It’s hard to find a topic that is not controversial to the point of starting a fist fight these days…
Maybe I’m jaded but I have this sense that even if someone developed a cheap, easily accessible cure for all cancers, someone would be cranky about it and leave a “1 star review” for the effort.
Whether that’s only true for some of my Opium Den ramblings or not, there are some objective truths to be found in the world—even in the Crazy-ville that is nutrition. Although there is certainly individual variability in human nutrition, there are some consistent trends (if not outright truths) that hold water, no matter how cranky some folks get about them.
Let’s look at a few of these trendy truths as they relate to protein.
Protein: “We are getting too much! No, wait, not enough!”
The past few years have seen the rise of two interesting camps, both in academia and the interwebz.
One camp suggests that “we” are getting too damn much protein! We’re activating mTOR, accelerating aging, and just being wasteful gluttons in the process.
This camp loves fasting, protein and calorie restriction, and have taken the Longo Shot of selling 500 calorie per day processed meals that somehow help you mimic not eating, by eating really expensive garbage.
This first camp has some very interesting bedfellows you’d not expect to be pals, even if only in the sense that they generally fear protein: vegans and some of the fringier elements of the keto-sphere. It’s not uncommon to find folks in these circles recommending 50g of protein per for men, about 30g for women…and that’s PER DAY, not per meal!
I’m not in that camp.
I’m not vegan. I do like keto. But I like keto that does not strip you of muscle mass and encourage the individual to be so hungry from protein malnutrition that they end up gaining weight on a dietary plan that some still (erroneously) claim one cannot gain weight on.
Far too many people are eating not too much protein, but too little
After a lot of thinking, researching, and observation I’m in the 2nd camp which might be best described as “protein centric.”
There IS a point of diminishing returns with regards to eating protein, but in general I find far too many people are eating not too much protein, but too little.
Diana Rodgers and I dug into the details of this topic in our book and film, Sacred Cow (film releasing end of November!). I’m not going to rehash all that material as we lay it out in a pretty thoughtful way, but for a variety of reasons—including appetite control, optimal foraging strategy, thermic effect, nutrient density, preventing sarcopenia, making sure kids grow properly, and older folks stay in the fight as long as they can—we recommend consuming somewhere in the neighborhood of 1g or protein per lb of lean body mass, all the way up to 1 g of protein per lb of total bodyweight.
That’s a large spread, particularly if an individual is overweight, but when we get folks hovering somewhere in that range, literal magic happens.
And although that protein recommendation is controversial within certain circles, it’s pretty defensible based on the literature and clinical observations of working with folks.
Another nuance to this story is not just the amount of protein, but the type, and more specifically, the amounts and ratios of amino acids (particularly methionine and glycine) that we obtain from our food. There are a lot of important amino acids but for this article we will focus on the interplay of methionine and glycine as many folks are likely getting a bit too much of one and perhaps not enough of the other.
Methionine is an essential amino acid, which means we must obtain adequate amounts via dietary sources as our body cannot brew them up from scratch nor interconvert other amino acids into methionine. Methionine is a sulphur containing amino acid and plays a remarkable number of roles, including acting as a component of structural proteins to mitigating the risk of developing non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (that’s a very short accounting but good enough for today).
We tend to obtain large amounts of methionine from the most common animal protein sources: meat, eggs, etc.
Glycine by contrast is a conditionally essential amino acid, which means certain demands may make it impossible for the body to produce adequate amounts, thus necessitating larger dietary sources. Bones, skin, organs, and connective tissues are all relatively rich sources of glycine and this is where potential problems arise.
In general, modern folks are not getting enough glycine relative to methionine and this may be contributing to some health concerns including systemic inflammation.
In traditional food cultures folks tend(ed) to eat the whole critter. Just out of the soup category we have a short list of oxtail soup (I remember eating many a bowl of this with my grandmother who was raised in Arkansas), “cow foot” soup (a favorite in Central America), and fish head soup (hard not to find in most of Asia).
All these traditional foods represent consistent sources of not just protein, but glycine rich protein which balances the metabolic demands of methionine which is rich in the sources we mentioned above.
As awesome as I personally find things like organ meats and tripe (Phø Yea!), not everyone is into those fiddly-bits.
An easy, ecologically responsible and delicious way to not just augment your protein, but also make sure you are getting enough glycine is bone broth.
I use a combination of both home brew that I make monthly from the bones we freeze and then pressure cook to make broth, or the convenience of something like Kettle & Fire Bone Broth.
This may sound kinda nuts… but when we are in a hurry, just getting the family home from jiu jitsu, and we are HUNGRY, one of my go-to’s is some kind of simple soup using Kettle & Fire as a base.
We always have some grass fed ground beef or pastured chicken from our good friends at Pure Pastures as well as some locally caught, sustainably harvested Gulf shrimp on hand. I’ll ask the girls “chicken, beef or shrimp!?” and they yodel out a response.
I pour two packages of Kettle & Fire (always rotating flavors and varieties…you can’t go wrong with any of these) in a medium stock pot and add the meat for this meal (usually about 2lbs, which in total leaves us some leftovers). Then I dump in veggies—usually some kind of squash, tomato, carrots, or perhaps mushrooms. It takes about 15 min for that to cook and then it’s meal time.
Since my girls are pretty carb tolerant I make them some rice which they ladle the soup over. Being the carb-challenged kid that I am, I generally just tackle the soup as is.
We will do this for any meal of the day and do it at least 3-4x per week. To say this is a staple is an understatement.
Circling back to the opening of this piece…
A meal like this not only ticks the box of “adequate protein” but is also a great way to balance the methionine of the chicken, beef, or shrimp with the glycine rich goodness that comes from the bone broth.
I hope you found this valuable! Let me know what you think and also let us know how you are using bone broth to not just make great meals, but to address the important dietary issue of proper methionine to glycine ratio.
|My Go-To Protein Balanced Soup|