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  • mariasylvesterterr

protein, the most important macronutrient?

protein is the most important macronutrient, right?

An egg on a frying pan with the egg shell next to it to represent a high protein food

well, you know what answer is coming. it depends.

are you healing from an injury or a burn? yes, it sure is.

are you struggling to eat enough of it while trying to gain strength? yep, it matters.

those are two specifically nuanced situations, right? riiiight.

unfortunately, the influence of the diet industry brings a general obsession with protein. diet culture gives protein a halo without much nuance at all.

it's almost sort of funny. how many farts are we willing to produce in the name of a goal weight? how many cookies can we have if they have protein added? how can i put cottage cheese in... everything?

a brief tangent -- one time i made "chocolate protein muffins" and proudly organized them in a tupperware tray. i had been dating Caleb for maybe 9 or 10 months. he picked one up, took a bite, and grimaced. "this is like... elastic."

what happened next is a memory i can't unsee: he rolled it into a ball and bounced it on the floor. you better believe it bounced TF back, too.

all that to say, no single nutrient is going to be your silver bullet. you need all three macronutrients. they work together. they serve your body. they make great things happen.

instead of the importance of protein, i want you to consider purpose.

what does protein do?

protein has several notable purposes, including but not limited to:

  1. building and repairing tissues and muscles

  2. hormone regulation

  3. enzymes and chemical reactions

  4. immune health

  5. nutrient transport

  6. fluid and acid-base balance

  7. oxygenation of blood

protein provides 4 calories of energy per gram; however, it is not your body's preferred energy source. consider it a backup: when you aren't eating enough carbs, your body can make glucose out of protein [from food and muscle tissue].

let me present an important gray area -- protein is absolutely important for a thriving, functional body AND we do not need the majority of our food intake to come from protein.

how much protein do we need?

roughly, we need 40-60% of our intake to come from carbohydrates, 25-35% from fats, and the rest from protein. why? because we need carbs and fats for energy!

too often, i meet clients eating [or trying to eat] 50% of their energy needs from protein which is unnecessary. the goal is so high that they resent their protein-rich foods and end up undereating protein.

a good starting point for meeting your protein goal is to observe your eating habits. do you tend to eat protein with meals or snacks? do you have an idea of what foods are great sources of protein? [p.s. this is something i teach in all group coaching cohorts!]

is it true that...

we all know there's a ton of misinformation out there about nutrition. let's put these myths to bed!

❌ you can only absorb 30g of protein in a sitting

how could this ever be true for all people everywhere? how much protein you absorb depends on your energy needs, the type of protein you're eating, and many other factors. certainly, our bodies can absorb protein.

❌ too much protein damages your kidneys

unless you have an existing kidney issue or a chronic condition impacting kidney function, you will not damage your kidneys by eating protein.

❌ protein powders are toxic for the gut

taking supplements requires a careful eye. be sure to check for third-party testing and ingredient verification. however, protein powders are not toxic or harmful. there may be some your stomach likes and dislikes!

adding protein to things is a diet culture move

this is something i used to believe. and, it's just outlandish to apply the same all-or-nothing thinking to an anti-diet lifestyle. diet culture can't 'have' nutrition. if you want to add protein to things because you prefer it or need it, go right ahead.

remember: good, wholesome nutrition is so much more than single nutrients. maybe plan a little intentional protein into your week if you need the nudge.

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