How much protein is excessive?

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As we discussed last week, excessive protein is turned into glucose and then to fat. But how much protein is excessive? That’s the real question that stirs up all kinds of controversy. The Recommended Daily Allowance for an adult is 0.8 g/kg per day. How did we get that number? Let’s start at the beginning.

First, I am only dealing with the steady state here. If you are trying to build muscle (body building) then you would need more protein. If you are pregnant or breast feeding or a child still growing, then protein requirements are higher because you are trying to add protein to your body. This discussion only deals with adults at a relatively stable state.

Proteins are made up of building blocks called amino acids, of which there are about 20 common ones. While we talk about protein requirements, really the body needs amino acids. This makes up about 16% of the weight of protein, so that if you eat 56 grams of steak, you do not get 56 grams of protein, but really require about 6 times more by weight (approximately).

Proteins are being degraded and resynthesized continuously. Old proteins get broken down, and the amino acids are reabsorbed to be built into new proteins. The amount of turnover is several times larger than the amount of amino acids eaten daily. However, some amino acids do get lost in the process, so we require a certain amount of protein intake. This is lost predominantly in the stool and the urine. Sweat, hair, nails etc make up a miniscule proportion of the lost amino acids.

Amino acids cannot be stored for long term energy. Any protein eaten in excess needs to be converted to glucose or fat for storage. Nine amino acids are called ‘essential’ amino acids because our body cannot synthesize them – histidine, isoleucine, leucine, lysine, methionine, phenylalanin, threonine, tryptophan, and valine. We must get these from our diet or we will get malnourished. There are also essential fatty acids such as the omega 3 and 6. There are no essential carbohydrates. No, we do not ‘need’ to eat 130 grams of glucose daily for our brain. It’s a complete lie. Fasting for 1 day does not cause our brain to become ‘starved of glucose’ as we become blubbering idiots and lose control of bowel and bladder. I would vote that widely circulated ‘fact’ as ‘most idiotic statement’. I have done this 24-hr fast many times, and have not yet found it necessary to clean poo and pee afterwards.

Kwashiorkor

What happens if we get too little protein? This can occur in isolation, or it can occur as part of a general lack of food. If there is general starvation (no food at all), then there is not only protein deficiency, but also carbohydrate and fat deficiency, too. Obviously, people become skeletally thin, with no body fat, and loss of muscle. This is called marasmus.

Kwashiorkor

But there is also a situation where people get sufficient calories, but very little protein. This typically occurs in third world countries where people have some form of food, but almost no protein. People are usually subsisting on refined carbohydrates alone, which come from food shipments donated by First World countries. These refined carbs (sugar, flour, rice, corn) provide calories at a fraction of the cost of protein, and do not require refrigeration during the long trip. So, in the 1970s and early 1980s, protein deficiency was rampant – called kwashiorkor. You see swollen feet, loss of muscles in the arms and legs, hair loss, and a big swollen fatty liver (due to excess carbs).

So, for all the teeth gnashing I heard about we must eat lots of protein, remember that we are nowhere close to protein deficiency since kwashiorkor is virtually non-existent in the developed nations. It exists primarily in war-torn nations who get food aid.

How much protein is enough?

This would depend upon how much is lost from the body daily. This varies depending upon intake. More protein intake means more turnover of protein and more losses. Less intake means less turnover. So there is quite a variation. It is also energy-dependent. That is, if you are trying to achieve negative energy balance (lose weight) then you need LESS protein. Why? Because there is all sorts of protein loss associated with fat loss. There is less skin, connective tissue, capillaries, blood, dermis etc associated with weight loss – all of which needs to be catabolized (burned up and not replaced). Think about those bariatric surgery shows on TLC where surgeons remove 20-30 pounds of excess skin after weight loss. Yes, that’s all protein that should have been catabolized. As an aside, in my clinic where we do a lot of intermittent fasting, I have not yet sent a single patient to the plastic surgeon for removal of excess skin, even though weight loss sometime is over 100 pounds.loose-skin-after-weight-loss-652x400-1-1465991756

Back to the normal daily amount. In 1985, the WHO reviewed studies of daily obligatory losses of nitrogen, and found that an average is 0.61 g/kg/day (total). Presumable, the diet should replace (roughly) this 0.61 g/kg/day being lost. Remember, this average is for normal healthy people, not people losing muscle or otherwise sick.

So the international group recommended that normal healthy people should get roughly 0.6g/kg/day. In order to make sure everybody was covered, the WHO added 25% (2 standard deviations) above the mean to get 0.75 g/kg/day which sometimes gets rounded up to 0.8 g/kg/day. In other words, 97.5% of the healthy general population loses less than this 0.75 g/kg/day of amino acids. This is not a low standard. This is a very, very high standard of protein intake.

For a standard 70-kg male this is 52.5 g/day. Remember this is for absolutely healthy adults, not gaining or losing weight and the amount needed to cover the average amino acid losses are only 42 g/day (0.6g/kg/day). Remember, that if you want to lose weight, you should be eating less protein so that you can break some down. For reference, the USDA in 1985 determined that in the US, 14-18% of calories were protein and the average consumption is 90-110g/day (male) and 70g/day (female). So the average male is eating twice the recommended amount, which is already super high. Day after day. Week after week. Year after year.

Is long term high protein diets harmful?

Hard to say. There is some suggestion that high animal protein intake may cause osteoporosis. Many of these proteins are acidic, which require neutralization in the body. This acid is buffered in the bones and then eventually the acid is excreted as phosphoric acid. Because bone consists of Calcium bound to phosphorus, there is extra calcium which gets excreted in the urine. This leads to higher urinary calcium losses and potentially osteoporosis.

Also, there is concern that long term high protein intake may cause scarring in the kidneys, although this is not proven.

So, how much protein should you take? The average necessary would be 0.6 g/kg/day (around 50 g/day) and LESS if you are trying to lose weight. However, I have seen recommendations that vary widely. Some suggest 120 g/day. Drs. Phinney and Volek recommend 1.5 – 2 g/kg/day. Yowzers. That’s super high. Do I worry about protein deficiency? No. When I start seeing a North American outbreak of kwashiorkor, I’ll be worried. Until then, the average intake is still 2-3 times what is physiologically necessary.

Dr. Phinney, in his LowCarb Vail talk suggests that fasting will cause loss of 1/4 pound of muscle per day, every day. So, I do 2 to 4 24-hr fasts per week. That’s about 1 pound of muscle loss per week or 50 pounds per year. So, in about 3 years, my body composition should be 100% fat. Funny how that didn’t happen. Actually, my body composition is about the same as it was 3 years ago. My strength is about the same.

They make the arguement that protein suppresses appetite. That may be true. What I am talking about here is what protein is necessary. I am not denying that some people do better with higher protein. But I suspect there are also many people who do worse. Another argument often heard is that protein builds muscles. Hmm. Eating protein without exercise builds muscle? Right. Dream on. If that were true, we would not have an obesity epidemic, but a muscle epidemic. I don’t see that on the front page of Time magazine. “Will America ever be able to get rid of its excess muscle?”

Dr. Ron Rosedale, in fact, suggests going even lower. In a fascinating LowCarb Vail talk (available on YouTube, and highly recommended), he said “Your health, and likely your lifespan, will be determined by the proportion of fat versus sugar you burn in your lifetime”. Remember that excess protein (see last weeks post) falls into the ‘burning sugar’ side of the equation. He also said in that talk, to a group of Low Carb aficionados that “today, it is perhaps more important to restrict protein than to restrict carbohydates“. Strong words, indeed. I tend to agree.

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2017-10-14T21:46:37+00:00 150 Comments

About the Author:

Dr. Fung is a Toronto based kidney specialist, having graduated from the University of Toronto and finishing his medical specialty at the University of California, Los Angeles in 2001. He is the author of the bestsellers ‘The Obesity Code’ and ‘The Complete Guide to Fasting’. He has pioneered the use of therapeutic fasting for weight loss and type 2 diabetes reversal in his IDM clinic.

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Jen
Guest

Fascinating. I’ve always wondered why people living in the poorer nations looked so thin but with a big belly. That’s fatty liver. This makes me sad. Also the people with excess skin; I didn’t realize that was from excess protein. Wow. just wow!

Angela
Guest

Exactly the same things I thought too Jen!!!

HaJai
Guest
Dr. Fung. You’re correct about protein needs. It took me at least 1/2 a year to get over the mentality of 1g of protein per pound while starting Keto/LCHF. I came from a bodybuilder mentality for 7 years and was so stuck with eating every 3 hours and high protein at each meal. Also blood sugar was never ideal with high protein unless I workout 3 hours a day to get a1c at 6. For the past 1/2 a year I had to really change my mindset with protein and meal timing. I have not yet seen any lose of… Read more »
Birgit
Guest
Dr. Fung,I want to thank both you and Megan for sharing so much valuable information on your blog. I hope that will answer my question, as I am quite confused about. You refer to body weight in relation to protein consumption. For example, you were writing about consuming 0.6 grams of protein per kilogram of body mass. Some sources are more specific, referring to specifically to LEAN body mass others only mention body weight. In this article, are you referring to actual body weight (as measured on a regular scale) or are you referring to lean body mass? I look… Read more »
Robet Moore
Guest

I also need clarity on this point. I would also be interested to know how you work out the protein when buying a steak, chicken breast, chicken thigh, venison, duck etc.

Many thanks for the insight.

Birgit
Guest
Robet, I did a little more research, and in line with Megan’s post about her ketogenic challenge, I believe that he is referring to 0.6 grams of protein per kg of lean body mass. If you need to estimate your lean body mass in kg. go to http://keto-calculator.ankerl.com/. Also if you go to the low carber forum my plan http://forum.lowcarber.org/myplan.php it has a log where you can calculate your daily macro nutrient intake. Another good source of nutrition information is http://www.bitelog.com which provides both the macro and micro nutrient content of foods. Both of these sites use the USDA Nutritional… Read more »
Jan
Guest

Robert, There are lots of resources on line for this, it’s easily found with Google. Here’s one. http://www.ketogenic-diet-resource.com/protein-chart.html

Jan
Guest

Dr Fung is using total body weight in his calculations. He refers to a 70kg man needing 52.5gm of protein based on the WHO .75gm/kg. And also, if you use .60gm/kg, its 42gm protein for that 70kg man

leavemealonegoaway
Guest
I will echo a comment I made last week re ‘where will I get fats??’ Set up a gourmet oil bar! Mine is set up with mainly olive oils, but followed Brian’s suggestion to add various healthy others. Treat it like a scotch bar..do all the cooky stuff scotch geeks do re aroma, mouth feel, impact, finish etc. I am truly amazed how much delicious variety of flavor exists between producers. Couple of shots a day and voila, calories ‘lost’ by cutting back protein back a bit are all there. As a PS I visit my Oil Bar when fasting..I… Read more »
corrie
Guest

This is really a splendid idea! 🙂

ben mcdonald
Guest

powerful anchor on science based sanity. Thanks for speaking to those folks who are under the misunderstanding of what levels of protien are “dangerously low”

Gary Gorin
Guest

Thank you Dr. Fung. To clarify, protein need to be under 509/day for weight loss? There are 43g protein in a chicken breast- that does not leave alot of room for anything else.

Steven
Guest

Protein is a mindfield for sure.

I have spent 35 years as a sugar burner, and this year as a fat burner!!! So I have a lot of years to make up.

http://ketogenicendurance.com

charles grashow
Guest

Keto diet success story?? Give me a break! Great co-author you have Dr. Fung

https://vimeo.com/183282494

HaJai
Guest

Vegan troll much?

charles grashow
Guest
Not a vegan by any means – I eat full fat raw goat milk, whole milk kefir, eggs, grass fed meat, nuts, seeds, etc. SO – a vegan I’m not BUT back to my point – the video is of Dr. Fung’s co-author on their new book. He also complained on a receny instagram post about having his double cream and sticks of butter being confiscated by Australian customs so all he would have to eat on the flight back to the USA was an avocado – this from a man who BRAGS about his MULTI-DAY fasts yet complains about… Read more »
Bob
Guest

Seems not eating might make you hungry,

Chris
Guest

Jimmy Moore is a horrible representative of the LCHF way of eating. He is either cheating, eating a massive amount of calories, or his body is seriously messed up from years of dieting. It would serve him better to stop with the cruises, speaking engagements, and book writing and focus on getting healthy first.

Wenchypoo
Guest
Unfortunately, he’s one of the ones who are experiencing rebound–he originally lost a lot of weight, but his body and work schedule are making it harder and harder to fight the good keto fight. He eats what he’s supposed to, he eats WHEN he’s supposed to (once daily), he fasts when he can, but is a stress casualty. He’s been on the front lines of the keto wars for a decade now, so give him a break (and maybe he’ll start giving himself breaks like you suggest). Right now, he’s busy taking the keto fight to the next level, so… Read more »
Chris
Guest

I agree he is probably way over stressed Wench, but looking the way he does, no one will take him serious. And those that oppose this way of eating are constantly using him as an example of why it’s bad for us. No, he should definitely stop trying to be the spokesman for this lifestyle until he gets his house in order. At this point it seems he’s only concerned with keeping the cash flowing in.

pete
Guest

Well he’s looking pretty good considering he topped the scales at 410lbs once upon a time….

David N
Guest

Dr. Find will there ever be a publication about this loose skin issue?

I looked into it all while back prior to losing weight. There is no science out there, just a lot of unsubstantiated bullshit about shea butter, cocoa butter, coconut oil, etc. People say if you lose weight from exercise you will have less loose skin but they never provide a source.

George Thomas
Guest

I’d love to see a write-up about this as well. The loose skin issue has never really been sufficiently tackled…just a lot of broscience crap.

AJ
Guest

I would too. The loose skin must be a serious pain for those who have to deal with it.

S Maria
Guest
The loose skin issue IS addressed in the article. Dr. Fung indicates that eating LESS than .6 grams of protein (per kg of body weight) will lead to the “burning up” of excess skin, tissue, etc. that isn’t needed as the body loses weight. In his words: ” . . . if you are trying to achieve negative energy balance (lose weight) then you need LESS protein. Why? Because there is all sorts of protein loss associated with fat loss. There is less skin, connective tissue, capillaries, blood, dermis etc associated with weight loss – all of which needs to… Read more »
George Thomas
Guest

That’s still not enough. I’ve never seen that hypothesis about loose skin presented anywhere else. This needs its own article.

wilber
Guest

But how do you make sure it breaks down the skin, not muscle.

JohnM
Guest

Weight lifting has been shown to prevent muscle loss during fasting.

David
Guest

The autocorrect on my cell phone changed Dr. Fung to Dr. Find …

Phillip
Guest

OK, but I am lost now, wasn’t 56% of protein non ketogenic as such ? As those amino acids did have an insulin response ? Isn’t that how V&P calculated things ?

Jon
Guest

Dr. Fung,

I’m curious for a more detailed explanation of why you say protein intake should be less when trying to lose weight. I have always thought that, on a caloric deficit (in order to lose weight), one should increase protein consumption to minimize muscle loss. By decreasing protein consumption, would you not be “encouraging” muscle catabolism? How could that possibly be considered a good thing?

Thanks.

Chris
Guest

I think he might have answered that in the post. Some (maybe even most?) lean mass catabolism is from structures that become unnecessary as fat is lost, not from muscle tissue. As Dr. Fung often says, “The body isn’t that stupid”, and I tend to agree that it would be “stupid” for the body to catabolize muscle fibers (provided they still seem necessary) when other tissue is available. That’s my guess.

Jon
Guest

Hi Chris, thanks for the reply.

I agree that Dr. Fung seems to be suggesting here that, on a caloric deficit, the body will only catabolize the unnecessary proteins but I’m not sure that that idea is supported in the literature, in anecdotal observations, or even in Dr. Fung’s own lectures. There seems to be numerous sources (too many to list here) for the idea that, on a caloric deficit, a significant portion of weight loss is lean muscle mass. This is even one of Dr. Fung’s arguments for the benefits of intermittent fasting over sustained calorie restriction.

Chris
Guest
Hi Jon, This is a big question for me, as well, and fear of muscle loss is why a lot of people only fast for a portion of a day and rarely for several days in a row (let alone weeks or months). There certainly are many sources showing that a calorie deficit diet will result in loss of muscle mass, and I’m not in favor of simply reducing calories. Some folks have said that you will lose 4 oz of lean mass per day while fasting, and my question is really just, what part of that is muscle? There… Read more »
RF121
Guest

Dr Fung covers this in his book. Fasting will not cause massive muscle loss initially because your body switches to fat burning, muscle sparing mode. But when you go on a low calorie deficit and your body does not switch to fat burning then your muscles do get wasted as they are converted to glucose for energy.

MikeT
Guest

Another way is to do some resistance training to failure. I do this even when fasting and this provides very strong signals to your body to spare muscle.

ChrisW
Guest

I’m just replying to myself to mention that I just watched Dr Fung’s Keto Summit presentation, and he basically confirms exactly what I was wondering. His feelings are that “protein loss” is not necessarily (and wouldn’t logically be) ‘muscle loss’. He even used the “weak as kittens” simile. I will of course assume that he got from my post, even though I know I probably got it from him somewhere along the line, lol. 🙂

Jon
Guest
Thanks for following up, Chris. I’m very interested in this issue and I don’t think it has been adequately addressed. The problem I have is that, Dr. Fung’s feelings not withstanding, there are piles of research that show that on a caloric deficit, muscle loss makes up a significant portion weight loss. Everything I have read has suggested that the best way to mitigate this muscle loss is to ensure adequate protein consumption and to engage in resistance training. I was hooked by the Aetiology of Obesity series and I eagerly look forward to the fasting book (which I’ve already… Read more »
JayMo602
Guest
Well written and something that I mentally had been tallying for a while….. This line in particular struck a chord- “There is less skin, connective tissue, capillaries, blood, dermis etc associated with weight loss – all of which needs to be catabolized (burned up and not replaced). Think about those bariatric surgery shows on TLC where surgeons remove 20-30 pounds of excess skin after weight loss. Yes, that’s all protein that should have been catabolized. ” I can completely understand this, as most overweight males (myself included) tend to gather a stigma from other diets and sources that we have… Read more »
Birgit
Guest

I believe the link to the Youtube Video on the Low Carb Vail Talk by Dr Fung is:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tIuj-oMN-Fk&list=PLrVWtWmYRR2BYjk-oQTlAtGCjnly3J7LB

The link to Dr Rosedales’s Low Carb Vail Talk is:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Yv-M-5-s9B0

I hope that helps.

The link provided in the body of the blog is to a talk at the Aspen Institute from the Murdock Body Mind and Spirit Series featuring Dr. Neal Barnard who advocates a low fat vegan diet. The interesting (and confusing) thing is that Dr. Neal Barnard (low fat vegan) mentions many studies that seem to fly in the face of the LCHF approach that I thought Dr. Fung was recommending.

Amy
Guest

Thanks again Dr. Fung. Each new bit of info helps me dial in my health a little better. My only complaint is having to wait a week for the next installment. 😉

Wenchypoo
Guest

I wish people could get CME credits just for reading his blog! 🙂 Hell, I wish I could get a SANE medical degree just by reading all the blogs, podcasts, Twitter posts, books, and such of the Rolodex of doctors who speak at keto conferences, cruises, summits, and expos.

The reason I don’t go to med school now is because I couldn’t deal with the hypocrisy day by day, ad certainly couldn’t sit still and keep my mouth shut through an entire degree program.

BobM
Guest
Jimmy Moore has various recommendations, based on getting into ketosis. One is eat about 1 gram/kg, or about 100 grams for a 200 pound man. I’ve been gradually reducing the protein I eat, but it’s harder than it looks. Take a steak, for instance. I can easily eat 10+ ounces of steak, which makes for a ton of protein. And, steak I can find is way too lean, with all the fat cut off. So, now I eat less steak and add more fat, but that’s a lot of butter and mayo (home made of course) to be eating. I… Read more »
Wenchypoo
Guest

Salad dressings…fat bombs…cream cheese…chocolate (dark, of course)…avocados…fat is everywhere if you look and are willing to expand your food horizons. I suggest the book Good Fat, Bad Fat: https://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/1939563275/ref=nosim/addallbooksearch

For fat variety, try this book: https://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/1592337287/ref=nosim/addallbooksearch

Fat bombs made with bacon & eggs? Yep. Sardines? Yep. Tuna? Yep. This is a good book for fat bombs!

pete
Guest

Get yourself some powdered coconut oil. Add it to smoothies, scrambled eggs, etc.

Kevonius
Guest
Regarding Excess Skin. From Dr. Fung’s blog above: “… in my clinic where we do a lot of intermittent fasting, I have not yet sent a single patient to the plastic surgeon for removal of excess skin, even though weight loss sometime is over 100 pounds.” This was a revelation for me. Since beginning intermittent fasting as my primary overall health regimen, I’ve lost about 35 lbs with great ease. As a past yo-yo dieter, I’ve lost similar amounts several times. But formerly this resulted in noticeable excess skin, particularly noticeable under my chin. So I had no clue why… Read more »
Eli
Guest

Interesting. But if I’m not eating carbs, and reducing protein so low, how can I get the fat? Swallow oil? Just a piece of hard cheese is equal fat and protein. So is an egg. Full fat yoghurt is close to half and half if I’m not mistaken. So how do you get fat without protein, without drinking olive oil?

Phillip
Guest

pecans, macadamia, avocadoes, there is quite a list, but they are not all equally nice to the palate. Or buy your beef wagyu, that’s like a 75-25 fat protein mix

BobM
Guest
The problem with nuts is they’re high in omega 6 oils: https://proteinpower.com/drmike/2016/07/27/are-nuts-paleo/ Macadamias have lower omega 6 oils. I personally struggle with this. I make my own mayo and add that to meat. I add butter (from grass fed cows) to everything. I eat high fat cheese, sour cream, high fat yoghurt, avocados. But it’s difficult, because even if you want to eat fat from beef, you can’t find the fat. You can’t go to the store and just order beef fat (other than tallow, which is rendered beef fat). If you’re out, too, it’s quite difficult. I’ll order the… Read more »
BobM
Guest

To put this in perspective, if your daily calorie input is 2,000 calories, and you eat 50 grams of protein, that’s 200 calories. If you keep your carb content low (I keep mine as low as possible, say 50 grams only because that’s easy to calculate ;-), that leaves 1,600 calories or 178 grams of fat to eat. About 13 tablespoons of oil. About 6.5 ounces of steak for 50 grams, per DAY. A tiny amount of steak. About 2.5 cans of sardines:

http://www.wildplanetfoods.com/product/wild-pacific-sardines-in-extra-virgin-olive-oil/

A quite small amount of protein.

Allisaurus
Guest
When you say 50 grams a day of carbs, are you referring to net carbs or total carbs? When calculating macros, you should use total carbohydrates, as even the ones that are deducted have calories. This is a mistake a lot of people make. For instance, if your 50 grams of carbs a day are high-quality carbs with lots of fiber (seeds, veggies, etc.), you can add about 1/4 to 1/2 to your total carb allowance to account for the calories from fiber. If you assume a moderate protein intake of roughly 10% (50 g, or 200 calories), that would… Read more »
Wenchypoo
Guest

Wagyu or “kobe style”–also consider lamb, duck, ground pork variants (sausage, chorizo, pork belly), and beef tongue. Those meat are more fat than protein.

BernardP
Guest

Yes, this bugs me too. Cut the carbs… Check. But then, one still has to eat something. Proteins and fat come together in meat, and if one doesn’t want to turn vegan, it is hard to increase fat without increasing proteins.

Heather
Guest

Sauce on your meat, fish, or veg. High fat salad dressing. If your trying to lose weight, the fat from your body will be used to make up fat deficit.

Wenchypoo
Guest
I have created my own “fat bombs” for cooking–equal parts of every kind of fat in the house, melted together, poured into a silicon candy mold, and frozen overnight. The next morning, I have little bombs I use for cooking–pop one in a flat pan for cooking steaks on, pop one in the skillet for sauteeing or cooking eggs, melt enough to use as a substitute for the fat called for in baking, the uses are almost endless. For EATING bombs, I do the same thing, only adding a drop or two of liquid stevia, and about 1/2 t. of… Read more »
Dorothy
Guest
The easiest way to cut protein for me is to treat meat as a condiment instead of a staple. For example, A Greek salad with dressing, olives, feta, and a little bit of chopped pepperoni has plenty of fiber and fat, without that much protein. Instead of having a steak with a side of veggies, I have a steak salad, where just a few ounces of steak sliced very thin can be plenty across the salad, or zucchini-noodles (or spaghetti squash) with lots of alfredo sauce and just a bit of chicken or shrimp dusted with Cajun spice. For soup,… Read more »
gotaug
Guest

I’m eating salads with lots of grass fed butter and some hemp oil in the dressing

Eric
Guest

Thanks
I like your discussions on fasting. The protein discussion is very timely.

Eric

grace
Guest

Darn it. I missed the funny comment you made originally. I love your humor. Mixed with your down-to-earth and intelligent explanations. Don’t ever stop cracking your funny jokes. I’m a huge fan of yours who always looks forward to your next blog post.

Erick
Guest

The protein recommendations seem very low. I have helped dozens of clients lose bodyfat using a combination of Fasting, LCHF, and strength training. I’ve always achieved faster and more sustainable results when clients consume around 1 gram protein/kilo of bodyweight. Recovery from exercise is compromised with low protein intake.

Jane
Guest

Perhaps Dr. Fung is assuming no strength training?
He did mention that a person trying to add muscle would need more protein, did he not?

glib
Guest

this is not as difficult as it sounds. Two meals a day, one veg*an, there is even protein room for longevity-giving beans and their extra electrolytes and fiber. One egg is only 6 grams of proteins, which can be extended nutritionally by eating only the yolk (wasteful, I know). some of the protein budget should be for bone broth or gelatin. Big salads including not just greens but also starchy veggies such as cabbage, beet, and carrots, again for fiber. The rest should be centered around avocadoes, ghee, lard, almonds, and similar foods.

Chris
Guest
Great post! It’s hard enough getting “enough protein” in a full day of eating, let alone 1 or 2 meals/day if intermittent fasting. It’s good to know that adequate protein is less than some people insist. This post reminded me of something that I’ve been thinking about recently, especially the part about not having the same problems with excess skin that bariatric patients often have. Basically, it’s summed up in this question that I’d love an answer to if anyone actually knows: Does fasting (in the process of catabolizing redundant tissues and structures) also *reduce the number of adipocytes* in… Read more »
Jane
Guest

Yes, good question about the adipocyes.

I am also glad that Dr Fung pointed out that after fasting for a while, we would be catabolizing redundant tissue to maintain essential lean body mass.

May we expect the loose skin etc. from previous weight losses, including that after excessive weight gain during pregnancy, would be used asa protein source during an intermittent fasting regime?
That would feel miraculous.

I wonder, what research studies have shown this to work this way.

Abi
Guest

Am I right in thinking that autophagy is basically taking out the trash so to speak so deflated fat would serve no useful purpose? If they are deflated and just taking up space wouldn’t the body realise that the proteins that make up the fat cell structure are available for energy consumption? I’d like to hear more on this question myself.

Annie
Guest
I am a 5’3″ 105 pound female ( I’m in maintenance and keep carbs in the 30 min to max 50 gram range — I seem to tolerate the higher end during summer ). I only eat twice a day — first meal around noon or one in the afternoon. I eat fatty meat to satiety and felt awful when I tried limiting myself to the Rosedale protein allowance, and I’m not particularly active. I enjoy fatty cuts of meat but still felt hungry and dumping more and more fat onto the meals in the form of olive oil or… Read more »
alan
Guest

Try adding resistant starch and prebiotics like psyllium husk, inulin, and cocoa powder to your diet. I get the “full stomach” feeling drinking just a few teaspoons of potato starch/cocoa powder/meta mucil in the morning. Most of the carbs aren’t absorbed, so it ends up feeding your gut bacteria, which in turn release all kinds of satiety hormones.

Ali
Guest
I have seen the photographic results of people throwing away the scales and just eating fatty meat to satiety. They become lean and honed without any specific added exercise, drop clothes sizes but not necessarily weight (unless they are obese), and swap muscle for fat (muscle being heavier than fat, hence the lack of weight loss). They regain their health and energy, and lose unwanted diseases, including metabolic issues. There are exceptions to the rule, but eating what could be construed as excess protein is not necessarily a bad thing, and using scales as a gauge of health is often… Read more »
Myrto Ashe
Guest

For entertainment purposes, read the American Diabetic Association’s Facebook page (or rather, read the comments):
https://www.facebook.com/AmericanDiabetesAssociation/

They probably get to brag that they have hundreds of comments and public participation, I wonder if they care to add that these comments are overwhelmingly hostile.

Walter
Guest

Ah, the association in favor of furthering diabetes. I wish that were satire, but from the way they act what other conclusion is possible?

Texas Old Guy
Guest
Oh man, what a relief. I’ve been “practicing” fasting preparing for some 5- to 7-day fasts by doing short fasts but my really big, and really only, worry about weight loss is the loose skin. It has been a real stumbling block for me. Dr. Fung’s statement that he has not had to refer patients for skin-removal surgery even for large amounts of fat loss removes a heavy load from my alleged mind. It makes sense of course. Though the idea did occur to me I had not taken that thought to its now apparent conclusion. The body needs protein… Read more »
Abi
Guest

Just how I feel! I am more scared of loose floppy skin than being filled out,somewhat firm(even fat can feel firm) and almost 100 lbs overweight. This post has received a fear I didn’t know I had until I read it and your comment. Thanks for putting out the words.

Brian
Guest

I’ve watched a lot of your talks and they made sense. That said, reading this post, I think you could do with a lot less snark and sarcasm. You guys go to a lot of the same events; there is overlap. Please try to keep your disagreements academic—we all have the same goals here, and it’s possible to disagree without the sniping.

Richard
Guest

None of this is science based. It is a collection of hypotheses. I’m disappointed. For anyone interested in a more useful analysis, I recommend:

http://caloriesproper.com/dietary-protein-does-not-negatively-impact-blood-glucose-control/

And I don’t plan on looking as emaciated and sickly as Dr. Rosedale, thanks.

BernardP
Guest

Very interesting. Seems convincing. It would be great have Dr. Fung’ comments on this.

Pierre
Guest

Based on my limited experience excess protein does indeed cause your glucose to be higher than normal. Since 2011 I have been following a LC diet. Lost a lot of weight on it…but could never get into true ketosis. Defined as above .5 blood ketones, even with Intermittent Fasting (eating once a day)…started limiting protein and replacing it with non-starchy vegetables and I immediately saw a drop in my morning glucose levels and my blood ketones have been above .8 for a about 2 weeks.

Pierre
Guest
Since 2011 I have been extremely low carb. All that time I never was able to get my blood ketone’s to register above .3 or .4, once on a fast I think I touched .5. During that time I did not eat anything except beef, pork, chicken and fish with Brussels sprouts on occasion and the odd sweet potato from time to time. About 3 weeks ago I stopped eating so much protein and filled it with more non-starchy vegetables, blood ketone’s have not been below .8 since. So apparently in my case it is very much the case that… Read more »
Johnson Fellow
Guest
I’m 35, male, 173cm tall and ~70kg with around 20% bodyfat. My peak weight was 105kg about 5 years ago. I’ve lost the weight primarily through a calorie restricted keto diet. I do very basic beginners resistance training. Three days a week, full body barbell exercises, each exercise 1. 5-2 times per week with the last set being as many reps as possible. I still have 5-10kg of fat to lose and it’s been clear since I passed the 80kg mark I have loose skin. Not massive amounts of it but definitely some. Here’s a pic: http://i.imgur.com/Egd6NnK.jpg . That’s in… Read more »
Beto
Guest

Protein stimulates insulin equal carbohydrate in order to estimate storage and subsequent obesity?

Leah
Guest

Thanks Dr.Fung,
you put my mind at ease with the loose skin. I am getting better at fasting but find myself re-reading your book and articles throughout the week for encouragement! I love your sarcasm by the way!

BobM
Guest

For anyone with Twitter, there’s an ongoing discussion of protein requirements and this post. Most people are saying this level is too low, and also it’s unclear how much protein gets converted to glucose via gluconeogenesis. Particularly if you’re trying to maintain a ketogenic diet, protein may have to be reduced, but how much so appears to be anyone’s guess.

Andre Marcanth
Guest

Dr. Fung, thank you for this article. I am curious, however about the amount on average of 0.6 g/kg (for a healhy person). Could you please post here the information source of your article? I like your articles very much and thank you for bringing light to this science.

Dr. Jason Fung: Follow the link in the article

deirdra
Guest

Is the guy in the photo a Fung patient or a non-Fung patient? He has excess skin.

Tim Goffard
Guest

He is a guy on YouTube. They just pasted his photo for the article. He is definitely not Dr. Fung’ patient.

Pierre
Guest
Limiting protein has helped me finally get into Ketosis for the first time since 2011. At one point I was only eating meat and still could not get my blood ketone’s past .3 to .4. Started limiting my protein 3 weeks ago and eating more non-starchy vegetables and I immediately hit .8. My morning glucose levels went from touching 130 to below 90. I lift weights and do vigorous body weight exercise as well as bike at least 3 times a week over 10 miles at a time. I am 60 and test on the intermediate strength level in weight… Read more »
Pablo5
Guest
The “loose skin” issue was a mystery and concern for me and from the comments, for many others too. May be a good topic for future post. Dr. Fung, please explain why bariatric surgery requires skin removal surgery. Is it because people lose weight by reducing calories while the protein intake remains too high, therefore the body does not catabolize the protein in skin? Probably most people would simply assume that the skin was stretched during obesity and then does not rebound back when weight is lost, like a balloon that is inflated never returns back to the original size.… Read more »
Chris
Guest

I would bet that people who get bariatric surgery still eat high carb diets. I don’t imagine high protein is a problem for them, since it would be practically impossible to ingest much and keep it down.

I think it has to be the fasting that shrinks the loose skin, not macronutrient ratios. I’m afraid the only one researching this question in a clinical setting is Dr Fung, and it’s not publishable data. It may be a long time before we get a definitive answer. In the meantime, I’m going with what works, or appears to be working.

Lauree
Guest

Dear Dr Fung
In the Kwashiorkor paragraph you state
“Carbohydrate” and fat deficiency
Should this “calorie” deficiency
As as I understand there is no minimal requirement for carbohydrate

Lauree
Guest

I have tried hard to find exactly which the per kg refers to, but may have missed it in reference.
Is this current weight, ideal weight/approx BMI 24, or lean body weight/difficult to accurately measure and/or estimate.
This seems picky, but assuming the main interest in minimal protein requirement is to maintain ketosis without losing muscle mass the differences are significant.
Also the excess “skin” removed following significant weight loss includes relatively large amounts of subcutaneous fat. Subcutaneous fat is present in persons of “normal” weight.

Allisaurus
Guest

It’s per kg of your current weight, although I believe the argument is that if you go below that, your body will catabolize its excess skin and tissues rather than attack your lean muscle mass.

Michael B
Guest

Dr. Fung, I hope you can comment on this study. “Some shorter-term nitrogen balance studies suggest that the Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) of protein may not be adequate for older people.”

http://biomedgerontology.oxfordjournals.org/content/56/6/M373.abstract

Monica
Guest
can someone tell me then how do I get full if eating too much protein is possibly keeping me from losing more weight and getting my ketone blood meter to read above 0.2? I need the protein to get filled up or I use the fats for filler and go over my calorie count, I cant seem to win. I want to try less protein because I know I eat it a lot with every meal so I dont get hungry but so far adding more fats, i.e. butter, coconut oil, extra virgin olive oil, ranch dressing, mayo, butter etc… Read more »
Gerard Issvoran
Guest
I appreciate how the value of 0.8g/kg was derived but it is too conservative and if a patient is after weight loss, we need to specifically target fat loss. Measures of fat mass, muscle mass, total body water and it’s % have to all be considered and monitored regularly if patients are to undergo wt. loss with a ketogenic diet. Too often, when adequate protein levels are not achieved, the resulting loss of muscle mass inhibits the body’s ability to properly burn fat and thereby maintain the wt loss. This is where patients often plateau in their quest to achieve… Read more »
Mr. Mise
Guest
Superbly interesting as always. An interesting question would be how much protein one needs while trying to build muscle (body building)? Especially considering if you do IF you get a less total intake. I have read your article on Fasting & Exercise, and I highly recommend it. Yes you can do IF and lift weights. But considering your vast knowledge of fasting Dr Fung, it would be most interesting to hear what you would say is the optimal combination of fasting (16/8, 20/4, 24/1) for building muscle and which would be the optimal intake of protein while on that optimal… Read more »
Mrritalin
Guest

Consider fat and glucose energy components and protein as more as a building block. If one really wants to understand metabolism they should get anything from Eric Newsholme. Here’s his obit. Note he was in shape and knew metabolism far better than most but died before he turned 80. http://blogs.bmj.com/bjsm/2011/04/07/obituary-for-professor-eric-arthur-newsholme-ma-dsc-phd-

Jin
Guest
I am loving this bombshell dropped by Dr Fung “today, it is perhaps more important to restrict protein than to restrict carbohydrates“. Strong words, indeed. I tend to agree.” In case you can’t see the wood for the trees there are three choices. If and only if LCHF is working for you then carry on. If you drastically reduce proteins then you are left with fat and carbs. If you eat these to satiety it will hamper weight loss efforts seriously so you may be forced to follow the CRaP method. If you like to eat to satiety then your… Read more »
K Smith
Guest
Dr. Fung I am just starting to read the things you have to say and trying them for myself. As an overeating, binger, eat because I’m bored food worshipper of 46 years I can say your words are hitting me right in the gut. Not only am I starting to understand how I got into the mess I’m in, but I’m realizing the way out. It’s so hard to find the truth when there are so many differing opinions and each are equally sincere that they have the answer. You debunk them all, and, in doing so I am finding… Read more »
James T.
Guest
How about fat as a form of dietary energy (olives, nuts, hard cheese etc?) When I’m energy starved at work, I eat a couple of olives (salt somewhat washed out of them) or a small block of cheese, and my energy levels return quickly. With carbs, I bounce – up, then down . With protein – well, I gained a lot of weight eating too much venison a couple of years ago. But with fat, I seem to be losing weight steadily. 18 lbs in 2 years and still counting, and bodyfat going from 18% to 12.5% And I run… Read more »
Eric
Guest

To reduce my protein consumption I replace a meal with cauliflower and butter.

Adjusted to desired protein consumption and balanced with satisfaction. Eric

Eric
Guest

Easy to switch from 80 grams of protein on average to 48 grams on average. (.6 times 80 kilos)
One meal of ten eggs or equivalent protein from fish or beef or which source available.
Three meals over the two days of. Vegetables and fat.
Then eggs 700 calories add 400 butter
Three ponds vegetable 375 calories add 2400 butter
Is 3200 from fats
375 proteins
324 carbohydrate
Some from black coffee

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[…] simple enough, when I noticed a new blog post by one of my favorite authors, Dr. Jason Fung:  how-much-protein-is-excessive   This blog post peaked my interest for a number of reasons.  I’ve always felt that the […]

Peter
Guest
Re: Kwashiorkor The name is derived from the Ga language of coastal Ghana, translated as “the sickness the baby gets when the new baby comes” or “the disease of the deposed child”,[5] and reflecting the development of the condition in an older child who has been weaned from the breast when a younger sibling comes.[6] Breast milk contains proteins and amino acids vital to a child’s growth. In at-risk populations, kwashiorkor may develop after a mother weans her child from breast milk, replacing it with a diet high in carbohydrates, especially sugar. This condition is common poor African countries where… Read more »
MachineGhost
Guest

Perhaps it is an achoring bias or cost considerations?

Fortunately, therapeutic food has improved to contain protein: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Plumpy'nut

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