It’s Tuesday and that means that Lani is dropping by to answer some of your questions! If you want to learn a little bit more about Lani, or check out her helpful advice in the comments check out this introduction post.
Today, Lani tackles the protein question!
jrhicks asks “Why are many fitness coaches bent on pushing high-protein meatbased diets; what can be done to undo their powerful influence?”
Lani: Thanks jrhicks, I get the protein question a lot and I never tire of answering it.
One of my pet peeves in the fitness world is how everyone seems to be quoting eachother. Perpetuating the ‘pound down protein to build muscle’ is at the top of that list. Ihave a colleague who used to work in the supplement industry and one of the reasonshe got out is because even though there was no scientific basis to massive amountsof protein every day. It was being promoted strongly by the food supplement industry. How else is someone going to get all the grams they need according to the guidelinesthey are all too willing to perpetuate? To him it was clearly a dollar-signs-in-their-eyesissue.
The truth about human dietary protein requirements is that we only need 10% or less of our daily calories from protein, which you can easily get with a plant-based diet. The World Health Organization puts it even lower at a minimum daily requirement of 5%: The topic of protein is heavily hit in the T. Colin Campbell Plant-based CertificationCourse.
“The initial experiments are done to determine how much protein must beconsumed to match the amount being lost in the urine. That’s done by comparinghow much nitrogen we consume to how much nitrogen we lose. Nitrogen is unique to protein, so we’re actually measuring nitrogen as an index of protein intake. Protein is turning over all the time as we synthesize new protein andget rid of old protein, so we need to replace it on a daily basis. According to these nitrogen balance experiments, the amount of protein required fora normal human being to meet the losses that normally occur is called the
minimum daily requirement. The amount of protein we need is 5%–6% of total calories. Researchers add to that number two standard deviations, or statistical adjustments if you will, to assure that the larger population with its varyingneed for proteins will get enough. That’s how they come up with the RDA,the recommended daily allowance. It comes out to 8%, 9%, or 10%, which is considered adequate theoretically and statistically speaking for 98% of a larger population. So at 10%, most people are already getting enough protein…”~T. Colin Campbell Foundation and TILS, 2009, Plant-based Nutrition Certification, Cornell University
For simplicity’s sake, let’s be generous and say that 10% of a person’s daily calories as protein is sufficient. That means that someone eating 2,000 calories a day would get sufficient protein in 10% of those calories, which equals 200. Every gram of protein has 4 calories. 200 divided by 4 = 50 grams.
One can easily score 50 grams of protein in one day by eating simply:
1 1/2 cups of oatmeal (9 grams protein)1 cup of black beans (15 grams of protein)2 cups of raw spinach (1 gram protein)1 cup of brown rice (5 grams protein) a large stalk of broccoli (7 grams protein)one medium potato (3 grams protein)1 cup kale (2 grams protein), andone cup of lentil soup (10 grams protein)
….Oops! I’ve overshot my 50 grams protein by 2 grams at 52.
Yet the calorie count is modest: lentil soup (185 calories), 1 1/2 cups oatmeal (300 calories), 1 cup black beans (227 calories), 1 cup brown rice (215 calories), 2 cups spinach (7 calories), large stalk broccoli (98 calories), and one medium potato (128 calories) = 1160 calories.
The 52 grams of protein calculated with the food list above equals a caloric load of 208(52 x 4 calories per gram). 208 divided by 1160 = .17, which for our purposes means that actually protein comprises 17% of the calories from these food choices. Filling in the rest of the day’s calorie requirements with fruits, vegetables, possibly more starchy vegetables and whole grains, nuts, and seeds easily tips one into the balance of more protein than required. The point is, see how easy it is to get adequate protein on a diet that includes none from meat, fish, eggs, or dairy products?
Most proteins from vegetables also contain all 9 essential amino acids, but 1 or 2 maybe low in one particular amino acid or another. This is not a bad thing, and simply means that by eating a variety of plant foods over the course of our days brings thiseasily into balance. Beans are rich sources of all essential amino acids.
Understanding the basic simplicity of this goes a long way toward giving you confidence in the face of protein pushers.
As always, thank you to Lani for todays Q&A! Do you have a question for Lani? Please leave a comment!