What is a proteinaholic? Is it even a real thing? You tell me. We live in a world today that is obsessed with the idea that lots of protein means optimal health. There are whole industries created for it, marketing and selling protein supplements that we are willing to pay lots of money for. I did. I would spend £35 on a 750g tub of protein powder, £40 on two boxes a month of Quest protein bars and £10 for a tub of protein granola. I was obsessed with protein! I was a proteinaholic. I couldn’t help myself, I based each meal on the amount of protein I was consuming which was around 120g each day. My standard meals were porridge for breakfast with a big spoonful of whey protein powder mixed into it, protein granola where I would crumble a protein brownie into it for lunch, a protein bar as a snack, a high protein vegetarian Quorn meal for dinner and a whey protein shake before I went to bed. That was my standard diet for almost a year, no surprise I put on 14lbs in that amount of time, even though I was eating like this to try and lose weight!
When I started weight training I was told protein was the most important thing to gain muscle and the physique I wanted. Consuming a high protein, low carb and moderate fat diet with weight lifting 3-5 days a week was all I needed to do. Yes I saw change; abs starting to come through, for the first time I could see my biceps and I started to have little delts. My muscles grew and I put this down to my high protein low carb diet. I would do this diet for a maximum of 3 weeks, then I would binge. My body was so low on carbs that I was having these out of control binges every 3 weeks because my body was just so deprived of carbs! After these binges I would feel so shit about myself, I would feel so weak, I thought other people were able to do it so why can’t I? I must have no self control. It even triggered me to purge after my binges because I was so ashamed of myself. I would then go back to my low carb, high protein diet until I relapsed again a couple weeks later. This went on for nearly a year. In that year I’ve put on a stone in weight (14lbs). At first I thought I was putting on weight because of my binges and the amount of carbs I was consuming when binging. I would then restrict my carbs even more; I went from 150g of carbs, to 120g to then 100g and then sometimes aiming for only 70g of carbs a day! It never occurred to me that I was gaining wight because of the amount of animal protein I was consuming, not the carbs. This was because everywhere you look protein is always advertised on food products. Go into a supermarket and I guarantee you will find numerous food items from cereals to salads advertising the high protein content in them. Even the majority of doctors suggest a high amount of protein in your diet, and they went to medical school so they must be right…right? Not necessarily. Less than 6% of doctors and GPs actually train in nutrition at medical school, its not a compulsory module and doctors only have to train in it if they want to, the majority just get taught the basic information like the food pyramid. So getting dietary advice from a doctor is pretty much the same as getting dietary advice from a 15 year old science GCSE student.
So what is the problem with protein? Well for starters protein is advertised to us as a means to lose weight, eat a high protein, low carb diet and the weight will fall off. But at the same time protein is also relabelled and advertised as a means to gain weight….what?! I was on a high protein diet to lose weight, whilst my boyfriend was on a high protein diet to gain weight….how does that work?! “Experts” and the media are always on about good and bad fats, and good and bad carbs – no wonder we have no clue what to eat to be healthy! However the “experts” all agree that protein is safe and the media never goes on about to much protein, the more the better is what most people think. However, more and more studies are now showing that high animal protein diets is the number one cause to poor health.
If you search the medical literature, I guarantee you will not find one study that confirms there is such a thing as protein deficiency in someone eating appropriate amounts of calories. Its actually the complete opposite, the more protein we eat, the sicker we become. More and more studies are now showing that animal protein is the biggest factor behind obesity, diabetes, heart disease, hypertension and cancer. A high animal protein diet is also one of the leading causes of osteoporosis, which is practically unheard of in countries that hardly consume dairy. You might be shocked to learn that consuming animal protein such as milk actually causes a disease that gives you brittle bones. Isn’t milk meant to strengthen your bones? The problem that happens when we eat animal protein in the form of dairy products is that it acidifies our body pH, this can be deadly however our body has a fast way to counteract the acidity by using the calcium in our bones as a neutralizer. The calcium is leached from our bones, neutralises our body and then leaves through our urine, resulting in calcium deficiency and also osteoporosis.
Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) of protein is actually probably much lower than you think. The RDA of protein for men is 56g and 46g for women. These recommendations are optimal values, not minimal needs; the RDA overestimates these recommendations since some people require more protein than others. Since being vegan I have between 30-40g of protein a day and I have not lost any muscle mass what so ever! In fact my muscles look more prominent from all the carbs I’ve been consuming (between 250-300g a day).
Developed countries who eat high protein diets are some of the unhealthiest people in the world. We die at an early age, have the highest rate of obesity, heart disease and diabetes and suffer from more cancers. We have the best medical advances yet are still dying younger than people in less developed countries all due to the fact we are eating unhealthy diets. Countries with low protein diets who get the majority of their calories from carbs such as rice and vegetables, live longer, have the worlds highest percentage of centenarians and have the lowest rates of obesity, heart disease and diabetes even though they have the lowest medical advances. They are still out living us even though we have better health care!
I promise you a high animal protein diet will do nothing but cause you problems, whether it be weight gain, kidney stones, acne, headaches, IBS so on and so on. You don’t need a high protein diet to gain muscle, its not the protein thats growing your muscles, its the hard work you put in to train them which tears the muscle and then it regrows bigger. Your body actually produces the majority of protein you need to repair the muscle by recycling old cells. You can get all the protein you need from a plant based diet and it doesn’t even need to be huge amounts. A low protein, low fat, high carb diet is the most effective way to lose weight, prevent diseases and be all round healthy.
For more information about protein please read Proteinaholic by Garth Davis. Thats the book that inspired me to write this post and is full of all the information you need to know. Garth Davis is an experienced weight loss surgeon who sees his fair share in what high animal protein diets does to the body, so give it a read it will 100% change your whole outlook on a high protein diet.