You’re 5’5” and 110 pounds. You’ve just been reelected as president of the A/V Club, you aced the AP Calculus quiz, and you finally got your hands on that new video game console you’ve been begging mom to buy. Then it all goes down the toilet, just like your head when the biggest bully in school makes you his next victim. How are you supposed to defend yourself when the heaviest thing you’ve ever lifted was a remote control?
Okay. So your life isn’t a cheesy high school movie and you’re not looking to get swole. You are, however, considering a high-protein diet.
But what risks are involved?
What’s all the hype about?
How much is too much?
Let’s start with the basics. Protein is made of amino acids. Amino acids are everywhere inside of us—our muscles, bones, eyes, and brains. It’s even in your DNA.
Who needs protein?
Whether you’re a sedentary gamer or a crossfit all-star, without protein, you’ll become malnourished, tired, sick, and could possibly die. Your whole body is one big protein burning furnace. Your body isn’t storing those leftover amino acids either—once it’s in your body, it’s getting used. Sorry, no rollover minutes here.
When it comes to protein, the key to good nutrition is making sure you have a good supply of it coming into your body. Unfortunately, there isn’t a typical amount of protein that one should intake—mostly because there’s no such thing as a typical person.
The Recommended Daily Allowance for protein is .36 grams per pound or around 10% of your daily calorie intake. However, there are numerous factors that this number does not take into consideration:
- physical activity
- and the list goes on.
No two people are the same, so no two people require the same amount of protein.
For a lot of people, sure, following the RDA will keep you happy, healthy and give you a little bounce in your step.
The average American will intake about 15% of their daily calories as protein. With that, however, they are also taking in lots of carbs and primarily fats. Imagine a turkey club sandwich or a BLT with a side of fries.
Before you hide the bag of chips and your loaf of bread, let’s make something clear: a high protein diet is not the same as a low carb diet. Certain popular fads have made the two synonymous, but the truth is, a healthy, high-protein diet is all about balance.
What if I replaced that BLT with fresh, organic chicken breast?
And those fries are now thick, meaty, top-shelf avocado slices?
What if it was a grilled salmon with asparagus, drizzled with lemon and light butter?
Is your mouth still watering? Just because you want to be healthy, doesn’t mean you need to carry a 20lb bucket of chocolate protein sand mixture everywhere you go.
A high protein diet is defined as anything above 25% of your daily calorie intake. But why make the change?
- you’re young and growing
- you’re old and shrinking
- you’re sick/injured and need to recover
- you want to burn more fat
- you want gain muscle
- you just want to eat better
For the average person, start by ensuring a lean protein with every meal and maintain a variety of protein sources. This will keep your body fueled with all the different varieties of amino acids it needs to keep going—no single protein source will fulfill all of your needs. It also helps to increase the amount of plant protein you take in—a side of beans instead of chips can make a huge difference over time.
Those who are living a more active lifestyle should try eating their protein around a workout schedule to give their body that extra “boost” it needs to maintain itself. Consider supplementing your workouts with whey protein or if you’re dairy-free, pea protein is also effective.
The highest recommendation for protein intake is 1g per 1lb of body weight. This doesn’t mean that higher amounts are unsafe—an upper limit for protein in diet has yet to be discovered. That said, there are little to no health risks associated with a high-protein diet. In fact, this lifestyle is linked with lower blood pressure, better cholesterol and cardiometabolic health. Protein isn’t just for meatheads, body-builders, or bullies. It is important for a long, healthy life and now you too can enjoy its gospel.