For some reason it seems that protein gets a bad rep or people are skeptical to eat protein because they heard eating meat can lead to being unhealthy. Or people are trading in real meat for impossible meat, fake meat, something that looks like meat and tastes like meat but isn't.
Staying away from protein is actually leading to more obesity in the world. Yes you heard that right!
Why is this happening?
Let's introduce the Protein Leverage Hypothesis. The body has a target level of protein that it needs to consume in order to survive and complete processes throughout the body. In a poor protein but energy rich food environment, humans will overeat carbs and fats to try and reach their protein target.
The human body is a fascinating machine, and it knows exactly what it requires to function. It knows how much protein, carbs and fats it needs. But we have a brain that has its own interest and emotions that overpower the body. The body prioritizes protein over carbs and fats, yet most of the standard American diet consumes more carbs and fats. Time and time again people are choosing a path of obesity and poor health.
Why is this causing obesity, one would think if the protein in the diet is low then total calories are lower but that is where they are wrong. It is shown that people on a high carb and high fat diet had to eat up to 35% more total calories to reach their target protein intake. Foods that are predominantly carbohydrates and fats still contain protein but you have to eat more of it to get more protein. That's a hell of a lot of calories to be consumed in excess, and guess what those excess calories get stored as fat.
In the US the average protein consumption in the diet fell from 14% to 12.5%, with that shift one has to increase calorie intake by 13%. This is what is leading to weight gain. When you pass up that ribeye steak or chicken you need to consume more calories elsewhere, more rice, pasta, bread, whatever it is. It is also well known that most of the excess calories are not coming as extra veggies or fruits being eaten, it's from ultra processed food which provides no nutrition value at all.
It is no wonder why this obesity epidemic is becoming worse.
Most animals on this planet eat to survive, reproduce and sustain life and each animal's body has the same protein target amount and will consume enough food to hit that. There are so many different diets out there and yes they can work, some do some work for a bit then they fail. This is not about the perfect diet; one does not exist.
On the flip side over consuming protein is not the best, if this occurs constantly overtime we start under consuming calories, hence why high protein/low carb diets work in the beginning. But remember we need to sustain life and energy. It needs to come back to a balance.
This is about protein and most diets emphasize the importance of protein intake, whether it's for satiety, weight loss or general lean body mass. The ideal protein intake is between 15-20% of your daily intake most likely lying at 17-18%.
The next time you go to get food, think about the protein quality and content of the food and we have to be conscious of our intake to make sure we are getting enough in each day so we do not start over consuming calories.
1.Pendick, D., 2021. How much protein do you need every day? - Harvard Health Blog. [online] Harvard Health Blog. Available at: <https://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/how-much-protein-do-you-need-every-day-201506188096> [Accessed 27 January 2021].
2. RAUBENHEIMER, D., 2021. EAT LIKE THE ANIMALS. [S.l.]: MARINER BOOKS.
3. Wu, G., 2016. Dietary protein intake and human health. Food & Function, 7(3), pp.1251-1265.