- Primary Protein Concerns: Quality & nutrient density of the source.
- Protein deficiencies are rare in developed countries. Consuming adequate micro-nutrients (vitamins & minerals) is the challenge. Fish, eggs, beef, lamb, pork and chicken provide protein along with other essential vitamins & minerals. Most people consume too much protein and not enough micro-nutrients.
- Beans are a neutral food at best (neither good, nor bad). Beans provide a cheap source of protein but lack many of the other nutrients in meat, fish and eggs and may have a negative impact on digestion.
- Quality is important when consuming animals. Healthy animals eating a natural diet are higher quality. Grains are not a natural diet for grass eaters. Chickens are not vegetarians. Lean cuts are recommended to reduce toxin levels – animals store toxins in fat.
- Appetite provides a very good guide for protein intake. Inadequate protein generates hunger, excessive protein intake reduces the appetite for protein. Force feeding yourself protein is rarely a good idea.
- Nuts, especially pre-packaged nuts (salted, honey-roasted, kona coffee glazed…mmm) are easy to over-eat. Salt & sugar will over-ride the body’s natural “off” switch for eating.
- When building muscle, adequate total food intake is more important than increasing the amount of protein in the diet. Building muscle is a slow process that an excessive amount of protein consumption will not speed up. Inadequate carbohydrate intake will result in muscles being broken down and burned for fuel.
- Perfect Health Diet by Paul and Shou-Ching Jaminet recommends 8 – 16 oz of meat, fish or eggs per day (24 oz for a competitive athlete). A day’s meals consisting of 2 eggs and a 3.5 oz piece of sausage for breakfast, 3.5 oz of chicken on a salad for lunch, and 3.5 oz of steak with vegetables for dinner would contain ~78 grams of protein (from ~14 oz of meat & eggs).
- The most recent Dietary Guidelines for Americans (2010) recommends 5.5 “oz equivalents” of protein a day. An “oz equivalent” = 1 oz of meat, 1 egg, 1/2 oz of nuts, or 1/4 oz of cooked beans. A 5.5 oz day consisting of 3.5 oz of fish and 2 eggs would provide ~ 40 grams of protein.
- Everyone’s protein requirements will be different and an individuals protein requirements will vary based on illness, diet and activity level. From Perfect Health Diet “Protein needs are increased during infection, wound healing, carbohydrate restriction (since protein is converted to glucose to avert a glucose deficiency), and endurance exercise (one reason long distance runners have trouble maintaining muscle mass).” Appetite for protein and changes in body composition (fat gain/loss and muscle gain/loss) are important indicators for adequate protein intake.
- Rough estimates of protein content:
- 1 oz of beef, lamb, chicken or fish = ~ 7 g of protein
- 1 egg (50g) = ~ 3.5 g of protein.
- Excessive protein intake will stress the kidneys and may cause digestive issues.
- As the amount of protein consumed exceeds the digestive capacity of the small intestine, undigested protein is passed to the large intestine where it can ferment and increase the amount of bacteria in the large intestine – leading to gas, bloating, cramps and/or stomach pain.
- As dietary protein levels continue to increase, the result is excess ammonia which will cause nausea & diarrhea and can lead to death (protein processing produces nitrogen, nitrogen processing produces ammonia, ammonia is converted to urea and excreted in urine. Exceeding the body’s ability to process the ammonia will stress the kidneys and generate toxicity. It is estimated that 230 g of protein per day or protein consumption that exceeds 45% of calories comsumed will lead to toxicity in most people).
- There is some evidence that protein fasts can be beneficial. With a reduction of available dietary protein, the body will scavenge protein, typically taking damaged protein first and resulting in beneficial cell maintenance. Estimates on the duration of fasts vary widely – anywhere between 16 hours a day to a 7 day fast once per year.
- (Protein quantities & daily protein intake recommendations are provided for awareness only. Few people will need to monitor protein intake).
Perfect Health Diet by Paul and Shou-Ching Jaminet, provides the most comprehensive discussion on protein I have found. The book provides an excellent overview of protein undereating and overeating along with recommendations on quantities and timing of protein consumption.