Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Top 3 Reasons You Should Eat Protein-Part II

As I continue on with my love affair of protein, here is the second reason why you should eat more protein:  Allows you to burn 50 to 70 calories per day just to digest and metabolize extra protein.  

Unlike carbohydrate or fat, there is no way to store extra protein in our bodies.  Therefore, our livers and kidneys have to do a bunch of work to convert the protein into other compounds either for storage (can be converted into carbohydrate or fat) or for elimination (something called urea).  That takes a lot of energy...about 50 to 70 calories worth.  

Now that's not much...barely a few swigs of wine....but it's something.  And for many SHEs, weight creeps up as we age.  An extra 50 calories a day could add up to 5 pounds over a year.  I don't know about you, but I'd rather eat the cottage cheese every morning than see it in the mirror one day...if you catch my drift. 

On top of this, it is pretty darn hard to overeat protein (see Part I on protein).  It is much easier to continue eating out of a bread basket or bag of chips (I am definitely an expert on this).  As such, you may also be less likely to overindulge on calories...which helps the bottom line.  (pun intended)

Now the question of how much protein a day to get the benefit of expending those extra calories is a tricky one. Since I am only a faux-cisian, I should state up front that folks with certain health conditions (e.g., kidney disease) should not be increasing protein intake.  For the rest of us, I think the answer lies somewhere between 90 and 150 grams per day (and up to 200 grams per day for those HEs).  That's about 25-35% of your total daily energy intake from protein.  Most of you are probably eating between 50 and 70 grams per day right now. 

Here's where things get a little more interesting.  Some experts suggest that the more INACTIVE you are, the more protein you should consume...more like 100 to 150 grams.  The more ACTIVE you are, the less protein you should consume...more like 90 to 110 grams.  Mrs/Dr. T...are you sure you blogged that correctly?  Why yes, I am quite sure.  The simple reason is that more active folks need more carbohydrates to comfortably perform their activities.

An easy place to start is to target 100 grams per day and see how you feel.  I will tell you that it's almost impossible to get there without a big dose at breakfast.  And remember that each of us has a unique body chemistry...not everyone will find that increasing the protein content of their diet is a good thing for them.  Would love to hear from folks if they try this!!! 


  1. Would be good to know what a day's worth of meals might look like that gets me to 100 g of protein...also, does it include bacon? I must admit, I love bacon. Separately, something I never hear at breakfast: "Dad, there's too much bacon..." I'm just sayin'...

  2. Bacon is heaven on earth. I will draft up something and post...and it will include bacon. :)

  3. Dr T, it may be helpful to advise a protein level per lb of body weight? I think the recommendation for a moderately active person is 0.8grams/lb of body weight, upping to 1.2g/lb for regular gym goers that include weights 2-4 days a week. I may need to recheck that.

  4. Apologies - it's 0.8 grams per kg not lb but your recommendation is for about 0.8g per pound... which I like the sound of - bring on the chicken!

  5. Thanks so much for your comments! Yes, you are absolutely correct that another way to think about protein intake is based on body weight. Thanks for bringing that up! And yes, the recommended protein intake (based on the Institute of Medicine Dietary Reference Intakes) is 0.8 g per kg of body weight. So for a person that weighs 150 lbs, that would be 54 g of protein a day (the conversion is 2.2 to convert kg to lbs). The 0.8 g/kg body weight number just takes into consideration the amount of protein needed to maintain overall total body protein. It does not take into account any other benefits of protein. There's a great chapter in the 2010 proposed Dietary Guidelines for more information on protein. http://www.cnpp.usda.gov/DGAs2010-DGACReport.htm

    I think at least 1.2 g/kg body weight or even better, 1.5 g/kg body weight is a better target. Even at this level, most people (except for very, very short and small women) will still stay within the healthy limits for protein, which according to the Institute of Medicine, is 10-35% of total calories.

    This type of diet is not going to be for everyone and I see that nutrition science is finally evolving to identify those factors that will help predict what diet is best for each individual person. In the meantime, maybe experimenting a bit with what works/feels best for you is the best we can all do. :)

    I LOVE the comments! Please keep them coming!