Busting Common Protein Myths

Lesson 9 Module 2

When it comes to protein, there's a whole set of myths and misconceptions that are worth blowing out of the water, right now! Below, you'll find a list of the most common ones, along with the scientific research to back up the real truth. It's time to get evidence-based when it comes to protein.

MYTH: You only need 0.8g/kg of protein

FACT: Current research indicates 1.2-1.6g/kg of protein is needed for optimal health.

  • 0.8g/kg is the amount needed to avoid protein deficiency (a disease called, Kwashiorkor). 
  • Protein "requirements" beyond the RDA: implications for optimizing health (Phillips et al, 2016) (Pubmed Link) (Full Text)

MYTH: You can only absorb 20-30g of protein per meal

FACT: All protein is digested and absorbed by the body.

  • Most people don't need more than 30g to stimulate Muscle Protein Synthesis.
  • Protein oxidation would simply increase.
  • If you couldn't digest or absorb the additional protein, they would be "free" calories.
  • Often this myth incorrectly extrapolated from this study looking at absorption rates.
    • Slow and fast dietary proteins differently modulate postprandial protein accretion (Boirie et al 1997) (Pubmed Link) (Download Text)​​​ 

MYTH: Too much protein will damage your kidneys

FACT: If you have no existing kidney issues, there's no evidence to suggest a high-protein diet is harmful.

  • Changes in renal function during weight loss induced by high vs low-protein low-fat diets in overweight subjects (Skov et al, 1999) (​​Pubmed Link)​​
    • “Moderate changes in dietary protein intake cause adaptive alterations in renal size and function without indications of adverse effects.”
  • Do regular high protein diets have potential health risks on kidney function in athletes? (Poortmans and Dellalieux, 2000) (Pubmed Link)
    • ”..It appears that protein intake under does not impair renal function in well-trained athletes.”
  • The effects of a high protein diet on indices of health and body composition – a crossover trial in resistance-trained men (Antonio et al, 2016) (Pubmed Link)
    • “..In resistance-trained men that consumed a high protein diet (~2.51–3.32 g/kg/d) for one year, there were no harmful effects on measures of blood lipids as well as liver and kidney function.”

MYTH: There's more protein in broccoli than steak

FACT: This is only true when you measure the amount of protein per calorie. In the real world this doesn't make any practical sense. Compare protein per 100g, rather than calories

  • Broccoli has 9g pf protein per 100 kcals
    • But you'd have to eat 770g of broccoli to get 20g of protein
  • Steak (depending on the cut) has 7g of protein per 100 kcals
    • You'd only need to eat 160g of steak to get 20g of protein

If you've heard any other myths when it comes to protein, let me know in the comments below.