The idea I might not be getting enough quality protein definitely crossed my mind when I was testing the waters with a vegetarian diet. I lasted two years the vegetarian way and it certainly wasn’t easy. When you don’t get enough protein, your body will start to break down muscle and tissue to provide the protein your body needs.
When I was a vegetarian I noticed a series of changes in my body. My immunity was low and I felt fatigued doing even simple tasks. Yoga became tiresome and overly challenging. I found myself needing to take breaks and certain poses became a struggle.
I now know this was related to a protein deficiency. While there are certainly many plant-based sources of protein, it is possible that I wasn’t consuming what my body needed to function.
What My Protein Deficiency Taught Me
Every step of the way was a learning experience. Protein is such a necessary component to every diet. But that doesn’t mean that more is always better. Too much can lead to trouble with your health, too. Some high protein diets can lead to severe dehydration and even kidney or liver damage. Keep in mind that high protein often comes with a lot of saturated fat as well, which can increase your risk of coronary heart disease and stroke. Supplementing your diet with lean protein, fish, and plant-based sources are good choices.
Getting enough quality protein should be a priority! According to a meta-analysis recently published in the journal of the American Academy of Neurology, people with more protein in their diets may actually decrease their likelihood of a stroke by 20%.
Get Enough Protein to Prevent Stroke
The meta-analysis compiled seven studies involving 254,489 people, who participated and allowed themselves to be monitored for 14 years. Study results showed that when the participants increased their protein intake by 20 g daily, stroke risk was lowered by up to 26%. High cholesterol and smoking are other stroke risk factors that were also taken into account to help determine the meta-analysis results.
The type of protein would also play a factor. This analysis mentioned fish in particular as an important protein source, while increased red meat consumption (linked to higher risk of stroke) was not supported.
How Much Protein Do You Really Need?
The amount of protein your body needs also depends on your activity level. People who exercise on a regular basis require more protein in order to build and maintain muscle mass. But don’t think that means you can increase your protein intake too much. The average person only requires 0.4 g of protein per pound of body weight, while people increasing muscle mass need 0.6 to 0.9 g.
Another rule of thumb is that the average man over the age of 19 requires 56 g of protein, while women should have 46 g, according to the Institute of Medicine at the National Academy of Sciences.
According to the research, 20 g of protein can help to reduce stroke risk, but that doesn’t mean you need to go on a special protein diet. Instead you should simply increase your protein intake from the typically recommended amount.
Consider the locations of the study, too. The study was conducted on Japanese people who typically consume larger amounts of fish than red meat. Keep in mind the consumption of more fish is linked with a reduced stroke risk as well.
The meta-analysis may not be just about increasing protein consumption to help reduce stroke risk. When most people think of protein, you might feel the first thing that comes to mind is red meat. The takeaway from the studies may be to increase your protein intake from sources other than red meat such as fish or plant-based sources like almonds or walnuts.
Atkins or Paleo: The Case for High Protein Diets
Many people find the idea of a high protein diet attractive after hearing about the Atkins diet or the Paleo diet. The Atkins diet allows protein from anywhere even from fast food, whereas Paleo only allows grass-fed and antibiotic-free meat, and focuses on a more holistic approach to healthy eating. But these extreme diets can lead to other issues, so consult your doctor or naturopath first.
No matter what your choice is in terms of getting more protein, you have to have dietary balance. The end goal should be that you want to increase your protein intake, but not so much that other problems start to pop up.
“Diet higher in protein may be linked to lower risk of stroke,” Science Daily website, June 11, 2014; http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/06/140611170750.htm?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+sciencedaily%2Fmind_brain%2Fnutrition+%28Nutrition+Research+News+–+ScienceDaily%29.
Logan, J., “What Happens If You Don’t Get Enough Protein in Your Diet?” LIVESTRONG.com website, Feb. 8, 2014; http://www.livestrong.com/article/73310-happens-dont-enough-protein-diet/.