Dec 272011

“How much protein should I eat every day, if I want to achieve x?”

That would have to be one of the most common questions I would have encountered in any conversation about food/nutrition, in recent times. For good reason, if you ask me, and not really the simplest question to answer.

The first problem is “should”.

You should eat however much protein you want to eat or believe is constructive to eat. When someone asks a question with “should” in it, it seems to me that they often want to count themselves out of the experiment and just do what they’re told.

“You’re the trainer; you tell me!”

Sure, that’s all well and good that you respect my opinion, but though I may have more background information on the topic at hand, you have vastly more info on you than I could ever hope to have.

And that counts for a lot, by the way.

“But I read an article on the Dukan Diet and it said…”

I’m going to set something straight here: there is a LOT of stuff in the Dukan Diet (and similar high protein diets) that often reflects guidelines that I might advise to people with a fat loss goal. HOWEVER, I would NOT EVER recommend to you to “go on the Dukan Diet”.

Why? Because it’s dead and you’re not. This goes for all other “diets” around.

The Dukan Diet and almost all other diet approaches do one thing (in my opinion) and do it well:

They take basic metabolic principles and dress them up to look “unique”, so that their book can be marketed with a “point of difference”. And those’re the GOOD ones…

Good because that covers the diets that have some resemblance to both research evidence and common sense. Problem is that in the process, they generally add so much specific… well, dumb shit, just so that it can be “different”.

Other diets are just 100% “dumb shit”, with a bit of a caloric restriction strategy to attempt some results along the way.
(At this point I seriously want to deviate into what I would classify as “dumb shit” in the dietary arena, but I’m trying to stay on topic and that rant could take a LONG time…)

 “So what COULD I try, in relation to protein?”

NOW we’re getting somewhere. It’s not really useful to talk about “should” and not useful to talk about things you couldn’t actually DO, so narrowing down the things you COULD do into what might have the best odds of being useful is a great place to start.

  • Eat more.
  • Eat less.
  • Eat a greater variety.
  • Eat lesser variety.
  • Eat “better” quality.
  • Ignore quality.
  • Change timings.

As far as I can figure, any change you make is going to fall under one of these types. So, that’s the whole list; time for the shortlist:

  • Eat more.
  • Eat a greater variety.
  • Eat “better” quality.
  • Change timings.

So those are the ones I would try something with first, for MOST people.

Context always matters.

The thing is, though, you MIGHT already eat enough protein. OR perhaps you don’t eat that much, but you know from experience that just blindly adding more of what proteins you already eat seems to make you react badly (put on fat, digestive issues, pain problems, anything really).

Perhaps you already eat a reasonable variety and seeking more variety is going to mean ordering venison, duck and quail regularly. That kind of added effort is more likely to be a problematic stress than a helpful step!

Maybe you already eat organic and free range meats of the highest quality. MAYBE you just can’t AFFORD higher quality protein!

Maybe your timings aren’t really up to you, with a strict work/life schedule that doesn’t allow much customisation.

Lets get real and break it down to basics.

You can lose weight and better your body composition (more muscle, less fat) in MANY MANY ways. If you check with people you know, you’ll likely find a multitude of ways that have worked for people in the past or are currently working for them. So the great thing to remember is: nothing is compulsory.

These things are often associated with better progress:

  • Protein intake averaging about 1.7g per kilo of bodyweight per day. NOT equaling this every day, just averaging.
  • A variety of protein sources (preferably 4-5+, I would say).
  • Increased quality of protein (less contamination with other substances, animals raised in close to evolutionary context).
  • Eating protein soon after resistance training and a larger intake in the 24-48hrs afterward.

So, why not try those out?

Assuming that all those things are possible areas of improvement for you, pick the one that sounds easiest to fulfill and aim to achieve that marker. When you have comfortably gained that habit (or you are finding progress frustratingly hard), try another. Repeat until content.

I’m not going to sit here and regurgitate theoretical reasons why for all of those things. I could give you all the reasons why it SHOULD (see what I did there?) work and that won’t make it work. We won’t know until you try.

Try it. Is it measurable as good? Continue. If not, consider other options.


P.S. If you want to get more informed about the specifics and ways to make them work for you, I highly recommend that you check out Mike T. Nelson’s awesome Metabolic Flexibility product, which includes recorded seminars on the three types of macronutrients and how to make the best plans to test your approach. I’m not lying when I say that 95% of my nutritional knowledge is built on the foundation of Mike’s work here. (Disclosure: This is an affiliate link. I believe it is the first I have ever posted. For damn good reason. If you buy it and have ANY issue whatsoever with the material OR with Mike, contact me before taking him up on his generous refund offer. I will be glad to listen to your issues and try to help, in addition to the personal coaching Mike includes!)