control bodily functions such as insulin – a small protein which regulates blood sugar.  Secretin, another protein, assists the digestive process by stimulating the pancreas and intestine to create and secrete necessary digestive juices.  Antibodies are also made up of proteins, so without enough protein your immune system will suffer.

Let’s answer the myth of too much protein causing kidney disease. In patients with existing kidney disorders or diseases, their doctor may recommend a lower protein diet to put less pressure on the kidneys, but in people without preexisting kidney issues, protein will not cause the kidneys to fail.

Another myth is that too much protein will cause people to gain weight – this can be true if the person is getting their external energy from a high carbohydrate diet. The body will utilize carbohydrates because they are easier to break down and give instant energy and it will store the protein as fat, but this fat storage is not permanent.  Furthermore, protein keeps you satiated much longer than carbs, which helps with weight loss as you won’t constantly be craving food and will be less likely to overeat.  Cutting back on carbohydrates and consuming them closer to workouts while focusing on getting more of your energy from healthy fat and protein is the key to weight loss

Now to the big question: how much protein is right for you?  The answer is different for everyone, especially based on age, gender, and activity level.  The recommended daily allowance for people 19+ is about 0.8 grams of protein per kg body weight. However, this is the RDA for the general population.  If you are trying to build more muscle, you should consider a diet ranging from 1.5 grams of protein per kg of body weight to as high as 2 grams per kg daily.  Anything in excess of this will likely cause weight gain for the average person, as even professional bodybuilders only consume about 2.2 grams per kg of bodyweight per day.  The exact number all depends on the duration, type, and intensity of your exercise routine.  

Getting too many or too few macronutrients can hinder your performance and your outcomes when it comes to athleticism and weight loss, so we recommend that you discuss your nutrition and exercise habits with a medical professional.  Finding what works best for you and fine tuning your diet for your exercise regimen is the key to maintaining healthy nutritional habits. 

If you want to learn more about nutrition, exercise and healthy living, contact the SCNM Medical Center.