The most common comment I receive about Paleo is, “Isn’t there a lot of protein?”.
Why are people afraid of protein?
Every cell and every metabolic function needs protein. We need protein to maintain muscle mass. And not just any protein. Our body needs quality protein – that is, we need the complete range of the nine essential amino acids. Without them, we can’t be healthy.
So, when people say, “A lot of protein”, I wonder what they’re imagining. I mean, we’re not eating a T-Bone at every meal. And “quality protein” doesn’t mean just red meat. It includes eggs, fish, seafood, poultry and game.
Vegetable sources, such as legumes and soy, aren’t considered to be “quality” because
- they’re problematic for the digestive system
- they don’t contain the complete range of amino acids and
- they come ‘packaged’ with a lot of carbohydrate
Compare the protein obtained from beans and chicken:
1 cup of beans: 6 grams protein, 10 grams carbohydrate
1 cup chicken breast: 35 grams protein, 0 carbohydrate
So, in order to receive the same amount of protein from beans, you’d need to eat almost 6 cups of beans, which would also deliver 58 grams of carbohydrate (as well as the digestive problems). But because the amino acid isn’t complete, you’d need to add another plant based protein – which means even more carbohydrate. This is a big problem because we need to keep carbohydrate levels low.
Macronutrient calculations should start with protein because it’s so important. Next on the list are healthy fats. Carbohydrate, as a macronutrient, is overrated. We don’t need much, and if we’re adapted to burning fat, we can be perfectly healthy without it. But the essential amino acids and the essential fatty acids are – yes – essential. We need to receive them from the diet.
How Much Protein Do We Need?
For every kilo/pound of lean muscle mass, we need an average daily intake of between 1.5 and 2.2 grams ( 0.7-1.0 pounds ) of quality, complete protein. The differences in those averages account for activity levels. If the body doesn’t receive the right amount, it simply won’t be able to be healthy.
Lean muscle mass is body weight minus fat. You can guess your lean body mass. You don’t need to be obsessive.
Male: Athlete 10%, Fit 15%, Unfit 22%
Female: Athlete 20%, Fit 22%, Unfit 30%
So, Fiorenzo weighs 65 kilos. He’s a fit man but not an athlete, so we can estimate his body fat at 15%. He’s quite active, so lets say he needs 1.8 grams of protein daily.
65 kilos – 15% body fat = 55,25 kilos lean muscle mass x 1.8 grams protein = 99.45 grams quality protein each day.
I weigh 54 kilos. Like Fiorenzo, I’m fit, but not an athlete, so we can estimate my body fat at 22%. I’m active, but not as active as Fiorenzo, so let’s say I need 1.7 grams of protein daily.
54 kilos – 22% body fat = 42,12 kilos muscle mass x 1.7 grams protein = 71,60 grams quality protein each day.
So, we need to consume an average of 85 grams of quality protein a day. (Some days we’ll eat a little more, some days a little less. That’s okay.)
What Does 85 Grams / 187 pounds of Protein Look Like?
Here’s what the protein component of our meals looks like:
Breakfast: 2 eggs – 26 grams
Lunch: 125 grams beef – 32.5 grams
Dinner: 125 grams salmon – 25 grams
Total: 83.5 grams
As you can see, that’s not “a lot of protein”.
We eat a lot of healthy fats, a wide range of vegetables and salad, and a moderate amount of quality protein. In this way, we provide our bodies with all the nutrients and energy that they need.
What does your daily protein intake look like?
On the Side
Gelatin, Collagen, Glycine – You don’t want to miss out on the essential proteins found in these.
Tell Me About Peptides – Related to the post above.
Tell Me About the Perfect Ratio for Omega 6 and Omega 3 – It’s all about the balance.
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