Protein intake in the human diet.

I am writing this as an exploration. I regularly exercise. As one who is aging, I have often pondered “How much protein is enough, too much, not enough”?? There are populations that do not consume what is promoted as adequate protein, yet they thrive. The amount of protein that one might consume can be correlated to the need for ‘muscle mass’ but that is a fine line to traverse. Additionally, there are examples in the animal kingdom of protein not being a major component of consumption. Basically, I think that one must become more intimate with the overall effects of their protein consumption.

Photo by Jacob Moseholt on

I have been consistently active for most of my life. Athletic in High School. Mildly competitive as an adult. Avidly consistent exerciser overall. I committed to strength training. My regimen saw my consuming large(r) amounts of protein and attaining commiserate gains. However, I do not train as ‘heavily now’ as I once did. I do enough training to maintain the modicum of strength. Yet, I have wondered about the need for consuming prescribed amounts of protein. I know, from my certifications, that it is necessary dietary component but how much?? Personally, I have been adjusting my amount of consumed protein toward the ‘lower’ end of the spectrum. I have not noticed deleterious effects on my day to day functioning.

What a nice way to start . . . . .
This looks great, doesn’t it??

There are groups of people in the modern day that do not consume western society levels of protein. However, studies state that the world level of protein consumption is above necessary levels. People in richer countries take in far more than they need, while nearly a fifth of the world’s population doesn’t get enough of it. is there a middle ground to be found? The Max Planck Institute finds that complete sources of vegetable proteins, those which contain all eight amino acids, are available from almonds, sesame, pumpkin and sunflower seeds, from soybeans, buckwheat, peanuts, potatoes, all leafy greens and most fruits. Fruits supply approximately the same percentage of complete protein as mother’s milk (1.0 – 1.4%). Dr. P. Airola, Naturopath, feels that it is virtually impossible not to get sufficient protein, provided (that) you have enough to eat of natural, unrefined foods. The protein question remains: What is insufficient, too much, or enough??

One determinant of adequate protein consumption is the level of competition in which one may be involved. The acquisition of muscle is facilitated by the high amounts of protein consumption. This is especially true for ‘strength’ athletes. The strongmen as a rule must eat massive amounts of calories to include ‘higher than normal’ levels of protein. There exists a dichotomous schism for dietary recommendation for strongmen. There is the admonition for a regimen requiring meat based protein. However, a  simultaneous set of guidelines is promoting a vegetarian based, high protein diet. Both provide the strength benefits, yet the vegetarian proteins are physiologically more easily assimilated. In general, the proteins must be balanced with sufficient amounts of carbohydrates for energy to fuel those muscles, whatever their source.

The largest, and strongest animals eat a largely, minimal protein containing, carbohydrate based diet. They just eat a lot. A lot. This is to say that high protein consumption is not a requirement, per se, for day to day living.  Dr. Rothman and her colleagues studied mountain gorillas in Uganda and found that they eat a protein-rich diet, supplemented with fruits. Protein makes up about 17 percent of their total energy intake, close to the 15 percent protein intake the heart association recommends for people. Notice the wide range of components in the following dietary recommendations: In general, most adults should target (their diets to comprise of) 45-65% Carbohydrates, 10-35% Protein and 20-35% Fat for their consumption purposes. Contrast this against the fact that most socialized people tend to eat more meat, especially as they get wealthier.

Photo by David Atkins on

The SAD diet (United States Diet) consists of high amounts of animal protein. Yet, many people lead sedentary lifestyles. This does not lend to adequate utilization of the proteins that one regularly  consumes. Add to that, the fact that energy is derived from complex carbs more-so than from proteins. Proteins are not an efficient source of energy. The body will use them for such if it is not being supplied with sufficient energy from other sources. The body will store protein consumed in excess as fat. Fat is an even less efficient source of energy. It is as if a conspiracy of minimal information is being enacted against the masses when it comes to nutrition. Protein is promoted as the pinnacle of dietary intake, yet physical activity is not as promotionally prominent, across the board.

In addition, excess protein consumption can have deleterious effects on health. Studies show that a reduced protein intake or low-protein/high-carbohydrate diet plays a critical role in longevity/metabolic health. Additionally, specific amino acids (AAs), including methionine or branched-chain AAs (BCAAs), are associated with the regulation of lifespan/ ageing and metabolism through multiple mechanisms. Therefore, methionine or BCAAs restriction may lead to the benefits on longevity/metabolic health. Moreover, epidemiological studies show that a high intake of animal protein, particularly red meat, which contains high levels of methionine and BCAAs, may be related to the promotion of age-related diseases.

We should eat well as we must eat to live. There are plenty of foods available that wi;ll sustain the human body. The preponderant preoccupation with protein consumption coupled with a lack of physical activity sets the stage for physical problems. Higher amounts of protein can create difficulties for the body. The interface between the cells and the capillaries does not allow for the efficient transfer of nutrients. Protein, in moderation, especially with regard to modern societies. The body is capable of processing what is consumed. Yet, the body often must contend with improper diet or an excess of dietary components that do not contribute to overall physical well being. We must become more responsible for our own well being, our own welfare, maintaining our own constitution.

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