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Protein shakes are the rage these days, but do we know how much we need?
People drink them before a workout, after a workout, for a snack, in their morning smoothie, right before bed. They keep packs of powdered protein in their bags and at their desks. Ready to drink protein shakes are stashed in lunch coolers and refrigerators. Suggestions seem to vary widely from .3 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight to one or two grams per pound if you’re training? Are we consuming too much or not enough?
If protein is all you are eating, then your body is not getting the other nutrients it needs to survive, and if you’re not exercising or competitively training, your body doesn’t need the extra protein. You need to balance the macronutrients in your system.
To put it in perspective, a 175 pound / 79 kilo person who performs moderate exercise 4 – 6 days a week can safely consume 39 – 79 grams of protein a day. Each OWYN Protein drink has 20 grams of protein. So most of us can easily have two a day, and if we workout, we can have three or four. The likelihood of anyone drinking more than four shakes a day and not being a professional athlete is slim. If you happen to be doing just that, either add in a lot more exercise or cut down your protein.
If protein shakes have simply become a convenient way to get your calories, consider using one scoop in each drink instead of two. To make a more balanced meal out of it, add the protein powder to a smoothie with yogurt, oats, nuts, seeds, fruits, greens or other veggies. Try to reserve the pure protein shake for replenishing your muscles after a hard workout. If you are someone who needs a hard rule to follow, then stick with .5 – 2 grams of protein per kilogram of your body weight unless a doctor or certified sports coach tells you otherwise.
There is a lot of information out there saying such things as too much protein can increase your risk for osteoporosis by lessening the calcium stored in your bones. The more common theory thrown around online is that it can overtax your kidneys and cause kidney stones, disease and even failure.
Several studies have shown that protein levels, though having an initial effect on calcium excretion, do NOT have any long-term consequences on the bones. These same studies also showed that high-quality protein, like OWYN vegan plant-based proteins, can actually support healthy bones by facilitating certain hormones needed by the skeletal system.
As for the kidneys, they were designed to flush all the waste from the body, into the bladder and back out again. If you know you have weak kidneys or kidney disease, then yes, you may need to moderate your protein levels and keep them within a healthy range decided on by you and your doctor. There have been no studies to show that people who have a high-protein consumption within reason, .3 – 2 grams of protein per kilo of body weight, and healthy kidneys have had any issues with their health.
That being said, professional bodybuilders and athletes may consume 2-5 grams of protein per kilo to help their muscles build, repair and contract.
We’ve all heard protein is the building block of muscles, and it’s true. It helps to create mass, rebuild ripped muscle fibers and prevent muscle loss on calorie reducing diets. Protein also enhances the energy expenditure in the body, meaning you use more energy, hence burn more fuel doing basic things. Protein sticks with you keeping you fuller for longer and helping you avoid the afternoon munchies. It’s staying power also gives more balanced energy instead of spikes and crashes. And it is the best macronutrient to load up on while losing weight.
Providing we are not sick, under physical duress or putting in too many hours at the gym, the extra protein becomes fuel for the body. When it comes to exercise, your body will burn carbohydrates first as they are the easiest to convert into glucose. Then it will turn to fats and lastly to protein. If you are on a low-carb diet, the body will be forced to burn fat. If you have little fat to begin with, then protein it is. This is why competing bodybuilders will amp up their protein and drop their calories during a cutting cycle forcing the body to burn any residual fat but still have energy from protein for workouts. That being said, this is not a healthy state for your body to stay in and professional athletes know this. You need all three macronutrients to keep a healthy body and all systems running at peak performance.
Laura Manning, MPH, RDN, CDN The Low FODMAP diet is getting some well-deserved attention these days.