The Protein Question

in All Posts

Good morning!  I didn’t go to sleep until really late (Twitter sucked me in), but I somehow managed to wake up early enough to go for a short run.


The goal this week is to increase my mileage over 10.0-miles per week.  I need to get over this hump so I can start doing longer distances safely again.  It floors to me to think I used to do 25-mile weeks. So far, my knees have been excellently behaved! Slow and steady wins finishes the race.  🙂


Tomorrow is "long run" day so I took it easy:


  • Distance:  2.4 miles
  • Duration: 22 miles


And I came home to a wonderful bowl of oatmeal:


My oatmeal contained:


  • 1/2 cup oatmeal
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1 sliced banana
  • Toppings: flax, pistachios, and blueberries


Protein: 12.5 grams


The Protein Question


Last night I received the following comment:


I would never ask you to disclose how many calories a day you eat, but I AM curious if you’d maybe post daily protein intake over a certain period, two weeks for example? I don’t see that you do a lot of protein powder and I know that beans usually only have 8-10 grams/pro/serving and whole grains 3-6 grams/pro/serving? I know you get a bit from dairy, but some days it seems like you get <50 gs? It’s different for everyone of course, just honestly curious!


This is a very interesting question with a very long-winded answer.  I’m going to share my thoughts and then I’m curious to hear everyone else’s opinions on the Protein Question.


Personally, I feel that Americans have been duped by our government into believing that we need to eat tons and tons of protein (and in particular, protein from animal sources — but that’s another story). One of the books that changed my life was In Defense of Food by Michael Pollan.

If you have not read this book yet, you really must read it! 


Anyway, one of the topics addressed in this book is how the government formed the food pyramid, which as we all remember from grade school, puts a heavy emphasis on protein intake (although it encourages whole grains to be your base).  One of the topics addressed by In Defense of Food is that many of the people who were on the committee to form these original guidelines were also either 1) employed by the meat and dairy industries or 2) being lobbied heavily by the meat and dairy industries.  Lettuce doesn’t have a lobbyist!


The point I’m trying to make is that I think our government puts a lot of emphasis on protein intake (over fruit and veggie intake) for a variety of (financial) reasons.  So, as a result, Americans have been mislead to think that we need to be eating ginormous steaks to get our protein "fill."   Don’t even get me started on high-protein diets (which, in my opinion, work because they essentially restrict your calorie intake).


In actuality, the USDA admits you only need to eat about 0.36 grams of protein per pound of body weight (a little fact buried somewhere in the Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2005, which I actually read in its entirety once).  That really isn’t too much protein!  For a female my size, that works out to about 43.2 grams of protein.  As you can see from my oatmeal breakfast, 43.2 grams of protein isn’t that much.  I’ve already eaten 12.5 grams and the only "animal product" I consumed was 1/2 cup a milk.


OK – I’ve gone off on a total tangent! Sorry.  My point is that you get way more protein than you realize, as lots of foods have protein in them.  Secondly, protein is important in helping your body recover from hard workouts, so I do usually drink a protein shake after really long runs or bike rides.  But beyond that, I think we should focus on eating whole and natural foods than worrying too much about one type of macromolecule.


Just for the sake of discussion, I will be calculating my protein intake for the day!


Again – I’m not a doctor, and the above is just my opinion. I am interested in hearing everyone’s thoughts about the Protein Question.  Do you focus on protein intake?  Does it help your diet or energy levels?  How much protein do you eat a day?



  • Lesi July 9, 2009, 4:59 am

    Very interesting post! I read In Defense of Food also and found it very enlightening. Alot of non-animal products DO have lots of protein in them though. The other day I bought some wraps and each had 10g! I try to make sure I have some protein in every meal though, mainly because it holds me over well.

  • Sarah W. July 9, 2009, 5:15 am

    I agree fully about the protein! I haven't read in defense of food yet – maybe i'll try to find it in the library when I return my other book!

    I track my cals/fat/carb/protein in my Lose It! app for iphone. I'm always curious about my protein intake because it usually only comes from plant foods or fish 1-2x week (I'm mostly vegan remember – dairy is evil to me, but the oldest/healthiest ppl in the world eat a plant based diet, no dairy, with fish too!) so i'm okay eating fish because it means i'm healthy 🙂

    anyways,on a low day I consume 40g protein, and on a high day I consume 60-80g. (usually consisting of more animal products like dairy which I sometimes can't afoid).

    I agree, I think as women our size, we're ok with 40-60g protein and i'm losing weight just fine with it. can't believe I was ever in the 'body builder' mentality and had animal protein at EVERY meal. ughghg! makes me sick to think about it now.

  • Sarah (Running To Slow Things Down) July 9, 2009, 5:19 am

    I also believe that we as Americans overeat on the protein. I try to include a bit in every meal as a way to keep me full, but definitely don't overdo it either.

    The average person should be consuming about 0.8 g of protein per pound of body weight, which really doesn't amount to a whole lot (it's well under 100 g. for most people.)

    Very active people, elderly who are losing unwanted weight, or those with health issues will usually consume a bit more (1.1-2.0 g. per pound) but that's still less then most Americans are eating.

    It really all comes down to balance and moderation of all foods, in my opinion, with no one huge focus on a key nutrient.

    Great, interesting post! I love hearing everyones' opinions on this stuff! 😀

  • Jessica July 9, 2009, 5:24 am

    I totally agree with your post! I also read in Defense of Food and I agree with a lot of his ideas. I think the main point is, like you said, that we really don't need that much protein (I've also read about this in the China Study) & we can get all the protein we need from non-animal products. Very interesting!

  • Lisa D. July 9, 2009, 5:31 am

    eek! I just did my first C&K strength routine, quick..easy, and my arms are already feeling sore! A girls gotta do her push-ups and chair dips! What I have learned about protein(as a dietetic intern/nutrition student)it should make up ~15% of your total calorie intake or 0.8 g /kg(1 kg= 2.2 lbs), for an athlete it could be anywhere from 1-1.2g/kg but probably not much more than that(caitlin's stat of .43 g per pound comes out to about .94 g /kg). Extreme cases like pro athletes or people with certain diseases that stress the body(burns, dialysis pts, trauma vitcims they may need more like 1.3-2 g/kg)Kids also need more protein grams/kg bc they are growing! Carbohydrates are very important for athletes as well(muscles need carbs bc they rely on glycogen!(which comes from carbs). Like you said most americans typically get plenty of protein! But it will be interesting to see how your day goes as you keep track.

  • Kayla July 9, 2009, 5:33 am

    I totally agree with you! In fact I watch my protein only to make sure I don't get TOO MUCH! It seems like many healthy foods have a lot.. My fage greek yogurt for example has 20 grams per serving! and that is just my snack.. hah Have a great day, PS I've been reading since September but i don't think I've ever commeted 🙂

  • Jennifer @ His N' Her Health July 9, 2009, 5:37 am

    Totally agree with you. People always ask me where I get my protein. I don't really worry about it but sometimes I calculate just to see and I get more than enough!

  • leslie July 9, 2009, 5:44 am

    i completely and fully agree. last year one of my best friends became a vegan, and everyone we knew started asking her, "but where will you get your protein?" and ironically she's probably in better shape and has more muscle than most of them.

    i think many people eating the sad that become vegetarian don't get in protein because they aren't eating legumes, nuts, leafy greens, and whole grains. i'm not officially vegetarian, but those are my main protein sources (besides yogurt), and i know my protein intake is perfectly fine, without the need for protein powders or supplements.

  • Traci July 9, 2009, 5:45 am

    I've been trying to low glycemic eating since lately I've been having a lot of indicators that point towards insulin resistance so I usually only eat about 3oz of lean protein with each meal. I've never really tracked my protein to see how much I'm getting though.

  • recipesforcreativity July 9, 2009, 5:46 am

    Caitlin, I am so with you! Also, have you read The China Study? Yet another book about meat/dairy/evil government, etc. There is all sorts of research that points to too much protein being really hard on the body and that most Americans get twice what they need. I have been a vegetarian (sometimes vegan, sometimes ovo lacto) for 16 years and I have never, ever had a problem with protein. I've run a half marathon, built plenty of muscle, and never worry about my protein intake. Even foods like potatoes have protein in them. So, it will be interesting to see what your total is for the day, but I'm quite sure you're doing just fine!

  • Stacey July 9, 2009, 5:46 am

    As a future dietician, I am seeing that the most overly consumed nutrient is protein. We are programmed to ALWAYS have protein, and Americans eat it like it is going out of style, but what people don't realize is that is in abundance. Protein is not as important as fruit and veggies, or even carbs (esp after working out!)

  • catruns July 9, 2009, 5:52 am

    I'm currently going through Brendan Brazier's Thrive in 30, hoping for new idea as to how to make my eating healthier. I don't track carb/fat/protein like some people do, that just seems too complicated. Just trying to get some source of protein with each meal has been working for me, whether its protein powder in my morning smoothie, tuna or beans in my lunchtime salad, or shrimp with dinner.

  • maria July 9, 2009, 5:52 am

    Just need to tell you how wonderful, fantastic, and uplifting your blog is! I've been reading since January, am 21- same age as you were when you got your health on! :O) and you've really helped me figure out how to get a head start on taking care of myself and my life.

    And to answer your question I get about 50 grams a day, 70-80 only on high days or if I work out really hard.

  • Melissa July 9, 2009, 5:53 am

    I certainly focus on protein AND healthy fats. I figure the carbs will work themselves out. 😉

    Before becoming a vegetarian I doubt I ever thought about it. But being a vetgetarian who weight trains I feel it is important to make sure I am getting "enough". I stive for over 100 grams per day – mostly from soy/beans/whole grains. More importantly I strive for a balance of macronutrients at each meal because I feel more satiated that way.

  • Becky July 9, 2009, 5:53 am

    I'm not sure which food pyramid you looked at, but the one I'm familiar with puts a heavier emphasis on grains (6+ servings) and fruits/veggies (5+ servings) than it does on protein sources(2-3 servings). I agree that there is an agenda in government, and $ def. plays a role, however, I trust enough that there was (and is) science involved when making the Dietary Guidelines for the U.S.

    With that being said, many Americans eat more than the recommend amount without even trying. So trying to get more is, in most cases, unneccessary.

  • Caitlin at Healthy Tipping Point July 9, 2009, 5:56 am

    maria – thank you and yay for getting healthy!

    becky – naw, you're right- the food pyramid puts the most emphasis on whole grains. i just think the govt tries to sway us to be obsessed with protein intake via other ways. and i think the food pyramid is pretty heavily protein-focused. but im seriously paranoid about the govt LOL.

  • whitsgettingfit July 9, 2009, 6:06 am

    I completely agree! I used to be a big protein eater, with meat at lunch and dinner. Now I just stick to meat 1-2 times a week and not a lot at that. I prefer to get my proteins from beans and grains (quinoa, anyone?) I find satisifies me much more than a steak. That being said, I also believe that everyone is different, and what works for me may not work for someone else.

  • D July 9, 2009, 6:11 am

    I think you make some great points and there is no doubt in my mind that big business influenced the way the goct. made dietary suggestions.

    That said, I believe you have to listen to your body. I am a person who HAS to have protein to feel at my best, both mentally and physically. If I had two pick two categories of food to eat the rest of my life, which would make me stay somewhat sane, it would have to be protein and veggies. It is when I feel my best.

    I could never be a veggie, unless I had no choice, simple because my body thrives on protein and its staying power.

  • Carolina John July 9, 2009, 6:14 am

    i do focus on protein intake. it's a leftover habit from my bodybuilding days. those crazy idiots take in 1 gram per lb of bodyweight daily to gain huge bulging muscles that nobody else would want.

    now i mainly focus on the ration of carbs to protein in a post-workout recovery mode.

  • Bec July 9, 2009, 6:15 am

    For a while I got sucked into the whole I need protien powder thing but then my dad had the protien talk with me lol and explained that I already get a ton of protien in my daily diet and we looked at what I was eating and I definitely did not need protien added to my diet. If you look at whole grain products they contain a ton of protien, along with some veggies, plus the usual suspects! Also I just want to thank you for the negative vampire post, while I have yet to recieve negative blog comments I realized my boss is a big negative vampire and has been sucking away my positivity! I'm going to use your tips and hopefully they can help me get through the next 2 months of work!

  • Tammy (Defining Wellness) July 9, 2009, 6:18 am

    I have been a pesce-vegetarian for 15 years, and I used to worry about getting enough protein until, like you, I realized it's so simple to get enough! If I focus on getting some protein at every meal, it really adds up fast. Plus, there is even protein in veggies. The emphasis on protein really has confused a lot of people! I consume milk, cheese, Greek yogurt (lots of protein right there), cereals (some of which have soy), tempeh, soy, egg beaters, hard-boiled eggs, lots of beans, falafel, quinoa (a complete protein), whole grain breads/cereals/pastas (all of which have a decent amount of protein), nuts and nut butters, and seafood. There are just endless ways to get protein, even as a pesce-vegetarian, vegetarian, or vegan. My husband is also a vegetarian, and we both have tons of energy! If you eat nutritiously, it's simple to get enough!

  • Hannah Ruth July 9, 2009, 6:18 am

    I am one who really thrives on high protein, lots of greens, fruits and veggies, but low grains. However, I need the protein from all types, not just meat or dairy, but also from grains and veggies and everything else.
    Each person is different, and no diet works for every person.

  • coley1916 July 9, 2009, 6:19 am

    I totally agree with you, Caitlin! I am a dietetics student, and one thing we discuss a lot is American's belief that we need a ton of protein (thank you, Adkins!). We in fact only need 0.8g/kg body weight (1kg = 2.2lb). For someone like you and I, this is less than 50g. Only for pro athletes or someone in certain disease states would need more than this amount.
    I have to share this… I was leaving the gym last week after a workout and a personal trainer approached me who was trying to sell protein powders and asked me if I get my recommended intake of protein each day. I said yes, and he asked what protein powder I use. I told him I didn't use one, that I think they are totally not necessary. I said I get it through my diet and don't like to use powders. He looked at me like I was crazy and said, "How do you get 160g of protein through natural food sources?!" (I told him my weight so he somehow calculated 160g from that). I looked at HIM like he was crazy and said, "why would I need 160g/day, I only need about 50g!" Long story short, we got into this debate about high protein diets… he wasn't a dietetian or even a nutritionist, but he was giving advice to people about how they needed this insane amount of protein. He said he was told that we need about 1.8-2.5g protein per kg body weight. No wonder people out there are so confused about they're protein intakes!

  • brandi July 9, 2009, 6:19 am

    I don't focus on how many grams of protein I get a day, but I"m sure I get whatever I need.

    I was the same way yesterday – starving and we ran the day before, too. I seem to be hungrier the day or two AFTER working out, not the day of.

  • Rose July 9, 2009, 6:20 am

    Protein has been important in my diet, and I've been slowly learning ways to eat plant-based foods for protein rather than meat. There was a time when I wasn't eating much at all – and what I was eating didn't have a lot of protein, and I constantly felt weak and sluggish. Every once in a while, I notice that my body sort of craves meat – and not mentally, but physically. That's when I'll usually have chicken or something like that, but I can't say that I include meat in my daily habits as a protein source.

    Hope this makes sense? My opinion is skewed now that I saw Food, Inc., and am on the verge of going vegetarian because of it.

  • Tina July 9, 2009, 6:22 am

    THANK YOU for writing about this topic! People are always questioning my protein intake, but living in the US, we get PLENTY!

  • Anna July 9, 2009, 6:23 am

    Ooo good topic! As a vegetarian/vegan by convenience, I get a lot of questions about my protein intake. People get so worried that I'm not eating enough! It's actually kind of cute. But yes, I agree with you/Michael Pollan. We really don't NEED that much protein. When I was younger and a lot less nutritionally informed, I ate TONS of protein, mostly in the form of poultry because I didn't eat red meat. As a result, I would be EXHAUSTED on days that I didn't get my normal amount. I remember going to Italy and eating mostly carbs because they don't eat a lot of poultry there… and then feeling like I was going to pass out every day. My body was seriously going through some sort of protein withdrawl. It was kind of scary. I have since weaned myself off extreme amounts of protein and no longer crash if I don't get enough. I probably eat about 4-50 grams per day, and I should track for a day or two like you just to see if I'm on target.

    PS- negative comments, WTF?! Some people are so sad and pathetic. Seriously, who does that- bashes other people on their blogs? LAME.

  • brit July 9, 2009, 6:24 am

    do you typically eat a snack before your morning runs? i'm just curious b/c of the hunger discussion yesterday….i've found if i have a snack such as toast and pb when i wake up before working out, my hunger throughout the day (or next day) is less intense.

  • Holly July 9, 2009, 6:25 am

    Such an interesting topic and I am looking forward to following the comments today. I agree that protein intake is far out of control in the standard American diet and can become very unhealthy.

    I am finishing up part 3 of In Defense of Food, and it has entirely changed my perspective on the idea of healthful eating. My diet focus has now shifted from focusing on macro/micro nutrients to just trying to eat the most whole, unprocessed foods as possible. Pollan discusses the various diets of cultures entirely unaffected by the Western Diet (researched back in the 1930s, when this was possible). What was most interesting is that the wide range of diets, from those heavy dairy and meat, to seafood and fats were far more healthy than Americans today (think virtually no cancers, diabetes, heart disease, tooth decay, etc).

    Protein shake? No thanks, I prefer to eat my food whole.

  • Caitlin at Healthy Tipping Point July 9, 2009, 6:26 am

    brit – yes normally i eat a piece of toast with PB but today i knew i was going on a shorter run + i ate sooo late last night (11 PM) that i wasnt hungry upon rising. but yes, normally i do eat something small before a run.

  • Julie July 9, 2009, 6:28 am

    Couldn't agree more. It is such a misconception that we need to consume massive amounts of protein- one of the most interesting sections in "The China Study" describes just how much manipulation and lobbying went in to determining food pyramid recommendations. You should really check it out if you haven't already!

  • Emily July 9, 2009, 6:52 am

    While I do like protein because it keeps ME full longer than carbohydrate's do (which totally depends on your own body)there is such a misconception that we are not getting enough protein – most of America gets WAY more than they need…

  • The Shabby Princess July 9, 2009, 7:15 am

    I totally agree with you!! I think one thing we have forgotten as a society, is that for the most part, our bodies know what we need and when–we've just gotten used to going with what's easy, or what the taste buds and not listening to our bodies. This has nothing to do with protein, but, one night after a particularly hard and intense running week, I was overcome with the urge for a WW banana muffin that I had in the freezer. It was 8:30 PM. I ended up having 2 muffins, which was kind of odd for a late night craving, but, I actually felt really good (weird) after eating them–my body knew it needed some simple carbs, and I'm sure the banana helped my muscles with their potassium!

    We forget how amazing our bodies are and that if we eat good foods in moderation, we'll be able to "tell" when we need to up the carbs, or the protein or whatever it may be that we're lacking… Ok, long winded–sorry!!

  • K from ksgoodeats July 9, 2009, 7:16 am

    Slow and steady is my motto right now as well since I just started running again.

    Haha as a vegetarian, I hate the protein question! From time to time I get the, "YOU DON'T EAT ENOUGH PROTEIN!!" but a lot of people get well over the recommended amount. I don't track what I eat but I do make sure I get a hefty dose of protein every day.

  • kimmitri July 9, 2009, 7:17 am

    i think that this, like other macronutrients, is so personalized! i think we get ourselves into a lot of trouble trying to compare and match stats with others and copying diets that may not work. i tried for a long time to do this, and i'm finally finding success with not just weight loss, but with feeling good, energized, and getting rid of my stomach issues by listening to my body. i hope that others do the same thing. my fiance eats about 90% vegetarian and he feels great with it. i tried it, to condense food costs and it was not for me. i felt terrible and sluggish and hungry all the time. so i guess my point is that people should experiment and play around with what makes them feel good, which you obviously have!

  • Kristen July 9, 2009, 7:20 am

    In my opinion, it's not the government telling us we need tons of protein, it's Americans in general believing that we need tons of protein from diet plans like Atkins and SB as well as trainers pumping the protein thing. The food pyramid recommends only 5 ounces of meat and beans per day which isn't a whole lot.

  • Anonymous July 9, 2009, 7:22 am

    Great post, and I love that your going to calculate your protein for the day and post it….I find it interesting.

  • The Decayed Gentlewoman July 9, 2009, 7:23 am

    When I needed to lose a bit of weight and tried on my own by just counting calories and writing down what I ate, I didn't really manage to lose any and I think a big problem was that I wasn't getting full at all. I went to a nutritionist and was advised to eat fewer carbs and more protein- but then again, I was choosing a noodle bowl b/c it was like 200 calories and calling it lunch- so I was an extreme case. Once I upped my protein to a more balanced level and focused on eating more earlier in the day, I lost the weight pretty quickly.
    Now, I don't really worry about whether I'm getting enough protein. (My boyfriend is really into weight lifting and he eats *lots* of protein, but I have no desire to eat chicken breasts as snacks like he does. ugh.)
    I do make sure I get protein in all my meals and snacks (generally from yogurt and nut butters) because it keeps me full, but in general, I only eat meat at dinner and spend more time making sure I'm getting enough fiber and veggies.
    I sometimes think that if I didn't eat dinner with my boyfriend, I'd just become a vegetarian (I don't wanna make 2 meals), but I also worry that then I would have to apply myself to getting enough protein. That may not be the case though b/c it doesn't look like you have a problem with muscle building despite being a vegetarian.

  • Olga July 9, 2009, 7:27 am

    I completely agree with you! I've read numerous sources which indicate that we really don't need as much protein as we think we do…our bodies discard what they don't use!

    My brother, who is into muscle and body building drinks protein shakes like its his job…but I think people overestimate how much protein they need and its benefits for their bodies.

    Great post. Props to reading through the whole Dietary Guidelines!

  • Peanut Butter Swirl July 9, 2009, 7:33 am

    good for you for taking the running slowly 🙂

    I do think Americans eat a little too much protein. While yes, we do need protein, I believe that eating too much protein is tough work for our kidneys. And your right – the government is always pressured by big industries it seems like. There is no voice for fruits and veggies in the government!

  • Susan July 9, 2009, 7:33 am

    It's an interesting question. I'll admit, I sometimes wonder if some bloggers are getting enough protein. But it really IS a highly individual thing. Personally, my "perfect protein number" is around 100g a day. And I don't gorge on animal meat all day, that's just with the foods I'm naturally drawn too. With my active lifestyle, it's also been perfect for energy and muscle repair.

    I try not to jump on the "anti-government" bandwagons in terms of food. Rather, I like to look at it as something that works differently for every person. Seems like your body functions well on the protein you're getting. No need to change it if it ain't broke!

  • gengie July 9, 2009, 7:45 am

    I think that people worry about veggie's getting enough protein because lentils and beans and such have really become lost in the S.A.D. People don't think of these things as the nutrition powerhouses (fiber, carbs, protein) that they are and see animals as the quickest protein source. So many of us (me too!) have been taught to think we need protein at every meal even thought the average chicken breast is really 2 servings so we get plenty.

    Awesome question and I love how you think!

  • Meganerd July 9, 2009, 7:45 am

    LOL… I think I just asked you this the other day! I have so much to learn… I have no idea how much protein I get/need.

    i'll be interested to see how this goes! 😀

    Ps… I'm almost done reading IDOF!!

  • theangrydieter July 9, 2009, 7:53 am

    I really need to finish this book! I have started it several times, but then get sidetracked and have a hard time jumping back in! **Digging it out when I get home!**

    Thanks for such informative posts, you always seem to get my mind going!

  • SuzanneRN July 9, 2009, 7:56 am

    I agree with this entire post Caitlin. I just wanted to add in one more thing. I will keep it short and sweet. Too much protein can be very damaging to your kidneys. A fabulous reason to balance ones diet out with those fiber-licious veggies and fruit healthy carbs folks!

  • insideiamdancing July 9, 2009, 7:57 am

    This is an interesting subject for me- like you, I believe that protein is WAY overemphasised and people probably get far more than they need. It's so easy to get a LOT of protein if you eat meat/fish regularly- I watch my protein intake for health reasons, and although I would need around 35-40g going by textbooks, my body feels/functions best when it's around 55-60g. Everyone is different I guess!

  • Kelly July 9, 2009, 8:00 am

    I agree with you. I've read tons of books on food policy and nutrition and everything has suggested that most Americans get enough protein without actually trying. I think a big issue is not just that we think we need way more protein than we do but also that we assume that protein = meat. It doesn't have to. I just make a point to eat a balanced diet and it seems to all work itself out.

    Also, if you need any summer reading I highly recommend the book The Way We Eat. It's endlessly facinating and similar in subject matter to In Defense of Food but different enough that I learned so much.

    I love your post it note website BTW. I hadn't heard about it till I saw it on Elina's blog and I think that is so cool.

  • Katie July 9, 2009, 8:01 am

    "Lettuce doesn't have a lobbyist!"

    Best. Quote. Ever.

    I don't focus too much on my protein intake. I do try to incorporate some into my diet, but I'm not overly obsessed with counting and calculating.

  • Angela July 9, 2009, 8:05 am

    My most dreaded question as a vegetarian. If I have to answer it one more time, I think my head might explode. Since you did such a great job of summarizing, I think I may just start directing them here 🙂 Love your blog!

  • Char July 9, 2009, 8:06 am

    I just wrote a blog on protein, so very interesting to see your side of things to!

    I agree there is an emphasis on protein, and that many do not need to eat that much.

    I also agree that it depends on your goals. For my goals, I need a lot of protein. But I don't lower my carbs to get in the amount of protein you need. In the runners world, it may not be necessary, in the weight training world, to see any sort of gains, it is. But it depends on he person as to how much they need, and some do not need nearly as much as they are consuming.

    I believe americans overeat in carbs, actually. Carbs and dairy. Everything is about eating carbs and dairy..they stress low carb diets, but just eat double of the low carb junk. Protein and healthy fats combined with the carbs will help sustain you longer. Not each one on their own necessarily. I believe in balance, and I do support high protein diets, but not the Atkins style..just incorporating it in your diet as needed. That doesn't mean a steak for every meal, and their are vegetarian sources of protein as well.

    good blog!

  • ashley July 9, 2009, 8:06 am

    Very interesting post! I've found I'm more full when I have protein in a meal but I don't think excess amounts are necessary.

    I was wondering what your thoughts are on juice fasting? Do you believe it is beneficial and detoxing or do you think it can harm your metabolism? Have you ever tried one?

  • Aunt Beth July 9, 2009, 8:07 am

    Katie, after my gastric bypass surgery I had a target of 50-60 grams of protein a day, and that was for a post surgical patient who needed protein for healing. I was AMAZED at the things that had protein I wasn't even considering (English muffins, for example). At the beginning I wasn't eating meat at all (I do now), and I really didn't have any trouble getting adequate protein in. My doctor monitors my labs and I have never had a problem with low protein.

  • Char July 9, 2009, 8:08 am

    Forgot to add..I eat between 90-130 grams of protein a day, depending upon my goals (leaning out or building muscle, or maintaining). But I am not the norm, I am just an example of how a high protein diet can be helpful. (I also rarely consume processed foods, and am a big supporter of organic living).

  • Caitlin at Healthy Tipping Point July 9, 2009, 8:09 am

    ashley: my opinion on juice fasting is that i don't have one. LOL. sorry, but i don't feel like i know enough about juice fasts to really give an educated answer. (as they say, know what you know and what you don't know!)

    aunt beth – HIIII!

  • HangryPants July 9, 2009, 8:14 am

    I am completely over government guidelines of any sort. After seeing Food, Inc. I became the biggest conspiracy theorist about food and government.

  • Matt July 9, 2009, 8:21 am

    Hmmm good question. I never count my protein intake, but I am sure I get plenty. I don't eat huge servings of meat, but I eat enough to fulfill my protein intake. Since I run 80 miles a week, I think my body actually needs more protein than the average person. Protein does rebuild muscles, so I think it would be beneficial to get too much than too little.

  • ~Jessica~ July 9, 2009, 8:32 am

    Hmm, very interesting post! I am guilty of being obsessed with protein as I was told that I would be succeptible to stress fractures (I'm a runnder, though not as accomplished as you!)if I didn't eat enough and also that protein was the key to weight loss. When I was vegetarian I would load up on huge containers of Fage 0% and down a 500g tub for breakfast, as well as eating tofu by the bucketload and processed crap like Quorn just for the protein. When I became vegan four years ago (barring a hideous lapse recently) I lived on Trek protein bars and umpteen scoops of Sun Warrior and Hemp Protein. It's only recently that I've tried to get out of the protein obsessed mindset and just eat what feels right ~ fairly difficult when both your parents are protein-focused and your father is one of the most anti-vegan people you'll meet but I'm getting there.

    Loved the post!

  • Erica July 9, 2009, 8:41 am

    Great post girl! Lots of fabulous information. It is interesting how people are always pushing and pushing the protein issue. Since I have stopped eating any land meat, I have tried to be sure I get enough protein (meaning around 50 grams per day). I found this challenging at first, but the addition of more beans and milk/yogurt in my diet has made this a cinch!

    Hope you are doing well and having a good week

  • Kaolee Hoyle July 9, 2009, 8:57 am

    I am focused on gaining more muscles so I have been increasing my protein intake. I don't measure it though.

    I've been incorporating a lot of beans into my diet too because it's a lot cheaper!

  • Mrs. Myers @ Eat Move Write July 9, 2009, 9:00 am

    I agree actually. I hear people saying you need as much as the number you weigh. NO way! Too much of anything is, well, too much.

  • Sarah July 9, 2009, 9:07 am

    Very interesting. I definitely agree that protein pops up in unexpected places, and the emphasis the govt puts on meat-eating is too heavy. I was a vegetarian for many years, and my family and doctor were surprised to learn I wasn't anemic or protein deficient after I had some blood work done (for an unrelated reason). You don't need to eat a cow a week to get enough protein!

  • Katherine July 9, 2009, 9:09 am

    I think it is important to consider the bioavailability of the protein. For example beans, grains, nuts and seeds should all be soaked for hours and rinsed. This removes anti-nutrients and also increases the amount of protein available. Meat protein is more bioavailable than non-meat proteins. So as vegetarians we need to consider this as well.


  • aron July 9, 2009, 9:10 am

    thanks for this post!! i have been worried about my protein intake recently since i dont eat meat and i am running a lot of miles… but like you said i think i get more than i know. between milk in cereal, cereal, yogurt, cheese, nuts, eggs etc i think it adds up faster than i think it does. i too just try to focus on eating a little bit of something at every meal and keep it clean.

  • hstryk July 9, 2009, 9:15 am

    On average I get 75g of protein a day. The only real animal protein I consume is a very "clean" (Optimum Nutrition – Natural)whey protein, and I only drink it when I do strength training. 75g is a lot for a 116ish pound girl, but I'm also training for a triathlon and do kickboxing.

  • Glo July 9, 2009, 9:21 am

    I completely agree with you about our body's need for protein! I get all of my protein from beans, whole grains, soy, and the occasional yogurt and feel perfectly fueled to run 20 and bike 40+ miles a week.

    I don't count calories, carbs, anything like that, but I probably consume around 40g of protein a day. This might sound a little low, but I'm tiny and would be well over the 0.36g/lb "recommendation".

    I definitely need to read In Defense of Food! Thanks for posting this!

  • Erin July 9, 2009, 9:24 am

    I eat what makes me feel the best. And I don't mean I eat a tub of ice cream at a time because, let's face it, that would make most of us feel fantastic..for the first 5 seconds 😉

    Whatever makes me feel balanced, healthy, energized, and full.. goes into my tummy. Some days that means protein all day every day (although I don't eat much meat). Or, some days that means mostly fruits and veggies with whole grain carbs.

  • beesknees July 9, 2009, 9:36 am

    Interesting indeed! I have always been skeptical of the government recommendations for anything. That being said, I don't think one diet or way of eating is right for every person. I am like Char in that muscle/strength building is one of my goals so I aim to get 100g of protein a day. Everything else seems to fall into place. I agree that not everyone needs a lot of protein. It works for me!

    Great post.

  • Kath July 9, 2009, 9:52 am

    Agreed 🙂

    I aim to have a protein source at every meal – even if it's just milk or peanut butter.

  • Life's Too Short to Eat Fat Free Cheese July 9, 2009, 10:03 am

    I do think there is a general over-emphasis on protein but I don't think the necessarily come from the goverment but from other sources claiming to be experts in nutrition (blogs, personal trainers, some doctors, etc.).

    The good thing about meat and other protein sources listed in the food pyramid, though, is that they're often good sources of iron.. a nutrient that many teenaged girls and women are deficient in.

  • Erin July 9, 2009, 10:21 am

    I read that book ages ago and have the EXACT same perspective on protein as you day smartie!! I only consume around 35-45gs per day and I'm healtheier than ever.

    The meat lobby is a disgusting beast. That's for sure.

  • janetha July 9, 2009, 10:36 am

    i liked reading everyone's replies to this post. personally i try to eat a 40/40/20 ratio diet, so i balance my carb and protein intake. i try to keep both at about 120 grams daily and my fat grams between 30 and 40 a day. only healthy fats. i guess that sounds high to all of you, from what i have read, but this works for me and my lifestyle and the plan i follow (body for life).. i like having an equal balance of carbs and proteins because i enjoy both for different reasons!

  • Andrea of Care to Eat July 9, 2009, 10:46 am

    Couldn't have said it better! 40 grams is what I need and it's easy to do – even when I eat vegan for a day!

  • Frannie July 9, 2009, 11:05 am

    Hi! I'm a biochemistry Ph.D. with a strong interest in food science. I have read both "In Defense of Food" and "The Omnivore's Dilemma" and while I find MP's editorials very interesting and eye opening, they are definitely from a strong 'anti-industrial' standpoint. Make sure to recognize that before we start changing the industry, we'll need to make sure there is enough inexpensive food for all Americans to eat. It's not enough to tell Americans they need to eat better – less processed, more organic, more veggies, etc – because so many can barely afford it and lack the education to be able to prepare such foods.

    On to the protein question (where the relevancy of my Ph.D. comes in 😉 )…so if you don't get enough protein via your food, your body starts to break down your muscles to be able to make amino acids for neurotransmission and repair of vital organs. This is especially prominent in endurance athletes. Since so much power comes from your muscle mass, I would say it is in your best interest to eat more protein as you continue your marathon training. How much is enough? There is a lot of research on this. I don't know how much you weigh, so I can't give a professional opinion, but at least 30% of your total calories should come from protein. Also, there is a lot of new, interesting research about how women benefit from having a 30% fat diet as well. In fact everything I'm reading right now indicates that the key to a happier, healthier life is 30% protein, 30% fat, and 40% carbs.

    Good luck on your marathon and I really enjoy your blog!

  • Chloe (Naturally Frugal) July 9, 2009, 11:24 am

    I completely agree and love In Defense of Food, as well as all of his other books. He is one of the people I look to for sound advice on our food system as well as what we should be eating. Hopefully more and more people will start to question our current food system and guidlines and be more aware of what we are putting in our bodies an into our environment.

    Protein doesn't seem to be an issue for me, I eat more if I feel like I'm lacking but if not I'll stick with my staples. Great post Caitlin!

  • heyitstay July 9, 2009, 11:36 am

    It's true that as Americans, we feel the need to eat protein. The media portrays protein as "fat-burning" and it's duped in people's heads that excess protein builds muscles, not fat! Not true people…it's excess calories, and those excess calories can easily come from protein. That said, it IS important to get enough protein (roughly .8 grams per kg body weight is what I've learned in all my nutrition classes). If you're a HARDCORE athlete (or training!), it increases. But yes, I agree that our country focuses TOO MUCH on protein intake!

  • Oh She Glows July 9, 2009, 11:40 am

    I LOVE this post, you took the words right out of my mouth!

  • Kristi July 9, 2009, 12:13 pm

    I am so sick of everyone telling me that I do not get enough protein! I started tracking what I eat on just to see what I am actually tkaing in as far as cards, fat and protein. Apparently I am supposed to get 50-80 grams of protein a day! They say I need to eat more meat, but to be honest I don't usually crave a steak or anything like that. People always think I don't get enough protein because I don't eat a lot of meat! My thought: I get my protein in through other means and I seem to be doing okay not reaching the insane number of 80 grams a day 🙂

  • redhead75 July 9, 2009, 12:45 pm

    I eat 150g of protein a day. I have done meal plans where I eat 200g a day. It all depends on what you like and are willing to do. Once I started a high protein diet I lost weight a gained more muscle.

    I'm not knocking anyone for what they choose. Just be and eat healthy and live your life!

  • sayer July 9, 2009, 12:57 pm

    As I'm sure other people have mentioned…

    The second that I announced I was going to become vegan, the two most common questions received were, "What do you eat," and "Where will you get your protein?"

    Thanks for this post!

  • Kaleena July 9, 2009, 5:10 pm

    As a person with Poly cystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) eating plenty of protein is an important part of my diet. With PCOS I have insulin resistance (Similar to being diabetic) I try to always pair protein with any carbohydrate I eat because the protein helps to even out the spikes that eating carbohydrates cause in my blood sugar.

    I agree with the 30/30/40 rule that Frannie above mentioned.

  • Becky July 9, 2009, 5:16 pm

    I need to read that book! I am aware of my protein intake because I feel that it really keeps me satisfied longer. But I don't only get it from mean/animal products. Beans, nuts and whole grains are a great source as well!

  • ChickPea July 9, 2009, 9:30 pm

    I totally agree regarding Americans' overconsumption of protein–our bodies do NOT need as much as we think they do. I don't count protein grams, but I am for 3-4 servings of protein foods per day, such as tofu, beans, or hemp protein.

  • Amanda July 11, 2009, 11:08 am

    I just got to this post and I am in total agreement. I think it is hilarious that people do not question low carb diets but think vegetarians don't get enough protein. You need way more carbs than protein yet people are all about limiting carbs. If you do not get at least 130 grams of carbs you go into ketosis and can DIE but only need about .8 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight. I too love the book IDOF. Great subject to bring up. Thanks!

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