Protein Foods And The Planet
To give you an idea, this scorecard from the World Resources Institute illustrates the differing GHG emissions per gram of protein from both animal and plant-based protein foods. Making just one pound of lamb generates five times more GHGs than making a pound of chicken and around 30 times more than making a pound of lentils. In the U.S. alone, beef accounts for 36% of all food-related GHG emissions. Beyond emissions, its also important to note that food production places an enormous demand upon our natural resources, as agriculture is a major contributor to deforestation, species extinction, and freshwater depletion and contamination.
How Did We Calculate Your Protein Intake
Bodybuilding.com’s protein calculator starts with the Mifflin St. Jeor equation, which is considered by our nutritionists and dieticians to be the “gold standard” of calorie calculators. Here’s how it works:
Calculate basal metabolic rate , or the calories your body burns simply by being alive. For men: 10 x weight + 6.25 x height â 5 x age + 5 For women: 10 x weight + 6.25 x height â 5 x age -161
Then, this BMR count is multiplied, depending on your activity level:
Sedentary = 1.2
Is It True That Too Much Protein Can Damage Our Organs
Firstly, there is a misconception that high-protein intakes can damage our kidneys.
However, this is non-evidence-based, and there is no research to support the idea of protein causing damage to a healthy individuals kidney.
On this note, a study from Dr. Jose Antonio at the International Society of Sports Nutrition found no adverse effects from following a very-high-protein diet for a period of one year.
In this particular study, participants consumed between 2.51 grams and 3.32 grams of protein, every day, for 12 months. Comprehensive testing on the participants found no negative impact on the lipid profile, liver, or kidney function .
That said, it is possible to consume anything to excess. There will be a point of diminishing returns when adding extra protein to the diet.
However, the evidence suggests that a higher intake of protein is better than a lack of it.
For anyone unsure about the protein content of food, this guide shows the amount of protein in 230 common foods.
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Proteins Role In Building Muscle
We all know that protein builds muscle, but how does it do it?
Well, it involves a complex biochemical process that would require thousands of words to explain. The TLDR version is that dietary protein contains amino acids that your body uses to build muscle tissue. Your body cant make these amino acids on its own, so you need to consume them through dietary protein. One amino acid is essential in kickstarting your bodys muscle-building process, called muscle protein synthesis.
So dietary protein 1) provides the building blocks to build muscle tissue, and 2) tells your body to start building muscle tissue.
Again, this is a really dumbed-down version of what protein does. But its a good working mental model of dietary proteins role in the muscle-creation process.
How Much Protein Do I Need
The National Academy of Medicine recommends that adults get a minimum of 0.8 grams of protein for every kilogram of body weight per day, or just over 7 grams for every 20 pounds of body weight.
- For a 140-pound person, that means about 50 grams of protein each day.
- For a 200-pound person, that means about 70 grams of protein each day.
The National Academy of Medicine also sets a wide range for acceptable protein intakeanywhere from 10% to 35% of calories each day. Beyond that, theres relatively little solid information on the ideal amount of protein in the diet or the healthiest target for calories contributed by protein. In an analysis conducted at Harvard among more than 130,000 men and women who were followed for up to 32 years, the percentage of calories from total protein intake was not related to overall mortality or to specific causes of death. However, the source of protein was important.
Its important to note that millions of people worldwide, especially young children, dont get enough protein due to food insecurity. The effects of protein deficiency and malnutrition range in severity from growth failure and loss of muscle mass to decreased immunity, weakening of the heart and respiratory system, and death.
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How Much Protein Per Day To Lose Weight
If you want to lose weight, aim for a daily protein intake between 1.6 and 2.2 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight . Athletes and heavy exercisers should consume 2.2-3.4 grams of protein per kilogram if aiming for weight loss.
My practical recommendation to people is that if you carry a BMI of over 30 or a body fat percentage above 25-30% it makes more sense to base your protein recommendations off of your goal weight.
For the correct amount of protein to gain muscle, check this resource out.
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She says it’s in foods many of us expect, such as beef, chicken and other types of meat and dairy. But it’s also in foods that may not come immediately to mind like vegetables, fruit, beans and grains.
The U.S. government’s recommended daily allowance for the average adult is 50 to 60 grams of protein a day. This may sound like a lot, but Pipitone says: “We get bits of protein here and there and that really adds up throughout the day.”
Take, for example, breakfast. If you ate two eggs topped with a little bit of cheese and an orange on the side, you already have 22 grams of protein. Each egg gives you 7 grams, the cheese gives you about 6 grams and the orange about 2 grams. Add a lunch of chicken, rice and broccoli, and you are already over the recommended 50 grams. “You can get enough protein and meet the RDA before you even get to dinner,” says Pipitone.
So if it’s so easy to get your protein in food, why add more in the form of powders, snack bars or a boost at your local juice bar? No need to, says Pipitone because, in fact, most of us already get enough protein in our diet.
“Whole foods are always the best option rather than adding supplements,” she says, noting the FDA does not regulate supplements as stringently as foods or drugs, so there could be less protein, more sugar and some additives you wouldn’t expect, such as caffeine and even steroids.
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Why Is Protein Important
Protein has a role in almost every single bodily function and process. It builds muscle, supports tissue health, and is fundamental in supporting the immune system. Protein is also critical for brain health and cognitive functioning. When it comes to hunger and weight maintenance, protein also helps regulate ghrelin, a hormone that triggers hunger cues.
Based On Weight And Activity
There are other ways to get a more specific protein goal that may take into account lean muscle mass and/or physical activity level.
The average adult needs a minimum of 0.8 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight per day. One kilogram equals 2.2 pounds, so a person who weighs 165 pounds, or 75 kg, would need about 60 grams of protein per day.
However, your protein needs may increase if you are very active. The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, the American College of Sports Medicine, and the Dietitians of Canada suggest that athletes need more protein.
These organizations suggest that athletes consume between 1.2 grams and 2.0 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight per day, with endurance athletes at the lower end of this range and strength and power athletes at the higher end.
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The Truth About Vegan Protein
Before we get into the nitty-gritty of it all, this must be addressed: its a common belief that protein is something you can only get from consuming animal products. This is just plain wrong. We have an article called Vegan Sources of Protein, and there youll find heaps of high protein vegan foods. Now back to our topic:
We Need To Maintain Our Muscle Mass As We Age Because We Become Less Active And Frail
Most experts agree with Tipton that protein is best consumed in food instead of supplements. But there are some exceptions, such as athletes who find it difficult to hit their daily protein targets, points out Graeme Close, professor of human physiology at Liverpool John Moores University. I believe most need more than the recommended daily allowance, and theres good evidence to support this, he says. In this case, he says, a shake can be useful.
Another demographic who can benefit from extra protein? The elderly. Thats because as we age, we need more protein to retain muscle mass. But we also tend to eat less protein as we get older because our taste-buds begin to prefer sweet over savoury.
Emma Stevenson, professor of sport and exercise science at Newcastle University, is working with food companies to get more protein into snacks that the elderly are known to regularly buy, such as biscuits. We need to maintain our muscle mass as we age, because we become less active and frail, she says.
Close says the elderly should increase protein intake to around 1.2g per kg body weight.
Most people get more than their daily recommended allowance of protein from their diet
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How Much Protein Do You Need If Youre Physically Active
If youre physically active you run, lift weights, have a labor-intensive job, etc. research from Professor of Kinesiology Stuart Phillips suggests that you need .59 grams to 1 gram of protein per pound of your body weight.
So if youre a 200-pound man, that means you should be getting somewhere between 118 grams to 200 grams of protein a day.
Whether you go towards the low or high end depends on how hard youre training and your age . If youre lifting heavy and/or are older, youll want to skew to the higher recommended amount of protein.
Quick Nutrition Check For Protein
Protein is found in many foods and is needed to keep you healthy. Your body uses protein to:
- Provide building blocks for growth and for repairing cells like those in your muscles, skin, and nails.
- Make enzymes and hormones, which carry out key body functions.
Protein is found in peas, beans and lentils, nuts and seeds and their butters, soy products like tofu and soy beverage, meats, fish, poultry, eggs, milk, cheese, and yogurt. Grains, vegetables, and fruit also add small amounts of protein to your diet. Eating protein from a wide variety of food sources will help you meet your needs for nutrients like iron, zinc, vitamin B12 and calcium.
Plan your meals based on Canadas Food Guide
Include protein at all your meals.
- Fill ¼ of your plate with protein foods
This resource will help you to check if you get enough protein in your diet.
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Find Out How Much Protein You Need
Most adults over 19 years of age need about 0.8 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight. You can use the following equations to calculate your protein needs.
Note: 1 kg = 2.2 lbs
An adult who weighs 80 kg needs about 64 g of protein each day, while an adult who weighs 65 kg needs about 52 g of protein each day.
The following groups have different protein needs than what is recommended above:
- children and youth
- some athletes
- people with certain health conditions
Talk to a registered dietitian to help determine the amount of protein thats right for you.
Protein In Order To Maximize Muscle
You should be consuming protein 5x a day. The more frequently we eat protein, the more we are able to maximize our muscle protein synthesis. For example, if we eat 160g of protein a day, divided by 5 will get us to 32g. We dont have to be exact with this number but a general ballpark will be good enough. Its more of the end of the day how much protein we did consume.
Even though you only ate .5g of protein but ate more calories through carbs and fats, theres a protein sparing effect. So you are still able to build muscle with the lower range of protein.
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If You’re Trying To Lose Weight It’s More Important To Have A High
But while protein itself isnt harmful, many protein supplements are high in carbohydrates called Fodmaps that trigger digestive symptoms like bloating, gas and stomach pain. Stevenson advises reading labels carefully on supplements, bars and balls. Often, theyre very high in calories and contain huge amounts of carbs, often in form of sugar. You shouldnt necessarily think that because it says its high protein that its healthy, she says.
Protein has long been linked to weight loss, with low-carb, high-protein diets such as Paleo and Atkins promising to prolong the feeling of fullness. People fail to lose weight often because they feel hungry, and MRI studies have shown that a high-protein breakfast can help stop cravings later in the day.
There is sufficient evidence that protein is satiating, says Alex Johnstone of the University of Aberdeen. If youre trying to lose weight, its therefore more important to have a high-protein breakfast, such as beans on toast or a dairy smoothie, rather than to have supplements.
But she doesnt advocate Atkins-type diets and has found that cutting out carbohydrates has adverse affects on gut health .
Protein balls are often high in calories and can contain huge amounts of carbs
Instead, Johnstone recommends that overweight people eat a high-protein and moderate-carb diet, consisting of 30% protein, 40% carbs and 30% fat compared to the average diet of around 15% protein, 55% carbs and 30% fat.
What Is A Pure Protein Snack
Whole foods are a combination of protein, fats and carbohydrates, so there is no whole food that is purely protein. However, some foods have higher protein and either very few fats or carbohydrates. For example, an egg is primarily protein but also naturally contains 5 grams of fat but only 0.6 grams of carbohydrates. Whole foods with the highest protein percentages include animal-based proteins like meat, chicken, fish , and eggs.
Unsweetened Greek yogurt, nuts, seeds, beans, and cheese are also quality protein sources but contain higher amounts of either carbohydrates and/or fat than pure animal-based proteins. In general, look to incorporate a mix of all of these protein sources and look for products with simple ingredient lists and little to no additives.
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Why You Need Protein
We all need protein to ensure our bodies function optimally. Protein is required to support muscles, the immune system, and the brain. Your body requires adequate protein to obtain essential amino acids. Dietary protein is also needed to make several proteins in the body, like hemoglobin and antibodies.
Although very rare, if you become protein deficient, you may experience muscle wasting, poor wound healing, and a compromised immune system. Protein deficiency can make you more vulnerable to infections, some of which may be serious or difficult to treat.
A diet with plenty of protein-rich foods can help you maintain a healthy weight. Since your body takes longer to digest these foods, you’ll feel satisfied longer when you eat foods with protein as opposed to those with a higher percentage of carbohydrates.
Protein Increases The Thermic Effect Of Food
The thermic effect of food is the cost of digesting your food.
Essentially, it takes some energy to break food down, digest it, and turn it into energy. Protein has the highest cost of all the three macronutrients.
While the total effect that the thermic effect of food has on daily energy expenditure and weight loss is small, it is not meaningless and is important to note.
In one study, a high protein diet increased the thermic effect of food by roughly 6-8 kcals per hour when compared to a low protein diet, which may translate to ~50-75 calories per day .
However, not all studies show this large of an effect, and the thermic effect of protein is not likely responsible for most of its benefit, but it may be the cherry on top of adequate dietary protein during weight loss.
You can track things like the thermic effect of food, total daily energy expenditure, and macros with the NASM Weight Loss Calculator.
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What Should You Do
Research on how much protein is the optimal amount to eat for good health is ongoing, and is far from settled. The value of high-protein diets for weight loss or cardiovascular health, for example, remains controversial.
Before you start ramping up your daily protein intake, there are a few important things to consider. For one, dont read “get more protein” as “eat more meat.” Beef, poultry, and pork can certainly provide high-quality protein, but so can many plant foods including whole grains, beans and other legumes, nuts, and vegetables. The table below provides some healthier sources of protein.
Its also important to consider the protein “package” the fats, carbohydrates, vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients that invariably come along with protein. Aim for protein sources low in saturated fat and processed carbohydrates and rich in many nutrients.
One more thing: If you increase protein, dietary arithmetic demands that you eat less of other things to keep your daily calorie intake steady. The switches you make can affect your nutrition, for better or for worse. For example, eating more protein instead of low-quality refined carbohydrates, like white bread and sweets, is a healthy choice though how healthy the choice is also depends on the total protein package.