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Protein, protein, protein. It’s all about protein. What protein shake do you take? Whey or casein? Soya or rice? Protein shake directly post workout or before sleep? Do you eat steak or chicken?
Proteins are the building blocks of the body. Out of 20 amino acids there are nine essential amino acids that the body cannot produce on its own.
We have all been there, done that. Whether you are a vegan or a paleo diet advocate, we can all agree that a good amount of calories should come from protein. One of the most fundamental questions in the fitness industry has remained the same for decades and been subject to dozens of studies:
How much protein do you need?
Before I tackle the question let me state that the answers I give, apply to the healthy human body with its natural hormonal levels. Values for enhanced athletes are not included.
Proteins are the building blocks of the body. Out of 20 amino acids there are nine essential amino acids that the body cannot produce on its own. This means that they have to be acquired through diet. Whether it is organs, enzymes or the skin, almost everything is made out of a combination of essential and non-essential amino acids. These connected form protein molecules. The term for building these protein molecules is called protein biosynthesis.
Not only is protein needed to keep the body healthy and its functions running, it is also necessary for building new muscle fibres and retaining muscles in a calorie restricted diet.
So how much protein should be consumed in order to get the best results possible?
There are several studies that show different outcomes. Some studies display that protein intake slightly higher than 1 gram per pound of bodyweight is most optimal. Other studies however show that anything more than 0.8 grams per pound of body weight does not have any benefits.
But where does the sweet spot lay?
As always, it all depends on the individual and its goals. If the goal is to build muscles, then it will not be of a disadvantage to aim for a little more than 1 gram of protein per pound of body weight. Even if it is turned into glucose it will not do any harm. If the goal is to lose body fat on a diet where all macronutrients are allowed to be consumed, it will not affect the diet negatively either. In the contrary it has been proven that a higher intake of protein boosts metabolism.
The only form of diet that comes to my mind where it can be counterproductive to consume more protein than your body can process, is if you stick to a ketogenic style diet. In a ketogenic diet carbohydrates are restricted to 50 grams and below. This diet works by keeping insulin levels low and constant. So instead of using carbohydrates as the primary fuel source and turning them into glucose the body uses fats and forms ketones. If protein intake is too high the excessive amount of protein is synthesized into glucose. This will result in an insulin rise and stop the state of ketosis. The process of turning protein into glucose is called gluconeogenesis. The problem is, that the threshold where the excess amount of protein in the body is turned into glucose is different in every human being. This can only be found out by trial and error.
So depending on what your goal is and by which means it should be reached, these factors have to be taken into consideration. So go for it ?