Women may crave carbs, but men are infatuated with protein. We obsess over the amount, the quality, and where our proteins come from, and we faithfully follow diets based on colossal amounts of this nutrient. Why? We see protein as our ticket to a lean yet muscle-bound body boosting strength and vitality. But is protein the answer to improving our bodily concerns?
Protein is an amazing and versatile nutrient. Named after the Greed word proteos (meaning of “prime importance”), protein is composed of building blocks called amino acids. There are twenty different amino acid – eleven of which our body makes on its own, and nine of which are not make by our body (called essential amino acids) and therefore have to be obtained from our food.
Protein deserves its nomenclature due to its vast role in making us who we are and how we function. From healing wounds to making enzymes, antibodies, and hormones, to transporting lipids, vitamins, minerals, and oxygen, to maintaining our fluid and electrolyte balance, to clotting the blood from an injury so we don’t bleed to death, protein is a busy nutrient.
And one more thing – protein is an integral component of our teeth, bones, skin, tendons, muscles, cartilage, blood vessels, and other tissues. All are important structures to the workings of a healthy body.
While most men rank protein as their top nutrient concern, few of us are deficient in it. We often consume large amounts of protein, especially those of us who are into fitness. After all, it makes us feel full, which helps with weight loss, and it works to build and maintain muscle mass. It’s true that muscle contains about 40 percent of the protein in the human body. Which is why some believe that eating extra protein correlates directly to building large muscles. Sorry guys, but wolfing down extra protein by itself does not magically build bulging muscles.
What will enhance your prospects of gaining muscle mass is to eat adequate amounts of protein while focusing on regular weekly session of resistance training. Those food sources of protein are crucial in the recovery phase of working out and rebuilding muscle afterward.
The Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) for protein each day is 10 to 35 percent of total calories for adults. Research shows no benefit to eating more protein than this amount. In fact, eating a high-protein diet can lead to an unbalanced diet. Filling your plate with protein all day every day often replaces other high-quality foods your body needs to function properly. These foods include disease-fighting fruits and vegetables, heart-healthy fats, and whole grains that aid in digestion and weight loss. Anytime you overemphasize one macronutrient at the expense of the others, it can lead to deficiencies in vital nutrients. For example, if 60 percent of your diet is composed of protein with only 20 percent fat and 20 percent carbohydrates, you’ll be denying your body of B vitamins, fiber, and extra energy that you would normally get in a moderate-carbohydrate diet.
Another way to look at protein intake is to take the focus off the amount and instead focus on when you eat it. The human body does not store protein like it does carbohydrates and fat. So once the body’s needs are met, any extra protein is used for energy or stored as fat. Excess carbohydrates are stored in either muscles or the liver as glycogen, and once those are full, the rest is stored in adipose (fat) tissue. Extra fat your body can’t use at a particular time also gets packed away in adipose tissue. This means your body has no storage space for extra protein when you need it for various functions – and it’s also why research shows it’s a bad idea to slam down a huge amount of protein in one sitting to try to build muscle. The best way to make sure you have sufficient protein available throughout each day is to spread your intake over your meals and snacks.
Remember how protein is composed of amino acids, building blocks for various needs like muscle building? Research has shown that aiming for about 25 to 30 grams of protein per meal and about 10 to 15 grams of protein per snack results in having those amino acids available throughout the day whenever your body needs them. Rather than skimping on protein at breakfast or lunch (when we normally eat on average of 10 and 20 grams, respectively) and eating most of it at dinner (when we typically eat 60-plus grams), spread out your intake to maximize the use of amino acids for building muscle. This same research also found that people who ate 12 ounces of beef (about 85 grams of protein) did not experience any greater benefits in muscle building than those who are 4 ounces of beef (29 grams of protein), or roughly a palm-sized portion. The extra protein from a 12-ounce steak (that is, anything more than 30 grams) will only get socked away in your adipose tissue and not your muscles.
Older adults may also benefit from proportionally more protein in their diets – evenly distributed over the day – for muscle health. Aging means loss of muscle mass known as sarcopenia. After about age fifty, we lose 0.5 percent to 2 percent of total muscle mass each year. This age-related muscle-mass loss can begin at even younger ages if low protein intake is paired with inactivity. This is why eating a meal with 4 to 5 ounces of high-quality protein – a palm-sized portion – will fill up your protein tank. High quality includes all animal protein sources such as lean beef, poultry, pork, lamb, seafood, eggs, milk, cottage cheese, Greek yogurt and cheese.
Dr. David Samadi is the Director of Men’s Health and Urologic Oncology at St. Francis Hospital in Long Island. He’s a renowned and highly successful board certified Urologic Oncologist Expert and Robotic Surgeon in New York City, regarded as one of the leading prostate surgeons in the U.S., with a vast expertise in prostate cancer treatment and Robotic-Assisted Laparoscopic Prostatectomy. Dr. Samadi is a medical contributor to NewsMax TV and is also the author of The Ultimate MANual, Dr. Samadi’s Guide to Men’s Health and Wellness, available online both on Amazon and Barnes & Noble. Visit Dr. Samadi’s websites at robotic oncolo gy and prostate cancer 911.