Oh, protein. You’re so essential, yet so misunderstood.
Hi friends! Happy first day of December! I’m hoping to bring back the Let’s Talk Nerdy Series now that I’m reading research studies daily (PubMed and I are best friends) and feel more confident about the information I am sharing. The first topic to reignite the series: PROTEIN!
Yesterday, we had the long-awaited protein debate in my metabolism class. The question posed was: do protein supplements provide any benefit to the normal population? Early in the quarter, we were assigned to the ‘yes’ or to the ‘no’ team and had to work with our group to come up with an argument for our case. Everyone wanted the ‘no’ team because that would be the easiest case to argue; but, I was a proud member of team YES! 🙂
“Normal” could not include extreme athletes, but we tried to argue that ‘normal’ includes a range of people who aren’t just healthy adults. Suffice to say, we presented a good argument (I may be biased) but the class generally agreed that most normal healthy adults do not need protein supplementation.
[Side note: protein supplementation can benefit certain populations like the elderly, patients recovering from gastric bypass, people with PKU, etc.]
So, is it possible to consume too much protein? Yes. In fact, the majority of people in the United States eat far more protein than necessary.
What happens to protein from the diet? To simplify, the body breaks down the protein from our diet into amino acids and uses them for a variety of functions. When basic requirements for amino acids have been met, amino acids are converted to fatty acids and stored as adipose tissue (aka fat.) Yes, excess protein is stored as fat.
The recommended DRI (Daily Recommended Intake) of protein is 0.8g/kg/day, or 0.36g/lb/day. For a 130 lb adult, that’s 46.8 grams of protein per day. What does this look like? About 0.5 lb of chicken breast. Not a lot, eh?
Protein supplements do not go through a stringent review process by the FDA, although this is likely to change. What does this mean? Read the labels (!) and make smart choices. If you don’t recognize the ingredients, don’t buy the product.
My personal conclusions
- Do I think protein supplements are bad? No. Would I use them regularly? No. However, during strenuous exercise (like training for a marathon,) I would consider using a protein supplement (such as Vega.)
- There are a lot of misconceptions about protein floating around on the internet and by word of mouth. High-protein diets are all the rage, but I want to clarify that a high protein diet does not always equate to healthier.
- A normal person can get their DRI of protein from real food.
The information included in this post is a recap of the debate we had in my graduate-level nutrition class yesterday.
(1) Rosenfeld, Michael. Nutrition 520. University of Washington, Seattle. 30 Nov. 2015. Lecture.
(2) Photo source
Okay friends, this is a hot topic and I want to know your thoughts or questions:
- Do you use protein supplements regularly?
- What are you thoughts on protein/supplementation?
- Any other questions for the next Let’s Talk Nerdy Series?