The Protein Breakdown

One of the most common questions I am asked is “How much protein should I consume?”. While I am not a Registered Dietician, I do give general guidelines for the adequate and healthy intake of protein.

The following is an excerpt from the March edition of the IDEA Fitness Newsletter, and gives some easy-to-understand points about protein consumption:

  • Total daily protein intake should not be excessive and should be reasonably proportional (~15% of total caloric intake) to carbohydrate (~55% of total caloric intake) and fat (~30% of total caloric intake) (St. Jeor et al. 2001).
  • Not all proteins are created equally. Other than soy, vegetable proteins are incomplete proteins. Vegetarians and those who eat limited amounts of animal products should consume a wide variety of high-protein vegetarian foods.
  • Carbohydrates should not be omitted or severely restricted when upping protein intake, especially by athletes who need large amounts of carbohydrate to fuel optimal performance. A minimum of 100 g of carbohydrate per day is recommended (St. Jeor et al. 2001).
  • Selected protein foods should not contribute excess total fat, saturated fat or cholesterol to the diet (St. Jeor et al. 2001).
  • The eating plan should be safely implemented so as to provide adequate nutrients (St. Jeor et al. 2001).

I encourage clients to get their protein from whole foods rather than supplements, as the ADA recommends (ADA, DOC & ACSM 2000).  Many athletes use protein supplements to boost their protein intake and to consume a particular protein type or amino acid. The billion-dollar supplement industry has been quick to respond to increased consumer demand for protein products.

However, because the research findings are inconsistent and little is known about the safety of these products, the ADA advises against individual amino acid supplementation and against protein supplementation overall (ADA, DOC & ACSM 2000). While some supplements may in fact provide health benefits, generally speaking, consumers should purchase and use these products cautiously, as they are not closely regulated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

Check with a registered dietitian for help designing a balanced diet that takes into consideration your own individual goals, activity level, and body chemistry.

To read the full article “Protein Quality, Form & Function” By Natalie Digate Muth, MD, MPH, RD click here.

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