Im sure every single one of you who come to reservations4two.com for fitness and nutrition tips have come across countless videos and articles be it on social media, youtube, internet forums and groups or even on television telling you to eat as much protein as you can get your teeth on. Additionally you`ve seen expert after expert touting the benefits of Keto and other high protein diets (more on those in a later blog) For many of our male readers I`m sure you`ve also heard time and time again that if you want to gain muscle you need to either eat 1 gram of protein per pound of body weight or for those of you consuming your information from more extreme sources; “eat for the size that you want to be”… Is this correct?
While these recommendations can be accurate in certain populations, they are usually inaccurate for most of the populations. Fitness and nutrition should never be cookie cutter, each individual is different and therefore all guidelines should be taken as a general starting point only. We all know that lean protein is an amazing macro and is essential to meeting our diet and fitness goals but just like anything else we consume, if we don`t understand how to consume it and when enough is enough we can easily end up sabotaging our goals.
The Protein Conundrum…
The problem with protein is not actually with protein but with our bodies ability to process protein. Protein digestion is a resource intensive process and takes quite a long time and a lot of cellular energy to get from the mouth to the large intestine. Speaking of the large intestine, because our bodies break down larger protein globular molecules into chyme and then later to smaller amino acids, very little protein actually makes it to the large intestine.
Most of us have stopped at a gas station at some points in our lives to fill our car up with fuel. In a car once your tank is full air can no longer pass through the sensor on the pump and the pump automatically shuts off preventing you from adding excess fuel to the tank. Image what would happen if gas pumps did not have sensors. You`d have to know how many gallons of gas are in your tank and the exact amount of gas your fuel tank could hold. If you pump too much it would spill out of your tank and you`d go home with your brand new New Balance trainers smelling like unleaded. Premium unleaded but unleaded nonetheless. Our bodies function just as your car with one exception. Your fork and spoon doesn`t have an automatic shut off sensor. Contrary to the advice of many, our bodies can not store access protein for later use. As a result access protein is either stored as fat or moved to the large intestine as waste.
Body Mass vs Lean Body Mass
Getting back to the 1:1 theory. Lets do a quick common sense exercise. Lets say you are a nutritionist and a client walks into your office and informs you that they want to lose fat. This particular client has a BMI (yes this is also flawed but we are using it in textbook form for this example) of 31 a body weight of 300 pounds, body fat percentage of 45% and was just starting an exercise regimen of 30 minutes of low intensity cardio 5 times a week. Would it be responsible to put this person on a meal plan that includes 300 grams of protein a day? Providing the client is getting their protein from boneless skinless chicken breast, you`d be prescribing a diet of 2.5 pounds of chicken breast per day. That`s almost 2,000 calories alone in chicken for a client who needs to cut calories. In comparison if we were to use lean body mass as opposed to body mass it takes the amount of protein down to 130 grams per day. That takes the client down to 4 to 6 ounces of chicken breast at lunch and another 4 to 6 ounces at dinner. Add in a 2 eggs, half a cup of Greek yogurt and a handful of almonds for breakfast and post workout protein shake and the clients protein requirements have been achieved with comfort and without waste.
Waste? What Is This Waste You Mention?
Remember our car example from earlier in the blog. The problem with protein lies in the amount of energy and resources our bodies need to process it. Because of this most of us can only absorb 30 to 35 grams of protein per sitting. Any more and just like our car, your protein is going to flow out of the tank and go to waste. Obviously this limit is going to be a problem if you are trying to force down 200 grams of protein per day. Getting back to our 1st grade math class, that would mean 7 meals per day.
Wait! Put Your Forks Down and Back Away From The Table!
You see, we still have a problem… Even if you had time to eat 7 meals a day split into 30 grams of protein each, unless you were doing a few hours (yes hours with a big shiny s) of HIIT training per day or you were taking certain substances performance enhancing substances sourced from some shady guy named Rusty who`s office is located on the street corner behind the gym your body would not be able to utilize 200 grams of protein per day. You see the average person only needs between 45 and 65 grams of protein per day to live an active healthy life so unless you are really getting after your fitness and training routine or have an insanely high metabolism then 150 grams of protein per day is far too much.