Title: The Power of Protein
By: Allen J. Holmes, MD
When nutrition is talked about, particularly in the context of weight loss, the recommendations are often about carbs and fat. There are those in the low fat world. And there are those in the Keto or Atkins world that focus on low carbs. What isn’t talked about as much, is protein. This is unfortunate, because protein is an equally important macronutrient.
Protein is found throughout the body and exists in essentially every type of tissue. It is made up of 20+ amino acids. You can think of amino acids as the building blocks of protein. Nine of these amino acids are called essential amino acids, meaning that they must come from food. Consuming adequate protein in our diet, is how we obtain enough amino acids (building blocks) to maintain our muscle tissues as well as other tissues in our body.
Let’s focus on the relationship between protein intake and muscle mass. Lean muscle serves to purposes for us:
- Metabolism: the amount of lean muscle one has directly correlates to their rate of metabolism. Translation, the more muscle mass you have, the more calories you burn.
- Movement: Our ability to walk, run, jump, climb, lift, etc. is dependent on the amount of muscle mass we have.
The obvious question, with perhaps a not so obvious an answer, is how much protein should I eat? The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics states the RDA (recommended daily allowance) of protein for the average individual is 0.8 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight or 0.35 grams per pound of body weight.
Example: 75 kg (165 lb) person should consume 60 grams of protein per day.
According to many experts in the field, this is simply not sufficient enough to maintain or gain muscle as we age. Getting sufficient protein intake is essential, especially in the context of weight loss and aging. We will touch on each of these individually.
Muscle Mass in Weight Loss
Have you ever lost weight doing some type of low carb or low calorie crash diet, only to see the weight come right back on. This was in part, very likely due to much of the weight you lost being muscle mass. When you lost the muscle mass, you had a decrease in metabolism, which made keeping the weight off difficult. You were burning less calories, and the excess calories were being store, leading to weight gain. Thus, it is important for a person seeking to lose weight, lose the right weight, meaning the weight that is lost is fat mass, and their muscle mass is preserved, thus helping preserve their metabolism.
Muscle Mass in Aging
As we age, it becomes increasing difficult to gain, or even maintain muscle mass. This has been shown in multiple studies to lead to a decrease in quality of life, decrease in mobility, increase in falls, and increase in hip fractures. The converse is true as well. The more muscle mass one has in their later years the better their quality of life, as well as a decrease in risk of falls and hip fractures. Therefore, as we age, adequate protein intake is vital.
So how much protein should you be eating? Assuming one has no underlying kidney issues or other health problems causing impaired protein metabolism:
For weight loss: 0.8-1 gram per pound of body weight
For building muscle: 1 gram per pound of body weight
(Note: Max of 40-50 grams per meal)
If you would like to learn more or want help achieving your weight loss goals or hormone optimization reach out to our team at Biosymmetry Wilmington and schedule a consult.