The benefits of a high protein diet have been debated for decades. Not yet do we have a single conclusive answer to the exact optimal amount per day and per meal.
The RDA is based on getting you into a positive nitrogen balance. Although this is based on sound science it doesn’t take into consideration people who work out which means they will need more.
The issue we have is that we live in a world of extremes. A diet of 150g of protein today is considered “low” whilst a diet of 500g of protein is considered “high”. In this article, when we discuss a “high” protein diet we are talking about 1-1.5g of protein per kg of body weight which is roughly 150-250g per day for most people.
If we dig deeper, a 150g of protein isn’t just protein either. Recent studies by Dr Layne Norton shows that the leucine content of the protein source we consume is the main factor behind maximising protein synthesis.
What does this mean to you?
This means your protein sources are important. Consuming 150g of low quality protein may not maximise protein synthesis and thus will lead to inferior muscle growth compared to that of someone eating high quality sources.
Whey protein powder for example is a superior form of protein than Pork. (as seen below)
Take a look at this table below. It tells us how much of a certain protein source we need to hit 3.2g of leucine (the amount we need per meal to maximise protein synthesis).
|Protein Source||Leucine % of Total Protein||Amount of protein from source to hit 3.2g of Leucine (g)||Amount of food source required (g)|
|Whey||12%||27||Depends on whey protein type|
|Casein||9.3%||34||Depends on casein type|
|Milk||9.8%||33||932 (Approx 4 cups of milk)|
As you can see, different sources have different amounts of leucine. Whey protein comes out way on top with 12% leucine content.
There is no magical amount of protein you need to consume per meal. You need to consume the amount of that source required to get 3.2g of leucine and maximise protein synthesis. For example, you would need 40g of protein from Pork to hit this target.
For more information on this study, you can find the Study here.
Let’s jump into the top 10 health benefits of a high protein diet.
Protein optimizes chemical transmitter balance, making us restful at night. As we know, recovery is vital to growth and when we sleep this is the time we secrete the most amount of growth hormone. Having a well rested body means a better environment for growth, recovery and productivity.
Prevents Muscle Breakdown
Protein is made up of amino acids, the building blocks of muscle. It’s important to have a high protein diet while in a caloric deficit as the amino acids in the bloodstream will slow down muscle breakdown. Studies on branch chain amino acids show that they can vastly reduce muscle catabolism while dieting, which is extremely difficult to do without a high protein diet.
A high protein diet will help stimulate muscle protein synthesis and recovery. The body needs more protein to rebuild muscle and build them bigger and stronger than before. Without adequate protein levels the body will not be able to obtain this.
Improves skin, hair and muscle repair
High protein diets help the skin glow and hair look luscious. Protein is an essential building block to cell growth and regeneration.
Burn More Fat
Digesting protein burns twice as many calories compared to digesting carbohydrates. Protein is the most thermogenic macronutrient. A diet higher in protein means more calories will be burned through digestion.
Increase Satiety levels + decrease calorie intake
Protein is more filling than carbohydrates and fat. It’s shown that a 1% increase in protein take saw that people naturally decreases their calorie intake by 32-51 calories per day. If you scale this effect with the added benefit that protein makes you feel fuller then you will see dramatic results.
Improves Brain Function
Eating protein from a variety of animal sources helps enhance cognitive function. Animal proteins contain omega-3 fats, carnosine, creatine, vitamin D and vitamin B12.
A diet higher in protein is shown to enhance energy levels due to the higher thermogenic effect of food percentage compared to carbohydrates and fat.
Strengthens Bones & Slows Down Aging
A high protein diet is shown to reduce the risk of osteoporosis. Protein also strengthens bones and can slow down aging. It’s important for the elderly to consume more protein as they cannot use protein as efficiently as younger people.
Recovering and growing your muscles requires a surplus of protein. The protein will help rebuild muscles stronger than before. Once the recovery process is over your muscles will be bigger and stronger than before. It’s important to note if you do not consume enough protein to complete the recovery process you may never see strength or muscle growth.
A high protein diet has more benefits than simply building muscle. It’s vital to overall health. If you struggle to consume more protein in a day then look at protein powders or meal replacements to help you hit your target each day.
You can find a wealth of research on protein and protein supplements over at Examine.com if you want to get deeper into the science.