If you're not an extreme athlete, recovering from injury, or over 60, you only need 50 to 60 grams of…
Madeleine Cook and Heather Kim / NPR
Marketing Attracts: Get stronger muscles and healthier bodies with minimal effort by adding protein powder to morning shaking or juicer pressure. Or take a protein snack for lunch or for a quick snack. Today you can find protein supplements everywhere – online, at the pharmacy, food store or health food store. They come in powder, pills and bars.
With more than 12 billion kronor this year, the industry is sold and, according to the market research company Grand View Research, it is possible to sell billions more in 2025. But we really need all this supplementary protein? It depends on. There are advantages, disadvantages and a little mood to consider.
Initially, protein is critical for each cell in the body. It helps to build nails, hair, legs and muscles. It can also help you feel fuller than eating foods without protein. And unlike nutrients found in only some foods, protein is quite ubiquitous. “The typical American diet is much higher in protein than many think,” said the registered dietician Angela Pipitone with Johns Hopkins McKusick-Nathan’s Institute of Genetic Medicine.
She says it’s in foods that many of us expect, such as beef, chicken and other types of meat and dairy products. But it is also in foods that can not be immediately taken into account like vegetables, fruits, beans and grains.
The American Government’s recommended daily supplement (RDA) for the average adult is 50 to 60 grams of protein per day. This sounds like a lot, but Pipitone says: “We get bits of protein here and there and it really adds up throughout the day.”
Take breakfast, for example. If you ate two eggs topped with a little cheese and an orange on the side, you already have 22 grams of protein. Each egg gives you 7 grams, the cheese gives you about 6 grams and orange – about 2 grams. Add a lunch of chicken, rice and broccoli, and you are already over recommended 50 grams. “You can get enough protein and meet RDA before even going for dinner,” says Pipitone.
So if it’s so easy to get your protein in food, why add more in the form of powder, snack bars or an increase in your local juice bar? It’s not necessary, says Pipitone, because most of us already get enough protein in our diet.
“Whole food is always the best option, instead of adding supplements,” she says, noting that the FDA does not regulate dietary supplements as strictly as food or drugs, so it may be less protein, more sugar and some additives you should not expect, for example caffeine and even steroids.
If you’re looking for an add-on, read the list of ingredients, she says, although this is not always idiotic. “I have seen very expensive protein supplements claiming that they are of high quality, but they may not benefit the average healthy adult,” she says. “It can only be a waste of money.”
But there are some situations that warrant extra protein. “When you are in anabolic state or build muscle”, Pipitone says, for example, if you are an extreme endurance practitioner, training for a marathon or if you are a bodybuilder.
If you are moderate for 150 minutes a week recommended by Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, or less than that, you are probably not an extreme athlete.
Extreme athletes spend a lot of energy breaking down and repairing and building muscles. Protein can give them the edge they need to accelerate that process.
Vegans can benefit from protein supplements because they do not eat animal protein sources like meat, dairy or eggs. And for someone who is always on time, who may not have time for a meal, a protein snack bar may be a good option for temporary meal replacement.
Even people recovering from surgery or injury can also benefit from additional protein. So, older people too. At about 60 years of age, “the muscles really break down,” said Kathryn Starr, an aging researcher at Duke University School of Medicine “and because of it, except that, as we grow older, our body’s ability to break down protein is reduced , the protein requirement of an older adult actually increases. “
In fact, Starr recently, together with her colleague Connie Bales, performed a small study that showed that adding extra proteins to the diet of obese older people who were trying to lose weight strengthened their muscles. The participants in the study were separated into two groups – one group was asked to eat 30 grams of protein per meal in the form of whole foods. That meant they ate 90 grams of protein a day. The other group – control group – was put on a typical caloridite with about 50 to 60 grams of protein per day.
After six months, the researchers found that the high protein group had significantly improved its muscle function – almost twice as much as the control group.
“They could go faster, had better balance and could also get out of a chair faster than the control group,” said Starr.
All 67 participants were over 60 years old and both groups lost about the same weight.
Starr now investigates whether protein-rich diets also improve the quality of the muscle itself in seniors. She uses CT scans to measure muscle size and fat, and compare seniors to a high protein protein to those with regular diets. She says that her results should be available in a few months.
Meanwhile, 70-year-old Corliss Keith, who was in the high protein group in Starr’s recent study, said she felt a big difference. “I feel excellent,” she says, “I feel I have another body, I have more energy, I’m stronger.” She says she can take Zumba training classes three times a week, practice the treadmill and take long, fast walks. Keith also lost more than 15 pounds. “I’m a brave person, so now I’m back in my three-inch heels,” she says.
When people grow older, scientist Starr says that muscle strength is the key to helping them stay strong and continue to live on their own in their own homes. “I feel very alive now,” Keith says, “I feel I could stay myself until I’m 100”.
But can humans exaggerate protein? Pipitone says you have to be careful. Too much protein can cause nausea, cramps, headache, fatigue and bloating.
Dehydration is also a risk when you eat too much protein. Pipiton says that if you increase protein, you must also increase your fluid intake. “I always tell people that they drink enough liquids”, which for the average person is 60 to 70 grams per day, which means that 8 ounces of glass of water or liquid per day.
There have been some indications that extra protein makes the kidneys more difficult, which can be problematic for individuals with kidney disease and for them, dietary supplements can increase the risk of kidney stones, she says.
Bottom Line: If you think you need more protein in your diet, consider these questions: Are you an extreme athlete; do you recover from injury or surgery or are you 60 years of age or older?
If so, you can add high protein foods like eggs and meat products to your diet.
And if you’re not sure, it’s always a good idea to check with your primary healthcare provider.