by Tony Gjokaj February 24, 2020 5 min read
I was inspired to make this post because of a conversation I had with a family member… or rather, a debate. It ended with something like this:
“Protein and Protein powder is dangerous because (insert news channel) said it was bad”.
Being that some of my family members misinformed and pretty “old school” *insert something about protein being a steroid here*, I forgive them for it.
It is not anybody’s fault but the people who misinterpreted these studies, and had a media platform to discuss these “findings”. Emotional headlines sell.
Anyway, that’s beside the point… I wanted to talk about Protein in particular: why we need it, protein requirements, and handling the myths/dogma that goes along with Protein and Protein Powder in particular.
Protein is one of the three macronutrients that we all love to talk about or meme. Usually when people come to think of protein, we picture a bunch of buff German dudes talking about protein. It’s much more than that.
I can argue that everybody in every scenario needs protein. Let me give you a few benefits:
Your body uses protein to develop new cells: think muscles for the men; skin, nails, and a lean physique for the women.
Helps with the Fat Loss process: when people diet, they feel fuller by eating a diet that consists of moderate protein. In addition, the benefit of rebuilding new cells is that protein helps retain lean body mass while you lose body fat.
One of my favorite benefits of protein is that it helps fight fatigue: if you feel tired and weak all the time, protein does really help in that area. For example, when I don’t eat enough protein for the day, my next day’s workouts suck pretty badly.
As you can see here, it is not JUST for building large amounts of muscle. It helps with hunger, cell development, fighting fatigue, and a plethora of more things. Protein overall revolves around longevity: living longer and being healthier.
When I first starting lifting, the influencers of the fitness industry would talk about eating BIG amounts of protein: to go as high as 2-3g/lb of body weight. This is insane.
Today, we have evidence stating that we fitness people need to cut the protein down quite a bit from that, emphasizing more focus on Carbohydrates for our energy and glycogen depletion.
Based on more modern findings, I created the following section along with my commentary on Protein Requirements below.
I believe Examine.com covers Protein recommendations in the best way, so I wanted to take the time to review some of it. Personally, I prefer to calculate protein requirements based on total body weight rather than Lean Body Mass, only because it’s much simpler for everyone.
To start, the protein requirements for a “sedentary” individual (someone who does not work out) is about 0.54 g/lb of body weight. Obviously, protein demands are significantly lower in a non-active individual because they’re not breaking down muscle as much as a fitness goer would.
For someone who is more active (and depending on the sport), protein requirements can go from 0.6-1g/lb of bodyweight. This is for a person who wants to maintain their athleticism or even build muscle.
For someone who is obese with the goal of losing weight, protein requirements can be around the more sedentary range (0.54-0.7g/lb of bodyweight). The reason for this is based on lean body mass.
When it comes to Dieting for Fat Loss, Protein requirements will have to go up a little bit more. I personally recommend ~1-1.2g/lb of bodyweight. The reason for this is plenty: handling Ghrelin (the hunger hormone), recovery from the gym, fatigue management, full for longer periods of time, etc.
There are many other categories that you can take into account (pregnancies, veganism, etc), and you can find all of the protein requirements for those here.
One of the challenges Vegans and Vegetarians encounter is the lack of protein sources: it’s REALLY difficult, especially with fitness. In addition, I would personally recommend supplementing with vegan-based branched/essential amino acid supplements because of this.
A plant-based diet is the most respectable and hardest way to consume foods in my opinion. I would never be able to do it.
Kudos to you if you do/plan on doing so.
Myths, Dogma, whatever you want to call it, the most common myths are in here. Many people fear protein powders and protein in particular because of “kidney problems” and toxicity in supplements. While the supplement industry is an industry that is a little more lenient on regulation, I wanted to discuss these two points in depth.
Through media outlets, Protein is misheard: “protein causes kidney problems”. I wanted to dive further into this. We will use Examine once again for review: If you do not have preexisting kidney problems, you most likely won’t have to worry about the previously mentioned protein requirements on this blog post.
Now when it comes to actually having Kidney Problems, I would recommend restricting protein based on recommendations from your doctor.
Based on this information, I do not know where news outlets get information that Protein causes kidney problems. Maybe it’s because they associate protein with red meats, and that excess overfeeding of fat content at a higher body fat percentage could possibly lead to various health issues? Very specific, I know, but that would be a pretty solid reason. There is additional information available on Examine that I recommend you read into.
If you google “Protein Powder is bad”, you will come across websites spouting things about dangerous chemicals in protein.
The main reason most people assume the worst in protein is that the FDA doesn’t regulate supplements as much as other food and beverages. It’s true that SOME supplement companies MAY have some questionable ingredients, but this is where I recommend people look into the products they purchase rather than associating protein powder with bad things in particular.
Lately, a lot of people are referencing the research on protein powder from the Clean Label Project, which stated that all kinds of toxins and metals were found in Protein. but it’s important to dive into the details. According to NSF, it’s more complicated than that (Iron and Copper are metal we consume for health benefits, for example).
Honestly, it is a scary thought that supplements might have some things that DON’T BELONG, but this is where research is important. I am a strong advocate of using supplement companies that either get OPTIONAL FDA-Approval or even supplement companies that take WADA into account. This is how I make my informed decisions on Protein Powders and other supplements. Always do your due diligence when it comes to choosing products.
One of the greatest blessings of our time is the plethora of protein powder-based recipes that are found all over the internet: Protein Pancakes, Waffles, Icecream, Peanut Butter Cups, you name it. YouTube is filled with recipes and I highly recommend going there if you like to make foods.
Now, to conclude: we talked about protein recommendations, the benefits of protein, and the issues that media outlets surround protein with. I truly hope this blog post helped you to a great extent, especially if you’re new to fitness and nutrition.
If you have any questions or comments, please feel free to comment below, or Direct Message myself on Social Media. If I don’t have the answer, I’ll find it and provide you with a solid answer. I love doing research and learning more, so it is never a burden.
Thank you for reading!
Tony is the Owner of Reforged. He is a PN1 Certified Nutrition Coach and has been in the fitness space for over a decade. His goal is to help millions exercise their way out of depression and anxiety.
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