Tuesday, March 29, 2016

How Much Protein Should You Be Eating?

By: Andrew Jagim

As a follow up to the article I was interviewed for in SHAPE Magazine last week on protein requirements, I figured I would elaborate on why we need protein and how the recommended dietary allowance (RDA) value probably needs some serious readjustments.  Gone are the days of high protein diets only being used by bodybuilders and athletes as now we are realizing the importance of protein for everyone. 

To start off, protein is one of the three macronutrients (protein, carbohydrates and fat), which contains 4 calories per every gram consumed.  However, protein offers much more than a source of calories, or energy for that matter.  Protein is a vital nutrient as it provides several structural and functional benefits throughout the body such as the maintenaince of muscle tissue, enzyme production, hormone synthesis and cell growth.  

Whereas fats and carbohydrates on the other hand are primarily used as fuel sources.  Unlike carbohydrates and fats, which we can store within the body for later use, we need a continual influx of protein daily because of the rapid turnover.  The RDA value for protein is 0.8 grams per every kilogram of bodyweight per day (g/kg/d). 

However, when people are regularly active their protein needs go up in order to help with protein turnover (i.e. recovery, repair, and maintain muscle mass) within the body.  Depending on the type, amount and intensity of exercising/training you are doing you may require anywhere from 1.0-2.2 g/kg/d.  However, some of the more recent research emerging on protein requirements is telling us two things: A) People already struggle to meet the RDA value of 0.8 g/kg/d; and B) The 0.8 g/kg/d recommendation may be too low (on a side note, don’t believe the myth that a high protein intake will shut down your kidneys as this is simply not true). As they age a lot of people suffer from the medical condition, sarcopenia, which is described as a loss of muscle mass resulting from the aging process. 

Whether this is an outcome of the aging process in general or a result from a reduction in activity combined with an inadequate protein intake OR all of the above has yet to be determined.  For this reason, protein becomes very increasingly important later in adulthood; as once you begin to lose muscle, your strength goes next, which unfortunately is then usually followed by the inability to function on your own.  

This is a reality that is far too common in today’s society as people are living longer however, some individuals are not able to live as they’d like and spend their remaining days on bed rest or with very limited capabilities.  Moral of the story, ramp up your protein as it is essential for maintain your muscle mass, strength and autonomy.

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