The human body can be described an a living, organic machine with numerous processes operating all at the same time to maintain functionality. But without two elements our bodies would crumble to nothing: over 60 percent of the human body is comprised of water and over 20 percent is protein. Without having to read numerous studies, the “average Joe” can assume that humans need to consume water and protein daily to maintain normal body functionality. Similar to water, protein can be consumed from nutritional sources but there are specific sources that are considered “optimal” for protein absorption. The higher quality the protein is, the better the body can use to for function. A list of optimal sources include:
-Chicken (Breast, Cutlet, Thigh)
-Beef (Lean Cuts of Sirloin, Rump)
-Eggs (One egg equals 6-8 grams of protein, this protein is typically more quickly absorbed than Beef & Chicken)
-Turkey (Breast, Thigh and lean ground)
-Dairy sourced protein (Milk, Whey Protein is a fast absorbed protein; Casein Powder is slower absorbed protein; Yogurt and Cheese are not always great sources of protein due to how they are processed in factories or the ingredient source is “synthetic milk product”)
-Pork (Pork Chop is considered a good protein source while most pork products are high in fat content)
-Beans (Kidney Beans and Black Beans are high in quality protein)
-Rice (Rice is a low source of protein and high source of easy to digest carbohydrates; Brown Rice is seen as the best rice option by many nutritionists)
-Fish (Salmon, Flounder, Tuna, for example, are solid protein sources but not very high in number of grams per serving)
The Recommended Daily Amount (RDA) by U.S. Food and Nutrition Board is 0.8 grams per pound of body weight for sedentary adults; that number doubles or triples for young children and teenagers because the body is in a growing/development phase. The “downside” of these RDA numbers is that the body loses some lean muscle mass daily and some protein does not get absorbed by the body depended on the quality of the protein and how backed up the GI Track is. Note the phrase above: “sedentary adults”. Being sedentary is not recommended by any health and fitness professional so these estimates are subjective.
The Recommended Amount of Physical Activity (RAA) per day is 60 minutes. When we estimate the average person gets 7 hours of sleep, then you have 1 hour of activity, allowing for 16 hours in the rest of your day. But how you eat during the rest of your day makes the biggest difference in your daily life: how well your brain functions, your mood, emotional and hormonal balance, etc. Also, getting in physical activity every day taxes the body, accelerating the need for Macro-nutrients (Protein along with Good Carbohydrates and healthy Fat) and Micro-nutrients (Vitamins, Minerals, Fiber). Since the food we eat is the fuel for the living machine that is our body, how do we get what we need each day if the amount of protein that is recommended to us is based on a sedentary lifestyle?
What Does Science Tell Us
Well let’s look at the science, starting with the study done at Kent University, where their researchers did a study with six test groups, divided into 3 sets of two categories: sedentary adults and weightlifting adults. Each set of adults were given different amounts of protein:
1. One was given a low protein diet which was 0.9 grams of protein per kilogram of bodyweight.
2. Another group was given 1.4 grams of protein per kilogram of bodyweight.
3. The third ate 2.4 grams of protein per kilogram of bodyweight.
Groups 2 and 3 showed higher levels of protein synthesis in the body, less protein “wasted” during digestion, and groups that had regular exercise combined with the higher protein diets were healthier at the end of the study compared to the beginning of the study.
Furthermore, numerous research scientists in the field of science physiology and other related fields such as Dr. Peter Lemon, Dr. Susan Kleiner, Dr. Jacob Wilson, and Dr. Jim Stoppani all recommend that no matter what your activity level is, the RDA of 0.8 grams of protein per pound of body weight is far below what the human body really needs. Depending on who you ask, the latest science shows us that we need between 1-2 grams of protein per pound of body weight for optimal health results.
Studies by University of Tampa and University of Oklahoma have shown that the quality of protein and eating of protein throughout the day has shown to result in optimal health benefits in numerous test subjects. The results show that when you have protein with every meal throughout the day your body will absorb and utilize it better.
Finally, a study from University of Texas Medical Branch show that post-exercise the body needs three types of protein: Fast absorbing, Medium Absorbing, and Slow Absorbing. They found this was the case because when the body has multiple types of protein post-exercise optimal protein synthesis and recovery continues throughout the day. This leads to less muscle fatigue later in the day and the body will not Catabolize muscle (Catabolism is when your metabolism breaks down muscle tissue to release energy. Breaking down muscle is counterproductive to maintaining low levels of body fat and results in less skeletal muscle functionality and stability).
The value of Protein Powders
In the daily diet, packing enough protein in our meals is difficult because unless you are eating 8 meals per day like a bodybuilder or professional athlete who trains twice a day, getting enough protein into your day is difficult. This is where protein powders come into play. A good protein powder can inject 24-30 grams of protein into a meal without having to cook anything. Protein powders can be consumed by mixing with water or blending into a smoothie. Depending on your flavor of choice, you can get very creative with utilizing protein powder. I know some people who put protein into pancakes, cookies, or other baked items as a way of getting more protein in their diet while also not consuming empty calories like white sugar or box batter mixes.
Protein Spiking and allergen concerns
The concern with protein powders is the issue of protein spiking. Protein Spiking is when a supplement company puts into its protein blend incomplete proteins then claim a product has a certain number of grams of protein. An example of this is if a company claims one serving of their product has 30 grams of protein, but when you read the ingredients you find part of the protein blend is an Amino Acid like Leucine. Leucine is important for enhanced protein synthesis and absorption in the body, but it is not a complete protein like Whey, Casein, Soy, or Egg Albumin. The danger of taking a product that has incomplete proteins in their blend is metabolic imbalance, which can lead to less protein synthesis and more fat storage. One of the reasons these companies get away with this deceptive labeling is by using testing that measures the level of nitrates in the powder instead of measuring of actual grams of complete proteins. Also, any company that claims that their protein blend or Whey/Casein is a proprietary blend or special formula, not telling the consumer how much is actually in the ingredients, instead giving percentages. These companies will not tell you what the percentages are based on within the ingredients, another way of getting away with not putting quality ingredients in their products.
Lets not forget about people with Gluten or Lactose allergies. These individuals will have allergic reactions or Gastro Intestinal Track issues if they use some of these products. Some companies are not transparent about how their protein is manufactured or the sources used for the protein powders. This lack of honesty with the consumer is indicated by the basic warnings on the back of containers that state how the product was made is a factory that also manufactures products that contain nuts, dairy, etc. This is their fall back to avoid legal issues and to tell the consumer “Hey, we warned you on the label!”. The solution to dealing with potential protein spiking is to do your homework on a product before ingesting; anyone with food allergens should also never ingest anything without doing some investigating of the product and company first.
So How Does a Certified Nutritionist Get In a High Amount of Protein Each Day?
An example of a day of eating that I have done to ingest a high amount of protein is as follows:
-Breakfast – 1.5 Scoops of MTS Whey Peanut Butter Fluff Protein mixed in 16 oz. of water, 1 Apple (37 grams of protein)
-Post-workout Meal – 1.5 Scoops of MTS Whey Cookies N Cream in fruit smoothie with large banana, 1 cup blueberries, 1 cup raspberries; 2 slices of Ezekiel Bread Toast with natural extra crunchy Peanut Butter (50 grams of protein)
-Lunch – Bed of Romaine Lettuce with Grilled Chicken (24 grams of protein)
-Snack Meal – 20 gram Protein Bar, 11 gram Protein Bar, 1 Orange
-Dinner – 10 Turkey sausage Links; Bowl of Organic Brown Rice, Black Eyed Peas, & Broccoli; 2 raw carrots (38 grams of protein)
Total protein for the day – 180 grams of protein; 2,000 Calories
In conclusion, we all need protein in our diets, but getting that protein is easier said than done. You may not always get enough protein, but the more you try, the closer you will get to your goals. Do not be fooled by the media headlines that make claims such as “Can Too Much protein Kill You?” because it’s hard enough to get 1 gram of protein per pound of your weight.
As a disclaimer, people with specific chronic illness or who have had surgery to remove a GI Track organ needs to consult a doctor on how much protein they can consume without becoming sick.
* Applied Physiology Research Laboratory, Kent State University, OH 44242.
International journal of sport nutrition 07/1991; 1(2):127-45.
* Nutrition in Exercise and Sport, Third Edition
edited by Ira Wolinsk; Nutrition in Exercise and Sport, Third Edition
edited by Ira Wolinsk