Mythbusting Protein: Is More Always Better?
Try to count how many times you have heard that the more protein you can take into your body the better. Have you ever stopped to think about who is telling you this? Mostly it is companies who sell protein supplements and powders or athletic companies trying to promote bodybuilding. But regardless whether you are an athlete or not, more protein is not always the answer.
How Much? According to the USDA, the average adult only needs about 0.8g (sedentary) or about 1-1.6g (recreational activity) per kg of body weight daily. Although athletes may require a higher protein intake, most recommendations don’t go greater than 2g/kg.Overall, that’s not a lot of protein compared to what gets shoved in our faces by the media. In terms of food, this is about 5-6 oz of protein per day for the average minimally exercising adult. To help you visualize this, a 1 oz protein equivalent is about 1 tbsp of peanut butter, one egg, ¼ cup cooked beans, or ½ oz of nuts or seeds. In terms of meat, a 3 oz piece of meat is equivalent to a deck of cards. Looking at it this way, it seems a small amount to eat compared to the huge portion sizes offered today.
Why? According to many researchers, our bodies can only use about 20-25 grams at a time. That is the maximum; so while we may be thinking the more protein we eat, the more benefit we get, we max out our benefits around 20 grams of protein. The rest will break down and be eliminated as a waste product. Since our bodies can only utilize so much protein at a time, trying to fit all our protein needs into just one meal is not sufficient, as it only fuels our bodies to a point. We need to spread our protein intake throughout the day to reach our goal of at least 0.8g/kg of protein per day. If not we may be wasting money and resources.
Smart Eating. According to sports nutritionist Nancy Clark, MS, RD, CSSD, it is easy to be “swayed by the powerful advertisements in bodybuilding magazines and [we] start to believe that protein supplements are essential for optimal muscle development.” She goes on to mention that just because a product is popular doesn’t mean it is better for us than real foods. While these products may be providing us with adequate protein, we are missing out on other vital nutrients that come from eating real foods.
Myth Busted! The best way to get your protein intake is not “the more, the better” regimen but rather by eating adequate protein (0.8g - 1.6g/kg) from real protein foods spread throughout the day.
Choose MyPlate. USDA. All About the Protein Food Groups. 2016. Available at: https://www.choosemyplate.gov/protein-foods Accessed: 9/23/17.
Phillips, S. The importance of dietary protein in resistance exercise-induced adaptation: All proteins are not created equal. SCAN Webinar. 2012. Available at: https://scan-dpg.s3.amazonaws.com/resources/DOCS/webinars/2012_The_Importance_of_Dietary_Protein_in_Resistance_Exercise_Induced_Adaptation_webinar.pdf Accessed: 9/23/17.
Clark, N. Nancy Clark's Sports Nutrition Guidebook. 5th ed. Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics, 2014. Print.