Nutrition Lie #2 - You Need Lots of Protein (to build muscle)
As hard as we try, we can never escape the flood of protein-related advertizing and conflicting information. For some reason, protein has been heralded as the “hot body nutrient” in fitness magazines. And over the past few decades, the belief that “more is better” has somehow diffused into our collective consciousness.
Unfortunately, the notion that we need to consume tons of protein has been propagated, almost exclusively, by supplement companies. After all, if we need MORE protein, then we’d need to consume more of THEIR protein right?
The funny thing is that we actually don’t need as much protein as is commonly believed. Even if your goal is to build muscle! In fact, the World Health Organization has stated that 95% of the world’s population can do just fine with as little as 5% protein intake.
To put that into perspective…If your daily consists of 2500 calories, 5% protein intake would equate to 125 calories or just 31 grams of protein per day. Now, if you’re an active individual (strength training or exercising intensely 2-5 times per week), your protein needs will obviously be higher.
But how much higher?
The good news is that it’s not as high as you think. In fact, it’s probably much lower than you might think. After researching this topic, here’s the bottom line…
We only need 70-120 grams of protein per day!
Any more than that has little effect on your ability to build muscle. And chronically high intakes (above that level) can have undesirable health consequences (ie. acidosis, high uric acid levels, gout, etc…).
To give you some perspective here…
Let’s take the happy medium of 100 grams of protein per day. Since 1 gram of protein yields 4 calories, 100 grams would provide 400 calories. On a 2500 calorie/day diet, that’s just 16% protein intake – which falls right in line with what most nutrition organizations recommend.
So how do you build muscle if excess protein isn’t the answer? You strength train. What you do in the gym is far more important than how much protein you eat/drink before, during, or after your workouts. And in case you’re wondering, the research conclusively tells us that over a 12-week period, the average person engaging in regular strength training can ONLY add 2-7 lbs of muscle – regardless of their protein intake.
Ok, so maybe you don’t want to build muscle…. Maybe you want to eat more protein because you’ve been told that carbs are bad for you and that the key to easy weight loss is to eat fewer of them while eating more protein. And yes, that can be true. Bad carbs (as we’ve seen) are terrible for your waistline and overall health.
But too much protein can be just as bad. Unfortunately, you won’t hear this from the close-minded “experts” claiming that we need lots of protein – from animal sources - (upwards of 40% of our daily intake) in order to stay lean and healthy. It’s no wonder millions of people seeking quick weight loss have turned to high-protein, lowcarb diets over the past 30 years. Yes, they work…in the short term but…
Do you know what they are doing to your body over the long run?
Most people don’t know that one of the by-products of protein metabolism is uric acid, a dangerous compound that increases the risk of cardiovascular disease, acidosis-related health conditions, and painful joint problems like gout.
I’m not here to bash protein, but I do want you to realize that TOO MUCH of it, especially when not counter-balanced by lots of alkalizing veggies, can have damaging effects on your body. So sure, HIGH protein diets might help you drop some weight quickly, but the question you need to ask yourself is…“Is this a healthy way of eating and can I continue eating like this for good?”
If the answer is NO, then you need to reconsider what you’re doing.
So…do you need lots of protein? Nope. It is an essential component of our diet but, as with anything we ingest, too much can literally be deadly. In pharmacology, it’s taught that the compound itself is NOT what’s lethal, but rather its dose. Too much of anything isn’t healthy.
In Nutrition Lie #4, we’ll have a look at some specific protein foods and discover which ones are healthier than others.