Personal trainers are rather obsessed with consuming protein – and are often seen by conventional dietitians as a little too hard-core with their obsession with protein powders, chicken breasts and cans of tuna. Apparently, too much protein is dangerous for your kidneys right?
Being mildly obsessed with fitness and nutrition, I have been inundated with page after page of research reinforcing the importance of protein for healthy muscle development and healthy hormonal function. Fitness fanatics advocate four grams of protein per kg of bodyweight, whereas the RDA recommend as little as 0.75g/kg for adult women and 0.85g/kg of bodyweight for men.
So is too much protein dangerous – or a nutritional myth, used to convince us to eat cheaper sources of processed carbohydrates?
A recent study in the Journal of the American Medical Association shows that sparing down protein intake with each meal could encourage fat storage.
The study divided 25 healthy 18-35 year old men and women into three groups:
Low-protein diet: 5% of calories came from protein
Moderate-protein diet: 15% of calories came from protein
High-protein diet: 25% of calories came from protein
The lucky study group pigged out over 8 weeks – eating 1000 more calories than their daily intake required. As can be expected, all the participants were somewhat more rotund after the study period, with the low protein group gaining the least amount of weight.
Now, before you jump the gun, body composition of the group was starkly different and very telling.
“The low-protein group stored a higher percentage of calories as fat than the other groups” – George Bray WebMD researcher.
Furthermore, the higher protein group saw a boost in resting metabolic rate, with the low protein groups showing no boost in resting energy expenditure.
Ok, so while this study group were over-eating, and I really can’t be seen advocating the art of indulgence (as such) this study totally undermined the universal nutritional solution that a breakfast of Weetbix with skim milk, fat free strawberry yoghurt and a glass of juice is the fat loss miracle cure.
And to dispel any concerns about the health effects of protein, a study in the Nutrition Journal December 31st, 2010 (Vol 9, #72) showed that despite what dieticians would consider a ‘dangerous level’ of protein, there was no difference in bone density, liver and kidney function between a group of study participants who were followed over 12 months with half eating a very high protein meal twice a day and the other half a moderate protein level.
Like all food sources- it is possible to overdo your protein intake, indeed it appears it is what our society excels at. What these studies do suggest is that if you are experiencing a fat loss plateau, why not try reducing (not deleting) your total carbohydrate and fat intake and upping your protein count. The added protein will not damage your kidneys and you might just supercharge your metabolism!