There are many conflicting views about protein needs. How can you possibly know how much to include in your meal plan?
Experts say that eating protein keeps you full and helps you lose weight, so you definitely need some protein, but can you eat too much?
There are two major factors in determining your protein needs: how much you weigh and how much you eat. Most modern diets offer many sources of protein, and unless you are preparing for the Olympics, you are probably getting enough to support daily functions. Protein deficiency occurs in just a few demographic groups who may have poor diets, such as the elderly or seriously ill.
When figuring out any dietary needs, your weight should be considered first. A 250-lb. body builder and a 135-lb. woman who hits the gym for the smoothies rather than the treadmill would obviously have different requirements.
Keeping that in mind, it makes sense for there to be a large range of possible answers about how much is enough. For every pound of body weight, you need approximately 0.4 – 0.8 grams of protein per day. Athletes will need even more. The body builder on an intense workout schedule would need 200 grams of protein each day while a woman who lightly exercises should consume less than 100 grams. That’s the difference of eating an extra dozen eggs every day!
If you love meat and eggs, you will love the primal or cave man diet that allows you to eat meat in generous quantities, just like the cave men did! All the while, you will improve your overall health and lose weight!
Check out Paleo Hacks for the fastest way to get started.
Another important factor is caloric intake. Consuming protein comes with a 4 calorie per gram price tag, so if you’re eating too much protein, it could be working against your goal of being lean. Since protein should account for 15%-25% of your daily caloric intake, keeping your protein goals in line also helps you with your weight-loss goals.
Your body may react to protein in different ways. If you are on a high-protein diet, consuming protein as 25%-30% of your food intake, it may seem like weight loss is easier at first, but what can happen when you consume too much? Remember that animal protein often is accompanied by fat and cholesterol, and if you’re adding cheese on top, it can add up quickly.
Consuming more calories than your body needs causes your body to store the extra calories as fat. It doesn’t matter what the calorie started out as – protein, carbohydrate or fat. All excess energy gets stored as fat if it is not burned right away.
This is how our bodies cope with the feast or famine issues that our ancestors regularly faced. When there was food, everyone ate, and when there was none, the civilization survived a little longer because everyone could rely on the old spare tire.
The big problem with this clever survival device is that, in our modern world, the famine rarely comes. Our physiologies haven’t evolved into knowing that there is a drive-thru on every corner. Your body will still store extra protein as fat every chance it gets.
In addition to possible weight gain, the body has a hard time processing excess protein. When your body digests protein, it is required to break it down into amino acids so your cells can use them. Your body cannot store excess protein – remember it gets turned into fat – so the excess amino acids return to the bloodstream and eventually get dumped into the liver.
The amino acids in the liver get converted from nitrogen to ammonia and are sent to the kidneys for excretion. An excess of these by-products can add undue stress to the liver and kidneys.
Therefore, it is unnecessary to consume extra protein because you’ll just be making your body do more work. Give your organs a break.
There are so many foods that contain protein. Animal meats, eggs and dairy products are well-known sources, but there are many others. Beans and legumes are a common source as well as grains including wheat and rice. Nuts and seeds like quinoa and corn make excellent protein choices also. Even vegetables can be great sources. Yes, broccoli, potatoes, carrots, avocados and oatmeal – they all contain precious protein that your body can use.
So if you’re hitting it heavy on the protein, and not planning on entering the Mr. Universe competition any time soon, you can lay off the triple turkey burgers with extra bacon and cheese. More than likely you are getting plenty of protein, and you should focus instead on getting a good balance of all the nutrients your body needs.
Before you go, check out Paleo Hacks for more information about quality protein and how it can be a healthy part of your balanced eating plan.
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