What is protein?
First, let's talk about the recommended daily allowance (RDA) for protein. The current recommended daily allowance is a modest 0.8 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight.
The RDA is set as the amount of a nutrient that you need to meet your basic nutritional needs. In essence, this is the minimum amount you need to avoid disease – not the specific amount you should consume each day.
For a 140 pound person, this means about 50 grams of protein a day. For a 200 pound person, that's about 70 grams of protein a day.
Reasons to eat more high quality protein every day
Let's talk about why you need more protein. As you can see, the enumeration list explains the reasons why protein is essential. As a registered nutritionist and fitness professional, I find the RDA quite confusing for the general public, athletes and coaches.
To be honest, even nutritionists can't agree on what protein to recommend to their customers, patients, and athletes.
So if there is a misunderstanding among food and nutrition experts, there is likely to be a misunderstanding between multiple population groups. Young children, athletes and the elderly in particular need more protein.
Is more protein better?
The Protein Summit reported in a special supplement to the June issue of the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition (AJCN) that Americans may be eating too little protein, not too much. Eating more protein can help deliver the entire package.
That means a byproduct of consuming more protein is getting other great nutrients like B vitamins, carbohydrates, minerals, and healthy fats that provide the whole package.
Of course, when you consume more protein, you normally consume less inferior foods like simple or refined carbohydrates that people usually turn to when they're hungry. Sweets, cookies, white bread and pastries do not provide the healthy nutrition you get from a high quality protein source.
These are just a few of the high quality protein sources. Most animal protein sources like:
These examples of high quality protein sources provide all the essential amino acids in the ratio that the human body needs.
While vegetable proteins such as vegetables, nuts, beans and grains often lack one or more of the essential amino acids.
That doesn't mean that you should only consume animal products to get your essential amino acids, as you can use soybeans and quinoa, which contain all nine essential amino acids needed. Click here for a full list if you are interested in vegetable proteins.
Athletes and protein needs
Athletes also have higher needs. Provided that muscle proteins are converted, the turnover rate is much higher due to the higher training volume.
Especially with athletes, it would be advisable to consume about 1.6 grams per kilogram of body mass daily if the goal is to strengthen the muscles and prevent muscle breakdown. Adequate target protein intake should be between 1.6 and 2.4 grams per kilogram of body mass per day, as stated in recent results of a consensus statement on sports nutrition for athletes. A summary of the review can be found here.
The International Society of Sports Nutrition's booth on protein and exercise provides an objective and critical review of protein intake for health and fitness minded individuals. To build muscle mass and maintain muscle mass:
The total protein intake of 1.4 to 2.0 g / kg body weight / day (g / kg / day) is sufficient. There are indications that (3.0 g / kg / day) positive effects on the body composition in strength athletes are supported to promote the increase in muscle mass. It is optimal to spread the protein intake between 20 and 40 g / meal throughout the day. As a registered nutritionist, I try to consume (2.0 g / kg / day) to support my health and performance goals.
I encourage all of my customers and athletes to consume more protein. Especially if you try to increase muscle mass and gain strength, the higher protein will not make you fat. It will help support a healthy body and make you happier.
Older adults and protein
Older adults fight the accelerated loss of muscle mass and function associated with aging, known as sarcopenia. For every decade after the age of 40, you lose 8% of muscle mass and after 70 years it increases to 15%.
Older adults should strive to consume 1.5 to 2.0 grams of high quality protein per kg of body weight per day, according to an article by the Center of Aging. Up to a third of older adults do not eat enough due to loss of appetite, taste disorders, difficulty swallowing and dental problems.
During the aging process, the body is less efficient and tries to maintain muscle mass and strength as well as bone health and optimal physiological function, which justifies a higher protein requirement.
Eat more high quality protein. It will not make you fat, damage your kidneys or bones. It supports the growth of lean tissue and helps you recover overall as you fight age-related muscle loss, especially if you're an athlete, an aging adult, a man, or generally a person with a heart rate.
It's a joke, but really. If you have any questions about eating more protein or implementing higher quality sources in your diet, send me an email and let's have a conversation.