Protein has gotten such a bad rap from the mainstream press in the past few years that it's almost impossible to have an intelligent conversation about it. Environmental groups, animal rights activists, and various other non-fitness groups have been allowed to dominate the discussion because of their supposedly good intentions. The problem is that none of them are primarily concerned about the health and fitness of normal people let alone athletes and their domination of this topic has clouded the minds of too many people. Frankly speaking, their concerns have nothing to do with fitness and folks looking for fitness gains should seek elsewhere for quality information.
The amount of protein that a typical client we see at Formosa Fitness would need tends to be a shock. Across the board in the weightlifting community, 1 gram of protein per pound of bodyweight per day is highly recommended. Kettlebell training, especially the metabolically demanding type we practice, constitutes weight training and clients should eat protein to support the training. Otherwise, gains in the gym will taper off and the chance of injury will increase.
One gram per pound of body weight per day would equal 200 grams of protein intake per day in a 200lbs. man. A 150lbs. woman would need 150 grams per day. This is necessary everyday because you're either training that day in the gym or you're recovering from the day before and your protein needs are therefore going to remain high regardless.
Weightlifters in the various communities will naturally debate the merits of research and some will recommend much more than this and some will recommend slightly less. This average emerged as athletes tried out the various recommendations and kept track of the results. Those results showed that one gram per pound meets most athletes needs.
Please keep in mind that these communities were solely interested in health and fitness. That was their primary concern and if you're looking to get fit, then the advice of those who are all about fitness should be very informative to you.
Environmental groups, animal rights activists, world health agencies, etc. all have their own agendas that might or might not be worth paying attention to, but one thing is for sure: fitness is NOT their primary concern. Most of the time their recommendations are based on minimal requirements just to stay alive, not to get fit and support athletic training! The amount of protein needed to keep a villager from dying of starvation is NOT the same amount of protein needed by someone trying to acheive optimal fitness.
If 1 gram per pound of body weight per day is the goal then what do we have to eat to attain that goal? Most of you would be shocked at how little protein is in the average diet. This chart from the USDA (PDF) is very useful. If you look at the amounts of protein in the various foods, you'll see that animal products like steak and cottage cheese are quite high in protein and other sources are not. But even a chicken drumstick comes in at only 13-14 grams of protein. If you're supposed to be eating 150 grams of protein based on our recommendation of one gram per pound, then how many drumsticks should you eat everyday? Eating TEN a day would still leave you short. Are you shocked yet?
Certain foods like steak and cottage cheese do score pretty highly and I highly recommend you make these higher protein foods a staple of your diet if you can. But from experience, I know that very few people are eating these every day. From talking with clients, I know that most folks are eating primarily carbohydrates, a couple of servings of greasy meats, and almost no fruits and vegetables. High quality protein sources for various reasons are NOT on the menu of most clients.
The reasons for this are many and are beyond this article unless I want to write 20 pages, and I don't. Suffice it to say that carbohydrates in the form of bread, pasta, rice, etc. have gotten a free pass in recent years and the fact that ALL carbohydrates are sugars is a fact that is simply not widely known. The typical diet is drowning in sugar and deficient in protein, which contains no sugar BTW.
So let's look at a typical client meal and let's just pick lunch as an example. We'll use the USDA chart and be as generous as we can.
Rice is major part of most local meals so we'll pick one whole cup of rice and we'll pick the highest quality protein rice they list (does your meal REALLY use the highest protein quality rice listed? Hmmm....) so that comes in at around 15 grams per cup.
Let's get totally crazy and say this meal contains a whole cup of cabbage, which is unlikely but we're being generous, so that comes in at around 1 gram per cup.
Let's continue to be generous and throw in one whole cup of broccoli at 2.5 grams per cup. We're up to 18.5 grams of protein.
Now let's add that drumstick in at 14 grams and we have a typical meal here in Taiwan. The grand total is a whopping 32.5 grams of protein and this is likely to be the highest protein meal people are getting each day!
If a client at 150lbs. ate five meals like that, then the protein would be adequate. But no one is doing that and if you did, the calories would kill you.The caloric density of non-lean protein sources is a whole other article. Lean protein sources are a must if your goal is fat loss. The difference in protein quality from the various sources is also a whole other article.
Breakfast tends to be even worse than the meal above since most people don't eat any significant source of protein for that meal. Not eating protein for breakfast leaves just TWO MEALS to get all your protein for the day.
Ask yourself honestly then: are you REALLY getting all the protein you need?