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THE PROTEIN PANIC

People seem to panic when it comes to getting enough protein, particularly when I mention plant-based diets. Everyone seems to be worried about hitting protein requirements, even though I've never seen a case of protein deficiency in my 15 years of medical practice. We now have an abundance of research confirming that even vegans who aren't paying particular attention to plant-based sources of protein are still hitting their daily goals. I'm not suggesting we dismiss protein intake or minimize the potential risks of amino acid deficiency on plant-based diets, I'm simply stating that this whole protein panic has been blown way out of proportion. We tend to associate protein intake with health and strength and the health halo that surrounds this macronutrient has always intrigued me. At least we've avoided demonizing protein, like we've done with carbs and fat. The attention protein gets seems to distract us from other nutrients of concern, like fiber, or iron. We see these nutrient deficiencies regularly, yet everyone wants to talk about protein. In this article, I'll review protein, how it's made, what it does and why there's no need to panic!



Protein's Health Halo


Protein is one of our 3 macronutrients. It offers 4 calories per gram and we should be getting at least 10% of our calories from protein. To help with muscle repair and rebuilding, some athletes need more like 15% of daily calories coming from protein, and some strength and muscle building disciplines, like bodybuilding, may require up to 20% of calories coming from protein.

We've grown to believe that the more protein, the better, and clever marketing has convinced us that eating animals is the best way to increase protein intake. People associate high intakes of protein with health, and protein powders, protein supplements and other protein isolates are being increasingly consumed by non-athletes. Have we forgotten that by getting our most of protein from meat, we're also getting more cancer, more auto-immune conditions and more heart disease? We have become