The metrics of daily Protein consumption have always been a big topic of discussion in the performance and health, in the past few years, it has become particularly trendy with Social Media Influencers - mainly because it is the one thing most everyone can agree on: You need protein!
Additionally, there are well established metrics ranging from 0.8 grams per kilogram to 2 grams per kilogram of body weight.
As the Greek origins suggest, protein holds primacy, however, and like everything else biological, protein does not exist in a vacuum and this is why I am busting this ‘metric driven myth’, so you can better navigate your journey to higher health and peak performance.
Real World Metrics on Protein Use
There are three primary factors to understand which, in my opinion, make this notion of daily protein intake a myth.
- Dynamics of Protein intake
- Assimilation of Protein
- Amino Acid Profile of Protein consumed
The Dynamics of Protein Intake
The first is the Dynamic nature of your life. Whether you are on your OFM journey or not, your life is highly dynamic. You do not need to be bound by a daily protein macro.
To illustrate this, let’s take a look at the protein intake of an ultra-endurance athlete during a competition like, say, an IronMan or 100K Ultramarathon. An all day event taking between 8-17 hours to complete. The dynamics of this day will dictate they under consume their target daily protein intake by a wide margin.
Since most people don’t have any immediate plans for an IronMan or 100K let’s think about a sedentary person who takes their health seriously and who has taken up intermittent fasting. Again, if they are doing an 20 hour fast, let alone a 24 hour or multi-day fast, they will be in a supposed ‘protein deficit’ yet the overall health benefits of fasting are well documented just like the benefits of exercise.
So while these examples are considered ‘extreme’ they clearly illustrate my point of how dynamic protein intake is.
And just because you may have been in a deficit the day before due to a competition, or a few days due to a prolonged fast does not mean you should be shotgunning and overarching amount of protein in the ensuing days. Your body does not work this way which brings me to the second point:
Your body does not operate on simple metrics. We are talking biology, not engineering. Metrics are a tool to quantify to better understand a piece of a complex biological process like digestion. This is where protein assimilation comes into play.
There is a huge difference in how much protein gets assimilated (into anabolic pathways to help you become more resilient, stronger, fitter and faster), between say sitting down to a well marbled ribeye steak and eggs after a 24 hour fast and a low fat whey protein or BCAA shake immediately after a workout.
Here is why there is a difference in protein assimilation. Fat is best assimilated in a fat rich, low carbohydrate environment. This is because when you eat a meal after a period of time in a fasted state, your gallbladder will release a bolus of bile to emulsify this fat and protein rich meal, to optimally assimilate the lipoproteins created in this melange of food, stomach acid and bile (for those of you without a gallbladder, there are alternative protocols).
When you consume that whey protein or BCAA shake before or after a workout, you won’t assimilate protein nearly as well due to the lower bile response and most of those protein molecules will get convert to glucose, then shunt the nitrogen remains to your kidneys for excretion which places a metabolic load on your kidneys. A big part of why these shakes ‘work’ is due to the glucose and insulin response for the quick energy to push your workout. This is also an alternative pathway when too much protein is consumed contributes to weight gain and/or stalled weight loss.
The Amino Acid Profile of Protein consumed
Then there is the composition of the protein.
Your body needs a wide range of proteins and their constituent amino acids for optimal health, which is precisely why OFM focuses on nutritional balance via “Whole Animal Eating” ( Nose to tail), probiotic foods and Stomach & Gut Health.
Compositional profile is another never ending rabbit hole, so let’s just peek into it to pique your curiosity rather than overwhelm you. Whether you are on a carnivore diet eating a pound or more of muscle meat a day or on a plant based diet there are going to be some constituent amino acids missing from the diet to be optimal. Because our bodies are incredible, in particular the biome and that organ of alchemy the liver, we can break recombine elements from food into what we need but this is far from optimal when foods we evolved to consume are missing from our diet.
A perfect example of this is gelatin/collagen rich foods. All but eliminated from the modern western diet yet gelatin/collagen proteins constitute over a third of the protein in our body!
Here are my three take home actions you can do:
Number one is eat protein that you see as real food protein sources in their natural state and use as much fat as you need to cook or flavor them to satiety but, as much to enjoy the experience.
Second, eat 1-2 real food protein meals per day unless fasting without snacking in between meals to ensure a good bile response for protein assimilation and keep your bile ducts clean and functioning.
Third, incorporate a wide range of real food protein sources into your diet. The easiest way to accomplish this is via “Whole Animal Eating” but if you can’t ‘go there’ on organ meat and collagen rich foods supplement with a little bit of organ meat based supplements and a LOT of collagen!Oh, and those metrics? . . . yep, that is the point. Eating is about living and not measuring. When your nutrition is on point you will find you “naturally” eat less because your body does the measuring for you!