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Thread: The amount of protein we REALLY need?

  1. #1

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    Default The amount of protein we REALLY need?

    Hi,

    My wife and I have been ovo-lacto vegetarians for many years and recently we decided to become true vegans; in fact we pondering on raw-food-only veganism. So far it was very easy to intake any amount of protein, as cheese, cottage cheese, fromage frais etc are very protein rich while not that bad calorie-wise, but now it will be somewhat trickier I guess. Although I love all sorts of nuts which are full with protein (and calories ), but my wife loves fruits only and a few vegetables.

    My questions is not really about the protein content of various vegan foods but much rather about the daily amount of protein we REALLY need. I tell you about this question in more detail below, but first a few words about us, just to put the question in some context. We are both in our mid 30's, both 6 foot tall, normal weight (70-80kg, okay, after Christmas we now probably have a few extra pounds ), my wife does medium physical work while I do half office/half light physical work job, and we both do exercises and relatively long cardio sessions every other day, with occasional 5-6 miles runs, intense squash matches, and I also do road cycling and swimming. We both try to be/stay somewhat muscular, but not in the body builder sense, while having flexibility (we do stretching as well) and excellent stamina.

    So back to the question. I read many articles contradicting each other on the daily amount of protein we need. Now I am (we are) totally confused and have no idea how much protein we REALLY need. I think many of you in this forum/topic know a lot more about this than us so can help us with some info. So far I thought somebody with a lifestyle and body weight/type like ours needs around 100 grams of protein per day, and even more when doing exercises/sports. My wife thought we needed only 20-40 grams. That is a big difference. So we started to read articles, and now we don't know what to think.

    On one hand, many articles say that you need 0.8 to 1 grams protein / each kg body weight, and 1.5 to 2 times more than this when doing heavy exercises; otherwise you basically starve, as starvation means not having enough protein. Others say 56 grams of protein for men and 46 grams for women, but more if doing exercises. Many say that the protein needs to be "complete". Many sportsmen say that is very important to consume lots of protein (30-50g) after the workout sessions so muscles can build/rebuild. Some articles even add that low protein intakes can cause quite serious health problems.

    On the other hand, many other articles say that you need only 10-30 grams protein daily. Some say that aboriginal tribes living the old way intake only 10-20 grams of protein daily and they are much healthier than "Western/modern" man. There was an article from the Max Planck Institute which said 25 grams of protein daily is plenty. And there diets like the 80/10/10 diet which talks about eating 10% protein rich food only. Plus there are those super marathon runners who live on vegetables and fruits only and if you add together their total daily protein you barely got more than 30g daily. In many forums I saw photos of quite muscular, almost body-builder men and women who consume quite low amounts of protein. And guess what: some articles say that high protein intakes (by "high" some mean 200-300 grams but some other articles mean only 100 grams or more) can cause quite serious health problems (ranging from arthritis through kidney damage to cancer even...). Oh, and many, even in this very forum say that all protein is "complete", there is no "non-complete" protein.

    So please share your information and thoughts on this with me. Knowing our body type and lifestyle, how much protein should we have each day? 20g? 40g? 60g? 80g? 100g? 100+g? Is there "non-complete" protein or there is only "complete" protein? We don't know what to think anymore. We don't want to lose muscle weight because of insufficient amount of protein (but we are not eager to gain more either). So far I had approx 100 grams while my wife had around 40 grams protein per day on average. (And yes, I look more muscular/strong but hey, I am the man maybe that's why and has nothing to do with the 2.5x times more protein intake...). Any info/thought/advice appreciated, and especially if you can explain this really works and why version A or B is true and the other is false etc. Also, if you have been following a specific pattern (such as 25g protein daily or 100+g protein daily) for many years then I am especially curious about your own experience too.

    Thank you in advance,
    Attila & Erica
    P.S. Sorry for the long question/explanation that is maybe the longest question ever

  2. #2
    baffled harpy's Avatar
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    Default Re: The amount of protein we REALLY need?

    Hello - I'm sure you will hear from people who have looked into this but I just wanted to say that I wouldn't worry too much as most of us long-term vegans have done quite well without bothering to count protein grams. OK, some of us aren't always as active as we ought to be but the same seems to go for some vegan athletes such as the remarkable marathon runner Fiona Oakes who some of us know about http://www.trionz.co.uk/blog/index.p...r-fiona-oakes/

    I haven't heard it said there are no non-complete proteins - my understanding is that not all protein-containing foods contain the full range of amino acids, but this is no longer considered very important as provided you eat a good range of foods you will pick up the full range (i.e. you don't have to get all the amino acids you need together). This could be a concern for your wife if she intends to eat a very limited range of foods but for people who eat a variety of vegetables, wholegrains, beans, nuts, fruit etc it shouldn't be. (Some vegan foods such as soya beans and quinoa do I believe contain the complete range.)

  3. #3

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    Default Re: The amount of protein we REALLY need?

    Welcome to the forum, and Congratulations to going vegan, and to obviously leading a healthy life.
    Regarding your question - Well, everybody *knows* that you need lots of protein.
    Of course, everybody also "knows" that you "need" to eat animal products, otherwise you will starve horribly.
    people also knew that the world was flat, and at the center of the universe.

    (And yes, I am being sarcastic here

    You are right in that there are very different claims as to how much protein you do need.

    Please bear in mind, however, that when government institutions make suggestions how much protein you should consume, they tend to grossly overstate the amount in order to get you to eat at least some. And there are more and more sources saying that too much protein is not a good thing. I personally am in that camp as well, mainly because of occupying myself with the "China study" and the 80/10/10 diet.

    So my suggestion would be for you to get the book "The China study" and give it a thorough read. I consider it a very good and enlightening book.

    In a nutshell:

    Risks of eating too much protein and fat: obesity and cardiovascular disease.
    Occurence: basically every other person dying in Western countries.

    Risk of eating too little protein: Starvation and Kashviorkor.
    A horrible disease where your body basically starts to digest your own muscles.
    Occurrence in Western countries: basically not at all.

    That convinces me personally that it makes sense to err on the side of too little protein.

    And no, I am not a nutritionist, dietititian or doctor. So treat my contributions with care.

    Regards,
    Andy

    PS: regarding protein and muscle tone - If eating protein gives you muscles, hmm, why do the people who hang out at the average McDonalds restaurant not all look like Arnold Schwarzenegger? Surely they are getting enough protein...

    - - - Updated - - -

    Quote harpy View Post

    I haven't heard it said there are no non-complete proteins - my understanding is that not all protein-containing foods contain the full range of amino acids, but this is no longer considered very important as provided you eat a good range of foods you will pick up the full range (i.e. you don't have to get all the amino acids you need
    Indeed.

    Look up Francis moore Lappe.

    She was the scientist who originally came up with the idea of complete and non- complete proteins in 1971. Since 1981, however, she has tried to convince people that her original theory was not correct and that -apart for some exceptions- there is no need to " combine proteins" : http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Protein_combining

  4. #4
    Bad Buddhist Clueless Git's Avatar
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    Default Re: The amount of protein we REALLY need?

    Quote harpy View Post
    Hello - I'm sure you will hear from people who have looked into this but I just wanted to say that I wouldn't worry too much as most of us long-term vegans have done quite well without bothering to count protein grams.
    Pretty much covers what I was going to say.

    That and that I have never heard of there being any ill effects from eating tons of plant sourced protein anyway.

    SquirrelSpider, not at all scientific this, but just in case it helps; At age 47 (about 20 years vegetarian, 6 years vegan) I was still fit enough to swim a mile front crawl and to fight in martial arts tournaments. That being, apart from a very generalised 'some from each food group' approach to meal planning, with absolutely zero attention paid to anything further, nutrition wise, at all.
    All done in the best possible taste ...

  5. #5

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    Default Re: The amount of protein we REALLY need?

    Thank you very much for all the answers. It is good to know that we don't really have to be afraid of protein deficiency as long as we are on a balanced vegan diet. I don't see it any difficult to have 40-50g or so protein daily when you are vegan. 100+g would be much harder but luckily that is not needed, it seems. Thank you.

  6. #6

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    Default Re: The amount of protein we REALLY need?

    .36 Grams Protein X Your Weight = Optimal Protein Requirement.

    For myself, that would be .36 X 125 Pounds = 45 grams of protein per day.
    .36 0.36 Grams Protein X Your Weight = Optimum Protein Requirement - See more at: http://livesuperfoods.com/news/calcu....aKc5uzR8.dpuf

    0.36 Grams Protein X Your Weight = Optimum Protein Requirement - See more at: http://livesuperfoods.com/news/calcu....aKc5uzR8.dpuf
    0.36 Grams Protein X Your Weight = Optimum Protein Requirement - See more at: http://livesuperfoods.com/news/calcu....aKc5uzR8.dpuf

    0.36 Grams Protein X Your Weight = Optimum Protein Requirement - See more at: http://livesuperfoods.com/news/calcu....aKc5uzR8.dpuf

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