Protein is an extremely important and necessary component of every single cell in our bodies. Our bodies use protein for a number of things, from building muscle to repairing tissue, making enzymes, hormones and various other body chemicals. It’s essential, and we need it. But just as with anything else, too much of something can be detrimental, and this seems to be the case with protein. Even the recommended intake of approximately 60 grams per day for the average male, for example, is being called into question by multiple scientists and health experts.
Where did the idea that we need so much protein come from? Why do people take protein shakes after a workout? Why are vegans and vegetarians stigmatized with the idea that they do not get enough protein? Where did this type of thinking come from?
Protein is a huge money making tool for the food industry. It’s a great marketing tool, especially towards athletes and bodybuilders. The body building/athletic market alone provides a huge incentive to use protein as a marketing tool to drive up sales. But again, where is the science? Why do bodybuilders believe they need enormous amounts of protein to build muscle instead of just using food, and why aren’t we educated about the dangers of over-consuming protein?
It was through my research into fasting where I came across, multiple times, the importance of a low-protein diet and how vital it is to retain the effects of fasting as well as good overall health.
Calorie restriction (CR) extends life span and retards age-related chronic diseases in a variety of species, including rats, mice, fish, flies, worms, and yeast. The mechanism or mechanisms through which this occurs are unclear.
A study published in the June 5, 2014 issue of Cell Stem Cell by researchers from the University of Southern California showed that cycles of prolonged fasting protect against immune system damage and, moreover, induce immune system regeneration. They concluded that fasting shifts stem cells from a dormant state to a state of self-renewal. It triggers stem cell based regeneration of an organ or system. (source)
There is so much literature on fasting and its benefits available for anybody who is curious. It’s easy to dive into the research through a scholarly search on Google, and there are multiple Youtube videos at your disposal of interviews with the scientists who are publishing these papers.
So, where does protein come in? Well, lower protein intake as well as fasting are correlated with a major reduction of IGF1 growth hormone.
A 2015 study published in Cell Metabolism is one of multiple studies that points out:
Mice and humans with Growth Hormone Receptor/IGF-1 deficiencies display major reductions in age-related diseases. Because protein restriction reduces GHR-IGF-1 activity, we examined links between protein intake and mortality. Respondents (n=6,381) aged 50–65 reporting high protein intake had a 75% increase in overall mortality and a 4-fold increase in cancer and diabetes mortality during an 18 year follow up period. These associations were either abolished or attenuated if the source of proteins was plant-based.
Before we go any further, I’d like to emphasize that there is a lot of literature suggesting that plant protein is far more beneficial than animal protein. I go into more detail and provide more sources in the articles linked below:
Who’s had this kind of protein intake before me? Nobody, right? So before these modern generations and all this push on protein nobody had a very high protein diet, not like this. So of course then that is, there is a danger of that we published a few years ago (referenced above), you know, three/four fold increase in cancer risk, seventy five percent increase in overall mortality. The mouse studies [and] the human studies, a great majority of them are negative for for high protein, and then if you look at the reasons for why they’re negative, well one of the things high protein controls is growth hormone and IGF1, and this pathway and axis really controls the growth and proliferation of cells. – Dr. Valter Longo, biogerontologist and cell biologist, one of the leading experts in the world regarding health science, longevity and the biological effects of fasting. (source)
Dr. Longo goes on to explain, as he references in his study above, that low protein intake means more longevity and more protection from diseases. In multiple interviews he recommends cutting in half your protein intake if you follow the daily recommended guidelines by health food authorities, I have also heard him say that after a heavy, strong workout, maybe only 30 grams, is required to build muscle.
If we look at the proliferation of multiple age-related diseases and cancers, the rates are extremely high and increasing. Could over-consumption of protein, among other reasons, have something to do with it?
Russel Henry Chittenden (1856-1943) looked into this issue in depth, before the mass marketing of high protein diets. He published 144 scientific papers as well as a text on protein requirements (Chittenden, 1904) that focused specifically on minimal protein requirements while resting or exercising.
Chittenden actually experimented on himself, and when he significantly decreased his protein intake, his health remained excellent without compromising any physical vigor or muscle. In this experiment he had less than 1 g per kg daily. He also did the same in a year long study, but with multiple athletic men in great health. They were also given the same low protein diet, and also suffered no deterioration of health or the ability to perform physical tasks. According to his research, even without a large protein intake, individuals were able to maintain their health and fitness levels.
In presenting the results of the experiments, herein described, the writer has refrained from entering into lengthy discussions, preferring to allow the results mainly to speak for themselves. They are certainly sufficiently convincing and need no superabundance of words to give them value; indeed, such merit as the book possesses is to be found in the large number of consecutive results, which admit of no contradiction and need no argument to enhance their value. The results are presented as scientific facts, and the conclusions they justify are self-evident. (source)
The bottom line? We don’t need as much protein as we’ve been made to believe.
Personally, I’ve been experimenting with gaining muscle this year without any specific focus on protein post-workout, and I am gaining muscle instead of losing muscle. My gains are as strong as they were when I was in my late teens when I was really into bodybuilding. Right now, I am eating normal food, on a vegan diet, with half the amount of protein that’s recommended (less than 0.8 grams per 1 kilogram of body weight). My experience matches up with the information that’s been shared above.
Over-protein consumption seems to have been the result of food industry marketing. Why has nobody ever asked for any type of scientific proof or experiments when it coms to how much protein the human body requires? Why have we simply believed that a diet high in protein is an absolute necessity, simply based on the fact that we know protein from food is necessary? Why didn’t we ask for proof until now?