How Much Protein Do You Really Need?

by Jo-Ann Heslin, MA, RD, CDN on December 6, 2018 · 1 comment

Everywhere you turn, food is being pumped with added protein – broth, cereal, yogurt, bread, frozen dinners, energy bars, jerky, snack chips as well as meat and milk substitutes. We are led to believe that we are a protein deprived population. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Protein is part of every cell inside you. It is needed for thousands of chemical reactions and holds our bodies together structurally. But, it is a very misunderstood nutrient. Proteins are made up of long strings of amino acids, the building blocks of protein. Twenty amino acids can be made in the body, 9 cannot and they must be supplied by food. Eating protein is important but eating an excessive amount has little or no value.

An interesting research observation, recently published in Circulation: Heart Failure, showed that middle-aged and older men who ate higher amounts of protein had a higher risk for heart disease than those who ate less. The researchers speculated that a moderate protein intake might be another healthy habit to reduce the incidence of heart disease in men.

Bottom line:

  • Proteins first job in the body is to build and repair cells.
  • Using protein as fuel is wasteful, carbs and fat are better utilized.
  • Though you need protein to live, no one needs excessive amounts.
  • Extra protein does not build muscles. Adequate protein, carbs and extra exercise are the key factors in building muscles.
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