Protein-too much, too little, or just right

To start off, class was great last night. There are 18 people registered, which means lots of new people to meet. The professor is excellent. It was a lot of fun.

Before I headed off to class last night I needed to grab a quick snack. The idea is that since the class is during dinner time everyone will volunteer to bring in something. Thursday I am making 7 layer bean dip, so stayed tuned for that. I was worried that there may not be something vegetarian that I could eat, so I grabbed a yogurt before heading over to the base. I have been dying to try this. It is a German yogurt (or so I think! Our commissary gets food deliveries from Germany), banana flavor with a side of chocolate flakes.

It reminds me of those cottage cheese duos with the fruit on the side.

It was really delicious, although the chocolate was richer than I expected. Good thing I really did get to eat a dinner meal in class. Our site director brought in vegetarian vegetable soup. She also brought some nice bread. There were also cookies, mini candy bars (as Halloween is approaching), soda, water and chips.
Since I wanted to show everyone my tasty yogurt find and I am just finishing a week of teaching my students about proteins, I thought I would give everyone some information about protein and show some of the sources we have in our home.

PROTEIN: large, complex molecules made up of amino acids and found as essential components of all living cells

ESSENTIAL AMINO ACIDS: Amino acids not produced by the body that must be obtained from food

NON-ESSENTIAL AMINO ACIDS: Amino acids that can be manufactured by the body in sufficient quantities and therefore do not need to be consumed regularly in the diet

INCOMPLETE PROTEINS: Foods that do not contain all of the essential amino acids in sufficient amounts to support growth and health

COMPLETE PROTEINS: Foods that contain all 9 essential amino acids

So I spent most of the past 7 days discussing how much protein the body really needs. First, we have the RDA for protein which is 0.8 g/kg body weight (there are 2.2 kg per pound of body weight if you want to do the conversion). This is sufficient protein for the body. The question that kept coming up was if exercising requires more protein. The answer is NO. The reason for this is that the body still needs just the RDA for protein. Extra protein does not build muscle, rather protein helps to repair muscle after a workout.

The reason why someone may consume additional protein likely has to do with the acceptable macronutrient distribution range, which is a guide to balancing the diet by knowing what percentage of the diet should come from each of the macronutrients. For protein this range is 10-35% of the diet. A diet moderate in protein would be 15-20%. The RDA does not mean that is all you can eat, but is rather a guide to what your not needs to function and synthesize new proteins within the body.

So, someone who exercises may consume some additional calories. Where are these calories going to come from? Fat, carbohydrate AND protein. So if a person would normally consume 1500 calories a day and wanted 20% from protein, this would be (1500 x .2= 300 kcals from protein and there are 4 cals/gram protein, so 300/4= 75 grams of protein) 75 grams. If they start a rigorous exercise plan and wind up eating 1800 kcals to support this, then 20% of the diet would be 90 grams of protein. This is going to exceed the RDA, but remains appropriate for the diet, which is still balanced. In the end, this person really just needs extra protein because they are consuming more calories. So it is in balance and likely not overconsumed.

There are some reasons why someone may need more protein: burns, trauma, wounds/pressure ulcers, HIV, cancer, dialysis patients, and a slight increase during pregnancy. Someone with kidney failure not on dialysis would need to restrict protein depending on their actual kidney function. So you can see that there is a lot that goes into protein needs for the day.

The good news is that protein deficiency is rare in the United States. High risk groups for inadequate consumption of protein in the United States would include vegetarians and low income families. Otherwise, most people consume way more protein than they actually need.

So I thought I would show some of my protein choices since I am a vegetarian. I make sure to include protein regularly in my diet, without going overboard.

Here is a yogurt Ryan found at the local grocery store. This is a Portugese Dannon product. He said they were very rich and creamy.
These are 2 others of those German (?) yogurts. I am looking forward to trying these.
I like to prepare tofu and veggies for dinner.
Remember how I said that we bake brownies for our nextdoor neighbors. It seems they REALLY liked the brownies and my cookies (we threw in a few of those). This morning when I took the dog outside the lady next door gave me these fresh eggs. What a great source of protein (the best in fact)!
Beans and peanut butter are great vegetarian sources too.
And of course veggie burgers and black bean burgers. My favorite product is Quorn but I can't get it here. If you have never tried this, I highly recommend it. It is a mycoprotein, meaning it comes from the mushroom family. I use the chicken pieces to add to quesadillas and it is tasty with artichokes on a whole wheat crust pizza. But in the meantime, I will continue to use these products which are available to me here at the commissary.
Of course if you are not a vegetarian there are all of those meat sources from which to obtain your protein. Protein from animal sources are complete and do contain all of those essential amino acids. It is a bit more tricky for vegetarians since we need to combine proteins, meaning choosing foods that are complementary proteins. If one food, for example beans (AKA legumes) is missing methionine and cysteine, you would combine it with a food that has those essential amino acids. Grains, such as rice happen to have those 2 amino acids, but are missing lysine, which is found in legumes. By eating those two together you will actually consume all of the essential amino acids, and the meal would contain what the body needs. All essential amino acids need to present at one time in order for new protein synthesis to occur within the body.
I am sure all of you eat enough protein daily, but hopefully this post gave you some new and interesting information about proteins and protein consumption. Let me know if you have any questions.
QUESTION: What is your favorite meat-free alternative? Do you think you get enough protein daily?


Gina; The Candid RD said...

SO WIERD! I WAS JUST thinking about my protein intake last night!!!! I am not a vegetarian, but I really don't eat a lot of meat. LAst night for dinner I have 2.5 ounces of tuna for my protein, and I was like, "is this enough protein"?! Then I thought, ok, what's the recommendation?? (I can never remember if it's .8 per pound or per kg!! I'm such a great RD) Anyway, I decided I get plenty Why? I eat cheese and drink milk.
So many people think extra protein is necessary for building muscle, but in reality you just pee it out if you take in too much! And, it hurts your kidneys.
Great post!

Gina; The Candid RD said...

GREAT point about fat and PMS. I'm trying to make sense of the whoe fat thing. When you are having PMS your estrogen drops, right? And estrogen is high when you have a lot of body fat. So maybe when your estrogen drops, your body feels like it's lacking fat? Then you crave it? I like to think about mechanisms...any ideas?

chow and chatter said...

see i told you to get miller !!

Anonymous said...

Yes, they are German yogurts... :) I remember the "Knusper Ecke".... :)

Great info regarding protein. I eat some meat but very little. I eat Greek yogurt, cheese, and drink some milk. I also eat lentils, rice, corn, beans....

Emily said...

I think the protein question (more protein for building muscles) is a common one. Thanks for the review! Do you think repairing muscle is part of the building process, though? For example, muscle growth can only happen if synthesis of PRO exceeds muscle PRO breakdown. Just wondering. :-)

I'm leaning more and more toward going veg after seeing Food, Inc. etc. I really don't handle dairy too well or tofu, so it's a bit tricker for me. I do love PB and can eat eggs, though.

Unknown said...

i like morning star farms black bean burgers! i am 99% sure that's what the "black bean burger" is @ Cafe Hon in B-more :) i also eat tofu - and my husband the carnivore eats it too! yum :)

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