Do you need to limit your protein?

I've written a little bit about this before

Protein is a subject of much debate in regards to healing insulin resistance and improving performance.

These are different discussions that many times get crossed up in how people apply different guidelines.

First things first.

We need protein. After water, protein is the main component of cells and is essential to life. Protein is used to build and maintain these parts of our body:
  • Muscles: Those responsible for movement and the muscles around our organs and our heart.
  • Collagen: Provides strength and structure to tissues (e.g. cartilage in joints).
  • Skin, hair, and nails: These are mainly composed of protein.
  • Hemoglobin: Transports oxygen around the body.
  • Hormones: Act as your body’s chemical messengers.
  • Enzymes: Regulate metabolism - they support important chemical reactions that allow you to digest food, generate energy to contract muscles, and regulate insulin production.
  • Antibodies: Play a role in your immunity.
When we're broken
Protein has a funny way of acting weird when it comes to insulin vs. glucagon in our body.

Protein is low on the glycemic index which means it doesn't raise sugar on its own. It does, however, have a moderate effect on insulin. It raises insulin similar in many cases, to some carbs.

This can get really tricky if you are insulin resistant. 

When someone is insulin resistant they could have a problem where anytime they eat ANYTHING, their body will produce more glucagon which will work hard to increase the level of sugar in the blood.

There is a lot of confusion about all of this and many people believe that eating too much protein will make them fat if they are IR because protein increases insulin and raises their blood sugar at the same time. 

The important thing to remember is that the problem is not protein. The problem is a damaged liver that's not functioning properly.

Note: This doesn't happen for insulin sensitive people.

In a normal diet, a process called glycogenolysis is where the liver creates glucose from glycogen in the blood. Gluconeogenesis is a demand-driven process that only kicks in when blood glucose is low.

In a zero carb diet, where the levels of glycogen are low (zero carbs) glycogenolysis can't happen, so gluconeogenesis kicks in, (due to high levels of glucagon) to convert proteins into glucose. Remember, in a non-IR person this is only when needed. In an IR person, this is a problem where it happens regardless of need.

So if you are IR, and Zero Carb you may need to keep an eye on your protein intake. If you are not IR then you should be able to eat however much you want...

When we aren't broken
Protein can have a positive effect on someone who is trying to improve performance, lose fat, or build muscle.

Protein is the building block of everything you need for improved performance. 

It can provide enough nutrients to keep us healthy if we want to limit our fat intake to optimize ketosis and lose body fat.

The insulinemic effect of protein can assist with building muscle, similar to the way carbs do.

So many guidelines
When it comes to protein, you will struggle to get the same information anything close to uniformly recommended.

The RDA for protein is .36 grams per pound of body weight. (That would be 66.7g of protein for me, no thank you.)

There is another school of thought that considers an even lower amount of .27 grams of protein per pound of body weight, ideal for long life. 

Even more liberal suggestions of .67 grams per pound of body weight for people with IR are too low for my liking.

What I recommend and what my wife has been recommending to her clients for years (She is a certified and licensed dietitian nutritionist) is .8 grams of protein per pound of weight for fat loss, IR or healing of other conditions.

Over many years and many successful clients, we've never had an issue with someone having a problem with too much protein.

I will often recommend 1-1.2 grams per pound of weight for someone who is interested in maintaining or improving performance. (maybe more).

It doesn't matter
There are 3 different guidelines here that you could follow. It doesn't matter which one you choose as long as you think it will help you reach your goals AND you are willing to change your mind if it turns out not to work.

Never do something just because someone else is doing it. If it's not working after a reasonable amount of time, do something different.

You can use the Carnivore Macro Calculator to help you figure out what could work for you. (You can put in whatever modifier you want from .27 to .8 or higher)

Here is a graphic I use to help people get an idea of ranges they can work in to manage their protein and fat %'s.


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