Men's Health: How Do You Protein?

Muscles, meat, and protein. An age-old trifecta that has some asking the question: If you aren’t devouring a giant steak, adding raw eggs in your shakes and smashing the protein powders, are you getting enough protein? If you survey your local gym, you may just get a resounding “No.”

Many a fitness influencer have latched onto the “more is more” approach to protein and equate this with rugged, brute strength. So, if we know that our body uses protein to build muscle (or for that matter, every part of our body) and we can’t live without it,  what should we be consuming?

How much is enough?

Despite all the focus it gathers, a survey of average nutrient intakes for Australians showed that 99% of us have no trouble getting the protein they need. A sedentary (not exercising) male needs about 0.8 grams times his body weight. Requirements go up with increased activity and for anyone older than 65.

If you’re curious about how much you need for your body, age, and activity level, use this handy tool, here.

How much is too much?

The recommended upper limit of protein intake is set at 25% of your daily calories. This is a high ceiling, so nothing to worry about if you aren’t going out of your way to supplement or boost your intake.

A few studies have suggested that higher protein consumption may impact kidney health. Those with underlying kidney disease may want to avoid over-consuming protein. You can use free apps like Cronometer to get a feel for your own nutrient intakes.

Are all sources of protein created equal?

Whether protein comes from an animal or a plant, digestion separates it into the amino acids our body needs. Even diets centred around a variety of whole-food plant-proteins provide all essential amino acids and meet protein requirements easily.

The more productive thing to discuss when it comes to protein is what has been described as the “protein package.”

Does most of your protein come packaged with saturated fat, sodium, cholesterol, heme iron and preservatives? Are there any antioxidants, healthy carbohydrates and fibre in the mix? This is why mixing up your sources of protein can be beneficial.

Legumes (soy, beans, lentils, chickpeas), wholegrains, nuts and seeds are versatile protein sources that are well recognised for increasing longevity and decreasing development of chronic disease. On the other end of the spectrum, processed meats are recognised by the World Health Organisation as carcinogenic. Even excessive red meat consumption is called into question when it comes to cancer and heart disease.

The takeaway?

Think less about how much protein you’re getting and think more about the overall variety and benefits of the sources. It’s not just about beefing up on beef, but about your long term health and wellbeing.

Protein is about so much more than building muscle. Besides, you only have to look at meat-free bodybuilders like Torre Washington and Patrik Baboumian to know that strength can be built in unexpected ways.

Need some resources for alternative protein recipes that don’t sacrifice flavour? Check out this and this to start.

In today’s progressive society, masculinity is slowly but surely being redefined. Gone are the days when men are expected to just soldier on and ignore their feelings. While others are looking past the typical meat-and-three-veg diet and thinking more holistically about nutrition. Perhaps the new male trifecta will one day be: authentic vulnerability, inner strength, and good health.