5 Myths About Protein in Your Diet

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Protein may be the most recognized nutrient in terms of its health importance. It has been on the radar for over a century, with public health recommendations in the U.S. continuing to put great emphasis on it. Its name comes from the Latin word protos meaning “first,” and the key nutrient is a combination of amino acids. During digestion, proteins that are in the food you eat are broken down into separate amino acids, which are then absorbed by the body and used to build, repair, and maintain body tissues, synthesize hormones and enzymes, and supply energy when carbs or fat are not available.

Most fat loss diets tout low-carb and high protein as a way to lose weight and lessen hunger. Most of us are privy to this general knowledge: The higher the protein in a particular food, the better it is for our health, mostly because foods that contain high amounts of protein are meat, poultry, and fish, and some animal byproducts such as cheese and eggs. Eat all the meat and high protein foods you want, and not only will you lose weight but you’ll never have to worry about gaining weight again.

Wait, that’s wrong.

What if a lot of what we know about protein is wrong? Maybe it’s not such a great idea to pack our diets with as much protein as we can get. You’re not training for the strong man competition, after all. Put the protein down, sir, and walk away. Here are some debunked myths about protein — we suggest reading them before you go and light the grill for that steak.

1. Myth: If you eat a high protein diet, you’ll lose weight

Fact: This is a commonly believed myth, and spoken about frequently, especially when the Atkins Diet was the diet to try. Although studies show that replacing protein for carbs may help you lose weight, don’t rush and eat all the steak you can; experts say they still don’t know the long-term effects of a high-protein, low-carb diet. High-protein foods move more slowly through the digestive system, helping you feel fuller long after you’ve eaten. Also, your body burns more calories digesting protein than carbs. So put that muffin down.

2. Myth: Men need more protein than women

raw steak

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Fact: This is true. The amount of protein you need depends on your age, sex, how much you weigh, and how active you are amongst other things. The average man needs about 56 grams of protein a day, and women need 46 grams.

3. Myth: All proteins are created equal, so you can eat whatever kind of meat you want

Fact: Although meats are packed with protein, many are also high in saturated fat, which can lead to high cholesterol and heart disease. If you choose red meats for protein — even though poultry is a great substitute — stick with the leanest cuts and be smart about portion sizes. It’s recommended to limit red meat to 18 ounces a week and skip processed meats like bacon, sausage, and lunchmeat.

4. Myth: Because it helps aid in weight loss, eating as much protein as you want is OK

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Fact: No it’s not. Protein-packed foods are not void of calories, but how amazing would it be if they were? For the most part, it’s not absolutely horrible to eat more protein than your recommended amount, but eating more protein means consuming more calories, which can lead to weight gain. Also factor in that if you get your protein from meat or other animal sources, it might be high in saturated fat, which can lead to high cholesterol and heart disease.

5. Myth: It doesn’t matter if you have a protein shake before or after your workout

Fact: It’s better to have your protein shake after a workout because it helps repair muscles. Many studies show that having high-protein foods or drinks after working out will help build and restore muscle. It’s best to have carbs before you workout because they digest faster than protein and fat and are your body’s preferred source of energy. However, incorporating a little protein into your pre-workout meal can provide strength increases.

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