It's easy to understand the excitement. Protein is an important component of
every cell in the body. Hair and nails are mostly made of protein. Your body
uses protein to build and repair tissues. You also use protein to make enzymes,
hormones, and other body chemicals. Protein is an important building block of
bones, muscles, cartilage, skin, and blood.
Along with fat and carbohydrates, protein is a "macronutrient," meaning that
the body needs relatively large amounts of it. Vitamins and minerals, which are
needed in only small quantities, are called "micronutrients." But unlike fat
and carbohydrates, the body does not store protein, and therefore has no
reservoir to draw on when it needs a new supply.
So you may assume the solution is to eat protein all day long. Not so fast,
The truth is, we need less total protein that you might think. But we could
all benefit from getting more protein from better food sources.
How Much Protein Is Enough?
We've all heard the myth that extra protein builds more muscle. In fact, the
only way to build muscle is through exercise. Bodies need a modest amount of
protein to function well. Extra protein doesn't give you extra strength.
According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services:
Teenage boys and active men can get all the protein they need from three
daily servingsfor a total of seven ounces.
For children age 2 to 6, most women, and some older people, the government
recommends two daily servings for a total of five ounces.
For older children, teen girls, active women, and most men, the guidelines
give the nod to two daily servings for a total of six ounces.
Everyone who eats an eight-ounce steak typically served in restaurants is
getting more protein that their bodies need. Plus they're getting a hefty
amount of artery-clogging saturated fat as well.
The Drawbacks of High-Protein Diets
Many people who have jumped on the high-protein/low-carb bandwagon think
that they can pack away as much protein as they like. But nutrition experts
urge caution. The reasons why have to do with how high-protein/low-carb diets
are thought to lead to weight loss. When people eat lots of protein but few
carbohydrates, their metabolisms change into a state called ketosis.
Ketosis means the body converts from burning carbs for fuel to burning its own
fat. When fat is broken down, small bits of carbon called ketones are
released into the bloodstream as energy sources. Ketosis, which also occurs in
diabetes, tends to
suppress appetite, causing people to eat less, and it also increases the body's
elimination of fluids through urine, resulting in a loss of water weight.