Protein Facts and Fiction
Want to look like a bodybuilder with six pack abs? The secret is adding more protein to your diet. At least, that is what websites and companies manufacturing and marketing protein powders, drinks, and bars want you to believe.
I’m not sure how six pack abs came into being. Most men who drink six bottles of beer per day have a beer belly that doesn’t even come close to the chiseled features in diet and exercise advertisements.
What is Protein?
Proteins are a source of amino acids used by your body to make proteins like hemoglobin, antibodies, and hormones like insulin.
Most people lose about 1 percent of their muscle mass each year after age thirty. The more active you are, the slower the loss. It is the old use it or lose it adage.
A sedentary lifestyle accelerates muscle loss. Weight bearing activities like walking, running, hiking, strength training, and dancing build and maintain muscles.
Maintaining muscle is one way to reduce or prevent falls which increase dramatically after age 60.
How Much Protein Do You Need?
Research done over 50 years ago on young people (under 60) concluded eating 0.36 grams per pound of body weight is sufficient. That comes to about:
- 45 grams if you weigh 125 pounds
- 70 grams if you weight 195 pounds
More recent research indicates 0.36 grams may be sufficient for people under 60, but that older people should eat about 0.5 grams per pound of body weight. That simplifies the calculation since all you have to do is divide your weight in pounds by 2. At 0.5 grams per pound, you’d need about:
- 62 grams if you weigh 125 pounds
- 98 grams if you weight 195 pounds
That is about a 28 percent increase over the current Recommended Daily Allowance.
Standard American Diet (SAD)
Most Americans eat enough protein, without the need for supplements, powers, drinks, and bar, even eating a high carbohydrate diet. Some fast food 1/3 pound hamburgers have up to 45 grams of protein.
A Standard American Diet is about:
- 35 percent fat
- 35 percent protein
- 30 percent carbohydrates
If you need 2,400 calories per day, it breaks down to:
- 840 calories from fat
- 840 calories from protein
- 720 calories from carbohydrates
Carbohydrates and protein have 4 calories per gram and fat 9 calories per gram. The number of grams comes to:
- 93 grams fat
- 210 grams protein
- 180 grams carbohydrates
As you can see, even though the number of calories from fat and protein is identical, it takes less than half the amount of fat to provide the same number of calories.
Without protein powders, shakes, and bars, most Americans eat 2 to 3 times the protein their bodies need even at the higher 0.5 grams per pound of body weight. Most Americans aren’t eating too little protein, they are eating too much protein.
People on low carbohydrate diets eat more protein, but that doesn’t mean they will lose less muscle over time. Protein builds and maintains muscle but current research does not support that eating more protein builds muscle.
Straight Training and Muscle Mass
Research does support the fact that strength training builds muscle. Weight bearing activities like walking and dancing also maintain and build muscle.
As I stated earlier, if you don’t use your muscles you will lose your muscles. Think about how you feel after the a long illness and bed rest. You feel wasted and have less strength and energy. Prolonged bed rest produces muscle atrophy. It doesn’t take a lot of strength to lie in bed, on a couch, or sit in a chair.
The older you get the worse it gets. How many older people do you see shuffling their feet or using a scooter in stores rather than walking? The numbers are increasing and going from car to scooter does not build muscle.
Types of Strength Training And Weight Bearing Activities
Strength training is more than lifting weights. And you don’t have to work out for hours a day to maintain muscle mass. What it does involve is getting up out of your chair or off the couch and moving!
Here are just a few muscle building activities:
Yes, even cooking and washing the dishes helps maintain and build muscles.
Labor saving devices are convenient, but they have contributed to the sedentary American lifestyle. People born in the last 40 years know of no other lifestyle. Refrigerators defrost themselves, washers ring out excess water, dryers replace hanging cloths on a line to dry, and the list goes on.
While saving labor, you increase your risks of accelerated muscle loss, instability, falls, and death.
It is unfortunate with so much emphasis today on a Paleo diet, that the diet does not emphasize a Paleo lifestyle that entails giving up all modern labor saving devices including cars and trucks.
Like most areas regarding human nutrition, there is still a lot that is not fully understood. Nutrition is a complex science, but one thing is clear. A diet high in refined sugar and flour is a deadly combination. Combined with inactivity, it has increased obesity, diabetes, and the risk of heart disease.
There is a high probability you are eating more protein than your body needs and do not need protein supplements.
There are no studies linking increased protein consumption with increased muscle mass.
To save and build muscle, do regular strength training or weight bearing activities.