Protein: Myths & Facts

We talk about protein as the magical macronutrient that will change your diet and improve your health, but are we over doing it?

Ketogenic dieters are focusing their protein needs to 20% of their total calories, for an 1800 calorie meal plan that is 90 grams of protein a day- just to put numbers in prospective. So what does that look like for a normal dietary lifestyle. What is protein’s role for the average person and how much should we be taking in from our food?

Carrie Dennett writes beautifully in her article “Protein: Myths & Facts” by Today’s Dietitian to address such questions. She dives into the common myths surrounded with this magical macronutrient and its true role in our dietary routine.

The most common misunderstanding with protein, vegetarians/vegans cannot get enough protein in their diet. As much as I love my chicken and fish, I appreciate her shedding light on this important misguidance. A well-balanced plant-based diet full of variety can and does supply enough protein for an individual to reach an adequate amount of protein to sustain healthy muscle growth and cell function. The importance here is Variety. We, especially Americans, tend to lean heavily on our mac and cheese, quesadilla, and white rice. When we remove whole grains, a variety of fruits and vegetables from our diet and stick with the processed “goodness” we call Fast Food; we limit our nutrition and our intake of protein, fats, and essential vitamins and minerals found from plant-based protein sources and thus are not getting adequate nutrition or variety in our diet.

Yes, we can get more protein from smaller amounts of animal-based protein sources such as meats, dairy, and eggs. Dennett talks about including more of the plant-based foods in our dietary routine to reach protein needs, such as adding in seeds, nuts, soyfoods, beans, and lentils. All these plant-based protein sources are naturally combined with wonderful sources of healthy fats and phytochemicals.  

To determine your recommended dietary allowance (RDA) for protein it all depends on your body weight. The more body weight in kilograms (pounds divided by 2.2), the more protein is required for adequate to optimal muscle growth. Normal standards were 0.8g/kg/day of protein to achieve “adequate” muscle health, however looking deeper into adequate compared to optimal muscle growth, new research shows 0.8-1.2g/kg/day of protein intake is more appropriate depending on the individual and their exercise habits. So the ultimate answer to how much protein, really comes down to you: what is your activity level and your body weight.

Dennett does a wonderful job in addressing the common concerns and misunderstanding in her article, located here . Check it out and let me know what you think or if you have any additional questions about protein. With the world of nutrition and Fad diets, it is always important to do the research and know the basics about nutrition.