Every time I watch a documentary on global warming, the idea of cutting down on energy consumption seems to get completely glossed over and the take away is: EAT LESS MEAT. I also hear this from the health community. When I was in school to become a dietitian, the constant message was that people are EATING WAY TOO MUCH meat; we’re getting more than enough protein.
I think the growth of the vegan and vegetarian movement is based primarily on emotions, with cherry-picked data to back it up with “logic.” Meat has long been considered “evil.” In fact, corn flakes were invented by John Harvey Kellogg to stop masturbation. He felt that eating spicy, protein-rich foods lead to increased sexual arousal. The guy was on a mission to end sex all together, which he felt was at the root of many health issues like epilepsy and cancer. In addition to advocating a meatless diet, did all kinds of sick things, especially to kids and women.
Today, eating a plant-based diet is still associated with being “clean” and “pure.” When looking at the “levels of vegetarianism,” eating red meat is considered the “worst,” with no real logic to back this up in my mind. How is eating chicken a “cleaner” choice than beef? If you’ve ever raised chickens, I’m sure you’ll agree that they are NOT clean, pure, or any better of a choice than a cow, sheep, or lamb. Chickens are actually quite dirty and are cannibals; they will peck each other to death if stressed – and CAFOs are pretty stressful on chickens.
Environmentalists say that beef is destroying the environment, and health advisors are saying that it’s killing us. As a “real food” dietitian who lives on a working farm, I understand the importance of properly raised herbivores in helping to sequester carbon. I tend to talk about the benefits of meat in nutrition to environmentalists, and talk about the importance of regenerative agriculture to the nutrition crowd. There doesn’t seem to be a lot of overlap in these two areas. It’s like you can’t possibly be “pro planet” and “pro meat” at the same time. Am I really the only one who thinks this is possible?
There seems to be a big disconnect. I personally don’t think that you have to give up meat if you want to be an environmentalist. I wonder if our assumption that we’re eating “so much protein/meat” is actually a result of feeling guilty about eating meat in general.
“When you assume, you make an ass out of you and me.” – Mr. Mangano, my high school math teacher.
When I attend the environmental conferences, I don’t see any dietitians on the “How Much Meat Should We Eat?” panels. It’s usually a bunch of chefs saying, “Less Meat, Better Meat.” This is a very popular position to take, but is it correct? I don’t see data/studies being referenced on how much meat we’re ACTUALLY eating, or how much protein humans really need.
So, I decided to do some research. How much protein do we actually need? What is this based on? How much protein/meat are we actually eating? Is it really too much, enough, or too low? What are the best sources of protein for vegetarians? Why do women in particular avoid red meat? Originally, I thought this would a simple, maybe 500 word post. I actually opened a big can of worms, so I need to break it into several separate posts. Here’s the answer to the first question, plus a look into what happens when we over or under eat protein.
1. How Much Protein Do We Actually Need?
According to the US Dietary Guidelines, the RDA (Recommended Daily Allowance) of 0.8 grams of protein per kg of bodyweight. In the case of protein, the RDA of 0.8g/kg is the minimum amount to avoid loss of lean muscle mass.
The current RDA for protein intake is explained in the Dietary Reference Intakes by the Institute of Medicine, which based protein intake recommendations on nitrogen balance studies. Nitrogen balance is the difference between nitrogen intake and excreted nitrogen. It’s difficult to measure, and varies greatly between individuals. It’s very easy to underestimate adequate protein levels based on these studies. In fact, here is a direct quote from the paper, “In adults, it is generally presumed that the protein requirement is achieved when an individual is in zero nitrogen balance. To some extent, this assumption poses problems that may lead to under-estimates of the true protein requirement.”
Way before these guidelines were introduced, much higher protein recommendations were proposed. In this 1912 book, nitrogen balance studies were questioned as inaccurate measures of protein requirements, and a recommendation of at least 100 grams of digestible protein (so, not just grams of protein, but the bioavailability of the protein) be consumed.
Translating the RDA of 0.8g protein/kg BW to the public is difficult (some people I’ve talked to don’t even know what protein is), so the folks who put together the US Dietary Guidelines decided to give actual numbers to people. They based the numbers on a “reference” man of 70kg (154lbs) and a “reference” woman at 57kg (125lbs). So, if you look up, “How much protein should I eat?” the numbers you’ll often find are 56 grams a day for men and 46 grams per day for women. These are based on 0.8g protein per kg BW based on those references. The problem is, how many men do you know who are 154lbs and women who are 125lbs? NOT MANY.
I then checked out what the CDC says for the average American man: 88.6kg (195.5lbs) and the average woman is 75.6kg (166.2lbs). That’s a big difference from the above “ideal” man and woman! According to the 0.8 grams of protein calculation, that the average American man needs 71 grams of protein per day and the average American woman needs 60 grams, at a minimum. This still represents a relatively low protein intake in my opinion, so I kept looking around for more information.
There’s this other protein guideline called the Acceptable Macronutrient Distribution Range (AMDR). The AMDR is defined as “a range of intakes for a particular energy source that is associated with reduced risk of chronic diseases while providing adequate intakes of essential nutrients.” The recommended range for protein according to the ADMR is 10% – 35% of caloric intake. (In the 1977 guidelines, the recommendation was only 10% – 14%)
The USDA Estimated Caloric Needs Per Day recommends about 2000 calories per day diet for average, moderately active women and about 2600 calories per day for moderately active men. The “reference” woman is 5 feet 4 inches tall and weighs 126 pounds and the “reference” man is 5 feet 10 inches tall and weighs 154 pounds. Again, these are not “average” weights for Americans. Using 10%-35% of calories from protein, the reference woman would need 50 – 175 grams of protein per day, and the reference man needs 65 – 228 grams of protein per day. This is a very large range! This makes the RDA of 0.8g/kg at below the ADMR range. So, given this context, are we still eating too much protein?
Interestingly, I found a post published by the US Library of Medicine, recommending a person on a 2,000 calorie diet get 20% of their calories from protein. This means a target of 100 grams per day. This number is about DOUBLE what the US Dietary Guidelines recommend.
I was also wondering if the US Military had slightly different recommendations. There is a Military Recommended Daily Allowance (MRDA) for rations. MRDA for protein are based, in part, on an estimated nutritional requirement of 0.8 gm/day/kg of body weight. (See table 2–1.)
“Protein allowance is based on an estimated protein requirement of 0.8 gm/kilograms (kg) desirable body weight. Using the reference body weight ranges for males of 60 to 79 kilograms (132 – 173lbs) and for females of 46 to 63 kilograms (101 – 138lbs), the protein requirement is approximately 48 to 64 grams for males and 37 to 51 grams for females. These amounts have been approximately doubled to reflect the usual protein consumption levels of Americans and to enhance diet acceptability.”
When you see the table, the protein recommendation is 100grams. Why would the army just go ahead and DOUBLE the protein recommendations, if they were based on any kind of science?
And if things were’t confusing enough, I looked at “My Plate” recommendations, which are intended to be how the US Dietary Guidelines are broken down into “simple” terms, to used as a mass teaching tool. Here is what they recommend for intake from “protein” foods:
You’ll see that the protein recommendations are listed as ounce “equivalents”. My Plate says, “In general, 1 ounce of meat, poultry or fish, ¼ cup cooked beans, 1 egg, 1 tablespoon of peanut butter, or ½ ounce of nuts or seeds can be considered as 1 ounce-equivalent from the Protein Foods Group.”
The problem is that the ounce equivalents really aren’t equal if you look up the grams of protein they have. One ounce chicken or roasted beef equals about 8-9 grams of protein, 1 oz of fish is about 6, and 1 egg has 6 grams. For the non-meat options, 1 tablespoon of peanut butter has 4g protein and 1/4 cup of cooked beans has 4.2 grams of protein. So, if a woman following the above guidelines ate the recommended 5 ounce equivalents of protein they would get about 6 grams per ounce, for about 45 grams per day.
Now, My Plate also recommends 3 cups of milk for men and women. It also offers other options to drinking milk, “In general, 1 cup of milk, yogurt, or soymilk (soy beverage), 1 ½ ounces of natural cheese, or 2 ounces of processed cheese can be considered as 1 cup from the Dairy Group.”
1 cup of 1% milk has 8g of protein. 1 cup of low fat yogurt has about 11g of protein, 8 grams in a cup of soy milk, and 1.5 oz of natural cheese has 10g of protein, so when you add the dairy in, the average woman is getting about 27 more grams of protein from the milk group, on top of the protein foods group. However, many people in the world are lactose intolerant, and milk is not part of the dietary guidelines of most countries. Three cups of milk/servings of dairy is a lot in my opinion.
There is also some protein (not much) in grains and vegetables, so this could add on a few more grams. So, when you look at it, the My Plate recommendations actually equal about 75g of protein when you add dairy and other foods to the “protein foods” group for the “average” woman and 81g of protein for “average” men. This is at the lower end of the ADMR of 10% – 35%. For a woman, 75g of protein on a 2,000 calorie diet is only 15% of calories from protein, and it’s an even lower percentage, at 12 % for a man on a 2600 calorie diet. These are the caloric recommendations in the US Dietary Guidelines for men and women with “moderate” activity levels, ages 26 – 45. Also, the guidelines say that we should limit our sugar intake to less than 10% of calories. How is protein basically at the same nutritional status as sugar? No wonder why nobody trusts nutrition advice anymore.
2. Are there dangers of eating too much protein?
According to the Dietary Reference Intakes by the Institute of Medicine, “the current state of the literature does not permit any recommendation of the upper level for protein to be made on the basis of chronic disease risk.” and, “high protein intake had no detrimental effect on protein homeostasis.” This study also showed no harmful effects of a diet of >3g/kg/d in healthy, resistance-trained men.
In my clinical practice, when I recommend about 100 grams of protein a day, largely from animal sources, I sometimes get push back. Some women tend to think it’s “gross” to eat that much, and they think it’s too “heavy” or they feel bad to be eating so many animals. I address the moral argument here, and am exploring women’s relationship to red meat more in this recent post. I find that most men don’t argue quite as much. When I tell them to eat meat, they are pretty psyched.
Others have heard that meat can cause cancer and is harmful to the kidneys. The fact is, in healthy people, increased protein intake has no harmful effect on the kidneys at all. The kidneys simply adapt. While low protein diets can be therapeutic for those with kidney disease, this does not mean that a high protein diet caused kidney disease. Chris Kresser expands on meat and it’s relation to kidney function, cancer, and IGF-1 (it’s probably the methionine, not the protein) in this post.
There are several hunter gatherer cultures that eat lots of meat, however just because they’re eating meat, doesn’t meat their diet is only protein. One study of an Eskimo population in 1855 found that when they were eating an “all meat” diet, their protein intake was only 44% due to high fat intake. During times of plenty, they would consume 4 to 8 pounds of meat a day, with a daily average food partition of about 280 gm. of protein, 135 gm. of fat, and 54 gm. of carbohydrate of which the bulk is derived from the glycogen of the meat eaten. Early American explorers survived for extended periods of time only on pemmican, a food made of dried lean meat mixed with fat, with a protein content of 20 to 35%.
Protein is the most satiating of the macronutrients, and intakes of 15% – 30% of caloric intake can be quite helpful in regulating appetite by increasing leptin sensitivity and induces weight loss and increase blood sugar control. In this meta-analysis, high protein diets of 25% – 32% of calories compared to the control groups of 15% – 20% (which is still higher than the RDA), showed beneficial effects on weight loss, HbA1C levels and blood pressure in patients with type 2 diabetes. This post shows that increased protein seems to be the key to a hunger-free diet, as weight loss in two studies was successful in both low-carb and low-fat diets when protein was between 22% – 25%.
3. What are the dangers of eating too little protein?
Your body needs protein, and if you don’t get it through diet, your body will start breaking down your muscle and other tissues in order to get protein. This leads to muscle wasting and weakness. Immune function decreases because protein is required for antibodies. Adequate protein is also required for bone health. You also need protein as enzymes and to carry oxygen to tissues, so low protein can cause lethargy. Low protein is also associated with hair loss, brittle nails and cold hands and feet. Low protein can cause weight gain. B12 deficiency (a vitamin only available in animal protein) has been shown as an independent risk factor for coronary artery disease and serious neurological disorders in infants of vegan mothers.
4. So, how much protein should you eat?
In summary, we are being told to eat 0.8g/kg of protein per kg of bodyweight. We’re also being told by My Plate that nearly 60% of our dietary intake of protein should be in the form of dairy or soy milk products. It’s incredibly confusing to determine how much meat to eat and the recommendations don’t really seem to be based on much science, due to the inaccuracy of nitrogen balance studies and the gigantic ranges from the ADMR.
It seems that 100g of protein on a 2,000 calorie diet is a very reasonable amount, and many of you are eating much more than 2,000 a day, so this means beef up your protein, folks. Most Americans report eating between 1800 and 2500 calories per day (and self-reported data is usually on the low end) so this means, at 20% of calories, intake for Americans should really be between 90 and 125 grams of protein per day. If you’re getting this from meat, that looks like around 12oz – 16oz of meat a day. Break that between three meals, and this is 4-6oz of animal protein per meal. More if you’re eating more calories, or have a need for increased protein. So, the next time someone says to you we need to eat “less meat, better meat,” please share this post with them, and ask them how much protein they’re actually eating.
Next topics I’ll be exploring:
How much meat are we actually eating, and is it too much?
What are the optimal sources of protein?
What are the best vegetarian sources of protein?
Why don’t women eat more red meat?
And check out my previous posts:
How Much Feed Does it Take to Produce a Pound of Beef?
Meat is Magnificent: Water, Carbon, Methane and Nutrition
Why is it Necessary to Eat Animals?
It’s Impossible to be Vegan: Lessons from a 10yr Old Girl
Lia Parker says
Well done! Thank you for pulling all of this together in a readable and “shareable” if that’s a word, write up. Very grateful and will be sharing this. Cheers!!!
The US army give you the reasonthey double the protein, despite the science – to make it acceptable to the soldiers as it is closer to what they are used to.
You reject the average size of Americans, because you know they are overweight – but does carrying more fat require more protein?Just because you eat more calories than needed does not mean you have to up your protein in line with these uneccessary calories. You cant argue that there is a correct level of protein needed and then say that if you up your total calories you should keep the percentage the same and up your protein consumption – that isn’t an argunent. There is either a guideline for the amount needed or there isn’t. Overeating does not de facto mean you should be eating more meat.
I’d go with US Army recommendations before the unneeded doubling.
Diana Rodgers, RD says
The US Army DID double the recommendation. I’m not rejecting the size of average Americans, and yes, I do say here that they should eat more protein (not because they’re “fat”) Most people I know are NOT 125 or 154 but also are not “fat.” In this article, I’m saying that 20% of calories from protein is a very reasonable starting point, and that for most people, that’s AT LEAST 100g of protein per day. And the 100g per day is for a 2,000 calorie diet, which is pretty low compared to what the average caloric intake is. Your quote saying “There is either a guideline for the amount needed or there isn’t” is EXACTLY what I’m trying to point out here. Also, please review the link I put in about the protein leverage hypothesis – eating more protein will reduce overeating.
TIL cornflakes are not just gastrointestinally evil, but morally evil as well.
Elizabeth Resnick says
I have no idea how many grams of protein I am consuming in a day, although it would be interesting to track. I do know that my intake varies from day to day, and I really listen to my body. Getting enough protein (whatever that amount is) along with plenty of high quality fat, really does keep me satiated and focused. I was a vegetarian for over 30 years, but I definitely feel my best consuming animal protein every day. I’ve never really warmed up to chicken, but love pastured eggs, all types of fatty fish (just ate a can of sardines over broccoli roasted with avocado oil….so good!) and pastured beef.
cynthia spears says
I feel really sad you are not a vegetarian any longer another animal murdered for your pleasure. Animals feel pain just like humans .
Diana Rodgers, RD says
I was never a vegetarian.
Becky Davis says
Obviously, Cynthia, you haven’t read any of Diana’s other posts. She wrote a lovely one entitled “Why is it necessary to eat animals”. I suggest you take a look at that.
And please note that your meatless diet is far more damaging to animals, their environment, and even the humans producing the food than Diana’s…unless you too are living on a sustainable farm?
Comments like this make me cringe. If you think the meat you are eating is coming from Old McDonald’s farm, then I suggest you get informed. Over 50% of greenhouse emissions come from animal farming. And by farming I mean factory farming, which is nothing like what you have read in your books. They are crowded in pens and barely see the sun light. They are fed GMO corn and soy, not grass and fresh pasture. They are sick and sad their whole miserable lives. The conditions in which they are slaughtered and processed is absolutely disgusting, so most of the meat you find in the supermarket will contain fecal matter. Gross. What were are forgetting to acknowledge is this: the human population is already 5 times larger than what’s sustainable. If all 7 billion of us are eating meat, then how exactly do you think that meat is being produced? How much land, food and water has to be allocated to raise and feed your need? Look it up, please. Because your recycling, short showers are less emissions are dwarfd by the impact you would make by cutting down your animal protein consumption. And here’s another question for you: If we need animal protein to survive. Then where do elefants, cows, gorilas and all the other plant eating mammals out there get get their protein if they only eat plants, veggies and fruits?????????????????? We have a brain, people, let’s think. The meat and dairy industry is clever, of course they have their own marketing strategy to make us think we “need” their products. Please. Think!
Diana Rodgers, RD says
Some animals are herbivores and can digest cellulose and humans biologically CAN NOT do this. This is why we are omnivores. Cows eat grass. If I fed my child only grass, I would go to jail – because they would starve, because we can not eat grass. Your lack of biologic understanding and citation for your facts clearly indicates that you really do not know what you’re talking about – the 50% of emissions from animal farming is completely false. And maybe if you ate some meat you’d be able to spell ELEPHANTS better. But as you say, only you have a brain and the rest of us meat eaters do not. Thanks for the laugh!
Sorry, had to chime in. Cows do not just eat grass. Grass fed are far and few between when compared to the industry as a whole. Today’s grain they are fed comes from rendered product mixed with GMO corn, hormones, antibiotics etc. Our grain fed livestock in THIS nation, are not only ingesting poor quality ingredients, they are also becoming cannibals through no fault of their own. simply by rendered products going into US grain/kibble which is the fat and crude protein in all sorts of pet kibbles and livestock feed.
Also it’s not the “farming” itself that causes emissions, it’s the cattle/livestock themselves as well. Yes the slaughter and farming industry is a MONSTER when it comes to consuming oil and energy!!!
For example to make 1lb of beef requires about 32kw of energy, and ONE cattle will consume about 1,800 gallons of water in its short life. THATS MORE CONCERNING!!!! As just morales, a slaughter and processing plant, out here processes 600 cattle per hour, or 14,400 per day!!! We now have twice as many cattle in the world than people!!! 14 billion!!! Water supplies are dwindling worldwide and many people in other nations die daily because of not having clean drinking water.. the waste from processing plants contaminates groundwater even here in the US. It’s A very dirty business!!
Lastly, we do not need an entirely meat based protein diet. That is a farse!! There are several complete plant proteins that are found in nature. For example, 1 tablespoon of chlorella is 60-70% complete protein!! Just that 1 tablespoon of chlorella gives you far greater COMPLETE protein amounts Compared to one ounce of beef which is only 20% complete protein. Plus it’s abundant and not harming the environment.
I could go on for days, but I’ll stop here. Thanks!! 😉
Vernon Gorman says
Claudia, How will you feed 7 billion people with vegetables?… Can you say stripping the land to mono-crop, making all crops GMO to be round-up resilient and the ensuing malnutrition for mankind… I can
Eirik Garnas says
I don’t see you mentioning this recent paper: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27109436
It summarizes the latest research regarding human protein requirements. The key takeaway is that minimum protein requirements may have
been underestimated by as much as 30-50%.
I think you’ll find it interesting.
On a side note, I agree with your recommendation to derive >20% of calories from protein.
Diana Rodgers, RD says
There is also the theory that alkaline minerals like potassium, magnesium, calcium, sodium, can help the body «spare» protein (while phosphorus may do the opposite). Loren Cordain would suggest this, but also Ray Peat, and he explains how below. It has even been shown that older people with > 5000 mg potassium/day have several pounds more muscle mass than those with half the intake. So both higher protein AND a diet higher in fruits/veggies (high potassium) seems to protect against muscle loss in older people. Human milk is just 6% protein. But of course it depens on the type of protein. Does it come from organ meats or egg yolks? Or soybeans and grains? What is the amino acid profile? Does the diet supply enough taurine (which like choline can help prevent fatty liver and also likely as choline also spare protein) etc etc. To put it short: a grain based diet may increase protein requirement (high phosphorus, low potassium), while a diet where the carbohydrates comes from tubers, fruits, vegetables, will reduce protein requirement.
From Ray Peat interview:
«Herb Doctor: There’s a thing that they call the potential renal acid load of the food, the PRAL, that I guess is a measure of how much ammonia or protons are within the food when it’s metabolized and that’s the kind of ash value as it were, of the food. How realistic do you think it is to consume alkalizing materials and how that would affect the overall acid base balance when the stomach is so acidic.
RP: Well I think it’s very safe to consume a great excess of the alkaline material. The fruit and vegetable and milk people do. And the body can produce and change protein, for example, into ammonia and if it doesn’t have enough mineral, it will waste protein turning it into the equivalent of the alkaline material and using the ammonia as the cation equivalent of the sodium so it can save the sodium, and calcium and so on.
Herb Doctor: Ok I always look to ammonia, as the NH4+, as being able to dissociate into hydrogen protons but I probably missed the point somewhere along the line. I know ammonia is a base, it’s not an acid. I think I got it messed up in closure…
RP: When it becomes the ammonia, that is the equivalent of sodium.
Herb Doctor: Right, that’s the NH4+. Alright, how realistic do you think it is to consume. Do you think that consuming things that have an excess of potassium, magnesium and calcium can actively work to raise the pH of someone’s environment?
RP: I think the main function is sparing protein that you would use for the kidneys to help to regulate the minerals. And for example, when a person’s fasting for several days, they will generally loose more protein than fat because the stress hormones rise and they live on a pure meat diet when they’re fasting as their tissues break down. And if during that fast if you just drink minerals – salt water, baking soda, potassium, magnesium and calcium – any of the alkaline minerals will radically spare the amount of protein that you would be consuming and wasting. So a fast is much less stressful and harmful if you’re getting the alkaline minerals.
Pedro Luis Schütz says
For the calculation of protein amounts, is it considered the use of “Net Protein” or NPU, which consists of estimating how much of each type of protein will actually be absorbed by the body?
Diana Rodgers, RD says
It’s based on nitrogen loss studies
Loved your Planet vs. Beef graph! I’d be glad to join you there!
Jeff B. says
I’m concerned that a blanket 100g protein for everyone is poor advice, as it has no context. I am 6’1″ 230 lbs, ideal body weight 175ish, whereas my wife is 5’1″ 115 lbs, near her ideal body weight. If the both of us ate 100g protein each day, she may feel sick trying to do so, and I may lose more LBM than I could have.
Since protein requirements are largely based on lean body mass or ideal body weight, wouldn’t it make more sense to give a recommendation based on a calculation, like 0.7g – 1.0g protein per pound of ideal body weight?
I’m sorry if I sound like I disagree with your article and final point, because I don’t disagree at all. I’m actually concerned at the number of ancestral health regiments that don’t emphasize *adequate protein* to limit lean body mass loss on a weight loss regiment and to decrease the risk of all of the points mentioned in #3.
Diana Rodgers, RD says
I am NOT recommending a blanket amount. I say that the recommendation of 10% – 35% of caloric intake is the ADMR, and that the RDA is too low, and that at least 20% of calories from protein is a reasonable place to start, so on a 2,000 calorie diet, this means 100g. I’m talking in this article about how the RDA is too low, and not based on science. I have not seen 0.7g – 1.0g protein per pound of ideal body weight referenced in any government data.
Please re-read the following paragraph from the article:
“It seems that 100g of protein on a 2,000 calorie diet is a very reasonable amount, and many of you are eating much more than 2,000 a day, so this means beef up your protein, folks. Most Americans report eating between 1800 and 2500 calories per day (and self-reported data is usually on the low end) so this means, at 20% of calories, intake for Americans should really be between 90 and 125 grams of protein per day. If you’re getting this from meat, that looks like around 12oz – 16oz of meat a day. Break that between three meals, and this is 4-6oz of animal protein per meal. More if you’re eating more calories, or have a need for increased protein. So, the next time someone says to you we need to eat “less meat, better meat,” please share this post with them, and ask them how much protein they’re actually eating.”
You say ” Most people I know are NOT 125 or 154 but also are not “fat.” ”
I would wager most men would be closer to 154 lean mass than 195
Women closer to 100-105 so why not base protein of that
I go .82g per lb of lean mass
At 175 my lean mass is 157.5 and I stay in the 130g /p area
Diana Rodgers, RD says
Most people do not know their body fat % (and those scales that say they calculate it are not very accurate) so calculating lean mass is not a great tool for the public, or even my nutrition patients in my opinion. You arriving at 130g of protein for yourself sounds like a reasonable amount based on your weight, or you could go a bit higher. I don’t like exact calculations because they don’t take into account individuality – some people will need a relatively higher amount of protein if they’re stressed, not healthy, looking to lose weight, compromised gut, etc. Some people do better ketogenic, which would be less protein.
The bottom line here is that most “regular” Americans are eating too many calories and not enough protein, so a reduction in junk food and an increase in protein is a good idea – shooting for about 20% or higher calories from protein is a good place to start and tweak from there depending how the person is doing. As a practitioner, I feel this is a much more “doable” approach for the masses than calculating lean body mass (with is not easy to do) and then multiplying it by .82g, which seems overly exact – and I am not sure what science that is based on.
As a 150lb guy I wish I could take more issue with you calling me odd but I am. This is a fat fat country. I’d be a total jerk for pointing out anyone overweight but it is totally normal for me to be mocked for being “too skinny” (i.e. not fat).
I don’t begrudge anyone their choice to eat meat. I personally haven’t for 7 years. It started mostly for ethical reasons but the real reason it stuck is because they’ve been the healthiest years of my life.
Not to be the stereotypical vegan who has to bring it up but I was also interested to know what is considered the right amount of protein and the article is pretty clear I’m mistaken for not getting it as meat. That said thanks for the info. I often end up around 80-120 grams a day and that seems to match really well with how much you found sensible.
Diana Rodgers, RD says
I looked at the protein in different animal and plant-based foods and wrote this. You can get protein from plants, but it’s not optimal. This is just a fact. http://sustainabledish.com/protein-better-protein/
It’s just difficult to get enough protein in an efficient fashion.
Meat is in fact unhealthy especially processed and red meat due to the amount of carcinogens present in the meat. Studies have also shown that milk and cheese are associated a higher risk of prostate and breast cancer and that’s not from some cherry picked data.
A plant based diet is healthier. Plants,nuts etc. help your body fight off cancer cells and so much more. It’s all backed by conventional science and not some cherry picked vegan website that makes absurd assertions.
If meat is the best source of nutrients for us humans how come we can’t eat it raw like carnivores? Why do we have to cook it? furthetmore today’s meat is especially unhealthy due to all the drugs they put in the food to make the animals grow faster and bigger.
And the daily protein suggestion is legit even if you excessive heavily. You might need more than 1g per lbs in some cases (Bodybuilders that are on Testosteron). All in all you can get all your proteins from plant based food. My break fast shake consists of 2 bananas, raw kale, chia seeds, oat meal, soy milk and almonds which equals roughly around 1700kcal and 50-60g protein. I do not weigh that much (69kg) so that’s technically already the recommended intake. I easily hit 130g of protein with a vegan diet. That’s almost 2g/kg which is waaaaay too much. Don’t spread biased misinformation. You can get protein from everywhere and not just meat. That applies to vitamins as well.
Who from the meat and/or dairy industry is paying you to spew this BS??? Who says we need all of this protein? Oh yes, the meat and dairy industry and sponsors that they have paid to support them. We are herbivores. Plain and simple. Now don’t get me wrong, I LOVE meat & dairy. But that’s because I have been CONDITIONED to believe it’s what I need. It’s ALL BS. A plant based diet can serve every nutritional need we have – except B12 – which you can take a simple supplement for. STOP THE SUPPORT OF THE MEAT AND DAIRY CONGLOMERATES! If only we could truly have our eyes opened…. sigh…
If we were herbivores, we wouldn’t need a B12 supplement. And our digestive systems, teeth, and many other things point to us being omnivores. I’m all for healthy debate, but to say that we are clearly herbivores is just completely wrong.
I was going to same the same thing. It is just factually incorrect to say that we are herbivores.
Firstly, we are not herbivores. But that doesn’t mean we are adapted to eat large mammals and chunks of meat. Insects, fish, crustations and small amphibians and reptiles are what we are most adapted to eating. It’s a leap saying we should eat a pound of red meat a day because we need b12.
Secondly, B12 will easily come from the soil, root vegetables, dirty fingernails, etc. Hunter gatherer communities wouldn’t have an issue with B12, even if they didn’t eat any meat. Thus creating no evolutionary incentive to produce it ourselves, regardless.
Laura Paris says
Diana, I love and appreciate this article and I’m going to link to it in a program I’m teaching. I looked up the library of medicine article, because I wanted to see the 20% recommendation, but to me it looks like they are only using the 20% as an example, not a recommendation. I wanted to find that statement as an actual recommendation but I couldn’t.
I’ve always ate what I thought was a ‘fair amount’ of protein, with most of that being from meat and eggs.
Then I recently started reading/listening to Robbs work and have upped it quite a bit with great results.
Lowered carbs, mainly ‘junk’ carbs like grains/wheat especially..and upped protein t around 150g as I’m a fairly lean 200lbish main. Always ate plenty of good fat too