The Daily Tonic is a two to five minute read sharing science backed health news and tips, all while getting you to crack a smile or even lol on occasion.
Like with almost any nutrition-related topic, it can be challenging to navigate through all the information that is out there on protein to figure out what is true and what is not.
Let’s start from the top. Protein is made out of amino acids, nine of which are essential. Essential amino acids are building blocks of protein our body cannot produce on its own, meaning we have to get them from our diets. A protein source containing all nine essential amino acids is considered a complete protein. Most animal proteins are considered complete proteins, while most plant proteins are not.
Now, before the plant-based crowd gets their panties in a bunch, let’s clarify one thing. It is possible to follow a plant-based diet and still get all your essential amino acids. It just takes careful planning and education to ensure you mix and match the correct plant proteins to get all of them.
So, how much protein do we need to optimize our health? The recommended daily allowance (RDA) for protein set by our Food and Nutrition Board is 0.8 grams per kilogram of body weight. That recommendation boils down to about 55 grams of protein per day for a 150 lbs female and about 65 grams per day for a 180 lbs male.
Dieting tip: adding more grams of protein to your plate will actually help manage weight
However, those numbers are very low. The RDA is set to prevent protein deficiencies. It is not necessarily the number you should aim for if you want to optimize your health. Protein is an essential macronutrient that supports muscle building, repair, and proper hormone function. It also helps make meals more satiating so that you are less likely to overeat throughout the day.
The more optimal recommendation is around 1.6 – 2.2 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight. Going back to our examples above, that is about 108 – 150 grams of protein per day for a 150 lbs female and 130 – 180 grams per day for a 180 lbs male.
As far as protein myths go, it is important to remember that protein does not inherently cause kidney damage. High protein intake may harm people with diagnosed kidney disease, but there is zero evidence to support the same adverse effects for people with healthy kidneys. Kidney failure is most commonly associated with high blood pressure and diabetes, both conditions that can be prevented with a healthy, high-protein diet.
It has also been disproven that your body cannot absorb more than 30 grams of protein per sitting. It is recommended that you space out your protein intake evenly throughout the day, but there isn’t a magic number that caps off how much protein your body can absorb from a single meal.
The key takeaway? Protein is a vital component of a healthy diet. To optimize your health, you should aim for 1.6 – 2.2 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight. And finally, when it comes to sourcing, you should prioritize animal proteins over plant proteins because they offer a complete amino acid profile.
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