Are You Getting Enough Protein?

In our practice, we often see patients who complain of fatigue and weight gain. Frequently, the fatigue and weight gain are not a result of some horrible infectious disease, but the diet. Some people, in an effort to eat consciously (or not), have inadvertently replaced protein with carbohydrates in some form. What many people aren’t aware of is that too many carbs can lead to weight gain and make you tired. These patients are getting one or two servings of protein daily in their diets—clearly not enough.

Protein is an essential macronutrient in the diet. Even the RDAs (Recommended Daily Allowances) suggest that the average adult person needs protein with every meal. We do ourselves a great disservice by eating just a carbohydrate for breakfast—bagel, oatmeal, toast, or boxed cereal. A breakfast of this type sets us up for a sugar surge and plummet (eventually leading to reactive hypoglycemia, then prediabetes, and eventually diabetes), and deprives the brain of necessary neurotransmitters to make us happy and functional. The result is we are tired and cannot think, and need something to pep us up again (sugar, coffee, etc.). This becomes a vicious cycle and may take all day to recover, even when protein is eaten in all the other meals. Lack of protein can also create cravings for people. If you don’t eat properly in the beginning of the day, the hunger can cause one to binge and eat junk, in an effort to make up something missing in the diet. It is no lie that breakfast is the most important meal of the day.

The RDAs were established as guidelines for keeping people “well.” We often advise patients to have more than the RDA on many things, depending on what is happening in their lives. For example, an adult female age 18-51+ should eat 46-50 grams of protein per day while an adult male should have 58-63 grams per day. For females, 46 grams works out to three servings of 15 grams per meal; males should be eating 20 grams of protein three times per day, minimally.

Vegetarians and vegans are most at risk for low protein consumption. Yes, you can get protein from beans and rice, but the quality of protein has been shown to be inferior to animal protein for human beings. It becomes a challenge for this population to eat enough protein daily.

If an adult is working out every day, requirements for protein become greater. When we exercise, muscles are building and remodeling constantly, and we need more amino acids to support this process. If the need for more protein is not obtained from the diet, the body will resort to stealing amino acids from the muscle. Long term protein deficiency causes muscle wasting, also called sarcopenia. If this situation is chronic, the skeletal muscle will decrease, making a person weaker.

Protein plays many important roles in the metabolic processes of the body. Everything you see as you look at another human being is protein: skin, hair, and nails. In other words, the body structure is all protein. Inside the body: we have enzymes, immune systems antibodies, DNA proteins for reproducing our cells, contractile proteins in our muscles, structural proteins (collagen), hormones such as insulin and the sex hormones, and transport proteins like hemoglobin and albumin that deliver substances all over the body. Even our cells have proteins in the cell membrane that function to let things in and out of the cell.

The metabolic consequences of protein deficiency will be experienced all over the body, even if you cannot feel it. Remember also that your heart is a muscle, and certainly you want your diet to “feed” all the vital functions and organs of the body.

Occasionally I see a patient who has been diagnosed with some type of mental disorder (bipolar, depression, etc.), when they have never eaten breakfast or eaten well. If deprived of nutrients from the moment one wakes up, how can the brain function properly? Would you rather have a mental illness that’s medicated or make concerted effort to eat properly? Of course I am simplifying things, but my point is one must fix the nutritional deficiencies and give the body the opportunity to perform under optimal conditions before assuming a diagnosis of some kind.

If you wonder how much protein you should be eating every day, or would be interested in our food sensitivity test, please-

  • Call the office for an appointment at 1(203)-264-2200

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