Our culture is obsessed with protein. It has a better reputation than carbohydrates and fats, even though all 3 are essential macronutrients. What makes protein so special?
For starters, protein is associated with being lean and fit. It’s known for supporting muscle growth and repair, especially after a workout. The fitness world is all about it. Plus, almost every part of the body contains protein, whether it’s the skin or bones. Optimal health wouldn’t be complete without protein.1
Yet, these benefits come with a lot of confusion. Many people misunderstand how protein truly works. So instead of believing what you hear, learn about the truth behind this essential nutrient.
Myth 1: Non-Meat Eaters Are Protein-Deficient
This statement is false if you know what you’re doing. Animal meat does offer all 9 essential amino acids, while plant sources lack one or more of it. However, it’s possible for non-meat eaters to get enough protein.
The key is to chow down on a variety of plant sources. Whole grains, nuts, seeds, and soy products are the way to go. For vegetarians, eggs and dairy help.2
Myth 2: High-Protein Diets Guarantee Weight Loss
This has some truth to it. While high-protein and low-carb diets do cause weight loss in the first week, it is actually just water weight that you are losing. Long-term high-protein diets are a different story.3
With lots of protein but no carbs, the body won’t have glucose for fuel. Instead, it’ll break down fat into ketone bodies, which isn’t exactly healthy. The brain also can’t run that well on ketones.4
Instead of focusing on protein, think about the overall energy intake. There are “good” and “bad” options for every macronutrient! Eating high-quality low-fat protein, complex carbs, and unsaturated fats will have a healthier, lasting effect.
Myth 3: You Can Never Get Enough Protein
This is not true, of course. While protein has its perks, you can also go overboard with it. A high-protein diet increases calcium urinary excretion, posing a greater risk for osteoporosis. For people with kidney problems, excess protein can also speed up renal failure.
Low-carb, high-protein diets also exclude fruits, vegetables, and grains. It’s a setup for micronutrient deficiencies! Supplements are useful, but nothing beats the real thing. Again, your best bet is to eat high-quality sources of all 3 macronutrients.5
Myth 4: Protein Causes Bloating
For most people, this can be the case. Most powders are made with whey or casein, the proteins found in cow’s milk. Unfortunately, about 65% of the human population have lactose intolerance. If you’re one of those people, drinking nothing but protein shakes might do a number on your stomach. This problem can be avoided by eating a balanced diet. Protein might be important, but so are carbs, fats, and fiber.6
Myth 5: Post-Workout Protein Is Only For Athletes
This statement is not true. Exercise is exercise, no matter how light it is. Any kind of physical activity will break down amino acids, the “building blocks” of protein. And in order to rebuild muscle, a post-workout meal should always consist of protein. Obviously, more intense workouts need more protein. The same goes if you’re training for a marathon or a bodybuilding competition. Yet, even if you’re a casual exerciser, protein should be on your radar.7
If you’re interested in a high-protein diet, talk to a doctor or nutritionist. It’s not the best choice for everyone. Otherwise, eat a well-balanced diet with lean proteins like skinless chicken and beans.
|↑1||Protein. Harvard T.H. Chan, School of Public Health.|
|↑2||Marsh, Kate A., Elizabeth A. Munn, and Surinder K. Baines. “Protein and vegetarian diets.” Med J Aust 1, no. Suppl 2 (2012): 7-10.|
|↑3, ↑5||Denke, Margo A. “Metabolic effects of high-protein, low-carbohydrate diets.” The American journal of cardiology 88, no. 1 (2001): 59-61.|
|↑4||D’Anci, Kristen E., Kara L. Watts, Robin B. Kanarek, and Holly A. Taylor. “Low-carbohydrate weight-loss diets. Effects on cognition and mood.” Appetite 52, no. 1 (2009): 96-103.|
|↑6||Lactose Intolerance. Genetics Home Reference, U.S. National Library of Medicine.|
|↑7||Fielding, Roger A., and Jascha Parkington. “What are the dietary protein requirements of physically active individuals? New evidence on the effects of exercise on protein utilization during post‐exercise recovery.” Nutrition in Clinical Care 5, no. 4 (2002): 191-196.|