It’s no surprise that our society is protein obsessed. Everybody is worried about somehow being protein deficient (that’s not going to happen). And big food companies keep feeding the frenzy—high-protein Cheerios, anyone? But don’t be duped by clever marketing.
This misconception is particularly rampant among the gym crowd. People think they need more protein to build bigger muscles. Muscle is built in the gym, not in the kitchen. Regardless, the sale of protein powders and shakes has skyrocketed in recent years. Not only are these shakes completely unnecessary, you may be doing more harm than good. Excess protein, particularly animal protein, has been shown to cause some major problems. It accelerates the aging process. Any excess that your body is not using either gets stored as fat or eliminated through the kidneys, causing a leaching of calcium and kidney stones.
The Institute of Medicine recommends that adults consume 0.8 grams of protein for every kilogram of ideal body weight per day. Some protein supplements have 50 grams per shake.
Athletes who work out 12 hours or more per week should increase their protein intake to 1.37 grams per kilo of body weight. Even those athletes do not need to supplement with protein powder, though. Ditch the protein powders and look to whole plant foods instead.
Go get some high-protein plant foods, such as sunflower seeds, hemp seeds and Mediterranean pine nuts. They can easily be added to a smoothie if that’s your go-to post-workout. These same foods can be incorporated into post-workout meals, along with lots of green vegetables, beans and whole grains, which are rich in micronutrients as well as protein.