Enough protein?

by 387 · February 21, 2011 at 03:27 PM

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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39204 · February 21, 2011 at 06:51 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.

3576 · February 21, 2011 at 09:03 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.

115 · February 21, 2011 at 01:08 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"

1146 · February 21, 2011 at 03:27 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.

4544 · February 21, 2011 at 01:43 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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