Dispelling the myths of a high protein diet
Egg whites for breakfast, chicken breast for lunch, turkey for dinner and a protein shake after your workout and before bed. Does this sound like your diet?
Anyone who is serious about working out is also serious about getting results. Any edge is welcome. And no "edge" is more commonly embraced than the mega consumption of protein. It's no surprise, really. Working out is all about "more" – more effort, more intensity, more cuts, more muscle, more poundage.
So if protein is good, then MORE protein must be better, right?
I was a little skeptical when I visited the website of the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine. But my suspicions were not confirmed. The founder of PCRM, Neal Barnard, MD, couldn't be more credible. He received his degree from the George Washington University School of Medicine. He's now an adjunct associate professor at GWU. He's also published dozens of scientific papers in journals, as well as a number of books on nutrition. He knows his stuff, and the PCRM is the real deal – and they recommend a vegetarian diet because they believe scientific research justifies that recommendation.
Their position on mega consumption of protein is unequivocal: don't do it. According to spokesperson Sarah Farr, the average American already consumes double the amount of protein he or she needs. The government's recommended dietary allowance from protein is just 0.8 grams per kilogram of body weight, which works out to less than one gram of protein per two pounds of body weight. Even credible recommendations for high-intensity athletes range from 1.2 to 1.7 grams of protein per kilogram – which, given that average people eat double their RDA in protein daily, means that high-intensity athletes are meeting their protein needs just eating the same amount of the nutrient as the average person.
According to PCRM, over-consumption of protein puts you at increased risk for developing osteoporosis, cancer, kidney disease and heart disease. While only eating ultra-lean, low-fat animal protein will go a long way to mitigating some of these dangers, excess protein consumption is still not good for you and won't improve your performance or development. And yes, they say that "a vegetarian diet is an optimal sports diet," being high in fiber, vitamins, and carbohydrates, low in saturated fats and cholesterol, and (with basic planning) easily meeting the protein needs of athletes.