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Essential Guide to Protein: The Macronutrient King

Updated: Mar 7

In the quest for optimal health, understanding the role of protein in our diet is crucial. While carbohydrates and fats are often feverishly debated, protein’s importance remains above reproach.


Dr. Gabrielle Lyon, a leading pioneer in the field of muscle-centric medicine, emphasizes the importance of protein in supporting metabolic health, longevity, and overall well-being. She states, “I couldn’t understand why we kept chasing obesity when in fact, it was a lack of sufficient healthy muscle tissue that was the problem”.


This blog aims to guide you through the intricacies of protein consumption, providing you with a simple approach and the necessary body armor to combat the carnivorous nature of aging.


Longevity Sign


Why Protein Matters


Muscle is the organ of longevity. Protein, comprised of amino acids, is the building block of muscle. It's not just about aesthetics or strength; muscles play a pivotal role in metabolic health, influencing everything from insulin sensitivity to bone density.


Insulin sensitivity and bone density can be compared to a garden's irrigation system and the health of its soil.



Just as an efficient irrigation system (insulin sensitivity) ensures water (glucose) is properly delivered to plants (cells), promoting growth and vitality, healthy soil (bone density) provides a strong foundation, enabling the garden to flourish.


Poor irrigation can lead to waterlogging or drought, much like insulin resistance can lead to too much or too little glucose in cells, affecting overall health.


Similarly, poor soil health weakens plant support, just as low bone density increases fracture risk. Both are crucial for the garden's (body's) overall well-being.


Protein and Metabolism


Protein consumption boosts thermogenesis and satiety more than fats or carbohydrates, aiding in weight management. Put simply, your body will burn more calories (20+% more), digesting and metabolizing protein (vs. carbs and fats) and you’ll feel fuller in the process.


Due to the reasons mentioned above, protein is generally less likely to be stored as fat compared to an equivalent caloric excess of carbohydrates or fats.


It’s essential for those looking to optimize body composition, as it also helps in maintaining lean muscle mass while promoting fat loss.

 

The Role in Aging


As we age, maintaining muscle mass becomes increasingly important. Sarcopenia, the age-related loss of muscle mass and strength, can be combated with adequate protein intake (plus, resistance training). This is not merely about prolonging life but enhancing the quality of those years.


We lose approximately 3-8 % of our muscle mass each decade after the age of 30. This number dramatically increases after the age of 60.


Sarcopenia Diagram

Scary stuff if you ask me!


But the good news is, this is something we can control to a large degree by resistance training appropriately (minimum three times per week) and consuming the proper amount of quality protein.

 

How Much Protein Do You Need?


The Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) for protein is 0.8 grams per kilogram of body weight per day, but this is often considered the minimum to prevent deficiency. For optimal health and muscle maintenance, a more nuanced approach is needed:

*We will be using kilograms in all examples. To covert, just take your body weight (in lbs.) and divide by 2.2 to get kilograms


  • General Health and Maintenance: Aim for at least 1.2 to 2.0 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight. This range supports bodily functions, muscle maintenance, and overall health.

  • Athletes and Active Individuals: For those engaged in regular intense exercise, the requirement can increase to 1.6 to 2.2 grams per kilogram. This supports recovery, muscle synthesis, and adaptation to training.

  • Aging Adults: To combat sarcopenia, older adults should aim for the higher end of the spectrum, around 1.5 to 2.0 grams per kilogram, distributed evenly throughout the day to maximize muscle protein synthesis.


Protein

Pro Tip: In general, most people with fall between 0.8-1.2 grams of protein per pound of bodyweight (or goal weight). If you want to keep things super simple, aim for 1 gram of protein per pound of body weight (or goal weight). This will work for the majority of people and eliminate any extra math or confusion.

 


Quality and Timing


Not all proteins are created equal. High-quality proteins contain all essential amino acids and are found in animal products like meat, poultry, fish, dairy, and eggs, as well as in some plant sources like soy. Incorporating a variety of protein sources ensures a comprehensive amino acid profile.


Total daily protein intake is the most important goal. However, it may be beneficial to distribute protein intake evenly across meals to maximally stimulate muscle protein synthesis (the driving force behind your muscle’s adaptive response and repair process) throughout the day. This means aiming for 25+ grams of high-quality protein per meal, depending on your total daily requirement.


Practical Tips for Incorporating Protein


  • Start with Breakfast: Many people consume the least amount of protein at breakfast. Switching to a protein-rich start can improve your daily distribution and support muscle maintenance. As they say, “Well begun is half done.”

  • Snack Smart: Opt for snacks that provide a protein punch, such as Greek yogurt, a protein shake/bar, jerky, a handful of nuts, hard boiled eggs, etc. These can help you meet your daily goals and keep hunger at bay.

  • Balance Your Plate: Ensure each meal has a protein source at its center. Fill the rest of your plate with vegetables and healthy fats, with a moderate amount of whole grains or starchy vegetables for energy.

  • Supplement Wisely: While whole foods should be your primary protein source, supplements like whey protein can be a convenient addition, especially post-workout to aid in recovery and muscle protein synthesis.


Need help finding a high protein breakfast?


Meal Prep Taco Scramble


Overcoming Challenges


One common challenge is the misconception that high protein intake is harmful to kidney health. In healthy individuals, there’s no evidence to support this. However, those with pre-existing kidney issues should consult a healthcare provider.


Another challenge is dietary preferences and restrictions. Vegetarians and vegans can meet their protein needs by combining different plant-based protein sources to ensure they're getting all essential amino acids.


Pro Tip: From our resident expert and next-door business neighbor ‘The Better Food Co.’ Doni Curkendall, “I think there’s a misconception about protein sources for vegans. In fact, it’s very easy to get protein from many plant-based foods like beans, whole grains, tofu, lentils, nuts, etc.” Doni also states that eating a variety of plant-based foods will help solve the common issue of inadequate fiber intake. She recommends a good combination of tofu, edamame, veggies, quinoa, peanut butter, black beans, tempeh, mushrooms, etc.


Conclusion - A Guide to Protein


Prioritizing protein in your diet is not just about building muscle but supporting a foundation for lifelong health and vitality. By understanding how much protein you need, choosing high-quality sources, and distributing intake throughout the day, you can optimize your health, performance, and well-being.


Remember, nutrition is deeply personal, and what works for one individual may not work for another. Listening to your body, adjusting things based on how you respond to certain foods, and perhaps consulting with a healthcare professional can help tailor these guidelines to meet your specific needs.


In the pursuit of health, remember that balance is key. Alongside protein, a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, healthy fats, and whole grains, coupled with regular physical activity, forms the cornerstone of a healthy lifestyle. By focusing on these principles, you can build a strong, resilient body that thrives at every stage of life.


How many grams of protein should someone who weighs 150 lbs. consume to optimize overall body composition and longevity?

  • 60 grams

  • 90 grams

  • 150 grams

  • 200 grams



See ya next week!


Coach Michael


133 views4 comments

4 comentários


I’m loving your weekly blogs!!

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Michael Rankin
Michael Rankin
21 de fev.
Respondendo a

Thank you! 👍🏻💪🏻

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Janice Chan
Janice Chan
15 de fev.

This was so informative! Thanks for the tips, Coach!

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Michael Rankin
Michael Rankin
21 de fev.
Respondendo a

Happy you liked it Janice!

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