Are you eating enough protein? Not if you are following the RDA guidelines. July 29, 2015 16:06

Protein is an essential part of a healthy diet. Every single cell in the body (muscle cells, skin cells, brain cells, bone cells, liver cells, etc.) contains protein and most of the hormones in the body are derived from protein. Without adequate protein, we simply can not live a healthy life. A lack of protein in the diet has been shown to lead to muscle loss, reduced immune function, diabetes, over eating of sugar and fat, weight gain, weakening of the heart and lungs, anemia, fatigue, excess stress and even a shortened lifespan. 

New research published this month in Applied Physiology, Nutrition, and Metabolism, suggests that current protein recommendations may be too low by a considerable margin. The studies show that current dietary protein recommendations may not be high enough to maintain optimal lean body tissue (muscle and bone density).

The (old) RDA recommendations currently being used for protein consumption are based on a faulty measurement method called nitrogen balance. Newer and more accurate methods for determining optimal protein consumption (stable isotope-based techniques) suggest that the older recommendations are too low. Many experts in the field of protein research have now endorsed this new method and its recommendations.

The current RDA levels for protein are between 46g-56g for adults where the new requirements based on recent research recommends 75g-105g split somewhat evenly over three separate meals. And the research acknowledges that some individual's needs may be even higher than this depending on body type and activity levels. For example, a large male who lifts heavy weights or plays an aggressive sport such as football or MMA may require well over 105g or protein just to maintain his current levels of lean muscle. 

The studies suggest that eating high-quality protein (25–35 grams) during each meal promotes muscle health and helps preserve lean body mass as we age. This is the equivalent of 4-5oz. of chicken, fish or lean beef with each meal. Other great sources of protein include turkey, lamb, eggs and protein powders (whey, beef or pea). The studies also demonstrate that spreading the protein consumption out over three meals is better than eating a lot of protein at one big meal.

You can read the research here: http://www.nrcresearchpress.com/doi/10.1139/apnm-2014-0530#.VbDy97NVhBc

Consuming adequate levels of quality protein at each meal promotes fat loss and helps keep the weight off after losing it. It also helps to maintain lean muscle mass while losing weight and during intense exercise.  To meet the basic protein requirements to maintain muscle and help my patients lose weight I generally recommend 4-6 oz of lean meat (beef, chicken, turkey or fish) with each of the three meals. A few eggs or a large scoop of high quality protein powder can also serve to meet the protein requirements of each meal. 

-Dr. Jeremy Webster

Weight Loss and Nutrition Expert