Low Carb Nugget 62
There’s a difference between minimal protein intake and optimal protein intake. The minimum daily requirement for an inactive adult is 0.36 grams per pound of body weight. You can live on that. But more is probably better, even for the sedentary.
The goal is not just to survive, but to thrive, and that means eating an optimal amount of all nutrients, including protein — not too much, and not too little. So how much protein is optimal?
“More Than You Ever Wanted to Know About Protein & Gluconeogenesis.” Amy Berger. Tuit Nutrition. July 26, 2017.
“Protein Over-consumption in Ketogenic Diets Explained.” Ken Adkins. KetoGains. May 14, 2016.
New Atkins for a New You: The Ultimate Diet for Shedding Weight and Feeling Great (aff. link). Eric C. Westman, Stephen D. Phinney, and Jeff S. Volek. 2010.
Why We Get Fat: And What to Do About It (aff. link). Gary Taubes. 2011.
Low Carb Nugget 62
This is Episode 62 of the Low Carb Nugget for Thursday, September 28, 2017. I’m Jim Anderson.
Once again, I’m taking up the topic of how much protein to eat on LCHF diet. I hadn’t planned to do so, but I received a great comment from a listener, Alberto, that caused me to reconsider whether gluconeogenesis will kick a dieter out of ketosis. As you’ll recall, gluconeogenesis is the body’s way of converting some of your protein into glucose. I had cited some details about this process from a book by Jeff Volek and Stephen Phinney, The Art and Science of Low Carbohydrate Living.
Now, I want to be clear. Volek and Phinney do not present gluconeogenesis as a threat to ketosis. Rather, the opposite. To function, the human body needs some glucose. If it needs to, the body will make the glucose from protein. Carbs are not required. So you can eat a very low-carb diet, be in a state of ketosis for a prolonged time, and yet still have all the blood glucose necessary, thanks to gluconeogenesis.
But I had gone on in the previous episode to repeat the common-place idea that too much dietary protein will result in too much blood glucose. Alberto, in his comment, pointed to an article on Amy Berger’s “Tuit Nutrition” blog entitled “More Than You Ever Wanted to Know About Protein & Gluconeogenesis.” Berger has academic credentials to write on the topic, and her article lives up to its title. I won’t attempt to summarize all of it, but the main point is that protein has been unfairly criticized in ketogenic circles. Just because your body can convert protein into glucose doesn’t mean it will do so. The process is “as needed.” Protein does NOT equal sugar. Berger provides convincing detail, and links to several supporting articles.
I decided to go back to some of my long-time, trusted sources. The Volek and Phinney book that I’ve already mentioned is one. So is the book that they wrote with Dr. Eric. C. Westman, the 2010 “New Atkins for a New You.” And then there is Gary Taubes classic “Why We Get Fat.” What is the consensus among these authors about protein intake? Well, everyone seems to agree that there is a difference between minimal protein-intake and optimal protein intake. The minimum RDA for protein is represented by 0.36 grams per pound of body weight, the figure I cited last time. You can live on that. But somewhat more is probably better, even for the sedentary. The goal is not just to survive, but to thrive.
How much more protein is optimal? Maybe close to twice as much. Apparently, you may start feeling sick if you get more than 30% of your daily calories from protein. On a diet of 2,000 calories a day, as with my diet, that would be 600 calories of protein, which is 150 grams of protein.
What about your kidneys? No one I consulted thought that such a level of protein-intake would cause kidney problems for a person with normal, healthy kidneys. If you have kidney disease, consult your doctor. (Obviously!)
Then I looked at one more source. Me. This is not my first low-carb rodeo. I’ve been on strict keto diets before, and I’ve kept records of both weight loss and food intake. What do my records show that’s relevant here?
First, take the period of May 5, 2011, to March 3, 2012. I lost 35 pounds in this period, or nearly 15% of my starting body weight. It’s the earliest period for which I have detailed diet records. Over those 10 months, I consumed an average of 128 grams of protein per day.
Second, take the period of March 12, 2015, to October 26, 2015, in which I lost 18 pounds, or about 8.5% of my starting body weight. Over those seven and a half months, I consumed an average of 87 grams of protein per day. That’s close to my current daily protein target of 82 grams, which is the RDA minimum for me.
Yes, I was younger in 2011. So were you. And I was working full time and somewhat more physically active, but not a lot more. I was not engaging in regular, vigorous exercise that would use up large amounts of protein for muscle building and repair. My nearly 130 grams of protein intake a day in 2011 didn’t seem to bother my kidney function or my weight loss. The same can be said for my 87 grams a day in 2015, and that lower intake didn’t seem to cause problems for my muscle mass, either. Insofar as I have muscle mass.
The optimal protein intake for me is certainly higher than the RDA minimum of 82 grams a day. Given my history, I’d say my range is 87 to 128 grams a day. I lost weight in that range, with no ill effects. I may shoot for the middle ground of 110 grams of protein per day.
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