Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Too Much Protein!

I am still obsessed with health and exercise podcasts and lately added the Ben Greenfield Podcast to my rotation. I have read a couple of blogs and articles by him over the last couple of years and just thought I'll give it a shot. At the beginning, the podcast felt very long winded, but it has grown on me every since and I enjoy learning about all kinds of aspects about nutrition, training and a more holistic approach to nutrition and training. I am resistant to jump on each and every bandwagon mentioned in the podcast, but so far, there was always a nugget in there for me personally, that I could take away for my nutrition, training and general life.

The other day, I listened to episode #192: What happens when you exercise too much and an interview with Dr. Ted Morter titled How to get rid of migraine headaches forever.

Both podcasts contained some information about how much protein intake is recommended for an individual per day. The episode #193 (by the way: the title is a little misleading, because that was just one question from their Q&A segment) highlighted the protein intake from a macro nutritional standpoint and what happens in your body, if you are taking in more than your recommended amount of protein (here is Ben's response!). The interview dug more into the aspect of how excessive protein consumption is throwing off your body's PH level and causes all kinds of trouble e.g. migraine headaches. Not that I have a problem with that, but this was just the angle of the interview.

In the episode #192, he mentioned the recommended daily protein consumption for athletes as 1.2 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight (or 0.55gr/ lbs) if you are trying to maintain (not increase) your muscle mass and reach nitrogen balance (amount of protein you eat matches the amount of you use). This amount covers what your body needs for body recovery and muscle repair.

At that point, I pulled out a calculator and typed in my stats to find out the amount of protein that I need and ended up with around 70 grams (rounded up) per day. Then I opened my food log on my iPhone and saw this for last Friday:

I almost fell off my chair. Especially since they also talked about the problems that excessive protein intake can cause.

The funny part of this is, that I have been consciously trying to increase my protein intake since the beginning of the year when I refocused on my nutrition. I have been chugging the protein shakes, eating meat almost every day and even started "spiking" my Greek yoghurt (already high protein) with chocolate protein powder. And now that.

My train of thought took a wrong turn, when I started to focus too much on the macro nutrient pie chart in my food log and completely ignored my total protein intake.

After I recovered from my initial shock, I googled the recommended amount of carbs for endurance athletes and found that anything between 7 and 10 grams per kilogram of body weight (3.2-4.5gr/ lbs) goes. That would mean for me that I should eat between 400 to 570 grams per day.

Quite honestly, I am almost relieved about this. I naturally tend more to carbs and trying to up my protein intake was almost a source of stress at times... I am not even kidding about this!

I was also buying into the whole idea of "eating protein helps keeping you full longer" and often felt like eating carbs just makes your want to eat more carbs. But when thinking about it a little more, I think that mostly applied to sugary carbs. But even if I eat straight veggies, they just don't seem to hold me over that long. (If you have it in you to read more on the topic of sugar, I found this 60 minute report pretty intimidating.) So what do you do, if you want to limit your protein intake, but don't want to be hungry all the time? Add fat to your diet! GASP! I know, I know... That statement goes against every fiber of our media and food marketing conditioned body, but believe it or not: Fat doesn't make you fat!

My goal from here on out is to stay at around 70 grams of protein per day. Increase my carb intake to hit around 500 grams per day and up my fat intake.

With all this being said, I am still a firm believer in calorie consumption vs calorie burn as key for weight management, so all of the above is limited by my daily calorie allowance that is determined by my training volume and intensity. But after listening to the podcast and reading up on the topic, I think that changing my macro nutrient ratio is going to help my body to perform better and decrease the chance of creating health issues.

If you made it all the way to here... Congratulations. Looks like you are ready to join the health geek club! ;-)

Disclaimer: I am not a nutritionist, I am just sharing personal experiences and opinions here.


  1. I started reading your blogs - love the recaps of your races! I'm training for my first sprint tri so wanted to read some first hand accounts.
    Great post today about protein and nutrition. I am also trying to find that perfect balance. I'm interested to listen to those podcasts. Thanks for sharing!

  2. Ok. Blogger iPhone just ate my comment. I'm commenting via phone so I can't check out the links yet, but I will!

    I've been of the opinion (based on stuff I've read which, again, can't link to bc I'm on phone) that many athletes focus too much on "I need more protein" when really you can have "too much" (as your podcast talked about). I do agree that protein is important but just like all the other nutrients -- it has to be balanced.

    This is also vaguely what I was going to say on my blog to answer your protein question from a few weeks ago. Veggies, rice, quinoa, etc all have protein and as long as you're eating enough of those you can get the 70g (or whatnot) amount you mentioned above. I haven't been avoiding your question just haven't gotten around to it. Haha. That and I've uh, sucked at my elimination diet.

    1. Well, I made that comment on your blog before this recent discovery. Since then, I have hardly had any meat and still exceed the 70gr per day on most days! INSANE!!!

  3. Nice to meet you. Just browsing around and saw your blog :) A good review on protein intake :) Really consuming too much of protein is harmful to our body especially protein from animal based which is highly acidic. Therefore, consuming plant type protein is much more better comparing the animal type protein. Muscle builder always concern on high protein intake but by the time of eating protein from animal based is consuming fats too. Very agree with you that calories intake is the key point of why you are fat~

  4. Just browsing around and read your post :) Very impressive on talking about protein. The animal based protein is highly acidic and lower our blood pH. Therefore, plant based protein is much more better compare to animal based. The muscle builder always concern about their protein intake, but while consuming animal based protein, there are fats consuming together too. And I am so agree with the calories intake is the key point of why you fat~