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Protein Myths

Protein Myths

Protein is more than just a means to build muscle, it actually plays a vital role in numerous processes in the body including wound healing, hormone creation, enzymatic reactions, and molecule transportation. 


Maybe you have been guzzling down protein shakes or even avoiding it in fear that protein could harm your body. There is a lot of misinformation out there regarding protein, so let’s get to the bottom of many of these protein myths. 


What is protein:

First, what is protein? Protein is one of the three macronutrients. Throughout the body, protein is found in your muscles, bone, skin, hair, and tissues. There are 20 different amino acids that are the building blocks of protein. Nine of them are essential amino acids, meaning that our body cannot create them and we need to get them from our food. 


It sounds simple, but over the years, there have been many false claims and misconceptions tied to protein.

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Myth 1: More protein is always better

While protein is definitely an essential nutrient that your body needs, more doesn’t always mean better. If you find yourself forcing down protein shakes at the end of the day, your protein goal is probably too high! Aiming for somewhere between 15-30% of your total calories from protein per day is a great place to start. This should get further personalized based on any health conditions, goals, or other factors.1Any additional protein you consume may be stored as fat. 


Myth 2: Too much protein is bad for your bones 

While more protein isn’t always better, it still doesn’t mean that consuming it will automatically be harmful to your body. It was once thought that a high protein diet would cause excessive calcium leaching from the bones, therefore leading to osteoporosis. This theory was disproved and it was found that protein actually is an important part of bone health. Protein provides essential amino acids to help build the bone matrix and stimulates bone formation.2Studies have found that in people with osteoporosis, bone mineral density is higher when protein intake is over 0.8 g/kg/day.3 


Myth 3: Vegetarians and vegans can’t get enough protein

There is a common misconception that plant-based proteins aren’t as adequate as animal-based proteins. While animal-based protein is a complete protein and is often more bioavailable, there is still great benefit to consuming plant-based protein. 


While it is true that plant-based proteins often don’t contain all the nine essential amino acids like animal-based proteins do, each of them do contain some of the necessary amino acids. There are some plant-based proteins that do contain all nine of the essential amino acids such as soy, quinoa, and buckwheat. Luckily, we do not need to get all of those nine amino acids from the same food or even from the same meal. Diversifying your protein sources is a great way to ensure you are fillsing in any amino acid gaps.

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Myth 4: You need protein 30 min or less after a workout 

While consuming protein around your workouts is beneficial, the window of time for consuming protein is much larger than was once thought. What appears to be more important than worrying about your protein intake 30 minutes after your workout is consuming adequate protein throughout the day, assuming a person is eating three evenly spaced meals.5 


Myth 5: Only bodybuilders need protein

It is often thought that only bodybuilders or those that are looking to build muscle mass require protein. Remember, protein is responsible for much more than muscle synthesis and is also necessary for wound healing, hormone creation, enzymatic reactions, and molecule transportation. 


Of course, your protein needs will still vary depending on your age, lifestyle, health goals, and activity level. So yes, if you are someone looking to build muscle, then you will require more protein. However, that still doesn’t mean that protein is less important for others! 


Realistic protein goals:

When it comes to setting protein goals, your size, health goals, and health conditions will determine how much to aim for each day. The National Academy of Medicine recommends that adults get a minimum of 0.8g/kg/d of protein. This number represents the minimum amount of protein required for health, but does not take into account any other health goals or personalized needs. We recommend working with your registered dietitian or medical professional to determine what an appropriate protein goal would be for you! 


Protein is an essential nutrient to your health no matter what your health goal is, however the amount that you may need each day will be dependent on many factors. Getting a variety of protein sources in your diet such as meat, legumes, soy, dairy, and eggs can help ensure that you are getting all the nutrients that you need to live a healthy life! 


What’s Next?

If you are interested in getting a more personalized protein recommendation based on your DNA, find out with GenoPalate!


References:
  1. Eatright.org 
  2. Mitchell PJ, Cooper C, Dawson-Hughes B, Gordon CM, Rizzoli R. Life-course approach to nutrition.Osteoporos Int. 2015;26(12):2723-2742.  
  3. ​​Bauer J, Biolo G, Cederholm T, et al. Evidence-based recommendations for optimal dietary protein intake in older people: a position paper from the PROT-AGE Study Group.J Am Med Dir Assoc. 2013;14(8):542-559.
  4. Andrea L Darling, D Joe Millward, David J Torgerson, Catherine E Hewitt, Susan A Lanham-New, Dietary protein and bone health: a systematic review and meta-analysis,The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, Volume 90, Issue 6, December 2009, Pages 1674–1692,https://doi.org/10.3945/ajcn.2009.27799 
  5. Aragon, A.A., Schoenfeld, B.J. Nutrient timing revisited: is there a post-exercise anabolic window?.J Int Soc Sports Nutr 10, 5 (2013).https://doi.org/10.1186/1550-2783-10-5

Photo of Frankie O'Brien

Written by:

Frankie O'Brien, MS, RD, LDN

Registered Dietitian

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