By Amy Gorin and Michelle October
It’s one of the building blocks of a healthy diet, but it turns out most of us are taking in way more than recommended.
What do energy bars, desserts and shakes have in common? They’re all being spiked with protein. It’s clearly this decade’s nutrient superstar, credited with spurring weight loss and building muscle mass. Yet recent research has linked excessive levels of protein to some pretty scary health problems, including vitamin deficiencies and even cancer. Yikes!
For instance, when and how you’re getting your quota of the nutrient may be as important as the overall amount you’re racking up. So, before you dive into your next steak dinner or whey-powder smoothie, digest this food for thought…
How Much Should You Be Eating?
“We’re not pythons,” says Dr. Douglas Paddon-Jones, a professor of nutrition and metabolism at the University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston. “We can’t eat an entire chicken and use its protein for the rest of the week.” Bad news: your body can process only 20 to 30 grams every two to three hours or so, max; anything more than that might be stored as fat. Bummer.
Ideally, you want to spread protein evenly throughout your day, aiming for 20 to 30 grams at each meal and between five and 10 grams in every snack.
However, there’s wiggle room in your personal protein numbers depending on your age, build, and activity level. Weight lifters obviously need more than couch potatoes, but a taller woman will also need more than a petite one. So rather than aiming for a set number of grams each day (because: do you really need one more thing to keep track of?), try following the recommendations below, which are based on your lifestyle and needs:
Looking for more? These protein bar mistakes could be sabotaging your diet.
For more details on how much protein is too much, pick up the May issue of Women’s Health.