Protein is a hot topic.What is the best source?How much do you need?What are the government guidelines? Protein is considered the most satiating macronutrient of the three. It contains 4 calories per gram and provides life-sustaining properties not found in fat or carbohydrates. Our bodies NEED …

Protein is considered the most satiating macronutrient of the three.  It contains 4 calories per gram and provides life-sustaining properties not found in fat or carbohydrates.

Our bodies NEED protein.  But not just any protein.  We need protein we can access. It’s used as the building blocks for tissues, organs, nerves, muscles, enzymes, antibodies, hemoglobin, and peptide hormones.

In simplified terms, proteins are amino acids that are a necessary component for life.  There are 22 essential amino acids used in the human body – 9 of which are essential.

Here are a few numbers to think about:  16, 45, 54, and 100

Are you ready for an eye-opening ride on the protein train?

  • 16 = the percentage of calories most Americans are getting from protein

  • 45 = recommended grams of protein per day for women

  • 54 = recommended grams of protein per day for men

  • 100 = grams of protein per day recommended for a 2,000 cal/day diet

Let me explain those numbers a little bit more before we move on.

Before nutritional guidelines were developed (to avoid starving, by the way), people ate more protein than they do now.  

The RDA (Recommended Daily Allowance) suggests we get 0.8g of protein per kg of body weight.

What does this look like in pounds?

  • 145 pounds = 65.7 kg = about 53 grams of protein per day

  • 200 pounds = 90.7 kg = about 73 grams of protein per day

Another metric is the AMDR (acceptable macronutrient distribution range), which recommends 10-35% of total calories to be protein.

The average American woman (20 years old +) is 5’4″ and 170.6 pounds

The average American man (20 years old +) is 5’9″ and 197.9 pounds

So why are broad recommendations based 

What does this look like in terms of food?

25 grams of protein is equivalent to:

  • 3 oz roasted turkey

  • 3.3 oz steak

  • 4.4 oz salmon

  • 8 medium shrimp

  • 4 hard boiled eggs

But we need more than 25 grams. We need much more than that!  

Also, collagen protein powders are generally not accepted as contributing to total protein for the day. [watch Chris Masterjohn YouTube Video]

* Please take note of the calories and carbohydrates listed with pre-packaged, animal, and plant sources in the infographic below.  Also, know that many of the pre-packaged “good products” contain chemicals and preservatives – which they are not bound by law to include on the label. 

Within the US standard (as seen on many labels), the RDA estimates we need 2000 calories per day for the average woman, and 2600 cal per day for men.

If the AMDR percentages are applied to these calorie standards, wide ranges of protein are the result.

  • Women = 2000 cal/day at 10-35% = 50 – 175 grams of protein/day

  • Men = 2600 cal/day at 10-35 % = 65 – 228 grams of protein/day

That’s a pretty wide range and the midline of those ranges are well over the RDA’s recommendations!

Even at the midline 20% recommendation, women would need 100 g/day of protein.  This is more than double the broad recommendation of 45 g/day of protein.

Confused? You’re not alone! Welcome to nutrition explained and regulated by the government

Liquid vs Solid Protein

There really is no reason to consume liquid versions of protein if you’re a healthy functioning human being.

When you are consuming your protein in a liquid form like meal replacement shakes, smoothies, and protein shakes, you are missing vital steps in the digestive process.

You are bypassing a crucial step of chewing and allowing your body to produce digestive enzymes to get the chain reaction of digestion started appropriately.

Think of liquid protein as ABC food.  Already Been Chewed. 

I make it sound gross on purpose.  Now, before you tune out, hear me out

There are always exceptions, but those are rare.  If you are a morning green smoothie lover, you may want to ditch the blender for a frying pan.  

What’s in your morning smoothie?  Most likely a bunch of green veggies, yogurt, maybe a scoop of your favorite protein powder and some fruit.  What those ingredients add up to is a ton of non-satiating carbohydrates (because carbs are quick fuel) and very little highly-satiating protein.

Kudos on the yogurt, and protein powder if you added it, but it’s still not ideal. 

Chewing and getting your saliva working are missing.

When are protein shakes ok?

Unless your mouth is wired shut or you are getting fed through a tube, quality protein powders should only be used occasionally. Not daily.  Not as a meal replacement.

Ingredients matter.  Can you pronounce all of the ingredients?  Is it loaded with preservatives and synthetic versions of vitamins and minerals.   After trying many protein supplement powders and being disappointed for one reason or another (taste, preservatives, chalky texture, etc), I finally found one that I’m comfortable with allowing my family to use occasionally.  Rowdy bars has a super yummy and high-quality protein powder I love.  And, no, I don’t get paid to recommend it.  

But please remember, protein powders should NEVER replace whole foods in an otherwise healthy individual.

What if you have health concerns?  Maybe kidney or liver damage or disease?

For decades, physicians and other healthcare professionals have been instructed to limit their patients’ dietary protein intake if they have end-stage liver disease (ESLD) or end-stage renal disease (ESRD), or chronic kidney disease(CKD).  The research literature does not support this.

“The protein and energy requirements of patients with chronic renal failure are similar to those of healthy subjects” [REF]

“Inconclusive results of the ‘Modification of Diet in Renal Disease’ (MDRD) study, the largest randomized controlled trial to examine protein restriction in CKD” [REF, REF]

“The inclusion of adequate protein in the diets of malnourished patients with end-stage liver failure is often associated with a sustained improvement in their mental status. Furthermore, protein helps preserve lean body mass; this is crucial in patients with liver failure in whom skeletal muscle makes a significant contribution to ammonia removal.” [REF]

But it gets even more complex.

The dietary requirements for a traditional “low protein diet” for those with ESRD or CKD are actually what’s recommended for the average person.

The RDA recommends 0.6-0.8 grams of protein per kg of weight for normal individuals.  I already established this is incongruent math and low earlier.

The medical community states a low protein diet is … yep, you guessed it – 0.6-0.8 g/kg for protein intake.  

Wait?!  I thought that was the high end of the spectrum for protein intake?

No wonder even the medical community is often confused.

The data is similar for ESLD.  Malnutrition is a primary concern and frequent cause of poor quality of life, poor end of life health problems, and loss of muscle mass.

Low protein intake and restrictions have been taught for decades inaccurately.  A 2010 study finds a high-protein diet is actually beneficial.  Someone with ESLD should be getting 1.2–1.5 g/kg of body weight/day.  In multiple studies, a low protein intake is “to be avoided”.

Solution for protein

Without adequate protein, our bodies will not function properly, let along ideally.

Even if organ damage is occurring in the body, our bodies need protein.

We, as a whole, are not getting enough protein.

More severe consequences occur with a low-protein diet than a high-protein diet.

Understanding what the numbers actually mean is important.


What’s the Average Weight for Women?

What’s the Average Weight for Men?

Dietary Protein Intake and Chronic Kidney Disease

Protein restriction in the pre-end-stage renal disease (ESRD) patient: who, when, how, and the effect on subsequent ESRD outcome

Effect of diet protein restriction on progression of chronic kidney disease: A systematic review and meta-analysis

The Modification of Diet in Renal Disease Study: design, methods, and results from the feasibility study

Role of Nutrition in the Management of Hepatic Encephalopathy in End-Stage Liver Failure

DON’T Count Your Collagen as Protein | Chris Masterjohn Lite CML #83