The high protein diet has been a trend for more than a decade now. Protein bars, eating blocks of cheese for a snack, consuming turkey jerky on the daily, or having a protein powdered smoothie day after day.
Now, getting a sufficient amount of protein is essential to charge up your body and keep your muscles healthy and strong. You need protein to give you all the essential amino acids that supply the building blocks of protein which you can’t make on your own. Essential amino acids must come from food. But, chances are, you’re consuming WAY too much protein. Especially if you’re a regular meat-eater.
Is There Such Thing as Eating Too Much Protein?
Turns out, many Americans consume far more protein, especially animal protein than they need. Most of the time, protein recommendations are based on your lean body mass, not your overall weight. And so, this demands a few complex calculations. You only need about 0.37 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight.
Now remember, the ideal diet is the Mediterranean diet which is mostly plant based (vegetables and fruits), whole grains, legumes, nuts, lean meats, low-fat dairy, healthy fats and occasionally, 1 glass of red wine. Lean proteins like wild-caught fish, grass-fed beef or turkey- more than 90% or higher is considered lean. But, even a 3-5 oz. of animal protein a day is plenty. Avoid conventionally raised animal protein as much as possible.
You’ll get the most nourishment by eating PLENTY of green veggies as well as colorful vegetables and a variety of fruits (not as much as veggies though). Choose the right kind of cooking oils and use them on your salads. Throw in some nuts or legumes for snacking and consume a small amount of low-fat dairy and you’re pretty much good to go.
You see, one of the biggest issues when it comes to the types of protein Americans consume is that the government subsidizes soybeans, corn, and grains so they can be cheaply supplied to the industrial farmers. The farmers then force the animals (poultry, turkey, farm-raised fish, cattle, pigs) to feed on these lectin-heavy foods.
So, when we eat them, you’re consuming those lectin-heavy foods that destroy your gut and weigh you down. Not good. Lectins are a kind of protein that can bind to sugar. They are sometimes referred to as anti-nutrients, since they can reduce the body’s ability to absorb nutrients. When consumed in large amounts, your gut can be harmed and will cause inflammation.
But, how much protein are we really getting from protein rich foods?
Well, let’s take a look at a few examples to get a general idea.
You’ll get around 20 grams of protein from the following common foods:
- 1 scoop of protein powder
- 1 protein bar (ex: Quest)
- 2-3 ounces of fish or chicken
- 2 ½ whole eggs
- 4 ounces canned crabmeat
- 3 ounces canned tuna
- 75 ounces canned sardines
Now, I know that these numbers can be confusing so, just remember this simple rule when it comes to your daily consumption of protein.
Eat ONE and You’re Done
It’s as easy as that. One 3 ounce serving of protein per day is really close to what you need. Again, there’s leeway on the serving size based on the 0.37 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight equation (source).
Please, don’t fall into the “protein-mixing” trap. Basically, they want you to eat each and every essential amino acids at every meal. There’s a total of nine essential amino acids. It’s Nonsense!
Do you really think that our ancestors spent time examining each bite of food, worrying what kind of amino acids they were consuming? The thing is, your body recycles your essential amino acids.
Recycling Your Essential Amino Acids
You don’t need a fresh batch of every single amino acid from new sources of protein at every meal. You just don’t.
Fun Fact: We recycle approximately 20 grams of our own protein every day. The protein that has been shed from our mucus membranes and intestines all gets recycled.
Turn out, the mucus and the cells that line your gut contain protein. So, when mucus gets created, or the cells that make up your gut lining die and are replaced, you digest the proteins right into your gut. Your body is very economically and efficient.
In fact, you could probably even eliminate even more of the already low protein recommendation above because you’re recycling your own protein each day. The human need for protein is shockingly small.
What a Packed Protein Day Looks Like
Breakfast- 2 medium eggs (Omega-3 eggs preferred) gives you about 15 grams of protein
Lunch- a large salad topped with 1 ounce of soft goat cheese- about 5 grams
Snack- 2 tablespoons pistachios- 3 grams
Dinner- 3 ounces of wild-caught salmon- 22 grams
With this meal plan, you would actually be exceeding your protein needs depending on your weight. Take in mind that we’re not counting the protein in all the vegetables you’re consuming.
There’s Protein in Vegetables?
There sure is! Actually, most of the proteins you consume come from your veggies. This is especially true if you want to build muscles. Think about gorillas and horses.. they are very muscular due to their vegetarian diets.
So, how much protein is in your vegetables?
Well for example, a half cup of steamed cauliflower yields 1 whole gram of protein. One medium-sized sweet potato yields about 2 whole grams of protein. An artichoke yields about 4 grams of protein.
The protein adds up pretty quickly.
Bottom Line Message
You’re most likely getting more than enough protein each day from just the foods that you consume and you can continue working out and making progress.