Tag Archives: Protein Power Lifeplan

Protein Requirements

Low carb diets usually start with the proposition that you should eat a certain minimum amount of protein based on your lean body mass, no more than 30 – 40 grams of carbohydrate, and fill the rest of your diet with “good fats”. Protein Power includes a series of calculations to determine lean body mass, and then provides charts to determine your daily protein requirement. Protein Power Lifeplan simplified the process to include charts based on your height and weight.

The basic formula is about .6 of a gram of protein per pound of lean body mass (or, .6 gram of protein per .45 kg). For a person with a lean body mass of 150 pounds (67.5 kg), that’s 90 grams per day.

New dieters often express concern about the danger of “too much protein”, with kidney failure often a concern. A rule of thumb by dieters has been that up to 150% of your minimum protein requirement is no problem, and blood tests to measure kidney function in dieters exceeding their minimum protein requirement seems to bear this out.

Some people are alarmed at this, in part by the conservative Dietary Reference Intake levels of .66 to .8 grams of protein per kilogram of total weight. 150 pounds of lean body mass equals about 67.5 kg, and even at the higher recommendation of .8 grams of protein, that’s only 54 grams of protein. And yet low carbers routinely advise people that up to 135 grams … one and a half times the “minimum” requirement in Protein Power … is OK?

First, note that the Daily Reference Intake levels are for total body weight, not just lean body mass. Dieters want to “feed” their lean body mass so they don’t lose muscle along with fat, so they apply the calculation only to lean body mass, not total weight. So there is a built-in safety margin already in the low carb diets. And the fatter you are, the bigger the safety margin.

There’s also new evidence that protein requirements have been “significantly underestimated”, according to a new study released in the journal Current Opinion in Clinical Nutrition and Metabolic Care:

The mean and population-safe requirements in adult men were determined to be 0.93 and 1.2 g/kg/day and are 41 and 50%, respectively, higher than the current Dietary Reference Intakes recommendations.

To calculate the safe dietary intake of protein, researchers have been looking at “nitrogen balance“, using single linear regression analysis. The researchers re-examined this, applied two-phase linear regression analysis (considered more appropriate for “biological analysis of dose-response curves”), and came up with higher recommendations.

Considering the inherent problems associated with the nitrogen balance method, we developed an alternative method, the indicator amino acid oxidation technique, to determine protein requirements The mean and population-safe requirements in adult men were determined to be 0.93 and 1.2 g/kg/day and are 41 and 50%, respectively, higher than the current Dietary Reference Intakes recommendations.

Preventable, yet “Encouraged”

Stunning statistics from a study published in the December issue of Diabetes Care, as reported by Health Day News:

The number of people with diabetes in the United States is expected to double over the next 25 years, a new study predicts.

That would bring the total by 2034 to about 44.1 million people with the disease, up from 23.7 million today.

At the same time, the cost of treating people with diabetes will triple, the study also warns, rising from an estimated $113 billion in 2009 to $336 billion in 2034.

The increase is from adult onset, or type II diabetes. Health Day attributes the increase to obesity:

Factors driving the increase in diabetes cases include the aging population and continued high rates of obesity, both of which are risk factors for type 2 diabetes, in which the body does not produce enough insulin or the cells don’t use it correctly. In the study, the researchers assumed that the obesity rate would remain relatively stable, topping out at about 30 percent in the next decade and then declining slightly to about 27 percent in 2033.

The problem is that the official stance towards this problem has little hope of solving the underlying issue: our addiction to carbohydrates. While the general consensus is that people would not be diabetic if they lost weight, telling people to lose weight has proven to be a dismal failure. The reason is that very few people will starve themselves voluntarily.

The standard American diet is one rich in refined, processed foods (i.e., carbs). The “optimum” diet recommended by nutritionists is one that is low in dietary fat and eschews refined, processed foods in favor of “complex carbohydrates, such as whole grains, cereal, rice, pasta, potatoes, dry beans, carrots and corn”, with calorie reduction necessary to lose weight. It doesn’t work because you are always hungry on that diet.

Hungry people eat. And if they eat “complex carbs” that are “low in fat” they never feel sated, and will never stop eating.

Try this experiment … go to the sugar bowl and spoon out a scoop of sugar onto the counter. Then another. And another. Keep going, and when you have 22 spoonfuls of sugar on the counter, you have the average American’s intake of sugar. But what if you cut out all the added sugar found in soft drinks, cookies, candy and other snacks (even low fat ones)?

If you follow the various guidelines by the USDA, American Heart Association, et. al., you’ll limit fat to 20% of your dietary intake, and get adequate protein, making up the rest of your diet with those complex carbohydrates. Let’s take an example of a 2,000 calorie diet, and see how that works out in grams of each micro nutrient:

  • Fat, 44g at 9 calories each = 20% of calories
  • Protein, 100g at 4 calories each = 20% of calories
  • Carbohydrates, 300g at 4 calories each = 60% of calories

Carbohydrates turn to sugar (glucose) in your gut in a very short time, within 2 to 4 hours. Even “complex carbs” turn to sugar.

Spoon out another 75 teaspoons of sugar onto your counter. That is the amount you are asking your body to metabolize when you eat 300g of carbohydrates per day.

Here’s a layman’s explanation of what is happening: The body needs sugar to run, but if it can’t use it in a very short time, it is stored as fat. Blood sugar spikes in 2 to 4 hours after eating carbs, and the body reacts by releasing insulin to drive the sugar into the cells so they can use it for energy. If the cells have enough, they refuse insulin’s prompting, and the sugar is stored as fat. As you abuse this system by overloading it with sugar, the cells become more and more resistant to insulin, and the body sends out more and more. When the sugar is pushed into fat cells, your blood sugar level drops, and hunger returns even though you ate only a few hours ago. So you eat again, and start the process all over again (if you eat a diet “rich in complex carbohydrates”). Sound familiar?

The emphasis on low fat, high carbohydrate diets has caused our expanding waistlines, and emphasizing that people should continue to eat this way but reduce calorie intake is counter intuitive. Survival depends on getting enough to eat, and your body will betray you if it thinks it is starving.

A better approach is to limit carbohydrates to about 1/3 of all calories if you are at your goal weight and otherwise healthy. For a 2,000 calorie diet, that’s about 167 grams of carbs. The rest of your calories can come from fat and protein. It is best to calculate your minimum protein requirement, usually calculated at about a half gram per pound of lean body weight. “Lean body weight” is your weight minus your fat (take your body fat percentage times your weight, and deduct that from your total weight to get your “lean body weight”). The book The Protein Power Lifeplan has this approach as a “maintenance diet”, and people can tolerate it for life … because you don’t get hungry.

And if you need to get to your goal weight, the first phase of the diet can help you do that without getting hungry. You can short-circuit the vicious cycle of carb intake, insulin response, fat storage and premature hunger by eating a diet that is tuned to your needs.