High Fat, Low Carb Eating – Part 2 – The Protein

Protein shakes, powders, bars – It seems you can’t go anywhere without hearing that you don’t get enough protein. I devoted Part One to the Carb as I believe it is the most misunderstood macro-nutrient. With Part Two I will be much less controversial.  However, I hope that you will learn a thing or two about how protein works in our system.

All “Calories” Are Not Created Equal

You may already know this breakdown:

Carbohydrates – 1 gram = 4 calories

Fat – 1 gram = 9 calories

Protein – 1 gram = 4 calories

Typical recommended calories = 2000

What does that mean? If I eat 100 grams of protein or 100 grams of sugar carbs, both are 400 calories right? Same/same? No. As I went over in part one carbs have a very different effect on the body than do protein and fat. They also have a unique purpose in nutrition. This isn’t bad or good, it just, is.

What Is Protein?

Chemically, protein is composed of amino acids, which are organic compounds made of carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen, oxygen or sulfur. Amino acids are the building blocks of proteins, and proteins are the building blocks of muscle mass, according to the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

So a protein is an amino acid, and we break those down as well into Essential and Nonessential for human nutrition. The difference being we can’t produce the non-essentials on our own, we MUST get them from diet.

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The good news is that just about everything you eat from veggies to fruit to meat has some degree of protein content. For example 100g of carrots or banana each have about 1 gram of protein in them. Here is an interesting table that shows some of the differences. Note that some foods are considerably higher in protein than others and some have a much better protein profile than others.

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Protein Requirements

So how much protein should you eat per day? The general recommendation is typically (body weight (pounds) x .08 (grams of protein)) for every 100 lbs of body weight you should consume 80 grams of protein. Since each type of protein contains a different amount of different amino acids it’s important to vary your protein source.

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All you need to do to calculate your requirement is to multiply your weight in kg by the number listed above and find your requirements.

All Protein Sources Are Not Equal

What is a protein profile and why should you care about it? It is simply, the value of each amino acid contained within a particular food. One of the most balanced and complete protein profiles is that of a chicken egg.

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That being said you shouldn’t go around just eating eggs all day however it truly is one of nature’s most perfect foods.

Energy From Protein

As I said above there are 4 calories per gram of protein. But can you survive on protein for your energy needs?

Rabbit Starvation

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The explorer Vilhjalmur Stefansson wrote during the Geely Arctic Expedition where 19 of 25 died:

“The groups that depend on the blubber animals are the most fortunate in the hunting way of life, for they never suffer from fat-hunger. This trouble is worst, so far as North America is concerned, among those forest Indians who depend at times on rabbits, the leanest animal in the North, and who develop the extreme fat-hunger known as rabbit-starvation. Rabbit eaters, if they have no fat from another source—beaver, moose, fish—will develop diarrhea in about a week, with headache, lassitude and vague discomfort. If there are enough rabbits, the people eat till their stomachs are distended; but no matter how much they eat they feel unsatisfied. Some think a man will die sooner if he eats continually of fat-free meat than if he eats nothing, but this is a belief on which sufficient evidence for a decision has not been gathered in the North. Deaths from rabbit-starvation, or from the eating of other skinny meat, are rare; for everyone understands the principle, and any possible preventive steps are naturally taken.”

Protein itself is not an energy source, it’s a structure and building block for muscle and other lean tissues. Yes, your body can break down protein into glucose through a process called gluconeogenesis, however it is a 7 step process with lots of very long fancy sounding words. Your body does it, but it doesn’t want to do it, and only will if your body NEEDS glucose and its not available in your blood for some reason. With that being said you only produce about 25 gm of glucose a day from protein via the gluconeogenesis process.

What Does It All Mean?

Protein is the building block of muscles. They are vitally important for life. Most diet programs put protein consumption around 20-30% of your daily intake and absent any other factors I’d agree with that number.

Ready for more? Head here to read Part 3 on fat and how it fits into the equation.

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Matt is a husband, a father, an avid motorcycle rider, and an all around awesome guy.

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