June 24, 2020

SUPPLEMENTS, NUTRITION     |     MIKKEL CLARK     |     06/15/20

At a glance

It seems like no matter what isle of the grocery store you are in, protein is everywhere. From pasta, to cookies, chips and even coffee! So, what’s all the fuss about and should you be trying to cram more protein into your diet?

I’m a big believer in making informed choices without feeling like I have to be part of some fad and I especially don’t want to be marketed to. So, what are you supposed to do?

Here are 5 considerations that will arm you with just enough to assist you in making smart choices while pursuing your health and fitness goals. 

Why is protein important in my diet?

Protein is critical to nearly every process that goes on in your body. Everything from gene expression to the regulation of metabolism, to digestive function, the list is extremely long. Basically, without protein you don’t exist.

Protein is made up of amino acids. These building blocks get categorized into a couple camps, essential and non-essential amino acids. Basically, what you need to know is that the essential amino acids are not capable of being synthesized by the body. You must get these from food sources. When we are deficient in these we can suffer from many ailments.

What this means to you is the quality of your protein source is pretty important, first by its amino acid makeup, then it’s digestibility. 

What is important to note in terms of this article is that our body is always in the process of breaking down and building up proteins. This is known as protein turnover. We don’t store extra amino acids in the body like we can fat and if we don’t have enough protein in our system based on the demands we are putting on it, our bodies begin to steal protein from our muscles. 

This means that you need to be thinking about a consistent supply of dietary protein to thrive.

How much protein do i need?

The Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA) as according to the USDA for protein is 0.36 g/lb of body weight. So a 150 lb person would need about 54 grams of protein per day. Now for perspective, RDA’s were developed as a way to prevent malnutrition.

Most of you reading this article are probably not worried about falling into the category of being malnourished. So how much do you need? 

Most current evidence suggest that we need more protein to look, perform and recover better. Protein needs go up for those that are training hard, want to gain lean mass, are recovering from injury or are older. Even chronic physical stress can increase our needs.

And for those that are trying to lose weight, protein intake is key because it helps keep us feeling fuller longer and can increase metabolism due to its high thermic effect.

What are the best sources of protein?

It’s important to note that the quality of protein you eat is just as important as the quantity of protein you are consuming. 

I shared that the building blocks of protein are amino acids. Amino acids vary wildly among different sources. What is important is that we are getting the essential amino acids we need. Here are some great sources of protein:

For the mixed eaters:

• Meat, fish, poultry, eggs, dairy

And for you vegans and vegetarians:

• Quinoa, buckwheat, tofu, tempeh, edamame

It should be noted that lentils, beans etc can be counted as a protein source if you aren’t eating any of the above, otherwise consider them a carbohydrate.

So, what is important to remember, the quality of the protein will impact your body’s ability to grow and repair itself.

Should i be supplementing with protein powders? 

I spoke earlier in the article about having a steady stream of protein throughout the day. Especially considering our busy lives, proteins powders can really help us meet our protein goals.

A variety of sources are available the most popular being whey protein. But there can be a lot of variance in the quality of whey protein depending on where it’s sourced and how it’s produced in its raw form. Grass-fed sources for whey protein ensure a cleaner raw product from the start. It’s also a more sustainable source than corn/grain-fed versions. That’s why we only source our proteins (whey and collagen) from grass-fed animals.

Additionally, it’s important to look at the full ingredient list when purchasing protein powders. Some companies add sugar, artificial flavors, colors and ingredients that take away from the benefits of the product. If your supplement is full of ingredients you otherwise try to avoid, then what is the net value of the supplement? 

can i eat too much protein?

There was concerns for years that eating more protein could cause a variety of health-related issues. From kidney and liver damage to osteoporosis and heart disease. 

Many of these concerns are misunderstandings or have been concluded based on correlation, not causation or have later been proven to be wrong all together.

But there is evidence showing that our bodies aren’t capable of absorbing more than 25-35 grams of protein in one sitting. Showing that a steady stream throughout the day is more beneficial. 

In the end, if you are generally a healthy person, there is no evidence that increasing your protein intake leads to any health-related issues. But it’s important also to not heavily lean too heavy in one macro over another. Balance is key.

And of course, if you do have conditions where excess protein could be a problem, please consult your physician and a registered dietician for advice.

In the end...

It’s pretty clear that protein plays an important role in our everyday health as well as the pursuit of our fitness goals. Give some consideration today to how much protein you are eating on a given day and what the sources are. How can you create a routine that improves your chances of hitting your daily need? 

Protein Email Series

Mikkel Clark 

CrossFit L1 Instructor and Precision Nutrition Coach obsessed with the science and art of optimizing wellness. Habitual surfer of the California coast for 30+ years.  

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