May 22, 2014


Interviewer: Protein can be kind of a complicated thing. How much should you get and what sources should you be getting it from? Can you get too much? We'll examine that and more, coming up next on The Scope.

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Interviewer: Stacey Wing-Gaia is a registered dietician and the Director of Sport Nutrition program at the University of Utah. Let's talk protein today. Go on the internet and you surf for about 10 seconds and you're confused. How much protein do I really need?

Stacey Wing-Gaia: I'll tell you as a dietician usually the first nutrient that people are concerned about, that they always ask is protein. How do I get more protein? I can tell you that it's very rare that someone does not get enough protein.

Interviewer: That's interesting. So how much is that?

Stacey Wing-Gaia: Maximum amount would be about 1 gram per pound of body weight. So that would be a really very upper threshold that maybe I may have an adolescent boy that's going through teenage years and growth spurts or maybe someone with cancer that needed to put on more muscle. But most people don't need that much, probably more like a half a gram to maybe .7, .8 grams per body weight.

Interviewer: That's interesting because on the internet, you know I go the the gym I do some strength training, I do some aerobics stuff and it says if lifting weights and you want to gain weight you should get a gram per pound of body weight. You're saying that's not necessarily the case?

Stacey Wing-Gaia: No it's not. In fact, for people who are trying to put on muscle actually one of the things that they really need to do is really increase the calories. You have to be in what we call a positive energy balance to be able to let your body make that extra protein. I think there's this myth that the more protein you eat, the more protein you're going to make in your body, which is not true at all. If you have excess protein, your body is going to not necessarily use it to make more protein you're going to use it to make some other things but you're also going to make some of that lovely fat that people are always trying to avoid.

Interviewer: So interesting so it's not so much about the protein as it is about overall calories in that instance of wanting to maybe put on some more muscle mass?

Stacey Wing-Gaia: Yes, definitely.

Interviewer: What about protein sources? Is there a better protein source than the other? I think if you talk to, I don't know weight trainers or bodybuilders or athletes, it has got to be meat. Is that the case?

Stacey Wing-Gaia: You know it is not the case. So it is a myth that you cannot get good protein being a vegetarian or getting plant sources. If you're trying to maximize protein certainly a lot of the research has been done on whey protein. If you've read the websites, the muscle building websites, they talk about slow acting and fast acting type proteins. So whey protein, casein protein, those are milk proteins. One's fast, one's slow. So that that is what most of the research has actually been on and a lot of it is showing that whey protein in particular is really good at building muscle. But is someone doesn't want to eat animal product soy is a really good option and you do see some muscle building with soy as well.

Interviewer: So soy beans a good source of protein?

Stacey Wing-Gaia: Yes.

Interviewer: What are some other good plant based protein? Rice has protein in it.

Stacey Wing-Gaia: Exactly. Yeah.

Interviewer: A couple of grams per serving.

Stacey Wing-Gaia: And that's where you get into, and the terms that have always been used have been complete and incomplete protein. What that means is that you combine plant and maybe grains. So for instance, the beans and rice combination because they both have different amino acids the other one is low on. So by eating them together you're getting all of those essential amino acids you need to build muscle.

Interviewer: Do people metabolize protein differently? Two of me, one actually uses more of the protein more efficiently, more effectively or does everybody kind of do it the same?

Stacey Wing-Gaia: I don't know if there is any research on that yet but given the things that have come out with other things and I'll just throw one out for instance exercise. Some people respond to exercise differently in terms of their blood lipids like their cholesterol, triglycerides. Some people exercise, it lowers them other people it has no effect. So my guess is yeah people probably have some variability in how they metabolize protein.

Interviewer: A lot of people are looking at losing some weight. Unfortunately when you lose fat, you lose muscle as well. Is that generally the case?

Stacey Wing-Gaia: Not all of that has been explained in term of mechanisms, why you lose muscle but unfortunately it's kind of an inevitable consequence when you are trying to lose weight. You cut your calories. You also lose some muscles along with the fat. That's why we recommend that you exercise with any kind of weight loss program. You have exercise components and then you will also see if you would look at recommendations for protein they are actually higher than our standard recommended dietary allowance for weight loss diets. And that's to help retain some of that muscle.

Interviewer: Is there any danger to eating too much protein?

Stacey Wing-Gaia: Yes there is. So, if you're eating all of this protein at the expense of some of the other things like carbohydrates and fat then yes you are going to be low on some nutrients. Long term there is some thoughts that it could have an effect on the kidneys. You'll see one school of thought that if you have healthy kidneys it's not going to be a big deal, your body can process that protein. On the other hand if you have a history of kidney disease, if you have one kidney something like that I usually recommend to be a little careful about that. I just don't think it's really clear but a lot of that's going to depend on the protein sources. If you're eating really high fat protein sources that's going to affect maybe your cholesterol and things like that.

Interviewer: Any final thoughts on protein, any take aways? One thing somebody took away from this conversation, what would that be?

Stacey Wing-Gaia: If you're worried about protein, you probably shouldn't be.

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