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There is NO protein controversy
by Jeff N

Webmaster note: This is a very informative article about protein, originally posted to the bulletin board section of this site.

There is just lots of misinformation around.

However, remember any diet can be a bad diet even a raw food or vegan diet if it is not planned properly. Many raw fooders do not get in enough protein and this is bacuse they do not get in enough calories or they eat only or too much fruit and not enough veggies. To survive on a raw food diet, you have to eat lots of food. Most raw fooders do not follow a healthy diet and that is why they are so thin and emaciated and weak.

Here are some clips and points from earlier posts of mine.

Here are some clips from some discussions I have had on the
protein issue. I think you will find all the info you need in

The odds of you putting on any significant amount of muscle has
its limits on a truly healthy diet unless you want to do some
unhealthy things. The major limiting factor will be your
genetics, and if you don't have the genes for that kind of build,
all the work in the gym will not put muscle on you. Also, most of
the guys you see in the gyms who have big muscles who are not
genetically endowed use drugs, and growth stimulants one way or
another. They may be forcing anabolic growth through the use if
steroids or other supplemental measures, that while may allow for
rapid muscle growth and size, can be very very harmful. And while
many of them will tell you that they do not take steroids or
growth hormones, most all do and may not even know it. Why? Cause
they eat lots of red meat and dairy and other animal products,
which are loaded with growth stimulants and hormones, which are
still in the meat. Europe wont import American beef because of
the level of hormones in it.

The actual amount of true real muscle then someone can put on
naturally, is about 1# per month. And that takes allot of work.
Some of the increased size people see is do to fluid changes and
not muscle growth.

One of the reasons that many athletes and bodybuilders need more
protein is simple. Then don't eat enough carbs or enough
calories. So, during their training, they run out or low on
carbs, so in order to conserve the carbs (the bodies primary
energy source) the body will start burning more protein for
energy. Studies have shown this and the increased protein intake
is mostly used for energy and not muscle growth and repair.
However, if the same athletes would just increase his carb
intake, through eating more healthy carbs, he would increase the
amount of stored carbs (glycogen) and be better prepared to work
out and conserve or reduce the amount of needed protein. And as
all carbs contain protein also, he would still be getting plenty
of protein

Having said all that, let look at the actual numbers.

The amount of protein someone's needs based on US RDAS is
.8-gms/kg bodyweight. And if someone is overweight, this is based
on ideal body weight and not actual weight as excess weight is
fat and doesn't need to be fed protein. Also realize that the .8
gms /kg is an overestimate with a safety factor figured in. The
actual amount needed to maintain nitrogen balance, is only .3-.4
gms/kg body weight.

Many studies have done and much is written about how much
bodybuilders need. The estimates run from .8 gms/kg saying that
they don't need anymore then the regular person because this
already is almost double true protein needs, to 1.0 gms/kg to the
highest I have seen proposed is 1.5 grms /kg which is about twice
the amount of protein then normal.

So, lets run the numbers on me, I am 5'6" and weight a very
healthy 125. My BMI is 20, which is the healthiest level. 126 lbs
is about 55 kgs. 55 x .8 (low estimate) is 44 grams. 55 x 1.5
(high estimate) is 82. The other day I posted my diet and it had
in it 70 grams of protein. This was eating only fruits and
veggies, with a small amount of nuts and some rice. IF I made a
slight adjustment to the diet, like more nuts, I would have
easily surpasses the 82 grams of protein. In fact, I just made
the changes and increased the nuts (3 oz at lunch and dinner
instead of 1.5) and ran the numbers, at 2500 calories my diet now
has 83 grams of protein in it.

So, even if the protein estimate is correct and not over
inflated, one could easily do it. But remember, the numbers are
inflated so we really don't need that much anyway. There is more
disease and death in the world due to excess protein then there
is due to lack of protein (which hardly exists anywhere except
some areas where they not only don't get enough protein, they don
't get enough calories, which is the main issue). These problems
include increased rates of many cancer, osteoporosis, kidney
stones, gout, hypertension, & stroke, and heart disease.

Most vegetables are excellent sources of protein, especially the
green leafy ones, and the problem is most people don't eat enough
1200 calories of raw broccoli supply a whopping 131 grams of
protein. 1200 calories of romaine lettuce supply about 136 grams.
Now granted, that's alot of greens, but it makes a very important
point. Oranges supply about 24 grams per 1200 calories. SO you
can see that vegetables are very high in protein. SO if you want
more protein in your diet, eat a little less fruit and eat lots
more greens. You will still need fruit in order to supply the
energy for your workouts, but eat lots of greens.


"Differences in digestibility may be due to many factors that can
adversely effect protein digestion including

- The way the amino acids are linked in a protein
-polyphenolic compounds
-Addition of acids (vinegar)

Unprocessed wheat and rice are better digested then ready to eat
wheat or rice cereals. Vegetarian diets that are high in fiber
can decrease protein digestibility.

Digestibility of Different Diets and Different Foods
(Sarwar G, Digestibility of protein and bioavailability of amino
acids in foods. Wld Rev Nutr Diet. 1987; 54:26-70

Diet Digestibility
North American typical mixed 94%
NA Lacto Veg 88
NA Lacto ovo veg 93
Brazil (rice, beans, meat, eggs, veg) 78
Guatemala (beans corn rice wheat
cheese, eggs, veg) 77
India (rice, dal, milk, veg) 75

Oats, Ready to eat 72
Dried Beans 75
Rice, ready to eat 75
Wheat, Ready To eat 77
Soybeans 78
Soy Flour 86
Whole Wheat 87
Rice polished 89
WW Bread 92
Meat, Poultry, Fish 95
eggs milk 95

Therefore, assuming 95% of the protein a mixed omnivore diet is
digestible compared with 85% of the protein in a vegetarian diet,
vegetarians, especially vegans may need to consume about 10-15%
more protein then omnivores. This would equal out to .9 gms per
kg body weight as opposed to the RDA of .8 gms per kg body
weight. Also remember, these numbers have built in buffers of
about 25-50% as they are set for populations and not individuals

If you remember in my post, I showed that a vegan diet could meet
the needs even if they were set as high as 1.5 gms per kg
bodyweight. This is still way over what they are saying a vegan
needs to consume to compensate. So I accounted for all this and
even more of a leeway, and showed that it was still adequate,

Also, I said that the methods for evaluating protein quality had
been recently revised. The protein efficiency ratio (PER) was
the official standard for evaluating protein and was used in
determining the RDA and for food label information. The PER was
based on experiments done on rats who grow at a much faster rate
then humans and therefore have a much higher protein need. They
also have different requirements for amino acids, some as much as
50% higher.

In recognition of this inadequacy of the PER, the FAO/WHO and the
FDA have adopted a new scale called the Protein digestibility
CORRECTED amino acid score (PDCAAS). While not perfect, it is
much better and more accurate in relation to the true needs of
humans and the scoring of food. This scale was not around in the
1970s or the 1980s

PDCAAS for selected plant and animal foods
(Sarwar, G Evaluation of the PDCAAS method for assessing protein
quality of foods. Journal of association of official analytical
chemistry, 1990; 73: 347-356)

casein 1.0
Egg White 1.0
Beef 1.0
Soy protein .99
Pea flour .69
kidney bean .68
pinto bean .57
rolled oats .57
whole wheat .40
lentils .51


The ability of plant proteins to meet protein needs when the only
source or protein in a diet has been clearly shown also. At
Michigan state university, students aged 19 to 27 were fed diets
for 50 days that 70 grams of protein a day, 90% of which came
from wheat and the rest from fruit and vegetables. All subjects
remained in nitrogen balance (the true test of protein adequacy
of a diet). One note, the first 2 weeks, the students were in
negative nitrogen balance as they adapted to the diet, and then
went in to positive nitrogen balance. Many studies that show
plant food diets don't maintain nitrogen balance aren't followed
long enough to allow for this adoption to take place.

Several other studies have also shown that wheat protein can meet
protein needs. And Other studies have shown that when rice makes
up as much as 75% of the protein in a diet, nitrogen balance is
maintained. Also studies have shown that then when single plant
foods were used as the source of protein (corn, potatoes)
subjects were able to maintain nitrogen balance.

Now, these are extreme examples and I don't recommend them. As I
said in my post on the RDAs, sometimes there can be sub clinical
deficiencies that take years to manifest. SO while they may have
survived and maintained positive nitrogen balance, we don't know
if the amino acids profile and the protein level would have been
enough for them to THRIVE on.

From a percent protein from calories, all these numbers, taking
into consideration all the above issues, a diet that is 10%
protein would meet all these needs. However, realize for this to
work, you MUST take in enough calories .

Also studies have shown that taking in excess calories actually
improves protein digestibility. Taking in an excess of 700 to
1000 calories reduces the amount of protein needed to maintain
nitrogen balance by 30 and 50% respectively.

Well, that's fine for normal people but what about athletes?

As I said earlier, it is conceivable that athletes may need more
protein to maintain nitrogen balance. The RDA does not have a
separate recommendation for protein for hard work or training
cause they believe that with the built in margin of safety
already included, this would be covered.

However, there is recent research that says that athletes may
need up to 1.5 gms per kg (which I did quote in my first post).
The theory is that they need more protein due to the breakdown of
amino acids that need to be replaced.

However (as I also mentioned) the actual need for lean tissue
deposition is very small. If someone was to put on 1 lb a month
of muscle (which is not easy and hard to do, month after month)
one pound of muscle is 454 grams, 75% of which is water weight
(muscle tissue is 75% water). So that means the other 25% or 113
grams per month, is protein, or less then 4 grams per day,
assuming 100% efficiency and utilization. Assuming 85%
efficiency, from plant protein, that would be about 4.7 grams.
28 grams are 1 ounce, so this is like less then 1/8 of an ounce
a day of extra protein needed. This is a very very small amount.

Realize also that this is highly controversial. Many scientists
believe no extra protein is needed by athletes. Yet, I in my
earlier post, used the highest estimates given, and still showed
that a vegan diet can meet all the protein and amino acid
requirements, taking into account all factors of digestibility
and efficiency.

Also realize, that athletes who don't eat enough carbohydrates
(probably cause they are eating too much protein) have
insufficient glycogen stores (stored carbohydrates). Athletes
with low glycogen stores, metabolize 2x the amount of protein as
athletes who are carb loaded. Why? Not die to muscle buildup,
but due to the fact that the "extra" protein will be used for
gluconeogenesis, which is the making of glucose (for energy) from
protein. So they excess protein is needed for energy and not
muscle, due to a lack of carb intake.

Also remember, excess protein

-Increases calcium excretion (can increase risk for osteoporosis)

- Increase risk for kidney stones

- Increase risk for kidney disease


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