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Why Cycle Your Protein?

The basics of a high-fat, low-carb diet are: increase your good fats and decrease your carbs. But what about protein? Spend five minutes searching the internet about protein and diet and you’ll see the large controversy that exists around this essential macronutrient.

There is a camp of the ketogenic community that believes you must keep protein moderate and even low, to achieve the metabolic state of burning fatty acids for fuel, aptly named, ketosis. There is an opposing camp in this niche and other diet philosophies that tout a higher protein intake won’t impact ketosis and you should eat as much of it as you need. Confusing, right? What all diet philosophies agree on is that a moderate consumption of protein is critical to obtain all the benefits of a balanced, healthy diet.

What Does Moderate Protein Intake Look Like?

Moderate protein is a vague term, especially since the actual amount can vary from person to person. There is no one size fits all, so understanding what your needs are will help you find what you are looking for and achieve your personal results.

Protein is composed of amino acids, tiny building blocks that are either produced by the body or obtained from your diet. Animal protein is similar to the composition of your tissue, so provides the essential amino acids the body does not produce.

Protein is the key macronutrient responsible for the structure of your cells, muscles, tendons, bones, skin, and hair. It is needed for the production of enzymes, hormones, neurotransmitters and plenty of other molecules that keep you functioning properly. It is the main component of the many structures that form your unique composition and keep it going.

  • The benefits of eating protein in your diet include:
  • A healthy immune system
  • An increase of lean muscle
  • A boost to your metabolism
  • Satiety and natural appetite suppressant
  • A mood booster
  • Support for healthy bones

Protein is not something you want to brush off!

Should I Worry About Eating Too Much Protein?

It depends. If you listen to the first camp and your goal is to excel using a ketogenic diet, you’ll want to monitor your protein like a hawk so you don’t risk ruining all the work you’ve spent trying to get into ketosis. As important as protein is, this camp believes that if you overeat protein, it can spike insulin and also promote the breakdown of protein and fat into glucose called gluconeogenesis. Since your goal in a high-fat diet is to reach ketosis by using fat as the main source of fuel, overeating protein could potentially inhibit this. It will be suggested to not only cut back on your carbs to limit your glucose but your protein too since it can be converted into glucose and theoretically prevent your body from going into ketosis.

The trick is to eat just enough protein to allow your body to function optimally, but not too much where it can deter your body from reaching ketosis.

The other camp mentioned above would suggest that not only is protein important but that eating more of it than the current ketogenic guidelines suggest will improve your experience, help you get leaner faster and get this — not impact your ability to get into ketosis whatsoever. They argue that increased protein, even if it does trigger gluconeogenesis is nothing to be concerned about. Why? Because without gluconeogenesis you would die; this life-saving metabolic mechanism is what’s responsible for keeping your blood sugars level during periods of fasting or carb avoidance (if glucose levels get too low we risk seizures or death) as well as serving as a fuel substrate for tissues that don’t run on ketones such as tissue in the kidney and red blood cells as well as even supporting some of the fuel for the brain that ketones don’t cover.

While gluconeogenesis is always happening, this camp says its rate increases at the start of a diet weighted in good fats and fasting such as intermittent fasting or extended fasting. And as your system transitions during the necessary adaptation phase, you’ll slowly shift from relying on gluconeogenesis for fuel and it will become more receptive to burning ketones. Then, eventually you’ll become completely fat-adapted and at this point, your body won’t solely run just on ketones, but that it’s more like it favors ketones as opposed to gluconeogenesis for fuel. This other camp wants you to understand that this implies gluconeogenesis is still occurring during a state of complete ketosis, it’s just that during heavy ketosis the body decreases its rate of gluconeogenesis that is constantly happening. Remember the other theory that if you eat too much protein you’ll trigger gluconeogenesis and you’ll stunt ketosis? From this vantage point, it seems how we’ve been viewing gluconeogenesis might be off and that it shouldn’t be something to fear as a limiting step in being fat adapted. The other reason this pro-protein camp touts eating more protein on a high-fat diet is to preserve muscle mass and protect glycogen stores (which help you recover from exercise and build muscle).

The bottom line from this camp is to not fear or micromanage your protein intake on a ketogenic diet or any diet model for that matter.

How Much Protein is Too Much? What The Science Says

There are other studies to suggest that a high intake of protein can lead to reduced longevity, by means of the IGF-1/mTOR signaling pathway. When this hormonal pathway is turned on (by the intake of protein), the body works on building and growing cells, something that not all of us want or need. The implication of this as related to health is applied in tumor and cancer growths. The other downside to this system is that it increases the aging process. Our bodies are not meant to repair and build at the same time, so you either build cells or repair them. You don’t want to have too much protein where you are just building and growing. So periods of lower intake of protein combined with fasting permits the downtime needed for your body to restore itself by means of autophagy. I personally have found incredible life-changing results from using a system called intermittent fasting protein cycling (IFPC). I took all the best science and evidence available and synthesized it into a simple and practical 15-day program in my bestselling book, Glow15.

What you will learn in Glow15, is a balanced and common-sense approach to protein intake. I created a weekly rotation of higher and lower protein intakes to mirror the science showing that periods of lower protein intake can have youth-boosting and disease-fighting effects on your body. I call them “high” and “low” days. Try my program for just 15 – days to feel how a cyclical rotation of protein intake impacts how you feel when you wake up, how your thinking is, what your skin looks like and how your body composition changes. The results have astounded me! Members of my community love how intuitive it is in addition to the life-changing results they’re seeing!

If you cut back on protein too much, this will stress your body and cause breakdown of your muscles and bones. It’s the other end of this high protein debate you want to avoid. You will not only use up protein reserves from your body, but also not lose weight, and additionally, you’ll likely see dips in your energy, immunity, mood and even see your athletic performance suffer. What it comes down to is finding a middle ground to obtain a good balance.

How Much Protein is Enough?

After looking into this and consulting experts in nutrition and metabolism, my view is that you need to consume protein to meet your specific goals. And while that will be different for each of us, there are a few basic guidelines to help you get started in determining what works for you. The standard recommendation for protein intake, for inactive people, is 0.8 g protein/kg body weight or 0.36 g protein/lb bodyweight. But since each day presents us with different protein needs, it’s my stance that you need a range and that if possible, you can cycle between periods of low and high protein intake in order to maintain optimal health.

Your Top Range of Protein:

Multiply your weight (in pounds) by 0.36 (grams of protein recommended per pound of body weight) For example, a 130-pound woman would do: 130 x .36 = 46.8, or approximately 46 grams of protein.

Your Bottom Range of protein:

Multiply your weight (in pounds) by 0.36 (grams of protein recommended per pound of body weight) divided by 2. For example, for a 130-pound woman would do: 130 x .36 = 46.8/2 = 23.4 or approximately 23 grams of protein.
This translates roughly into:

Breakfast:

2 large eggs in the morning with 1 cup of greens and avocado (try my AvocaGlow!) (13 grams of protein)

Lunch:

1/2 a cup of sardines with a salad and half an ounce of nuts (22 grams)

Dinner:

Shrimp (1/4 lb) and broccoli stir-fry using brain boosting, weight losing MCT oil (20 grams)

Snacks:

Bone broth (6g-12g)

As you can see, it’s not hard to consume enough protein. Most people consume more than is needed according to basic requirements, but again, this is the standard guideline for sedentary individuals.

Of course, depending on your unique system you might feel better with lower or higher portions. Everyone has their own particular optimal protein intake. How much you need depends on your age, sex, size (body composition), activity levels, health status and ultimately your personal goals.

You probably need to increase your protein in the following circumstances:

  • You are an athlete or very active. Protein helps build and recuperate muscles, you can have 0.9 to 1.4 g protein/lb bodyweight.
  • Older individuals, assuming kidney function is good. With age, it’s harder to absorb nutrients, so increasing protein in their diet will assure adequate intake.
  • You want to increase your muscle mass.
  • You are injured. Increasing your protein intake is needed to help rebuild healing wounds.

Ultimately, it might take some experimenting to find what works best for you. You can adjust your intake and play around with your macros. Experimenting might be your best tool, keep good track of your intake and outcomes for a period of time. You might be surprised how much or how little protein you actually need.

And as I mentioned above, protein cycling is another option to consider especially when incorporating exercise. This allows you to increase your lean muscle but still gives your body a chance to repair and detoxify with the powerful self-cleaning mechanism in your cells called autophagy.

How do I Know If I am Eating Enough Protein?

Initially, you might need to be more diligent about counting your protein, but as you become more attuned to your body, you can rely more on intuition. Your body can help guide you to a balanced diet.

If you need more protein, you might be:

  • Losing hair
  • Low in energy
  • Still hungry after eating a meal
  • Losing strength or stamina in workouts or might it take more time to recuperate after a workout.
  • Getting sick frequently

If you are consuming too much protein, it might be as simple as noticing a decrease in cravings for meat or animal products. The body has a way of cluing you in as to what nutrients you are needing, so please don’t underestimate your intuition. Pay close attention to what you are experiencing.

Other signs you might be eating too much protein

  • No weight loss
  • Dehydration
  • Constipation

There is a fine line in “moderate protein” and no one will know what that exact amount is but you. It will also change with time, so expect to modify this in the future. As long as you are flexible and aligned with your body’s needs, you can help flow back into health with the adequate amounts of nutrients. So, tell me which camp do you fall into? Do you think you need more, less or the same protein?

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