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Nutrition

Five Protein Myths You Need to Stop Believing

Simone Austin
Written by Simone Austin | Dietitian

Protein seems to cop a lot of misunderstanding. It’s seen as an essential food source but often only thought of as being important for only body builders. So, what is right and wrong in the world of protein? Here are 5 common protein misconceptions.

MYTH 1: I ONLY NEED TO EAT MORE PROTEIN IF I WANT TO BULK UP

Put simply, we all need to eat enough protein regularly for muscle repair, maintenance and growth, along with hormone and enzyme production and skin repair. Every cell in our body has - and needs - protein. We may need more protein at various times during our life, such as for wound healing, recovery post surgery, during growth spurts and as we age to maintain muscle mass. So extra protein is required for those that want to bulk up, along with many other times in our life too. (1)

MYTH 2: MUSCLE LOSS IS JUST FOR THE OLDIES

It’s commonly thought that muscle loss only affects you later on in life. Not true, your muscle mass starts to decline after the age of 30 years! Age-related muscle loss is called sarcopenia and, although loss of muscle is slower in your earlier years, it is still a downhill trend, unless you take steps to try and combat it. (2)

So, what can you do to try and reduce this? The simple answer is eating enough protein and total kilojoules to fuel your body and spare protein for muscle building and repair along with taking part in regular exercise. Keep active, eat well and combine formal planned exercise like strength and resistance training with general daily activities.


Steak, potato and salad on a plate

MYTH 3: MORE PROTEIN EQUALS MORE MUSCLE

Your body needs around 1.6 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight, depending on your life stage - with some people requiring greater protein amounts than others (e.g. children, pregnant women, intense strength training devotees, people experiencing sickness and those over 70 years of age).(3)

However, you only need to eat enough protein to meet your daily requirements. Once this requirement is achieved, you are unable to stimulate your body to continue to produce more muscle simply by eating more protein.

Recent studies suggest that 0.25-0.4 grams (4) of protein/kg of body weight/meal is the dose needed to stimulate muscle growth. Ingesting more than this in one sitting will not produce further muscle growth.

MYTH 4: I EAT MEAT EVERY DAY, SO I GET ENOUGH PROTEIN

If you weigh 75kg and your body needs 1.6 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight, then your daily protein need is around 120 grams. (3)

A 150 grams serving of meat will provide about 30 grams of protein, which is enough for one meal but not for the day. You will need another three 30 grams serves to achieve your optimal daily protein requirement. You can get protein from a number of other sources, such as fish, cereal and cereal-based foods, dairy foods, legumes, nuts and seeds, for a variety of ways to increase your protein intake as part of your fitness regime.

MYTH 5: EATING ONE PROTEIN MEAL PER DAY IS SUFFICIENT

It is best to spread your protein intake out into doses over the day. This helps to reduce muscle breakdown and stimulate growth. Try 20-40 gram doses of protein 3 or 4 times across the day (5). Breakfast can be a tricky time to get your protein fix, especially if you usually just have toast with a spread. Try adding milk, yoghurt, eggs, nut spread, baked beans and…even oats and some cereals are great sources of protein. Of course, all needs are individual and an Accredited Sports Dietitian can help determine what is best for you.

Learn more from Simone Austin at www.simoneaustin.com

References:

  1. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6566799/
  2. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2804956/
  3. https://jissn.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s12970-018-0215-1
  4. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5852800/
  5. https://www.clinicalnutritionjournal.com/article/S0261-5614(16)30018-8/abstract