28 November 2009 ~ 0 Comments

How much Protein to include in your Diet?

Boy what an emotionally charged topic – with opinions all over the map.  The idea for this topic came to mind after I saw, in the space of a couple of days, radically opposing views on animal protein as a source of human nutrition.  On the one hand, an online body-building coach encourages high levels of animal protein along with lower levels of carbs and stated “don’t be afraid of the fat – butter, cheese, red meat etc.”   when one is keeping cards low.   This fits in with the many high protein diets that were all the rage for most of the last 6 or so years, and still are among many body-builders.  (And by the way the diets are not new just different; I recall early versions of them under the “high fat diets” of the late 1970’s and early 1980’s, –  boy that seems like eons ago  –  and low to no carbs are standard diet procedure before a body-building contest.)   We know we need protein to feed our muscles, and the body-building approach is “more is better”.

At the other end of the spectrum, researchers are concerned about the side effects of the consumption of animal protein.  We are all aware of the link to elevated cholesterol levels; and in addition we read that Animal protein puts a strain on the kidneys, can lead to or exacerbate Gout, and more ominous can accelerate bone loss.  This last item is a more complex discussion of the connection between an acidic internal environment and the leaching of calcium ions from the bones to help create the alkaline balance we need.  (If anyone has an interest in knowing more, you can email me at info@sixpackatsixty.com for more on this research.)  Of even more concern, is a recent study that showed an unexpected result of a high-protein diet  –  shrinking of the brain.  Alzheimer’s Research October 21, 2009.  Of course the above is all about animal protein, and there are many other protein foods.  So how much protein should one consume?

The US RDA, and the American Heart Association recommendations are around .36 – .4 gms of protein for each pound of body weight.  This would translate to around 30 gms of protein a day for me, and about 50-60 gms of protein for the average male.  Compare this with the recommendation on ‘intense workouts’ online sites that advocate 1 gm protein per pound of body weight  –  about 175 gms of protein for a 175 lb body-builder.

It would seem that the answer lies in one’s perspective and the type of protein one chooses to consume, to strike that balance of building muscle, keeping bones and brain healthy, and not going raving mad trying to figure it all out.  As a start, eat less animal protein and add beans, legumes and nuts to your diet.

The question no one would like to have to answer is:  Would you give up some muscle now for a healthier brain later in life.  And ditto on healthier bones later in life.  The questions are rhetorical for a few reasons:

1)      We don’t know if everyone is affected in the same way;

2)      Asking the question of someone who is 20, 30 or even 40 is not valuable.  No one thinks about if or how they are going to be adversely affected in their old age, or even wants to think about it.

So the discussion is interesting, and the research is interesting, and I doubt the research or my writing about it is likely to prompt any individual action.  However, since women are more prone to osteoporosis, and because we tend to live longer than men so we may as well keep our brains healthy, I believe this is a conversation I need to start and keep going.

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