Diet trends come and go all of the time. From Weight Watchers, Atkins, Jenny Craig and even Paleo and Dukan diets, billions of dollars are spent each year on chasing the holy grail of diets. One of the most buzzed about trends in diet surround protein – the more the merrier! Or is that true? Let’s take a look at some myths and facts about Americans’ protein consumption.
Myth: Protein is only found in meat.
Fortunately for our vegetarian friends, there are plenty of protein sources not derived from animals. A half cup of tofu has a whopping 13 grams of protein, while lentils have 16 grams per cup. Also, broccoli boasts more than 4 grams per stalk! And it’s low in calories.
Myth: You need more protein that you are getting.
Many Americans are getting more than double the protein they need each day. This is not necessarily healthy for you since excessive protein intake can increase diabetes risk up to 22 percent. Excessive protein consumption is also linked to osteoporosis, cancer, kidney impairment and heart disease.
The recommended amount of protein the average person needs is 0.8 grams per kilogram of body weight per day. To find out how much that means for you, use this calculation: Weight (in pounds) x 0.36 = your recommended protein intake (in grams). For example, someone who weighs 150 pounds only needs 54 grams of protein per day.
Myth: Protein is better for you than carbs.
A balanced, healthy diet is made up of several nutrients, including both protein and carbs. Carbohydrates are important because they supply your body’s energy. This includes sources of whole grains, beans, fruits and vegetables which should make up half of your plate. They also provide protein and fiber. You should have a lean source of protein, about 3-4 ounces at each meal, which is about the size of the palm of your hand or a deck of cards.
Myth: Excess protein will help you build muscle.
Excess protein will not build new muscle. What is most important to build new muscle is an appropriate training program with added calories to provide sufficient energy for strength training sessions. It is also important to eat the right balance of nutrients with a diet rich in carbohydrate and moderate in lean protein and fat to build lean tissue. The timing of meals and snacks is also important to encourage muscle growth. Aim to consume a snack rich in carbohydrates with 10-20 grams of protein before and after an intense training session to boost your muscle building potential.
Myth: High protein diets can help you lose weight.
While it is true that a moderate intake of protein can help curb your appetite, calories are equal regardless of the source. When you consume more calories than you burn, you will gain excess weight. Losing weight is best achieved with a balanced diet of all nutrients, including carbohydrates, protein and healthy sources of dietary fat.
For elite athletes, including those who are bodybuilders or trying to gain muscle mass, some may be able to tolerate 1.2 to 1.7 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight. That adds up to about 80-135 grams of protein for an adult who weighs 165 pounds. It’s always best to consult your doctor or a registered dietitian before you alter your diet.
So, the truth is – lean sources of protein like skinless chicken, turkey, fish and lean beef are good for you. There are also many non-meat sources of protein that are good for you too such as beans, peas and low-fat dairy. Just remember, make sure it’s part of a balanced diet.