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How much protein should I eat?

Protein is the building block of life. It is necessary to eat protein in order to maintain and build lean muscle. Unfortunately most sources will instruct everyone to eat 1 gram or more per pound of body weight when attempting to build muscle and lose weight. While protein can assist in weight loss and lean muscle mass don’t start eating pound of meat to reach your goals.  

The body requires different amounts of protein depending on life style and age. As we age protein requirements increase. This increase is due to the bodies’ inability to utilize protein effectively. The increase though is quite small. Elderly individuals should not begin eating an additional steak or chicken breast because of this info. The easiest way to counteract this problem the body experiences from the aging process is exercise.

Strength training specifically, requires the body to utilize more protein. The body will utilize the protein better and force it to where it is needed, the muscles. This is the basic gist of how protein is used by the body. Like I indicated, many sites will tell you that you need well beyond 1 gram of protein per pound of body weight to build muscle. This may be true, if you’re on steroids because the body is in an unnatural state of utilizing all the protein it can find while creating a slew of other hormone issues.

In reality the body requires approximately .55 grams per pound of body weight for a sedentary individual. If you are active you can play with the amount your body can handle. Extreme athletes, working out for 2 hours or more a day doing extreme physical activity including heavy lifting, contact sports or other similar activities 5 or more days a week should obtain no more then .88 grams per pound of body weight. An individual who attends the gym for an hour, 3 days a week would do just fine at .55 grams per pound up to as much as .65. Don’t turn away and think this means you will lose any gains you have obtain or you won’t reach your goals, protein will not build muscle or lose weight on your own. Go to All the Way Fitness exercise page to find exercises that will make you lean and mean. The NSCA, National Strength and Conditioning Association has some great information concerning protein that is credible. This particular write up by Bill Campbell gives a good overview of protein and personal requirements.

True, you see professional athletes (who definitely fall into the extreme athlete sub-section) who eat 12oz porter houses for breakfast, an entire chicken for lunch and another 12oz porter house for dinner but many professional athletes utilize performance enhancing drugs. Many of these pro athletes also burn all of this protein as fuel, a very inefficient cycle to teach the body. By burning this protein as fuel the body is not utilizing carbs properly as the main source of fuel. When burning protein instead of carbs your body is simply working harder to perform the tasks it wants to complete. This can lead to feelings of lethargy during and after exercise. Athletes that eat these diets also end up suffering from severe gastrointestinal issues, heart related conditions, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, high LDL levels, inflammatory chronic conditions. Needless to say this is not the best way to live life if all you want to do is look good and feel good.

The worst part about this high protein diet is the long term effects on the body. Every muscle site will scream this is not true because they receive large amounts of money from protein supplement companies but high protein diets are not beneficial to the body. When protein is not used by the body it is either stored as fat, which the body will then attempt to burn as energy if you are lucky enough to fall into the extreme athlete category, or sits around your waist. This is why I stated you should play with the amount you eat to determine the optimal amount for you. If you see weight gain over a 2 week period while only increasing your protein intake, you are definitely consuming too much protein. The second and far worst problem with the additional protein is that it needs to leave the body. This requires the kidneys and liver to work over time. For a few months this would be ok, however over time this damages these vital organs and can lead to serious illness and disease. I can not overstate how dangerous it is to fool around with these vital organs. These organs are the main line of defense against toxins in the body. If they spend their lives fighting an over abundance of protein then they are spending less time protecting you from disease and illness.

Consider your long term health before embarking on a high protein diet. Everyone gets more then enough protein in a day to meet their needs. A chicken breast alone will meet your daily requirements. High protein diets are not the solution to weight loss or lean muscle mass. No smoke and mirrors, no speedy drugs or supplements. Only a total natural way of life involving exercise and healthy eating will accomplish that goal.

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