Protein, whether animal or vegetable, only accounts for 10% of our body’s fuel. Protein’s primary function is to build and repair. Think of it in terms of bricks and mortar rather than octane. Fibrous vegetables, legumes, and whole grains also contain protein and antioxidants and are the body’s primary, preferred fuel source. Conversely, animal protein doesn’t provide any antioxidants or carbohydrates, but it does provide essential amino acids as part of a complete protein, that plant-based protein lacks. Even when beans, legumes, and nuts are combined to create a complete protein, they don’t contain vitamin B-12, D, DHA, heme-iron, and zinc. The human body was designed to consume a certain amount of animal protein. The inherent problem with the Standard American Diet (SAD) is that it promotes the overconsumption of animal proteins, which lessens the intake of other nutrient-dense foods.
But how much protein per day do we really need?
Not as much as we’ve been conditioned to believe. Depending on your activity level, it can range from point-8 to 1.5. To establish individual needs, divide body weight by 2.2 for kilograms, then multiply by an activity factor. I’m 5’4″ and weigh 115lbs which equals 52 kilograms X .8, allocates a minimum requirement of 41 grams of protein per day for when I’m sedentary. The more active I am, the more protein my body requires and the higher the factor—anywhere from 1.2-1.5 or 62-78 grams of protein.
In a given week, I consume 75% plant-based protein to 25% animal protein: meat, fish, eggs, dairy. I use animal protein as a flavor enhancer, the way eastern cuisine flavors their dishes. Rather than a primary staple, 12oz of chicken tossed into a veggie stir-fry and served over brown rice, yields 4-servings. Unfortunately, the Standard American Diet (SAD) has conditioned us to showcase animal protein, pushing vegetables into the background as scenery, rather than the other way around.
What does 68 grams of protein look like?
Visually, a 3oz piece of animal protein is about the size of a deck of cards or 21 grams, whereas most American portions range from 6-8oz per serving, which is closer to 45-50 grams. Multiplied by two-three meals a day, and I’m at 90-120 grams that more than exceeds my DRI even on those workout days. So what happens to that excess protein? Well, sorry to say, just like with carbs, whatever the body doesn’t use, goes to… the Fat Closet!