PHOTO: Nuts are a great source of protein, however, it’s always important to keep things in moderation – too much of anything can be harmful to your body.

Balancing your Protein

Today’s nutritional tip is about balancing your intake of protein. I talked about protein powders in a previous nutritional tip. One of the most common questions that I get as a plant-based guy is where do you get your protein? How much protein do you eat? The first thing that I’ll say is you need a lot less protein than you think. Everybody’s different, but for the most part, people don’t need that much protein. Protein deficiency is rare and happens in countries where people are starving.

We have three micronutrients: Fats, proteins and carbs. These are our energy-bearing nutrients. When you get rid of one, the other two go up. So if we start reducing our protein, that means we need to either eat more sugar or we need to eat more fat. Well, guess what happens if you eat more sugar? All kinds of bad stuff happens. When you eat more fat, if you’re eating good, healthy fat, it’s one of the best things you can do for your health.

But that’s another discussion. Let’s stay on the protein thing here. If you’re eating low protein, by definition it means you’re eating high fat or high carb. So if you’re eating low protein, you need to make sure that you’re focusing on healthy fats and not on high carb, because that will get you into trouble.

So what is low protein?

Low protein would be less than 50 grams per day. High protein would be above 100 grams per day. People who are doing super carb restriction will often eat 150 grams-plus of protein per day. For your average person, somewhere between 50 and 70 grams of protein per day is what they need to feel great and to balance out their diet.

In order to eat that amount of protein, you also need to eat some healthy fat, or you’re going to be eating too many carbs. So how many is right for you? Well, I don’t really know but I would experiment and start with 50 or 70 grams of protein per day and see how you feel. Some people feel great with more protein. That tends to be people who are fast oxidizers, people who are very athletic, people who are building a lot of muscle, people who are doing weight lifting or resistance training. For a lot of people they feel terrible. When I eat more than 100 grams per day of protein I feel awful, I get constipated, I get headaches, it’s no good for me.

But for most people if we’re looking at somewhere between 10 and 20 percent of your calories coming from protein, that’s a really good ratio. A high-protein diet would be 30 percent-plus, and again, for most people that takes some serious effort and it’s a chicken breast at every meal and eggs all the time and it can feel like a lot of work. And if you’re feeling like you’re forcing yourself to eat protein you’re probably eating too much.