January 22, 2023

Why should you care about protein?

I tell my grad students that we can put a man on the moon, but we still can’t come to a consensus of how much protein to give him here on earth. 

Dr. Rajavel Elango

Why should you care about protein? There is no shortage of trainers, nutritionists and even governments yelling at us about protein intake. The simplest reason to care: The body needs certain amino acids found in protein and it can only get it from the food you eat. The other reasons in a nutshell: taller kids, stronger muscles, sturdy heart, robust immune system, luscious hair (not that I care), being able to transport blood etc are among the 10,000 things protein does in the body. Everything is better when you eat some protein. But how much is some? What constitutes high or low? 

Two of the simplest perspectives for protein intake are:

* How many grams are you eating in a day?
* What percentage of your total energy intake in a day is accounted for by protein? 

You can measure your protein intake in grams. An egg gives you 5 grams of protein. A cup of milk gives you around 12-14 grams of protein. A 100 gram serving of chicken gives you 25-30 grams of protein. Here is what people require at different body weights:

At 60 kgs: 60-120 grams of protein
At 70 kgs: 70-140 grams of protein 
At 80 kgs: 80-160 grams of protein
At 90 kgs: 90-180 grams of protein

The math is straightforward. We have compelling evidence that 1-2 grams of protein for every kg of bodyweight is a good place to be. There are groups that eat more who are perfectly fine too. 

More is better especially for: 

• Vegetarians whose protein intake biases to plant sources. More plant protein is lost in the digestion process, it helps to eat more to account for this
• Kids. There is a reasonable amount of evidence for kids getting taller, smarter and more robust when protein and quality of food intake increases
• If feeling fuller is a priority. Equated for number of calories, foods with more protein tend to be more filling. There are a few exceptions.
• More active groups, those who are recuperating from illness, athletes benefit from more protein
• Those looking to improve bone health and body composition

I pretty much covered 99% of humanity with the above constraints. Future posts will help you visualise what foods it will take to get you to different protein intake levels.

About Adarsh

- I run a strength and conditioning facility in Chennai, India
- I work with my clients to make training and eating for better body composition a part of everyday life
- I coach online and in-person
- I design and manufacture strength training equipment for use in our strength training facility