Protein Power

There are a lot of mixed messages out there when it comes to protein. We hope this article provides some clarity and clears up some of the confusion.

When in doubt, we always go the the experts. This is what some of our favourites have to say. Dr Jason Fung is on fire right now, so we decided to go to him first:

Jason Fung says, “Dietary protein increases satiety so that we will feel more ‘full’ and eat less at the next meal.  In years past, large meals full of protein would be followed by long periods of fasting in order to ‘digest.’  To a large extent, this does not happen any longer.” Processed meat is far less beneficial than unprocessed meat. “The toxicity is in the processing.”

Jason Fung also says, “Muscle gain/ loss is mostly a function of EXERCISE. You can’t eat your way to more muscle.”

Jason Fung also reiterates that, during fasting, your body does not burn protein for glucose. “Growth hormone plays a large role in maintenance of lean weight during fasting. The body already has mechanisms in place during fasting to preserve lean mass and to burn fat for fuel instead of protein.”

Growth hormone plays a huge role in protein maintenance when you are not eating, but recently Dr. Ron Rosedale spoke at the Low Carb Vail Summit, and he said that eating too much protein can over-stimulate the growth hormone, which can promote cancer and aging. His takeaway message was: “Perhaps it is more important to restrict protein than it is to restrict carbohydrates. An LCHF diet is low-carb and high-fat, not low-carb and high-protein.”

He added, “Reduced protein intake may become an important component of anticancer and anti-aging dietary interventions, as well as obesity and diabetes management.”

He says that cells must either invest energy in growth and reproduction or in protection (maintenance and repair). During eating if you do not eat too much protein, you will keep down the growth hormone to increase maintenance and repair and during fasting the growth hormone will increase, to maintain muscle mass (according to Jason Fung).

Jeff Volek and Stephen Phinney recommend between 1.5 and 2g of net protein per kg of ideal body weight (90gand 150g per day). The reason for this is that this amount causes greater intestinal absorption of dietary calcium – which is associated with healthier bones as people age (between 15% – 25% of your daily food consumption or 20g – 25g per meal).

They also mention that there is no research to prove that kidney function is affected in healthy individuals by the amount of protein you eat.

Eating more than 2.5g/kg of net protein a day has negative effects on the body. Protein is no longer synthesised at this point, but rather protein oxidation sets it.

We need protein for:

Muscle building
Fat burning
Healthy organ function
Healing due to injury, illness, burns
Hormonal balance
Good mood

Animal-based proteins: The highest sources of protein come from animals.

Meat: pork, beef, veal, turkey, chicken, offal
Dairy: yoghurt, cream, cheese, milk

Non-animal based proteins:

Quinoa*: the only non-animal protein that is a complete protein
Nuts and seeds: chia, flax, almonds, peanuts*, hemp
Vegetables: broccoli, spinach
Unsweetened cocoa powder
*Quinoa is high in carbs and not recommended for those with severe insulin resistance. It is a viable option for low-carb vegetarians when incorporated into a balanced meal plan.
*Peanuts, although high in protein, are high in omega-6, which can have an adverse reaction if consumed in excess. Peanuts can also contain mold and cause allergies.

Positives of eating protein (besides those mentioned above):

Protein and fat keep you fuller for longer than carbs do.

Negatives of eating too much protein:

It can spike insulin, which can cause weight gain.
It can over-stimulate the growth hormone, which can promote cancer and aging.
Eating more than 2.5g/kg leads to protein oxidation and not protein synthesis.
You will feel lethargic and nauseous.

When would I need to eat more protein?

In the beginning stages of Banting when you are adapting to fat burning, your body will require more protein to maintain muscle and other protein-containing tissues, according to Volek and Phinney.

How much protein should I eat?

The amount of protein you need to eat depends on your ideal body weight for your height and your activity level.

To heal and regenerate the body: 1g – 1.5g of net protein per kg of ideal body weight

Phinney and Volek, “No one has ever shown that more than 1.5g/kg improves human protein synthesis.”

If you should weigh about 60kgs, then your ideal amount of protein for the day would be 60g – 90g of net protein (20g – 30g x 3 meals or 30g – 45g x 2 meals)

To burn fat or if you have diabetes: 0.75g to 1g of net protein per kg of ideal body weight

Dr. Ron Rosedale says that this is the ideal.

If you should weigh about 60kgs, then your ideal amount of protein for the day would be between 45g and 60g.

Build muscle or if you are active: 1.5g – 2.2g of net protein per kg of ideal body weight

Phinney and Volek, “Generations of power athletes have made the empiric observation that they train and compete better on proportionately higher protein intakes (e.g., 1.5 to 2.5 grams per kg).”

If you should weigh about 60kgs, then yourideal amount of protein for the day would be between 90g and 132g.

For example, a 100g chicken breast (meat and skin) provides about 30g of net protein.

How much is too much protein?

According to Volek and Phinney, you do not need to routinely eat more than 30% of your daily food intake as protein.

To Summarise:

  • Animal sources are the richest sources of protein
  • Eating protein will help to keep you full, but too much will cause weight gain and make you feel tired and nauseous
  • Make sure that you are eating more fat than protein
  • In the beginning stages of Banting, while you are becoming fat-adapted you may require more protein, but as you adjust you will want to eat less
  • You do not need to eat more than 1.5g of protein per kg of ideal body weight if you do not exercise
  • If you have diabetes or are focused on weight loss between 0.75g and 1g of protein per kg of ideal body weight is best
  • Do not exceed more than 30% of your daily food intake as protein
  • Unprocessed protein is better for you than processed protein

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