DENVER — Protein is having a moment right now and for good reason. Many studies have found that adequate protein can help to maintain muscle mass, decrease mortality, and aid in weight loss efforts by providing satiety without increasing insulin levels.
How much protein do I need?
The DRI (Dietary Reference Intake) for protein is 0.8 grams per kilogram of body weight. This translates to 0.36 grams per pound. This is a general recommendation, as protein needs vary based on gender, age, activity level, and chronic disease status. That means that the 0.8g/kg is a starting point but you may go up or down in content depending on your goals and needs.
When should you be consuming protein? A new study found that consuming protein at breakfast or lunch helped older individuals maintain muscle mass.
Other studies have found that eating a full serving of protein at each meal could also help with muscle mass maintenance. Finally, studies in athletes have found that consuming protein such as whey protein right after exercise may help with muscle growth.
What kind of protein is best?
Recent studies have found that plant protein can actually assist with helping you live longer. A 2020 study in the British Medical Journal found that consumption of plant protein was associated with an 8% lower risk of death from all causes and a 12% lower risk of death from cardiovascular disease.
Plant protein is found in beans and legumes, nuts and seeds, nutritional yeast and some whole grains. Soy protein, for example, can be found in tofu and tempeh.
What about proteins from animals? The data shows they may not all be equal. For example, a study published in the JAMA found that excess consumption of protein from sources such as red and red processed meats were associated with a higher risk of death.
It’s important to note, however, that in the JAMA study, participants who had an increased risk of mortality also had at least one unhealthy lifestyle factor as well.
The bottom line on protein
Protein consumption can go a long way in terms of improving your overall health. Work with your health provider to determine how much you should consume daily and aim for focusing most of your protein sources from plants, leaving room for whey, chicken and fish on the animal side. If meat is your protein thing, then focus on grass finished options.
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