Some research (*)shows higher protein diets are associated with greater weight and fat mass loss, more muscle preservation, improved satiety, and a greater reduction in blood pressure, triglycerides, and waist circumference than lower protein diets. Current recommendations by the Food and Nutrition Board of the Institute of Medicine are 0.8 g of protein per kg of body weight, while the same 1332 page document gives an acceptable protein range of 10-35% of total calories.
Based on 0.8 g/kg, I would be at 50 g protein. Everyone’s body is different, and there is not a chance I could get through my day on that amount. Even if I didn’t have a challenging fitness goal, I would consistently be double that amount.
So here’s the deal:
- The 0.8 g protein per kg of body weight recommendation is based on the MINIMUM amount of overall dietary protein and amino acid requirements to reach nitrogen balance in “healthy young adults”. Rather than recommending the MINIMUM amount necessary to maintain already healthy (young) individuals, I wonder what would happen if we aimed for the amount that would have metabolic IMPROVEMENTS FOR THAT SPECIFIC PERSON when needed, or at least using the 10-35% range listed
- Not everyone will always thrive at the same amount of protein. Some people need less protein than others, and plenty of research also supports higher levels of protein intake (1.2-1.6 g protein per kg). Elderly people for example, who as a general population eat less than the recommended amount of protein, should in many cases actually have more.
- The term “body weight” also doesn’t account for the wide variety of body compositions. A higher percentage of body fat versus fat-free mass could indicate a need for a different amount of protein.
- Different people also optimize health on different amounts of protein based on what they grew up eating, their blood type, metabolic profile, other various genetic and environmental factors, or for reasons we may not fully understand yet. Protein QUALITY and amino acid profile matters. I aim for a wide variety of plant-protein sources as well as wild-caught fish, pastured eggs/poultry, bison, and occasionally grass fed beef, but what works for me may not be ideal for you. Which leads me to #5.
- All essential amino acids can be found in plants, albeit at lower levels, so you don’t necessarily have to have a meat-heavy diet to accomplish your protein goals
- Timing and frequency of protein intake matters and will be somewhat unique for each person.
- Defining a “higher protein diet”for you will likely be different than what that looks like for me.
- The Second range, while much more palatable to me, is a WIDE range, while where I feel optimal is much more specific. In this season of my life, 30-40% of my calories are consistently protein calories, but this wasn’t always the case and it won’t likely stay this way indefinitely. Other ingredients that affect my personal needs vary, and optimizing is my jam.
My point is not to dispute the recommendation of a body of people who have definitely have more eduction than myself. It’s to encourage you to be an advocate for your own health, learn your own body, and take an interest in what works best for you as opposed to just following a global suggestion based on averages and minimums. Pay attention to what you’re doing, what’s working, and what isn’t. Set goals, and if you can’t reach them with what you’re doing, change something. There are a lot of variables, and knowing where to start can seem overwhelming. I’m here to help. *research available upon request.