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Enough protein?

by (393)
Updated about 13 hours ago
Created February 21, 2011 at 5:48 AM

Let's say right now I get 30% of calories in protein (180g of protein), mostly from meat, and I weigh 150 pounds and have a 2500 calorie per day diet. Now let's say I start being more active in sports and go to a 3500 calorie per day diet. Is there any need for me to increase my protein intake because of the extra calories I'm burning, to maintain the 30% chunk of calories as protein?

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4086 · March 29, 2011 at 3:03 PM

The Jaminet's book has an appendix "For Our Vegetarian Friends" in which they basically caution that the PHD recommends eating meat for optimal health and if you choose vegetarianism for moral reasons it will be difficult to achieve optimum results as you will be eliminating a large component of PHD. They advise the only way to maintain health without meat is to be vigilant with supplements and eat a lot of eggs, dairy and coconut fat, while always avoiding grains, vegetable oils and limiting fructose. They end the book with a suggestion for vegans to read The Vegetarian Myth by Lierre Keith.

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10 · March 16, 2011 at 9:08 PM

You didn't use his lean weight in the protein calculation. He's actually 60g over, not 30g.

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393 · February 21, 2011 at 10:26 PM

I (used to) eat more than a pound of top round beef in a vegetable stew every day. It's very lean hence the high protein.

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1197 · February 21, 2011 at 4:08 PM

Great post Dana. I agree with Rob about the Jaminets; they are formulating their own programme for longevity based on a very large amount of data. I think their work is fantastic and, whilst not entirely paleo, fits in very nicely with this 'type' of lifestyle. Their work on starches is very interesting and correlates with my own experiences. I think their contributions are really valuable.

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4873 · February 21, 2011 at 3:40 PM

You wrote, "...do the Jaminets come across as 'trying to make Paleo palatable to the mainstream by inserting elements of vegetarianism'?" I don't think the Jaminets are trying to make paleo into anything. Their project is something else entirely. They are reading through huge swaths of the biomedical literature (they are both PhD scientists) rethinking nutrition from scratch on their own principles. Their central ideas are that average people can live to be 100 if they eat an optimum diet (optimum, not paleo), and that most disease is caused by toxins, lack of nutrients, and infections.

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4873 · February 21, 2011 at 2:07 PM

Right mari. Low carb diets (below a certain level) require more protein because the body destroys protein to create glucose for the brain. If the protein isn't supplied in the diet, the body breaks down muscle to get it. On the other hand, people often go on low-carb diets to create ketosis. If they eat too much protein, the body makes so much glucose that it tends to stay out of ketosis. As a result, ketogenic dieters must walk a fine line. Not too little protein (muscle loss) and not too much (lack of ketogenicity).

82166cc32b6cf26de33b69f58fb583b1
4873 · February 21, 2011 at 2:06 PM

Right mari. Low carb diets (below a certain level) require more protein because the body destroys protein to create glucose for the brain. If the protein isn't supplied in the diet, the body breaks down muscle to get it. On the other hand, people go on low-carb diets to create ketosis. If they eat too much protein, the body makes so much glucose that it tends to stay out of ketosis. As a result, ketogenic dieters must walk a fine line. Not too little protein (muscle loss) and not too much (lack of ketogenicity).

82166cc32b6cf26de33b69f58fb583b1
4873 · February 21, 2011 at 2:04 PM

Right mari. Low carb diets (below a certain level) require more protein because the body destroys protein to create glucose for the brain. If the protein isn't supplied in the diet, the body breaks down muscle to get it. On the other hand, people go on low-carb diets to create ketosis. If they eat too much protein, the body makes so much glucose that it tends to stay out of ketosis. The bottom line is, ketogenic dieters must walk a fine line. Not too little protein (muscle loss) and not too much (lack of ketogenicity). 0.8 to 1.0 grams protein per kg per day works well for most adults.

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7324 · February 21, 2011 at 11:32 AM

I think low carb requires more because of gluconeogenesis. Unless you're saying it requires less than vlc?

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393 · February 21, 2011 at 7:42 AM

So that's why i wake up with my kidneys aching...

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39821 · February 21, 2011 at 6:51 AM

180g will continue to be excessive at the higher caloric intake. Most of us consume far more protein than we need for tissue repair and just convert the excess into energy and then fat. The ammonia produced from protein breakdown is thought to be toxic. Additionally, low carb diets are thought to require less protein. Most of this is mentioned by the Jaminets.

82166cc32b6cf26de33b69f58fb583b1
4873 · February 21, 2011 at 2:07 PM

Right mari. Low carb diets (below a certain level) require more protein because the body destroys protein to create glucose for the brain. If the protein isn't supplied in the diet, the body breaks down muscle to get it. On the other hand, people often go on low-carb diets to create ketosis. If they eat too much protein, the body makes so much glucose that it tends to stay out of ketosis. As a result, ketogenic dieters must walk a fine line. Not too little protein (muscle loss) and not too much (lack of ketogenicity).

82166cc32b6cf26de33b69f58fb583b1
4873 · February 21, 2011 at 2:06 PM

Right mari. Low carb diets (below a certain level) require more protein because the body destroys protein to create glucose for the brain. If the protein isn't supplied in the diet, the body breaks down muscle to get it. On the other hand, people go on low-carb diets to create ketosis. If they eat too much protein, the body makes so much glucose that it tends to stay out of ketosis. As a result, ketogenic dieters must walk a fine line. Not too little protein (muscle loss) and not too much (lack of ketogenicity).

82166cc32b6cf26de33b69f58fb583b1
4873 · February 21, 2011 at 2:04 PM

Right mari. Low carb diets (below a certain level) require more protein because the body destroys protein to create glucose for the brain. If the protein isn't supplied in the diet, the body breaks down muscle to get it. On the other hand, people go on low-carb diets to create ketosis. If they eat too much protein, the body makes so much glucose that it tends to stay out of ketosis. The bottom line is, ketogenic dieters must walk a fine line. Not too little protein (muscle loss) and not too much (lack of ketogenicity). 0.8 to 1.0 grams protein per kg per day works well for most adults.

Cab7e4ef73c5d7d7a77e1c3d7f5773a1
7324 · February 21, 2011 at 11:32 AM

I think low carb requires more because of gluconeogenesis. Unless you're saying it requires less than vlc?

8f08fb03fc5c2f44b7d5357e8a3ab1c5
393 · February 21, 2011 at 7:42 AM

So that's why i wake up with my kidneys aching...

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3618 · February 21, 2011 at 9:03 AM

If your kidneys hurt, get thee to thine physician. It could be anything from stones to an infection to simple spasms; you're not gonna know unless tests are run. From what I understand the notion that protein causes kidney disease has been ruled out. Aggravates existing disease, sure.

I've been looking around and learning more about the protein/acid thing. Protein differs from carbohydrates and fats in a couple ways. One, carbs and fats contain the elements carbon, hydrogen, and oxygen (betcha can't guess where the term "carbohydrate" comes from), while protein also has nitrogen along with the C, H, and O. Two, protein has more hydrogen in it than carbs or fat do. That hydrogen is what can potentially change the pH in your blood just enough to wreak slow havoc. (You better hope that's all it does--it doesn't take much of a change in pH to kill you.)

Happily, meat comes with its own buffering agent built in: glutamine. Glutamine does this neat trick with an N atom and three H atoms to make ammonia, NH3, in the kidney. It's a good thing this happens. Because ammonia's a liquid, your kidney just sends it down into your bladder with the excess water and all the other liquid waste for you to pee out. If it stayed in your body it'd revert back to acid and you'd be back at square one.

We're omnivores, maybe non-obligate carnivores, so we're going to produce some ammonia. Try being an obligate carnivore, like a cat. Cats have really smelly pee. Lots more ammonia to get rid of. You will note they don't drop dead from it, either. I realize we are not cats, but we're not that different.

I'm beginning to see stuff about research showing that people who eat lots of plant protein lose more bone than people who eat lots of animal protein. I'm going to guess it's because most plants don't contain a lot of glutamine. It'll be interesting to see if I'm right. If you can't buffer with glutamine, that leaves minerals. Not a good scene. Your body does make glutamine, but if you get sick your need for the amino acid increases and you can't cut it with your own supply. Everybody gets sick sooner or later, even lifetime PETA members. And so it goes.

I don't think there's any real consensus on how much protein a person needs. I've seen the 1g of protein per 1 lb. of lean weight bandied about a lot though. You're doing just 30g over that right now. Is that really excessive? I don't know. Along with going to your doc no matter what else you do, you could try cutting back 30g and see what happens. But there are days I eat huge amounts of meat and I don't get kidney pain. And I've had a kidney infection before, so I know where that's going to show up. Ouch.

I'm not sure why you would need to increase your protein intake just because you're increasing your calories, though. What are your overall ratios? You should have a lot of other energy sources there, right?

Is it just me or do the Jaminets come across as "trying to make Paleo palatable to the mainstream by inserting elements of vegetarianism"? If they're trying to scare people away from meat consumption by repeating vegetarian truisms about the toxicity of meat, I'd be tempted to say "yes". I've read some of their blog, which has only added to that impression. And then there's the whole CarbSane mess. Yeah... I'll pass. Let someone like Dr. Harris say that going overboard on animal protein's a bad idea and I might look more closely, since he's likely to back it up with citations.

D67e7b481854b02110d5a5b21d6789b1
4086 · March 29, 2011 at 3:03 PM

The Jaminet's book has an appendix "For Our Vegetarian Friends" in which they basically caution that the PHD recommends eating meat for optimal health and if you choose vegetarianism for moral reasons it will be difficult to achieve optimum results as you will be eliminating a large component of PHD. They advise the only way to maintain health without meat is to be vigilant with supplements and eat a lot of eggs, dairy and coconut fat, while always avoiding grains, vegetable oils and limiting fructose. They end the book with a suggestion for vegans to read The Vegetarian Myth by Lierre Keith.

367a9e46f06d13e100b953f8e429f7dc
10 · March 16, 2011 at 9:08 PM

You didn't use his lean weight in the protein calculation. He's actually 60g over, not 30g.

7e1064164e012a1ead098098245b1cd4
1197 · February 21, 2011 at 4:08 PM

Great post Dana. I agree with Rob about the Jaminets; they are formulating their own programme for longevity based on a very large amount of data. I think their work is fantastic and, whilst not entirely paleo, fits in very nicely with this 'type' of lifestyle. Their work on starches is very interesting and correlates with my own experiences. I think their contributions are really valuable.

82166cc32b6cf26de33b69f58fb583b1
4873 · February 21, 2011 at 3:40 PM

You wrote, "...do the Jaminets come across as 'trying to make Paleo palatable to the mainstream by inserting elements of vegetarianism'?" I don't think the Jaminets are trying to make paleo into anything. Their project is something else entirely. They are reading through huge swaths of the biomedical literature (they are both PhD scientists) rethinking nutrition from scratch on their own principles. Their central ideas are that average people can live to be 100 if they eat an optimum diet (optimum, not paleo), and that most disease is caused by toxins, lack of nutrients, and infections.

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115 · February 21, 2011 at 1:08 PM

Most recomendations I have seen are 3/4 to 1 g protein per Pound of body weight. that is hard to do eating meat, fish and eggs. What are you eating for protein? Robb Wolf says your protein "has to have a face and a soul"

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393 · February 21, 2011 at 10:26 PM

I (used to) eat more than a pound of top round beef in a vegetable stew every day. It's very lean hence the high protein.

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1146 · February 21, 2011 at 3:27 PM

I usually consume about 0.8-0.9 grams per pound, I try not to go over because I think many people have said that methionine restriction is good for longevity. Either way, if you are very low carb then you should consume a fair amount of protein to supply glucose through gluconeogenesis.

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4873 · February 21, 2011 at 1:43 PM

Is there any need for me to increase my protein intake because of the extra calories I'm burning, to maintain the 30% chunk of calories as protein?

No, because the body's need for protein barely changes when you burn more calories.

For most people on diets with normal amounts of carbs, one gram of protein per kilogram of body weight is enough.

If your diet includes carbs, there's no reason to think of your protein intake as a percentage of calories. Calories are units of energy. We use them to measure food that we burn for energy. On a diet with carbs, we don't burn protein for energy. We use it as a construction material, and our need for construction material is pretty much a function of body weight, not energy use.

People on low-carb diets have to eat more protein than this because their bodies destroy protein to make glucose for their brains.

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