Protein is a buzzword that is helping to market many kinds of processed foods, leading Americans to consume levels far in excess of requirements. High protein consumption is not only dangerous to your health, but also has a profound negative impact on the planet. By understanding how much protein your body truly requires, you can eliminate the risk of health complications while also benefiting the planet and environment. The easiest way to do this is by following a plant-based diet! According to the Physicians Committee, Americans consume twice the amount of protein they need already. Food companies are placing prominent protein labels on bars, cereals, and candy, and as the Wall Street Journal (3/26/2013) explains, “When the Box Says Protein, Shoppers Say I’ll Take It.” When people see a product labeled as “high protein”, they believe it will make them feel full or provide more energy, despite what the product actually contains. Therefore in order to achieve optimal health, it is critically important to be knowledgeable on the effects, requirements, and sources of protein.
The fitness industry has also done a great job convincing people that they need massive amounts of protein, which is a myth, a protein myth to be exact! Like any business, this protein industry profits off of your purchases, so they have convinced people to over-consume protein through manipulative marketing strategies. This has led to the development of a multi-billion dollar protein supplement industry with products like whey protein that are filled with artificial sweeteners and other toxic fillers.
The diet industry also jumped on the bandwagon with this trend and began advocating high protein diets for weight loss (there is some validity to this claim which I will discuss later). With all the different diet fads that range from high protein to high fat, ketogenic diets, it can get confusing and frustrating to sort out the facts versus fiction. I personally fell victim to these circulating myths. For over two years, I was consuming almost 300 grams of protein a day!
For comparison, recognize that my maximum protein requirement is 55 grams of protein per day and that is on the high end of the spectrum. I quickly fell victim to the effects of protein toxicity. While following my demanding training protocol, I was eating mostly chicken, protein powders, greek yogurt, and egg whites. Not only did I gain weight and body-fat, but I was constantly tired, my body ached, my joints hurt, and my muscles could not recover. My training was suffering and I knew something was wrong. I began analyzing the diets of world-class athletes which sparked my interest in a plant-based diet. What I discovered through my research was astonishing! Not only were some of the World’s greatest athletes plant-based, but they were consuming far less protein than I thought was required! My research and personal experimentation led me to the realization that Americans have been blatantly manipulated into believing that the higher the protein, the better, faster, stronger, and “skinnier” they will be. Since lowering my intake to 55 grams per day and acquiring my protein through plant sources, my energy is through the roof, I recover like never before, and I am leaner and faster than I have ever been.