Most of us wouldn’t think of eating a 24 oz steak every day, but that is about the amount of protein a 190 lb man needs to support good health. Thankfully, one doesn’t need to consume a huge steak every day to get the protein one needs. There are multiple sources of protein that can be consumed throughout the day that are much healthier. These sources include the more obvious ones like meat, eggs, and dairy, but also include some fruits and vegetables we enjoy. We need to take all sources into consideration when looking at total protein intake. Additionally, current research is showing that eating too much protein at one time can have adverse effects.
Protein, carbohydrates, and fat are the macronutrients that make up our diet. To achieve weight loss, we change the amount and ratio of these to create an imbalance. This must be done in a manner that will preserve lean muscle while causing fat loss. If muscle mass is lost, our calorie needs decrease and it is more likely that the muscle will be replaced with fat. In ketogenic diets, this is achieved through lowering the intake of carbohydrates and carefully increasing protein intake to create the imbalance needed to put the body into the fat-burning state of ketosis. A mild state of ketosis is ideal for weight loss and can be maintained until the desired weight loss is achieved.
The amount and timing of protein intake in this process is of particular importance to maintaining the ketogenic state and reducing hunger but also ensuring the preservation of lean muscle mass. If too little protein is consumed or if it is not consumed often enough, the body will come out of the fat-burning state as it works to conserve stores of energy (fat). When too much protein is consumed it can have harmful effects on both the musculature and other systems.
“When too much protein and too little fat and carbs are consumed, your cells burn protein for energy. This can create an acidic environment in the body, which triggers calcium (a base) to get pulled out of bones to neutralize the acid. Muscle also tends to weaken in an acidic environment, which increases the risk of injury and premature aging. And when protein is burned for fuel in place of the carbs you’re not eating (your body’s preferred fuel source), it’s essentially wasted, because it’s not available to maintain and repair your muscle and other lean tissue.” (Sass, 2019)
Spreading one’s protein intake throughout several meals during the day will stimulate 24-hour protein synthesis. (Mamerow MM, 2014) A smaller, measured amount of protein eaten at regular intervals has also been shown to be more effective at reducing hunger even when fewer total calories are consumed (Paddon-Jones D, 2008).
About 30% of daily calories should come from protein for weight loss. (Castaneda & Fetters, 2019) Bariatric (weight loss) products are designed to allow the intake of protein 4-6 times per day while working to lose weight. If the goal is 1200 calories per day then 360 of those calories should come from protein which has 4 calories per gram. This means a person can consume 90 grams of protein per day. Taking into consideration other sources of protein such as spinach, eggs, and meat, one will probably want to consume about 60 grams of protein from nutritional products. Bariatric products are designed with about 15 grams of protein so one can have 4 of them during the day thereby spreading protein consumption out to ensure more efficient protein synthesis and greater satiety. This model for weight loss has been proven to not only be effective for healthy weight loss but has also been shown to result in less weight gain once goal weight has been achieved. (Sass, 2019)
If one uses a protein product with substantially more protein, one must also limit the number of times protein is consumed or risk a dangerously elevated daily protein intake. The recommendations are to consume 0.5 to 0.8 grams per pound of body weight per day. A person weighing 190 lbs should consume 95-152 grams of protein a day. The lower limit would be for someone who is moderately active while the upper limit would be for someone wanting to bulk up. Few would recommend the upper limit long-term because of the issues created by too much protein consumption. Even at the mid-level of about 124 grams per day, one will only have about 70 grams of protein to consume through protein products if also including eggs, meat, and vegetables in the diet. Even when looking to maintain weight and maximize muscle regeneration, it is best to spread protein consumption throughout the day. A person in this category would be able to enjoy five 15-gram products to maximize their absorption and satiety while also minimizing their caloric intake.
When deciding which protein products to include in any diet there are numerous considerations including taste, availability, convenience, and overall nutritional profile. While there are many protein products on the market today, most are designed only to deliver protein in a convenient package that will sell to the mass market. These products are not designed for weight loss and will often have the wrong ratios of macronutrients that are needed for weight loss and muscle preservation. It is good to remember the adage “Buyer Beware” when looking at a protein supplement online or on a store shelf.
Castaneda, R., & Fetters, K. A. (2019, August 29). How much protein do I need? U.S. News. Retrieved September 6, 2019, from https://health.usnews.com/wellness/food/articles/how-much-protein-do-i-need
Mamerow MM, M. J. (2014). Dietary protein distribution positively influences 24-h muscle protein synthesis in healthy adults. J Nutr., 144(6):876–880. doi:10.3945/jn.113.185280
Paddon-Jones D, e. (2008, May 01). Protein, weight management, and satiety. Am J Clin Nutr, 1558S-1561S. doi:10.1093/ajcn/87.5.1558S
Sass, C. (2019, September 5). Can I have Too Much Protein When Trying to Lose Weight? Retrieved from shape.com: https://www.shape.com/healthy-eating/should-you-eat-more-protein-lose-weight
Westerterp-Plantenga MS, L. S. (2012, August). Dietary protein – its role in satiety, energetics, weight loss and health. British Journal of Nutrition, 108, 105-112.