Busting the Protein Myth

Protein is an important nutrient required for the building, maintenance, and repair of tissues

in the body. Amino acids, the building blocks of protein, can be synthesized by the body or ingested from food. There are 20 different amino acids in the food we eat, but our body can only make 11 of them. The nine essential amino acids, which cannot be produced by the body, must be obtained from the diet. The Mythology around protein centers around how much we actually need, and that we need to eat animal products such as meat, chicken, pork, and dairy to get the protein we need. We intend to show you that plants can give us all the protein that we need, regardless of how hard we train.

The mythology in America that we need huge amounts of protein comes from the relentless marketing campaigns of the meat and dairy industries. Just as Coca-Cola found a dietician a few years ago willing to say Coke was not bad for you, the meat and dairy industries fund counter-research expounding on the benefits of eating large amounts of what they produce.

A variety of grains, legumes, and vegetables can provide all of the essential amino acids our bodies require. It was once thought that various plant foods had to be eaten together to get their full protein value, otherwise known as protein combining or protein complementing. We now know that intentional combining is not necessary to obtain all of the essential amino acids.1 As long as the diet contains a variety of grains, legumes, and vegetables, protein needs are easily met.

Protein Requirements

With the traditional Western diet, the average American consumes about double the protein her or his body needs. Old bodybuilding magazines from the 70’s and 80’s told us to consume at least 2 grams of protein per kilogram of of body weight. This number was, and still is, a mythological number that was simply the consensus of the bodybuilding community, not based on science. Additionally, the main sources of protein consumed tend to be animal products, which are also high in fat and saturated fat. Most individuals are surprised to learn that protein needs are actually much less than what they have been consuming. The Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) for protein for the average adult is 0.8 grams per kilogram of body weight.2 To find out your average individual need, simply perform the following calculation: Body weight (in pounds) x 0.36 = recommended protein intake (in grams)

However, even this value has a large margin of safety, and the body’s true need may be lower for most people. Protein needs are increased for women who are pregnant or

breastfeeding. In addition, needs are also higher for very active persons. As these groups require additional calories, increased protein needs can easily be met through larger intake of food consumed daily. An extra serving of legumes, tofu, meat substitutes, or other high protein sources can help meet needs that go beyond the current RDA.

For any athlete training with high intensity, we strongly recommend that you use a quality plant based protein powder to be used in smoothies, and 30 minutes prior to bedtime. Athletes who strength train with high intensity will need more protein of course, but still not the mythological levels propagandized in today’s market.

The Problems with High-Protein Diets

High-protein diets for weight loss, disease prevention, and enhanced athletic performance have been greatly publicized over recent years. However, these diets are supported by little scientific research. Studies show that the healthiest diet is one that is high in carbohydrate, low in fat, and adequate in protein. Increased intake of whole grains, fruits, and vegetables is recommended for weight control and preventing diseases such as cancer and heart disease. High-carbohydrate, low-fat, moderate- protein diets are also recommended for optimal athletic performance. Contrary to the information on fad diets currently promoted by some popular books, a diet that is high in protein can actually contribute to disease and other health problems.