My Lyft driver’s comment is still on my mind. We were having a conversation about nutrition because he asked me what I did for a living. As we were conversing back and forth, he asked me what kind of habits I coach people through.
I began to answer his question, explaining that one out of many habits I coach people through is protein intake for an individual’s body type. He interrupted me right there (and I wasn’t done btw), and said, “Oh I disagree with you, we need less protein in our diets and the research is out there. I read it! It says it takes calcium away from our bones. If anything, we need less protein.”
One of the reasons I wanted to pursue a certification in nutrition coaching is because there is an overwhelming amount of information out there. We have to be able to trust our sources and, unfortunately, some sources are biased with backings from lobbyist, etc. I chose to get certified from a school called Precision Nutrition (PN). PN consults the San Antonio Spurs, olympic athletes, Nike and many more. I can personally relate to that because of growing up playing basketball and dreaming of playing professionally. That drew me in. PN has helped over 45,000 people lose over 900,000 lbs. This was evidence to me that their outcome-based approach works! In addition, they do SO much research, are unbiased, are diet agnostic, and are constantly updating material because new evidence comes out all the time based upon new and improved research.
So…does protein take calcium away from our bones?
According to research by Dr. John Berardi, PhD and Ryan Andrews, MS, MA, RD regarding the concerns about calcium loss with a high protein intake, this claim is not supported with evidence. But there is evidence proving the benefits of protein in our diet. This makes me wonder what my Lyft driver’s source was. I arrived at my stop before I had the opportunity to ask or even respond. Honestly, I don’t think the driver ever wanted to hear what I had to say. He already had a story made up in his mind.
Every single individual needs a different amount of protein based upon their weight and activity level. This is something I coach individuals through. The body has the ability to make 12 amino acids (amino acids are proteins that have been broken down) known as non-essential amino acids. However, 8 amino acids can only be supplied by the diet. These are called essential amino acids. Get it? Essential because our bodies can’t make them. As some of these amino acids are lost each day, the best way to replace them is to eat and/or drink them.
Animal proteins such as meat, poultry, eggs, fish, milk and cheese are the best way to maintain essential amino acids because they are ranked highest in terms of the amount. While plants rank lower, we can still get a sufficient amount from them. Unfortunately, there is a common belief that plants don’t contain all the essential amino acids, but this isn’t entirely true.
Many plant foods contain all the essential amino acids and each food has a unique proportion of them. For those following a plant-based diet, it’s super important to eat up a diverse amount. As long as the following requirements are met, protein intake should be enough:
- Eat an amount that gives you sustainable energy. Consuming a protein supplement could help with this during periods of low whole food intake.
- Don’t consume too many cereals, grains, and processed foods because they are usually lower in amino acids and/or important nutrients have been processed out.
- Eat a variety of plants that includes fruits, veggies, legumes, nuts, seeds and tubers.
- Include at least a ½ cup of beans/legumes a day.
Protein is responsible for everything from our structure, hormones, enzymes, immune chemicals, to our transport proteins. Therefore, dietary protein is critical! Without a diet rich in essential amino acids, we cease to function.
If you are overwhelmed by the amount of information out there, you are not alone! It IS overwhelming – even to those who are in the nutrition field. I want to encourage you to:
- Not always believe the one thing you read online and find trustworthy sources.
- See if your sources are providing evidence through research and if their trials, tests, and experiments are producing positive or expected results.
- Ask questions.
- Experiment with different methods. Does it work for you? Great! If not, keep searching for what brings you sustainable results.
It could be your Lyft driver, your best friend, or a viral Facebook post that will share the next best or maybe worst thing for you. The struggle is real! So try and do your own homework before you deprive yourself of essential nutrients…or even bacon!