When people go on a diet, one of the first things they add is animal protein. They often increase animal protein. While protein is an important part of a healthy diet and any weight loss nutrition plan, you need to conscious of its consumption if it's animal protein. A common problem that I see in people who are trying to lose weight is they are adding too much animal protein into their meals.
How Much Animal Protein Do We Really Need?
It seems that as a society becomes wealthier, they develop an obsession with animal protein. We are seeing that now in China.
The fact is we need very little animal protein. That’s why people who are vegetarians and vegans don't really worry about protein if they're eating whole plant foods and not over consuming oils and processed foods.
We need protein, but we don’t really need animal protein. If we’re going to consume protein from animal sources, it should be restricted to around 20-30g per day.
To give you an idea how much 20 grams or less is, think of the size of a can of sardines.
Your animal protein consumption should be limited to around this amount.
Maybe you’ve been told to eat animal meat in moderation. The problem with that is when we think of moderation, we think we are good judges. What we think of as moderate and what science considers moderate can be extremely far apart.
Why You Should Limit Your Protein Intake
One of the concepts about weight loss and protein that is true is the idea that if you swap out simple carbohydrates like sugar, white flour, white potatoes and substitute those with protein, that is a healthier decision to make.
However, when it comes to long-term health, having a lot of protein and animal protein in your diet isn’t healthy. What we want to build is a sustainable, health-promoting diet that will ensure not just weight loss but, also longevity and health.
Science has been very clear that people who eat a lot of animal protein do not live as long, have increased aging and increased risk for cancer and heart disease. You may feel more satisfied when you eat animal protein because we’ve been primed for that throughout the years, but you can also learn to live off of a lot less animal protein. When you do that, you become healthier overall.
There are more issues associated with animal protein, such as unhealthy fats and toxins especially if you're buying from a regular store. The animal protein here came from these concentrated animal feeding lots with pesticides and toxic environments. Most animals are raised in crowded and unsanitary pens, so when you are eating store-bought meats, you're actually getting in the fats, a good amount of toxins. Pastured, grass fed animals are healthier for you and for the planet. You don’t want to be part of the system that raised most conventional animals.
Increased risk for diabetes, cancer and heart disease
Your insulin also goes up when you eat a lot of protein. It releases what’s called an insulin-like growth factor or growth hormones. When you're a bodybuilder, these growth hormones are helpful in growing muscles, but they can also accelerate growth of other things like tumors That’s why you're also at an increased risk for cancer when you're eating a lot of animal protein and you're in a chronic state where growth hormones are constantly circulating around your body.
To add to this, there's another issue involved with animal protein. Excess animal protein gets converted into sugar, and this is done through a process called gluconeogenesis. That fat doesn't ever get converted into sugar.
Protein gets converted into sugar when your muscles and your organs don't need them anymore. When the turnover of your tissues has been satisfied, it immediately gets put into sugar. While eating enormous amounts of animal protein won’t lead to blood sugar spikes like white bread or potato, it will increase your blood sugar in the long run.
To learn more about the effects of animal protein, I recommend that you read the Seven Reasons Why You Should Consider Decreasing Animal Protein Consumption.
Protein also raises something that's called mTOR. This factor is associated with increased aging of the body and with the growth phase of the body like above. I will spend more time in another post about mTOR, but suffice to say suppressing mTOR for the majority of the time is better for you and is done via intermittent fasting, most importantly through reducing sugar consumption and also animal protein consumption in favor of healthy fats and veggies.
Protein for Ready-to-Eat Meals
If you're enhancing our ready-to-eat meals which a lot of our customers are doing, think of animal protein as a flavoring agent. Focus on leafy greens and veggies and using the meat as a flavor enhancer. Just a little bit is all you need. Start appreciating the flavor and the texture that animal protein can provide.
That's how it was throughout history, really. Meat was always a luxury. You would never really sit down and have a big Texas ribeye. That has never been a healthy situation.
The ideal amount of animal protein to use as a meal enhancement for our ready-to-eat meals is no more than the size of around half of a can of sardines. Let's say you're making a bolognese and you have ground beef. The ground beef should just fill about half a can of sardines. What would be ideal is to really beef up on, no pun intended, the leafy green vegetables.
Now when it comes to fish, it is true that fish is a little bit safer compared to beef, pork, or chicken in terms of the risks that come with animal meat consumption. However, I would say that if you're going to be adding protein to a ready-to-eat meal, stick to the half of a can size of sardines for the protein and add as much leafy greens as you can.
Will You Be Protein-Deficient If You Don’t Eat Animal Meat?
If you're eating whole plant foods as a majority of your diet plus a handful of nuts per day and and a large part of your diet is not coming from processed carbohydrates, you're not going to be protein-deficient. In fact, many years ago there was a study of people on a potato only diet (not that I would recommend that!) but it was not protein deficient. It's a common mistake to believe that vegans lack protein in their diets.
Those who are eating whole plant-based diets are never protein-deficient and it's not something that you need to be concerned about. You can certainly get it from nuts and beans and seeds, as whole plant-based foods have protein in them. If it's a big salad, you can get 15 to 20 grams of protein just from that salad. Broccoli, lettuce, and spinach all have protein, so if you're eating lots of leafy greens, you don’t have to worry about protein.
You can also think in terms of nutrient density. When you think about nutrients per calorie and when you are focused on whole, unprocessed foods that have a high nutrient density versus the calorie count, then again you don’t have to worry about protein. To illustrate, white flour obviously is going have a lot of calories, but low nutrient density, but broccoli is going to have low calories and a high nutrient density. You want to get that ratio right.
Animal Protein and Weight Loss
In the beginning it's often easier to put in higher amounts of animal protein and that's okay for a short period of time to try to get the weight off. But you need to cut your animal protein back for long-term health and longevity.
Of course, everyone has different protein needs. But unless you're a bodybuilder or you're training for some high-intensity muscle development type of activity where you need more protein, stick to the above suggestions.
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