Yes, I’m talking to you, Mr. Hashtag Swole. If you’re a gym rat or a health nut, chances are you’re all about “getting enough protein.” And while protein is definitely important, it may not be as important as you think. Hang on to your Quest bars and protein powder folks, because the information you’re about to receive may shock you.
First thing’s first: I don’t want you to think that I’m bashing protein here. Protein is hella necessary. As you probably remember from elementary school health class, protein is one of three main nutritional components. That sh*t does everything. It makes up muscles, tendons, organs, skin, enzymes, hormones—the list goes on and on. Proteins are the basic building blocks of our bodies, and without them, we’d probably shrivel up and die. More or less.
That being said, while it goes without saying that we need protein to function properly, the amount of protein we need is a concept that’s slightly less concrete. A study by the National Center for Health Statistics found that, on average, Americans consume between one and a half to two times the daily recommended amount of protein. This doesn’t even include the often excessive amount of protein powders, bars, meal replacements, etc. that are popularized and promoted almost as a necessity within the fitness community.
While protein is required to build muscle up to a certain extent, your body can reach a point where it just doesn’t need it anymore. Steven Heymsfield, MD, a professor of medicine at Columbia University, says, “I don’t think there’s any evidence to support [the notion] that adding high amounts of protein plays an important role for athletic training… If you take in too little protein, you lose body protein. If you take in too much, you burn it as calories.” Your body might even start to store excess protein as fat. Now, doesn’t that just seem like a waste?
High protein weight loss programs have also become increasingly popular, which may offer quick results, but might not be safe in the long term. This is because these types of diets typically source protein from animal products, which are high in saturated fats and tend to create other risks such as heart disease and cholesterol problems.
Before you start throwing your Muscle Milk out the window and flushing your pre-workout down the toilet in a state of panic, realize that no one is trying to tell you to stop eating protein. I’m just encouraging you to take a step back and evaluate your own daily intake, simply so you can figure out if you’re wasting money and calories on excess amounts of the stuff. You can find your individual protein needs here, or here if you’re working on bulking up a bit.
Protein doesn’t have to take over your life in order to help you reach your fitness goals. Now, get out there and get the most out of #legday. Enjoy your #gymlife, be your own #fitspo, and embrace your inner #fitnessaddict. Go you.