Protein in Your Diet: How Much is too Much?

FRESNO, Calif.

So, why are so many high-protein products showing up in the supermarket these days? Are we becoming protein-deficient? Just how much protein do we really need? These questions are definitely open for debate.

In 12 months, Kim Hastings went from 26 percent to 13 percent body fat and lost 12 pounds. She credits two things: boot camp class and a lot of protein.

"I take over 200 grams of protein a day. I think an average person probably takes about a hundred," Hastings told Ivanhoe.

Certified personal trainer Bryan Daskam says most of us don't get enough protein.

"People need more protein? Yeah, especially if you're going to exercise. Even if you're not exercising, you have to," Daskam told Ivanhoe.

Labels on all kinds of foods are pushing extra protein, but sports medicine specialist Kim Leblanc, M.D., Ph.D., says we don't need it.

"The normal diet, even when it's not really terrific, the normal diet will have enough protein in it," Dr. Leblanc, professor and chair of family medicine at the LSU Health Sciences Center, told Ivanhoe.

"If you eat too much protein you will turn it into fat," Dr. Leblanc said. "There's no data to say you need any more that what is recommended."

Try this formula: say you weigh 130 pounds. Divide your weight by 2.2, then multiply that by .8. About 47 grams is your recommended daily protein intake. Is it enough?

"There's just no way. I start with about a gram per pound minimum with an exercising female," Daskam said.

What about protein supplements, shakes and bars?

"These new and improved products, they're not, it's marketing. It's all marketing," Dr. Leblanc said.

Hastings disagrees. "You know, I've seen the changes in my body, so I think high-protein is the way to go," Hastings told Ivanhoe.

If you decide to go on a high-protein diet, check with your doctor first. Too much protein can be a bad thing, especially for people with kidney problems.

If you're starting an intensive exercise program, like marathon training, and want to take a protein supplement, sports medicine experts say whey protein is not as good as casein protein to help you build muscle.

If this story or any other Ivanhoe story has impacted your life or prompted you or someone you know to seek or change treatments, please let us know by contacting Marsha Hitchcock at mhitchcock@ivanhoe.com.

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