Dispelling nutrition myths, ranting, and occasionally, raving

Are we all really getting too much protein?

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This story is one of the oldest ones. When I was study nutrition in university I remember learning that most of us eat more protein than we need. While it’s undoubtedly true in most cases. It’s a little bit more complicated than: we eat more protein than we need to, end of story.

It’s important to note that there are a number of times that protein requirements are increased, such as for athletes, those recovering from injuries, and those endeavouring to lose weight. However, the recommendation for adults is roughly 45-50 grams of protein per day; more precisely, 0.9 grams per pound of body weight. We can easily eat this in one meal. And the problem is that many of us do eat this in one meal, neglecting the rest of our meals.

New research is indicating that we can’t utilize anymore than 20 grams of protein at one sitting. This means that, while we may be consuming plenty of protein at supper time, we may still not be getting enough protein. Many of us neglect breakfast. Even if we consume breakfast it’s often toast or cereal and many of us don’t get any more than 7 grams of protein in the morning. Distribution is important. To optimize protein utilization we should aim to consume 15-20 grams of protein at each meal. This may mean rethinking breakfast, and supper for that matter. Try to incorporate protein-rich foods at breakfast (e.g. eggs, beans, nuts, seeds, Greek yoghurt) and try to eat more meatless meals for supper. When having meat for supper don’t make it the biggest item on your plate. Treat meat like an accoutrement and make vegetables the stars of your suppers.

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Author: Diana

I'm a registered dietitian from Nova Scotia, living and working in Ontario, Canada. My goal is to help people relearn how to have a healthy relationship with food.

4 thoughts on “Are we all really getting too much protein?

  1. Could you share the research please?

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      • This is confusing to me. I remember the “Can’t utilize more than X protein in one sitting” thing (last time I read it >2 years ago it was 30g) as one of the oldest nutrition myths, usually accompanied with promotion of 6 small-meals-a-day-to-boost-metabolism nonsense (which, in turn, was usually accompanied with promotion of overpriced protein shakes).
        My question is, if we can’t “utilize” it, what happens to it? Also, I’ve always thought it was 0.9grams per pound of bodyweight, rather than kilos. I mean, I don’t obsess over protein, getting around 90g a day, which already seems to be on the low side.

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      • Right you are, it is pounds. Thanks for pointing that out!

        By “utilitze” I mean convert it to muscle mass. Your body will still use excess protein it will just be used for other purposes such as energy or body fat. I’m not saying we need to eat less protein, just distribute it better, and that the use of things like protein shakes are often a waste of money if you’re already consuming adequate protein at each meal.

        The main takeaways in my mind are to be more cognizant about how much protein I have at breakfast, and that we’re making eating far more complicated than it really needs to be.

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