Do You Eat Enough Protein?

Official guidelines may be too low

Increase protein at breakfast

Science can be bothersome at times, providing contradictory guidelines for what we eat. The Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) for protein is expressed as number of grams of protein eaten per kilogram of body weight per day. For both adult men and adult women, experts proposed the following RDAs for protein over the past decade: 0.8 , 1.2 , 1.0 - 1.2 , and 1.2 – 1.6. The proposed RDA for protein increased by at least 50 percent.

How might greater protein consumption improve your health?

Higher protein intake can reduce age-related muscle mass loss, especially for older people. Recent studies show that older adults need more protein than younger persons. Increasing protein intake likely leads to reduced muscle mass loss with age and reduced risk of frailty and disability later in life.

Reducing carbohydrate intake and increasing either protein or monounsaturated fat can improve the ability of the popular DASH diet to reduce blood pressure and the risk of cardiovascular disease.

A modest increase in dietary protein and a modest increase in low-glycemic index foods can minimize weight regain or promote further weight loss in obese patients following successful weight-loss.

The timing of your daily protein intake may also affect your health.

A high-protein snack before any high-carbohydrate meal (for example, a high-protein snack in the afternoon prior to dinner) can greatly lower the post-meal blood sugar spike.

A high-protein breakfast can reduce subsequent caloric intake, possibly due to increased feelings of satiety. Thus, increasing the protein content of your diet, especially at breakfast, might help you eat less without any conscious effort to do so.

You might decide to target your protein consumption at the lower end of the more recent suggested range, namely 1.2 grams per kg of body weight per day. Recent evidence suggests that at least this much daily protein consumption is appropriate for older people and athletes, with little downside risk. Such a target would mean eating 65, 82, and 98 grams protein daily for 120, 150, and 180 pound persons, respectively. The next blog post will show how to hit your target.

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