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FOOD & NUTRITION BLOG
Welcome back, everyone! I hope you all had a pleasant and fun Spring Break!
I recently was invited to attend a great event at the DC set up by our sustainability and marketing team (shoutout to Kristen and Daniel!) called, “Nutrition University,” to promote awareness about National Nutrition Month. At one of the stations, we had a silhouette of a bodybuilder where we had students write in a pledge to be healthier for the month. During my downtime, I glanced over and started perusing through what students wrote and one of them just didn’t make sense to me. It read, “This month I pledge to gainzz.”
Gainzz? The first thing I thought about was, Are they pledging to get more sleep?? This only goes to show that I have an outdated vocabulary of college slang...
Nevertheless, this phrase made me start thinking about some of the concerns of college students, especially men, regarding fitness, bodybuilding, and exercise. It makes me very concerned that many bodybuilding magazines and men's health magazines advertise the consumption of a ridiculous amount of protein. Protein shakes, whey powders, bars, meals, and even high protein gum are on the market. The truth is, most Americans get adequate, or more than adequate, intake of protein per day; you only need more protein if you are an athlete or do daily intensive exercise because of the increased breakdown of muscle protein. However, this doesn't mean you need even more protein; in fact, doubling your protein intake, for example, will not necessarily help you build muscle faster. (Check out this study for more information)
One of the major concerns of a high protein diet is the impact of excess protein on your kidneys.
High protein intake contributes to a higher production of toxic compounds, including ammonia and ketones, that sends your kidneys into overdrive to try to flush it all out in your urine. You’ll notice that if you eat a high protein diet, you’re urinating more often and may be dehydrated, especially if you exercise heavily. The combination of frequent urination and subsequent dehydration leads to water weight loss, loss of some muscle mass and bone calcium (which may, over time, lead to osteoporosis or osteopenia), and additional strain on your heart.
Knowing this, if you are an athlete or want to build some muscle, exactly how much protein do you really need without straining your bodily systems? The Institute of Medicine (IOM) recommends athletes and physically active people to calculate their protein needs based not on their body weight but on the acceptable macronutrient range for protein, which is 10-35% of total calories for adults older than 18. The IOM defines the acceptable macronutrient distribution range as a range of intake associated with reduced risk of chronic diseases while providing adequate intakes of essential nutrients. It is not advised to go beyond 35% (which is a whole lot of protein already!), but no upper limit for protein has been established yet.
Here are some general recommendations taken from the article, “Athletes and Protein” from Today’s Dietitian for protein intake if you are an athlete or are physically active:
• Develop a meal plan that will supply adequate calories, carbohydrate, and protein each day.
• Distribute the protein equally across meals.
• Emphasize high-quality protein (eg eggs and dairy are complete proteins)
• Base protein intake on weight, not on percentage of calories.
• Base protein intake on the individual’s sport and intensity level.
• Recommend that active, older individuals boost protein intake, as some may require more to help preserve muscle mass.
• Suggest protein powders to individuals who need added protein on the go and whose calorie intake is low.
If you have any specific questions about your own protein intake, schedule an appointment with a registered dietitian (RD) in your area. A RD will be able to help you with making a customizable meal plan that meets your daily dietary requirements.
“Athletes and Protein” on Today's Dietitian
Very detailed and informative article- a must read for all athletes and those who exercise intensively!
WebMD Article on Protein and Bodybuilding
A bit outdated (published in 2002) but still has some relevant information:
EatRight Article on Building Muscle
This has a nice list of ways to get protein on special types of diets (eg vegetarian, vegan etc)