5 Reasons You May Need More Protein—Even on a Paleo Diet

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Most people naturally eat the right amount of protein for their needs. Protein is such a crucial nutrient that the brain has specific mechanisms that increase your desire for it if you need more and decrease your desire for it if you’re getting too much; these mechanisms are difficult to override through willpower alone. For this reason, my general recommendation is to simply eat as much protein as you crave.

In the US, this typically averages about fifteen percent of the total calories consumed each day (roughly 113 grams for an active male eating 3,000 calories, or 83 grams for an active female consuming 2,200 calories).

However, there are certain situations where it may be advantageous to increase protein intake to 20 to 30 percent of calories, or even as high as 35 percent of total calories—at least temporarily.

Find out if eating more protein makes sense for you, even if you eat a Paleo diet.

“Wait a second,” you might say. “Don’t high-protein diets cause kidney disease and cancer?” This is yet another urban myth. Studies have shown that protein intakes up to 35 percent of calories (or even higher) are safe for people without pre-existing kidney problems—especially if you make sure to get enough glycine in your diet. And there’s no evidence that high protein diets increase the risk of cancer, as long as you’re eating a balanced, nutrient-dense diet. For more information, read this recent article I wrote on the topic.

Now let’s take a closer look at five groups of people that often benefit from a higher protein intake.

5 groups of people that may benefit from a higher protein intake

People trying to lose weight

A large body of evidence suggests that high protein diets are effective for fat loss. (1) Protein is more satiating than fat and carbohydrate, which means we feel more satisfied when we eat it. (2) When we feel more satisfied, we naturally eat less—and lose weight without trying.

For example, researchers put a group of overweight volunteers into an environment where food intake could be controlled precisely. After increasing their protein intake from 15 percent of calories to 30 percent, study participants consumed about 440 fewer calories per day, and lost an average of 11 pounds over 12 weeks. They did this without counting calories or intentionally eating less. (3; Hat tip to Dr. Stephan Guyenet for this study.)

In fact, some recent research suggests that the reason low-carb diets are effective for weight loss is not because they are low in carbohydrate, but because they are high in protein. (4)

People with blood sugar and metabolic problems

High-protein diets have also been shown to have a stabilizing effect on blood sugar, and lead to beneficial changes in a wide range of metabolic, cardiovascular and inflammatory markers, from insulin sensitivity to cholesterol and triglycerides to C-reactive protein. (5, 6)

Athletes and people who train hard

Protein is the nutrient required to build and rebuild muscle. If you want to add or maintain muscle mass (i.e. if you’re an endurance athlete, weightlifter, CrossFitter, or you train hard in other activities or sports), you should consume more protein.

Extra protein can be especially beneficial after a hard workout or training session, as most of you who are training hard already know.

The elderly and the chronically ill

Both the elderly and the chronically ill frequently suffer from muscle wasting. A higher protein diet can help to prevent further tissue breakdown and reduce the adverse effects of both aging and chronic illness.

People who are under a lot of stress

As I mentioned above, protein has a stabilizing effect on blood sugar. High stress levels can lead to hypoglycemia or other blood sugar imbalances. Increasing protein intake—especially in the morning—can boost energy levels, reduce jitteriness, agitation and mood swings, improve sleep, and sharpen brain function. I’ve seen this repeatedly in my work with patients.

If you’re chronically stressed, the tissues in your body literally start to break down. Stress researchers call this “wear and tear” on the body allostatic load. (7) The tissue breakdown is caused in part by collagen proteins being used up faster than they are replaced. So, if you’re under a lot of stress, it’s especially important to eat proteins that contain collagen.

How much protein do you need?

If you’re in one of the groups above, I recommend consuming between 20 and 35 percent of calories from protein each day. The higher end of that scale (30–35 percent) would be for aggressive weight loss, metabolic problems,and people doing extreme training; the middle end (25–30 percent) for athletes and people training at moderate to vigorous intensity, and the lower end (20–25 percent) for the elderly, chronically ill, and people under a lot of stress. That said, these are just general guidelines and I suggest you experiment through the entire range to see what works best for you.

This is quite possibly much more protein than you’re eating now, even if you’re following  a Paleo-type diet. Let’s look at some examples using the ranges below:

% of calories as protein      2,200 calorie diet (g)      3,000 calorie diet (g)
35% 193 263
30% 165 225
25% 138 188
20% 110 150

 

Now, let’s look at a typical day’s worth of protein on a Paleo diet.

  • Breakfast: two eggs, sauerkraut, steamed vegetables. Approximately 15 grams.
  • Lunch: salad with 3–6 ounces of sliced chicken breast. Approximately 30–60 grams.
  • Snack: one ounce of almonds (about 23 almonds). Approximately 6 grams.
  • Dinner: 1/4–1/2 pound of beef sirloin, sweet potato, steamed broccoli. Approximately 35–70 grams.

This adds up to between 86 and 151 grams of protein, or 16–27 percent of calories on a 2,200 calorie diet and 11–20 percent of calories on a 3,000 calorie diet.

As you can see, this falls short of the protein targets for most categories in the table above, especially if you’re eating closer to 3,000 calories and/or trying to get more than 25 percent of calories from protein.

When protein powder makes sense

Obviously one option is to simply increase your intake of whole-food proteins, such as meat, fish, eggs, and nuts (though it’s worth pointing out that the protein in nuts is not as readily absorbed as animal proteins). For example, you could start your day with 1/2 fillet of salmon (about 40 grams of protein) instead of two eggs, and/or you could eat closer to a pound of protein for lunch and dinner. If you feel good eating this much animal protein, this is what I’d recommend; it’s always best to meet nutrient needs from whole food.

But let’s face it: not everyone wants to eat over two pounds of fish, meat and poultry each day. I love animal protein myself, and I feel better with a higher protein intake, but even I get tired of eating so much of it so frequently. I have a lot of patients—both male and female—that feel the same way.

And it’s not just a matter of preference. I have a lot of patients with low stomach acid, bile insufficiency, or other digestive problems that have trouble digesting large amounts of meat and fish. I also have patients that are intolerant of eggs (or other animal proteins). Ultimately, the goal is to heal their gut so they can eat as much of these foods as they’d like.

These are the situations where protein powder can be a useful addition. You can add a protein shake in between your meals (or in place of breakfast, perhaps) to boost your overall protein intake. Depending on how you make the shake (i.e. simply mixed with water, or mixed with fruit, avocados, egg yolks, etc.), it can either be a source of additional calories if you’re trying to put on weight or aid recovery, or a means of boosting protein without adding calories if you’re trying to maximize weight loss or metabolic function.

My (new) favorite protein powder—and the one I recommend to my patients

There are three important factors in choosing a protein powder: tolerability, quality, and bioavailability.

Tolerability refers to how likely the protein is to cause an adverse reaction. Whey protein is a great choice for many people, but I’ve noticed that quite a few of my patients don’t tolerate it well. I don’t either, despite the fact that I don’t have an issue with dairy products in general. I tend to feel somewhat bloated after consuming whey protein.

Quality refers to the quality of the protein source, how it is processed, and how it is manufactured. There’s obviously a ton of junk out there, especially in the bodybuilding community. If you’re going to use a protein powder, you should choose the highest quality product you can get.

Bioavailability refers to how completely absorbed the protein is. In general, plant proteins like pea and rice are much less bioavailable than animal proteins like whey, egg and beef.

With all of this in mind, I was excited to learn about a new product that has recently become available called PurePaleo. It’s a protein powder with several unique characteristics:

  • It’s dairy-free, gluten-free, and legume-free. In other words, it’s the first true Paleo protein powder.
  • It’s made from hydrolyzed beef protein. Hydrolyzed means that it is “pre-digested” and broken down into smaller peptides that are easier to absorb, and thus more bioavailable than most other proteins.
  • It’s sourced from hormone-free, antibiotic-free, non-GMO cows in Sweden that are raised on pasture, and it’s tested to be free of hormones, antibiotics, and allergens.
  • It features the power of beef to build muscle, cartilage, and ligaments, which is ideal for athletes, people training hard, those suffering from chronic illness, and the elderly.
  • It contains both complete and collagen proteins that are naturally found in beef. As I said earlier in the article, collagen is essential for tissue regeneration and repair and protective for anyone under stress.
  • It is sweetened with stevia and is very low in carbohydrate.

PurePaleo comes in both vanilla and chocolate flavors. I like both, but usually prefer the chocolate. I like it mixed with almond or coconut milk on its own, but sometimes I’ll add some spinach or other greens, vegetable juice, or berries. Since it’s already somewhat sweet, I don’t like it mixed with banana or other sweet fruits as much.

And in case you’re wondering, it doesn’t taste like beef at all. In fact, I did some “blinded” taste tests with friends and family members, and they had no idea it was a beef protein powder.

The best part for me, and many of my patients, is how good I feel after I take some. I don’t have the bloating I get after consuming whey, I feel more energized, and I’m seeing better gains in the gym and recovery after workouts.

If you’d like to give it a try, you can order it from my store in either chocolate or vanilla:

Okay, that’s it! Let me know how you like PurePaleo if you give it a try. And if you develop a great recipe for a shake, please post it here in the comments section!

Note: I earn a commission when you purchase any products I’ve recommended through links on this page, which helps support my ongoing research and writing. Thank you for your support!

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Comments Join the Conversation

  1. Eric says

    I bought some of the PurePaleo powder. It came with a label stating “Not for sale in California.” On the manufacturer’s website this is addressed by misdirection: “Proposition 65 is a California law that requires us to use different labeling on some of our products in CA. This does not mean that the product cannot be sold in California, just that it must be labeled differently”

    I asked the manufacturer to explain what specifically the different labeling would state and eventually got this response:
    “This information is proprietary and not given out in most cases. If you need to speak with our legal department please contact our customer service at 1800 847 8302″

    My conclusion is that there is an ingredient in this product that would need to be labeled under CA Prop. 65 as causing cancer or reproductive harm and the workaround is to instead label it as not for sale in CA.

    Chris, maybe you can prove me wrong here? Perhaps the manufacturer will give you the information about Prop. 65 labeling because you’re reselling the product, and you can explain the situation?

  2. T says

    Has anyone tried the vanilla PurePaleo Protein? I have the chocolate. I have IBS and this does not bother my tummy at all like most protein powders. I love that it does not have both splenda AND sugar as well. Why do protein powders need splenda when it is already sweetened with sugar?

    I don’t usually like stevia, but it is fine. I have a shaker bottle with shaker ball, It really does taste much better when it is blended with a standard mixer-Old school-Water, ice a little fruit and protein powder.

    The chocolate does not taste beefy at all. But sometimes you get tired of chocolate. And I love that it has collagen protein as well!

  3. Melina says

    Hi. I would really like for my 2 year old daughter to follow this diet as well. My concern is that she has an egg allergy (confirmed by the allergist with skin prick) but she doesn’t require an epi-pen because she has only shown a rash on her skin when she’s come into contact. Is there anything I can do to try and get her past this allergy?
    Thanks,
    Melina

  4. Debbie says

    Um, I’m trying to buy some PurePaleo, but the site doesn’t let you choose between Vanilla and Chocolate. I’m not clear which one I’d be getting. Or do we get one of each for $68? That would be good.

    Also – when will you be getting in Adaptagest-Core? I’m ready to try it.

    Thanks!

  5. Zino says

    I wonder if concentrated whey protein powder like vital whey (grasfeed beef, undenatured) is a solution for me. I got a somewhat all-milk intolerance (cow, sheep, goat) tested via blood-test. It’s likly the casein causing the problem, right?

    I’m not sure to try because I tend to oversee bad reactions until my joints start with heavy inflamation.
    (As a child I got a bright red flag for eggs from an allergy test – the day after winning the easter egg eating contest … the Doc smiled and said my overall health is to good to last or something like that ;-)

    I have good memories of whey protein concentrat wich was my go-to after sports drink when training for a marathon and recovery from that. (mostly whey protein, sometime full whey).
    But I can’t tolerate protein powders like e.g. AM Sport which is hydrolized milk protein.

    I am now on no-grains, no-milk (except lots of ghee and some butter), no-nuts, no-eggs (missing the yolks) with lots of fresh food, beef and sports for fun. And of course to much coffee ;-)

    History:
    – undestructable in eating and training untill just around the competition time (running 800/1500m) unexplainable sports injuries happened. I tried to taper with the then super-healthy pasta, bread+cheese and “müsli”-Diet mainly (16-19 y)
    – Changed to High-Protein later with something like 200-500gr of “Quark” for breakfast (curd cheese + berries, cinemon, flaxseedoil), lowfat-cheese (cottage mostly), and canned tuna. Lots of vegetables, too.
    -> That worked for some time
    -> Then came the dry mouth, the constipation and the hot knees (32-36y)
    – At some point the orthopedist said my knees had worn quite some degree within 3 month. If I started doing parcour?No, didn’t move at all ?!
    – I changed to no-grains, no-milk -> some beef or fish, lots veggies sunk in fat and just 10cl red wine od 4 cl of some spirit every other day. After 4 weeks the orthopedist wanted to know the name of the secret drug I was clearly using … ;-)

  6. Robin H says

    Chris, I read your article a couple weeks ago and started eating lots of low-fat cottage cheese and low-carb whey protein shakes, thinking that might help me lose weight. I wasn’t really aware at that time of how much dairy spikes insulin (i thought it was just dairy with a higher carb content). I kept wondering why I suddenly was having attacks of hypoglycemia type symptoms (alleviated only by eating) and losing zero weight despite plenty of exercise and otherwise 80/20 Paleo diet (I did get a lot of muscle growth though, which I really didn’t want). Now I realize I missed one of the most important points of your article–beef protein powder! Wish there were less pricey alternatives, but if this works better for me then it’s definitely worth the extra cash. Because, as you implied, meat is great, but not two pounds of it every day. Thanks for another great article!

    • Yasmin says

      I have cottage cheese on a regular basis, and once I started to have some fresh Minas cheese (I live in Brazil)
      and my weight slightly went up. Minas cheese is
      considered a diet food but in fact it’s semi-fat and not low-fat. Low-fat is only cottage cheese and my weight keeps down with it no doubt. It turns out, though, that some brands are not that low-fat. Sometimes they have more than 1g of fat in a given portion. One brand here contains 4,3g fat in 50g cheese. My brand has 0,3g fat in 30g.

  7. Iris says

    Hello, I am pregnancy with mo/di twins (two sacs/one placenta). There are many recommendations for me to boost my protein intake. I would love to do this with whole foods, but there is just not that much room in my belly for all that meat! Most twin websites promote drinking 3 Boosts a day, which doesn’t sound healthy to me at all. Do you think Pure Paleo is suitable for pregnancy, or would Land of Lakes Gelatin boost my protein just as well?
    Thank you for any input.

  8. Erin says

    I would add breastfeeding mothers to the list of people needing more protein. During both pregnancies I had an aversion to protein rich foods a lot of the time, but now that I am the full meal ticket for my two month old, I can’t get enough protein. I can’t get by with fewer than 3 eggs at breakfast, and 2 palm sized pieces of meat at lunch and supper. I crave hard boiled eggs more than desserts most days!

  9. Olga says

    If you think more protein is good, could you comment the following issues.
    1. Dr. Broda Barnes in his book “Hypothyroidism: the unsuspected illness” stated, that high protein diet is no good for thyroid.
    2. Is it not true that access protein can trigger high level of insulin?
    3. Are there any evidence that high-protein diet helps not only loose weight, but keep it for a long time?

  10. lisa says

    Natural caramel flavor and natural vanilla flavor (caramel flavor causes cancer and “natural” flavors can be disguised as 300 chemicals. No thanks. I love you Chris but this protein powder is whey better = Beyond Whey by Natura. I don’t see that your product is non-denatured. I used to manage a health food store and a hidden secret to whey products are that they are heated to 600 degrees. Yikes. You always want a non-denatured product.

  11. says

    Hi Chris!
    I love your stuff – all of it!
    In doing research for the naturopath I work for, I have learned that people that have genetic polymorphisms that affect BH4 or ammonia levels are apparently better off limiting protein. What is your take on this?

  12. says

    Chris, this will at the end be a question for you.

    I recently fractured my wrist (very complicated double fracture with shards in all directions) and both my wrist and the rest of my body reacted extremely badly to wearing a cast (tried twice with equally as bad a reaction).

    So I set to work on relying on the body’s own ability to repair, along with the craniosacral therapy I could give it myself, since I’m a therapist.

    To give it as much support as I could, I did a lot of research online for best results to healing fractures apart from what the wrist could let me know itself, such as lots of sunshine, keeping the whole arm and shoulder in good blood and energy circulation by releasing fascia and getting meridians happy and flowing and more.

    High quality nutrition + supplementing where there were things I was deficient in features highly on that fracture healing list. Turns out fracture healing requires 3 times more calory intake than normal. And I can tell you my body agrees with that.

    Once the inflammation phase and the fallout from the bad reaction to the cast attempts was out of the system, I got ravenously hungry – especially of protein. Dreaming of eggs and meat, and I don’t have a big inside of the tummy, so difficult to put in as much as the body now wants. And I have a compromised gut, so probably am not as good at taking up the nutrients of everything I’m now having to put in.

    So I rushed over to the organics shop some suburbs away to see what I could find in terms of protein powder. They had shelves and shelves of powders. I have a very expressive body and field and so it is enough to just look at each container without reading what’s in them to know what my reaction will be if I were to eat them. So I looked at each one (about 80 different ones) without reading what they contained. Only one was deemed ok by my body. And that one was even more than ok, it was deemed yummooo! The yummoooo one was made from goats milk protein and all the others were made from either pea protein, a couple of other legumes or whey. The pea and othe legume ones didn’t provoke so much reaction, but just didn’t do anything either. The whey one provoked a number of gut and CNS reactions.

    There was one other container that my body really liked, but that one was on those shelves by mistake. It contained MSM.

    The goat protein powder was called Goatein. After I had my first shake of it mixed with coconut water and a few other things my body was purring and smiling like the chesire cat.

    Chris, what makes goat milk protein so different from the others mentioned above, do you know? Thanks in advance for any response from you or anyone else.

  13. Jared says

    I’m a lab researcher and avid athlete and have had a great deal of difficulty adding in additional protein, especially in snacks that I try to implement while running from meeting to meeting and back into the lab. Just wanted to share a tool that has helped me. They are Radbars. They contain egg protein powder and are a clean and somewhat balanced protein bar. They’re worth a glance if any of you on the go and value a quality diet. Not to mention, they are quite tasty. Here’s a link. http://www.radbar.me

  14. says

    Chris, have you seen anything in the scientific literature indicating that hydrolized beef protein may help to boost Glutathione levels like non-denatured Whey protein?

    • Chris Kresser says

      I haven’t seen any studies on that directly, but pastured beef is one of the highest sources of glutathione in the diet, surpassed only be fresh veggies like asparagus.

  15. MK says

    I don’t have a gallbladder anymore and coconut milk or oil causes what feels like a blockage for hrs..then like indigestion for the entire day. I would love to consume something healthy but it does not like me. Any ideas? I am older overactive immune system and hoshimotos.
    thank you
    advice appreciated

    • pm says

      I had my gallbladder removed too, before I learned about naturopathic liver flush protocols solving the problem. I now take ox bile with every meal that has fats and I don’t have any issues with digestion.

  16. Scott says

    Chris,

    do you have any idea if this product is available in Europe (since the beef protein comes form Sweden)?

    Failing that, can you let me know who the supplier is?

    Thanks…

  17. says

    Have a new fav for protein dense breakfast: pastured eggs soft poached in grass-fed bone broth. I’ve been making very large batches of grass fed bone broth once or twice a week. (adding dulce, full head of garlic, fresh rosemary, celery, carrots, jerusalem artichokes. Recent batches include lamb bones, bison ribs, and beef marrow bones.) Poaching the eggs in the soup stock just takes a few minutes and that breakfast holds me about 7 hours! Don’t even think about food for most of the day.

  18. Janet says

    I am 66 yo woman. Small boned and supposedly have osteopenia. (10 years of Bulimia between 18 and 31 but I am a normal eater now) Normal weight. Paleo for 2 1/2 yr. Mostly LC/VLC until recently. My doc has always been concerned about my bone health, but does not prescribe those horrible drugs for bones–she actually said she was sorry she had in the past. She checked my vit. D level (100) and then had me step on something that measured my muscle mass. She said I need about 56 g minimum per day of protein to maintain the correct muscle mass for strength as I age. I have always exercised, but now joined a gym and do strength work on body areas twice a week plus intermittent speed walking and one day I do sprints (sort of!). I am in pretty good shape for my age.

    I have fallen into a pattern of IF, with a light lunch (2 eggs and maybe bacon or a resistant starch item) and then a larger dinner with a safe starch, veg, large salad with an egg plus with vinegar and olive oil and butter on the veg. That is where I try and make up my protein. I think this is working, but at my age and body type, does this make sense with the 56 grams? It’s hard for me to eat much more. I am really kind of confused, so if you can give me an answer, I would much appreciate it.

  19. Dana says

    I’m not sure I want to jump the gun and say that low-carb diets are only effective because of the higher protein. If your specific weight problem has to do with hyperinsulinism, obviously lowering your carbs enough to do away with the hyperinsulinism will make a big difference in your body’s fat-storage habits and fatty-acid usage for energy. And low-carb, high-fat keto has been effective for many people if they don’t let themselves slide back into old habits–at least a few classes of carb foods are addictive to a degree.

    You also need to be careful depending on how your body uses protein because it may not damage your kidneys or cause cancer, but your body *can* turn it into sugar. This does not happen with everyone, but there are low-carbers who have stalled because their protein intake was too high.

    I do not know if glycine intake vs muscle protein intake plays a role here–you never know, it might. I know most of us don’t get enough glycine. Even though it’s conditionally essential it’s still very useful to eat. Glutamine is another example of a useful conditionally-essential amino acid. I was interested to learn that it buffers protein in the kidneys. It may also help with carb withdrawal. That one’s easy to get from muscle protein, though.

    • Debbie says

      How low-carb to go is really the issue for me (along with being unsure of just how much protein is ideal for me). Chris seems to be more or less in agreement with the Perfect Health Diet premise of “safe starches,” but then there is the other side, the much lower carb/everything turns to an insulin spike side. It’s hard to make these decisions, but fun to be at least trying.

      • Chris Kresser says

        As like to say, there’s no one-size-fits-all approach. Whenever we talk about studies, we’re talking about averages. Same for general guidelines. There will always be people on either side of the bell curve.

    • Chris Kresser says

      Nothing is ever true for everyone, but I think the research does support the idea that *on average* protein is more important than fat as a macronutrient when it comes to weight loss.

      That said, there’s no doubt that low-carb diets are very effective for some people, especially those with significant blood sugar issues.

      • Debbie says

        Thanks for the responses. The other issue, is what is one’s optimal weight? We women want to be skinny even when it seems our body type, not to mention metabolic derangement and AGE seem to screaming NO! I feel fat, even after losing a huge amount of weight years ago. I’m fairly certain I’m at a good weight for optimal health, but in my heart keep wanting to be thinner. The energy is better when I’m even heavier than I am. I’m 58 and just about 5 feet and weigh about 135. Five pounds more and I can walk and walk for miles with a zip in my step as opposed to a slight drag. Just putting this out there for any women having similar issues. All my life I wanted to be skinny.

  20. wendy says

    I have been reading the posts and my issue has not come up. i have been following a paleo-type diet–lots of coconut oil and grass fed butter in my drinks, home made kefir from grass fed cows, fresh fruits, vegs, and grass fed beef, when i can afford it. i rarely cheat. when i do it is NOT cookies and ice cream but chips. (potato,sweet potatoes, etc). i am on biogest (80% prog, 1.5% est [reduced from 3% last month]), and adrenal support supplements like non dgl-licorice, dhea. And i have put on 15-20 pounds. I cannot get it off. i thought reducing my estrogen would do it. i thought upping my protein would do it. i thought upping my fats would do it. i am at wits end. i joined a gym and go about 3x a week for about 35 min a session and have a desk job. ideas anyone? thanks

    • Debbie says

      Wendy, calories do count ultimately. I gained 8 pounds and was shocked, because I thought I wasn’t overdoing any macronutrients. The bottom line is, even though this way of eating is very satiating and not impossible to stay on long term, unlike the horrible low-fat/high-carb diet, food will make you fat if you eat enough of it, especially if you’re prone to fatness (which I am). So, you need to cut somewhere. If you’re not overeating on protein, then the carbs or the fat have to be cut. Unless you have some other unusual problem.

      By the way, I’ve read that coconut oil helps in weight loss, that one should eat a few tablespoons a day, etc. Malarky. Maybe if you’re a 20 year-old athletic male. Not the average metabolically deranged woman.

      For those of us who love to eat, who are even addicted to it, there are no diets that work by themselves. There is a psychological component. We have to put some effort into this every day, sometimes more, sometimes less. We can’t eat as much as we want with the exception maybe of lettuce.

      • Dana says

        Calories count if you’re storing them more than you are burning them. In the end it’s not really the calories but what the overall food comp is doing to your metabolic response, which goes back to the endocrine system. Usually insulin’s involved, and often leptin’s deranged in some way too, and sometimes the sex hormones are involved as well, primarily estrogen. Nothing for it but to tweak the diet and see what works; addressing the endocrine system via tackling one hormone at a time is usually a mistake, with the exception of lowering carbs if your insulin is high because both high blood sugar and chronically high insulin are incredibly damaging and need something like an emergency response.

      • Chris Kresser says

        I agree with Debbie. I have many patients that gained weight on a high-fat, low-carb Paleo diet. In those cases I recommend minimizing added fat (the coconut oil and butter drinks, for example). You can eat fat as it naturally occurs in food, but don’t add a lot to food. Decrease the calorie density of meals, i.e. emphasize non-starchy vegetables, starchy veggies like sweet potatoes without much added fat, and proteins.

    • Dana says

      Chips will stall you or make you gain if you eat enough of them–“safe starch” or not, starches are sugars and no one needs to eat tons of them. Also, if it’s a cheat to the degree you’re getting mainstream brands, you have vegetable oils to contend with as well.

      Another possibility is casein may be playing a role. You’re getting that from kefir and from the butter, if it’s regular butter and not ghee. Sounds weird but I imposed an elimination diet on myself a couple years ago and was losing weight nicely including excess water but as soon as I reintroduced heavy cream my fingers started getting puffy again (water retention). And I wasn’t using much at the time; I’m using more lately and my weight has stalled hard.

      The supplements are a possibility too. It’s the endocrine system that governs energy storage and you’ve been tinkering with yours.

  21. Deb hart says

    Chris, I eat 2 eggs and 2 slices of bacon, avocado, olives and sometimes a green drink around 11:00. And that’s after a bulletproof coffee around 7. Around 3, I’m hungry again and dinner is not until 6 when family gets home. I never know what to eat around 3. Sometimes I blow it for that reason. So I just ordered collagen protein from the Bulletproof. I’m still waiting for it as it was back ordered. What do you think of that product?
    Sometimes I think that I eat too much protein, I’d like to drop 5 pounds, but having a hard time with it. I’m a 59 year old woman, who has always lifted weights and done cardio. Past 6 months, I’ve had plantar fasciitis on both feet, so I’m not on them as much. Do you think adding a protein smoothie in the middle of the day will be too much?

    • Chris Kresser says

      I think it’s worth a try. As I said in the article, increasing protein intake has been shown to promote weight loss in several studies. Collagen protein is a good choice, but depending on your goals the full spectrum beef or whey proteins might be better as standalone protein sources (especially the beef protein, which has some collagen).

  22. Hemming says

    Hi Chris,

    I’m a recovering anorexic with some fear of protein and I think that I’ve eaten too little protein for a couple of years.
    I’m trying to regain weight and I was thinking what percentage of calories I should aim for given my situation of anorexia and underweight?

  23. marcus volke says

    I think dr.jaminet’s recommened protein intake for athletes is the soundest – http://perfecthealthdiet.com/category/nutrients/protein/

    He estimates that athletes who want to build muscle will achieve maximum benefit from just under 1.9 grams of protein per kg of body weight. That is about 150 grams of protein for an 80kg male or 20% of a 3000 calorie diet.
    I think your estimates to eat 25-30% of calories as protein for athletes might be unnecessarily high.

    • Chris Kresser says

      When people are sensitive to whey, it’s usually not because of how processed it is, it’s because they’re sensitive to the whey protein itself. Homemade whey wouldn’t help in this situation, but as I said above, it’s always best to get nutrients from whole food when possible.

      • marcus volke says

        no doubt, but some people who can tolerate dairy still react to the powders, in fact its quite common for people to get symptoms like bloating from whey protein powder even when they tolerate dairy. dairy sensitive individuals are more likely to react to caesin.

  24. marcus volke says

    I make my own lacto-fermented whey from raw milk and use that as a whey supplement. I don’t tolerate the whey powders either, but studies show that whey is the best protein supplement for building muscle (and increasing glutathione levels) so I think this making your own whey is the best option for people who don’t tolerate the commercial whey powders.

  25. says

    The main problem I have with this article is that it never mentions the method for testing for protein deficiency. Any collection site has a routine test for that will make this determination for a few dollars. Certainly no one should boost protein intake who is not deficient in the first place since protein follows the general rule that an adequate amount is jim dandy but too much is toxic. I have tested routinely at the Mayo Clinic for 17 years and never been deficient in protein. So it is one thing I do no have to worry about.

    • Chris Kresser says

      This is not about deficiency or minimum intakes, it’s about using protein therapeutically in certain conditions.

  26. nicole says

    Wow! This is exactly what I was looking for, as I follow a Paleo diet but still have very low amino acid levels. My digestion is weak and unfortunately I’m highly sensitive to digestive enzymes – plant and animal. I currently see an amazing doctor in Chicago who can accurately test for food and environmental sensitivities through electric responses in acupuncture points in the fingers. The assessment is computerized. What’s amazing is she can test supplements for reactivity and dosage. This computerized assessment has been used by MD’s in Germany for quite some time and it’s pretty accurate. Well, I brought in all the digestive enzymes that I never seemed to be able to tolerate and sure enough my reactivity was through the roof. So, without the use of a digestive aid, my ability to digest protein is weak, so I will definitely give this product a try.

  27. Chris S says

    What about the M-Tor pathway. According to DR. Ron Rosedale, Nora Gedgaudas ( Primal Body Primal Mind), and Dr Mercola, this is way to much protein, unless you’re an olympian, pro athlete, or a body builder, and even then, you’re choosing peak performance over longevity and disease prevention.

    They recommend .8 grams of protein for every kilo of ideal body weight. A 160 lb. Man Should eat 58 grams of protein.

    160 divided by 2.2 to get kilograms = 73K x .8 = 58. They say for an extreme athlete you could go as high as 1 to 1.5 grams per kilogram That is a max of 109 grams of protein for an extreme athlete. Your minimum is 150.

    anything above these levels up regulates M-tor and your body go into cell proliferation mode. This is good for muscle, but also good for cancer growth and accelerated aging.

    When you keep protein on average to .8 grams per kilogram of ideal body weight, you down regulate M-tor, and you body goes into repair, restore, regeneration mode, and slows the aging process.

    • reader says

      also, you should eat no protein for 18-24 hours once or twice a week, to allow the damaged proteins (AGEs?) to be used up. something like that.

  28. Tom F says

    Chris,
    Do you have the amino acid break down of this protein. There are reasons whey is very good for powdered protein supplementation. Agree with the earlier poster that the extra ingredients are a total turn off.

  29. Darcie says

    I don’t really understand the table where we look at a typical Paleo food day, convert to grams of protein, and then show that as a percentage of calories as protein on various n-calorie diets. The typical day’s worth of meals you described has a certain range of calories and grams of protein, fat, and carbs. You can’t have that same amount of food and grams of macros on a 2200, 3000, 3000+ calorie day–you’d have to be increasing the amounts of food to get the increased number of calories, so your grams would also go up. So, unless all the extra calories you consumed were fat and carbs, it wouldn’t be “16–27 percent of calories on a 2,200 calorie diet and 11–20 percent of calories on a 3,000 calorie diet;” the numerator and ratio would also have to increase. Unless I’m misreading this somehow.

  30. Jo says

    I would expect you to be encouraging people to eat real food not processed powders and frankly I’m surprised to hear this recommendation from you Chris. Look how much healthier raw milk is than the allergenic homogenised pasteurised rubbish sold at the supermarket. Why not just eat a few more eggs (or whatever) at breakfast if you want more protein?

    • Chris Kresser says

      I always have, and always will encourage people to get nutrients from whole food whenever possible. However, in my clinical experience working with patients, I’ve seen the benefits of a very high protein diet in certain situations, and I’ve also seen how difficult it is for some of my patients to meet those targets without using protein powder. If you need to eat 35% of calories as protein for a while and you can do that with real food, that’s the best option. But if you can’t tolerate that much meat/fish (possibly due to low stomach acid or bile insufficiency), then protein powder can be helpful.

      If you do decide protein powder is an option, then a high-quality grass-fed whey is a great choice if you tolerate it. PurePaleo is the better option for those that don’t do well with whey, or those doing a 30-day Reset/Challenge that don’t want any dairy in their diet.

      P.S. When you’re an athlete trying to eat 265 grams of protein a day, adding a couple extra eggs to breakfast isn’t going to make a huge difference. That’s only an additional 14 grams of protein.

  31. Debbie says

    Here’s the thing: women, especially on the older side, with metabolic syndrome, especially those of us chubby/fat/obese all our lives, don’t maintain a normal weight on 2,000 calories/day. I’ve been maintaining an 80 pound weight loss since my early thirties, and I’m now 58, and I know I’m not the only one who has to go lower calorie-wise unless I want to be even more overweight than I am now.

    I was eating about 11 ounces of animal protein per day recently, and not only gained 8 pounds, but started looking at protein and feeling I couldn’t eat a bite of it. I’m a former binger – believe me, this was a shocking experience. And my B12 levels were high! So, I understand what Chris is saying, and it was a revelation to realize I had the same normal response as anyone to overdoing protein.

    But I think it’s odd that just 10 – 11 ounces per day was too much for me. And I’m concerned now that I’m under-eating protein, because I cannot eat to satiety. I always want to keep going – with the exception of the above situation. Well meaning practitioners never understand this, because they tend to be thin! I’m always amazed at the way they really believe it’s just about the diet. I hope this doesn’t sound like an attack on Chris, whose work I value immensely; in fact, he’s one of the very few whose recommendations I usually listen to. And the diet is huge, I’m not saying Paleo or LCHF doesn’t make an enormous difference, but there is still an emotional side, or whatever you want to call it. This must be taken seriously, especially since in my case I find it very hard to calibrate my macronutrient needs since I can’t do it based on satiety.

    And I would really love to see the daily calorie count as it relates to those of us with metabolic syndrome examined more closely – not in terms of weight loss only, but in terms of maintenance. Thanks so much.

    • says

      I agree re: calories and weightloss. Have you heard of Morning Pages before? Perhaps that is something you could benefit from – do a google search. Emotions have a huge play in weight, well most things body related!

      I feel sick from too much protein but I’m on a low carb diet for insulin resistance. Some days I wish I could just eat fruit all day lol

      • Chris Kresser says

        Morning Pages are an excellent tool for identifying and working with emotional issues that may contribute to weight gain or difficulty losing weight. There’s rarely a single cause of a particular health problem; it’s almost always multifactorial. That’s why I’m always beating the “no one size fits all” drum.

  32. Keno says

    Chris,
    what about Gluconeogenesis? Don’t eating too much protein results in the generation of carbohydrates?

  33. Harvey says

    Hi Chris,

    Do you recommend boosting protein intake and taking something like this if one has suffered a muscle injury, like a pull or tear?

    Thanks!

  34. JWS says

    I use a beef protein isolate that’s really good. (I’m not sure if I can post a link to it, so I won’t)
    I use the chocolate, it masks the strong beef flavor. I’ve thought of having this for breakfast with some butter and MCT or just regular coconut oil (bullet proof protein?). Would the oils be OK to add into it?

    • Chris Kresser says

      The average for protein intake in both industrialized and traditional cultures ranges from 10–20%. The five situations I mentioned in this article that can benefit from higher protein intakes don’t apply to traditional cultures in most cases.

  35. says

    Chris, could you clarify whether this protein comes from grass-fed cows — and whether it matters, in this case? It seems like a natural concern for many of your readers to have, and I was surprised you do not address it in your article.

    • Chris Kresser says

      I did mention that the cows are raised on pasture in Sweden. I think the main concern with beef protein powders is that they are free of antibiotic residue. Raising cows on pasture improves the fatty acid profile and nutrient content of the beef, which is less of a factor with protein powder.

  36. says

    I’m not sure where to start. But will begin with how much protein we actually need, since that’s the headline of this article. Truth is most Americans are eating WAY to much proteins for their needs, on average double what’s necessary (this obviously depends on personal movement/exertion etc..) but I’m going average.

    To say that eating animal
    Protein causes cancer is “another urban myth” is completely absurd and a disservice to the greater community. It’s well known that IGF-1 levels can directly correlate to cancer, and excessive animal proteins is on the list of foods that increase production. IGF-1 is also increased by sugar, refined carbs etc…but animal proteins is a major cause too.

    I would like to propose this question/ do you think in the Paleolithic era, our ancestors were eating animal protein the way we are today (quantity and frequency)?

    • Chris Kresser says

      This article is not about minimum protein requirements. Nor is it about mimicking ancestral intakes. As the title clearly suggests, it’s about using high protein intakes therapeutically (and often temporarily) to address certain health challenges.

      There are many studies that indicate high protein diets (up to 35% of calories) are effective for weight loss. Does this mean that everyone should eat this much protein? Of course not.

      I addressed the hypothesis that high protein intakes increase cancer risk via IGF-1 in detail in this article: https://chriskresser.com/do-high-protein-diets-cause-kidney-disease-and-cancer

    • Julie says

      Nobody can know 100% what they ate, but you can try to put yourself in their ‘shoes’ so to speak.

      I doubt any paleo times human would eat protein as we do today. What those people would have is a cyclic diet just as the wild animal omnivores of today still do.

      Which is something I think many seem to miss whilst trying to be more natural in their way of eating. Although it may not be very practical for our modern way of life, it wasn’t a choice for paleo people.

      Also, they would have expended a lot more energy getting their food, walked miles every day, interspersed with climbing & running to catch an animal (ever tried to catch a rabbit, no easy task).

      In areas were Winter snows occurred it’s likely that protein may for some months have been almost the only source of food, from animals/fish.

      Then the Spring brings additional sources from eggs laid by nesting birds, more vegetables, roots, tubers etc .

      Young animals born in Spring would also be an easier source of protein as they can be more easily caught soon after birth. (I breed alpacas & for the first few hours after birth if you could distract the mother the baby would be an easy catch, same for deer, cattle, etc.)

      Plus much of the protein would have been eaten raw, eggs don’t travel well, ( many eggs would contain half developed chicks) so just eat them as you find them, dead animals can be heavy to transport, so eat some now & take some back to camp/home for drying over the fire (smoked) or cooking.

      The abundance of vegetable/fruits increases throughout Summer as plants grow & regenerate leading to a peak time for fruits (sugars) in late Summer/Autumn. So eating those ( just as bears do) lays down the fat needed to get through the Winter, & so the cycle repeats itself.

      Lastly, if even you chose to eat this way you would never match what paleo people ate because the animals we breed for meat & the vegetables/fruits we grow have been selected over decades to better suit mass production. The fruits are sweeter & larger, the animals carry more muscle so create higher returns for the farmer & so on. Paleo protein sources would be extremely varied for much of the year in many places, the variety in birds alone would be considerable.

  37. Mike W says

    Hi Chris. Nice article on protein. You had me right up until the part where you introduced PurePaleo….

    I find it ironic that there is a protein powder called PurePaleo given that as a group that is trying to eat clean and free from processing there is a product called PurePaleo. I just find it so corny to see packaged foods with Paleo in the name trying to suck every nickel and dime out of the consumer dollar. I have a hard time getting behind any of these paleo “food” processed/packaged products.

    I agree with some of the other posters here that you should be getting most if not all of your protein from real food sources. Eggs, grass fed beef, poultry, wild caught fish, gelatin from bone broth and marrow, and organ meats. I understand there are times when you are in a pinch and you want to supplement. There are many highly reviewed and commented on protein powders on the market that are much cheaper than $68 for this product. A lot of the body building sites as well as the primal community have pointed out that Now Foods WPI is very minimal and a superior product (700+ reviews from Amazon with a very high rating). Per serving it is 4 times cheaper than PurePaleo.

  38. Ann says

    Tapioca (starch) is one of the Cyrex cross-reactors on Array 4 test. Too bad your product contains Tapioca. I have yet to find the protein powder that is safe for Celiac/NCGS.

    • Erin says

      Tapioca isn’t actually gluten cross-reactive, even though it’s on Array 4 (confusing, I know!). The true cross-reactive foods are the group of foods listed up to sesame. The other foods are just reactive. I’ve had this conversation with several practitioners who have gotten input directly from the folk at Cyrex and they clarified things.
      I’ve also looked in the Cyrex Array 4 manual and they break the foods down into gluten cross-reactive, as well as categories like common sensitivities (such as soy and eggs), and foods that are overconsumed on GF diets (corn, rice, and potato). I’ve heard conflicting things about rice being cross-reactive, though.

  39. Austin says

    My wife and I drink a blended shake each morning with some protein powder, kale or spinach, berries, Great Lakes Hydrolyzed collagen, coconut milk, and a little coconut oil.

    My wife has gluten and lactose sensitivities, so protein powder is a real issue for us. This product looks ideal, but WOW it’s expensive. I suppose that’s what quality costs.

    In the meantime, we’re using 100% Natural Whey Protein Isolate (Original Flavor). It’s sourced from grass-fed cows that aren’t treated with antibiotics or recombinant bovine growth hormone. It’s gluten free and, as Isolate, appears to be safe for the lactose intolerant. At least for the original flavor, there doesn’t appear to be any artificial sweeteners either. The big problem I find with whey isolate is that it almost always contains soy lecithin. This one does not. It contains non-GMO sunflower lecithin. Cost is about $40 for 2.2 lbs. (FYI, I don’t work for this company; I’m just pleased to have found the product.)

    I’d be really interested to know how Chris feels about this particular product, and whether anyone else has found less expensive but high quality protein powder options.

    • Chris Kresser says

      Grass-fed whey is an excellent choice for a protein powder, as long as you tolerate whey. Some people (including me) don’t do well with whey though.

      • Austin says

        Thanks for the reply Chris.

        I wasn’t sure if whey–once taken down to isolate or hydrolysate form–would still be a problem. I guess it is.

    • Janet says

      Austin,
      I looked this product up (on amazon) and looks interesting. But what is the serving size and how many servings in a container (either size). Amazon doesn’t show an image of the bottle back. Thanks! i will try their website,

      • Austin says

        Hi Janet,

        Here’s the info on the 2.2 lb container:
        Serving Size = 1 Scoop (31 grams) (26 grams protein)
        Servings Per Container = 32 Scoops

        So far, no GI problems with this whey isolate.

        If you’re unsure of the sellers on Amazon, you may want to consider iHerb.com. This site provides the expiration dates for the available supplements, appears to store the products responsibly, and ships pretty quickly. Not quite as fast or cheap as Amazon (which is what I used for this particular product), but a good alternative site to be aware of.

  40. Amelia says

    Mainstream advice would tend to say that pregnancy is a time to consciously boost protein intake. I’m not aware of any solid reasoning as to why this would be, but I take it that you don’t think so?

    • Cher says

      I was wondering the same thing. Being 6 months pregnant myself, I know I need to eat more protein, but it’s hard to eat much food now with my stomach feeling cramped a lot. I was thinking adding in a shake as a snack might be a really good way to add the extra protein, but I also feel bloated on Whey, so this may be a great option.

    • Chris Kresser says

      Actually, I recommend that pregnant women do not exceed 20 percent of calories as protein during pregnancy. The ability to convert ammonia from protein (which is toxic) to urea (which is non-toxic) is limited during pregnancy, so pregnant women should be careful about very high protein intakes.

      • Amelia says

        That makes more sense than the “You’re growing a baby, so you need more protein!” oversimplification (it’s not as if most moms are eating the same amount of calories as they were pre-pregnancy, so surely protein needs can be met in without insisting on increasing the percentage of calories from protein). For those who haven’t seen it, the Drs. Jaminet have cautioned against high maternal protein intake and even recommend a somewhat lower (closer to 10%) intake during pregnancy: http://perfecthealthdiet.com/2010/07/the-danger-of-protein-during-pregnancy/.

  41. says

    Chris, Terry Wahls, who you featured in your podcast, “Treating MS and Autoimmune Disease With Dr. Terry Wahls”, says that people w/ autoimmune issues (Hashimotos, for instance), should minimize protein intake, if I correctly recall.

    Do you agree, and if so, why?

    Thanks.

    -Joe

    • Chris Kresser says

      I respect Terry and her work, but I haven’t seen the same issues with protein and autoimmune disease in my patient population.

    • John Es says

      “…people w/ autoimmune issues (Hashimotos, for instance), should minimize protein intake”

      Joe, I read her book, and I don’t remember her saying anything like that. Maybe I missed it.

      She talks about the virtues of Paleo diets rich in animal protein, and seems fairly concerned the readers of the book get enough high quality protein. The Wahls Paleo version of the diet allows a large male 21 ounces of protein per day. I’m a 6’4″ male, and I don’t eat that much.

      The ketogenic version of the diet reduces protein to avoid gluconeogenesis in order to stay in nutritional ketosis. That’s all about staying in ketosis.

  42. Jessica says

    I have been using Great Lakes; Collagen Hydrolysate. Is the PurePaleo a similar product? OR does it offer more benifits?Thank you for the article I definitely need to be using more than I have been.

  43. Lizi says

    I thought hydrolyzed beef released free glutamic acid and had tons of MSG ?? i could be way off. Please advise…thank you :)

    • Rebecca says

      I was wondering the same thing. I’ve only recently put together the pieces to recognize that my issues may be related to consumption of MSG and its hidden counterparts. I have also read that “hyrdolyzed ____” or anything “____ protein” is laden with MSG. So, if this is true, then this product is not suitable for me.

  44. Eve says

    This looks good – is it similar to Collagen Hydrolysate, only more concentrated?

    Are medium train triglycerides geanerally well tolerated? (I thought they might bother me…)

    Are the ingredients something ok for breastfeeding mothers?

    I agree about meat – more than 2x/day is too much for me!!

    • Chris Kresser says

      Collagen hydrosylate is pure collagen. This has some collagens but also other amino acids found in beef protein.

      The amount of MCT is quite negligible, so I doubt you’d react to it in the same way that you react to MCT oil.

      Yes, the ingredients are safe for nursing mothers.

    • Chris Kresser says

      I believe that most MCT oils are derived from coconut, so I’d be very careful if you have an allergy.

  45. Stephanie says

    Thanks for sharing the info and offering this protein source. I do not do well on whey protein — I end up with low blood sugar when I consume it.

    In case you have an opportunity to provide feedback to the manufacturer, I would be interested in a non-sweetened, non-flavored protein powder that could be used for soups or green smoothies.

    Thanks!!

    • Chris Kresser says

      I know what you mean, but believe me, if you tasted unflavored hydrolyzed beef protein I don’t think you’d want to put it in a smoothie!

      • PJ (RightNOW) says

        Ha! Funny. I have unflavored kosher beef collagen hydrolysate in a smoothie every morning. :-) But I agree I wouldn’t ruin a smoothie I was drinking for pleasure with it — or with ANY protein powder, all of which I find utterly vile.

        I’m so highly sensitive to the taste of proteins I can tell what temp milk has ever fallen to, and I can taste even the tiniest amount of even the best protein powder in anything. Some kind of weird superpower only related to the taste of protein…

        Hydrolyzed proteins are far less offensive to my taste buds. I consider myself to have been malnourished of the amino spectrum in collagen my whole life, so I have some of that every day, and just a little bit of whey protein (and raw eggs, and some other ingredients — d-Ribose, IP-6 Gold, TMG, ALCAR and R-ALA, Amalaki Amla, MCT oil, almond butter. Yes, it does not taste good at all, but fortunately almond butter overrides everything even 1 Tbsp of it. I just suck it down in ten gulps and then spit and rinse for a bit.)

        I mention all this because I feel better than I have felt in a LONG time, I’ve had serious energy-etc. issues ever since a huge weight loss with VLC, and this suppshake a couple times a day is really helping.

        When I get ‘enough’ protein I feel massively better. My LBM is likely much higher than it seems given I’ve carried a huge weight most of my life, willing to bet my bones hips down are thick and solid for sure. I forget how much protein changes how I feel until I’m finally getting enough and realize I feel so much better.

        The best unhydrolyzed whey powder I could find, no crappy ingredients, is Natural Factors “Whey Factors” “unflavored” version. Expensive but seems like good stuff. (I’ve no assoc with corp or product.) I use Great Lakes brand for the collagen stuff.

      • Adrianne Wallace says

        I add Great Lakes brand Hydrolyzed Beef Collagen and their Beef Gelatin alternate days to my morning smoothie and I have never once “tasted” anything different since I began to add it several months ago.

        The only things I notice are that my back problems are getting much better and the wrinkles on my face are magically disappearing week by week!

        I haven’t tried other brands so I can’t compare but this stuff is happily quite “tasteless”. I’ve even forgotten in my shake until after I drank it and then just threw it in some water and drank it harmlessly that way. The cows are not from Sweden. I believe they are in Argentina or Chile.

  46. Steph says

    This is a really stupid question, but are you counting all protein (animal AND plant) when you add up the grams? I thought I was eating moderate protein, and once I started inputting all my food into myfitnesspal for a frame of reference, I realized I was taking in so much more protein due to all the vegetables I eat. What are your thoughts on animal vs. plant protein bioavailability (if that is the correct word to even use.) Thanks :)

    • Chris Kresser says

      Not a stupid question at all. The reason I didn’t count the plant protein in the sample meals is that plant protein is so much less bioavailable than most forms of animal protein. The additional absorbable proteins from plants in those meals would have been quite low.

  47. Richelle says

    Love the article, but I really can’t justify paying $2.26 for 21g of protein that comes along with flavorings. I prefer to add my own flavors.

    • Chris Kresser says

      I’m right there with you. But have you ever tasted hydrolyzed beef or hydrolyzed proteins in general? If you have, you’ll know why beef protein powder hasn’t caught on yet. :) They did a great job masking it in this product, which is the first one I’ve tasted that actually has a pleasant flavor.

      • wenchypoo says

        My non-kidney cat easts food made from this–he’s allergic to protein. Sadly, the only one that doesn’t make him throw up is soy, but it does make him itch more.

        Now you see why I play doctor-I have to!

      • Yasmin says

        Pity it’s a sweetened powder. It could be
        flavour-free and good for a puré to be
        seasoned with salt, pepper and stuff to have with vegetables.

  48. Marissa says

    I plan to try the hydrolyzed beef protein … and am currently using a meal replacement with 20 g protein/180 calories 3 servings a day plus two meals. [My goal is weight loss ... and convenience.] It has pea, chia, hemp and sprouted brown rice as protein sources. No sugars, 7 g fiber, enzymes and probiotics. Having food sensitivities, I don’t trust restaurant food and I don’t have time to cook and pack enough food to eat throughout the day at work … so this works for me.

    • Anna says

      Hi Marisa! Could you please share what meal replacement you’re using? Sounds like it’s right up my alley, and would love to try it. Thanks!

  49. says

    Here’s my protein shake:

    – 1 cup coconut milk
    – 1 big scoop chocolate whey isolate powder
    – 1 cup (or more) frozen berries (blueberries are my fave)
    – 1 raw egg
    – Spinach
    – Cinnamon
    – Fresh ginger
    – Vanilla

    Blend it all up. Add a little water as necessary. Delicious!

  50. Rob says

    I’d like to share my favorite shake recipe, which is quite delicious!

    Vanilla Protein powder
    Cinnamon to taste (1/4 tsp or more)
    Vanilla extract to taste (1/4 tsp or more)
    Pure coco powder (1 tbsp)
    Potato starch (I use 2 tbsp)

    Shake with water (or raw goat milk if you’re super hungry) and enjoy! I use mine to wash down some probiotics or any other supplement I may be using.

  51. DR says

    Chris, you contradict yourself. In the first paragraph you recommend eating the amount protein the body craves. Then you made recommendations that you yourself cannot meet related to taste fatigue and suggest protein powder to supplement what (buying into the “what you crave is what you need” theory) your body is telling you you’ve had enough of.

    • Chris Kresser says

      Read the headline and the article again. I’m not claiming that everyone should increase their protein powder, or that using protein powder is the best way to do that in general. I’m arguing that there are certain situations where people may benefit from increasing protein intake beyond what they naturally crave. This is not my imagination, it’s supported by the scientific evidence.

      A lot of my patients use protein powder, and a lot of them have been looking for an option that is dairy-, legume-, and grain-free. That’s what this is. It’s not for everyone, but it can be helpful for some people.

      • Debbie says

        Here’s the thing: women, especially on the older side, with metabolic syndrome, especially those of us chubby/fat/obese all our lives, don’t maintain a normal weight on 2,000 calories/day. I’ve been maintaining an 80 pound weight loss since my early thirties, and I’m now 58, and I know I’m not the only one who has to go lower calorie-wise unless I want to be even more overweight than I am now.

        I was eating about 11 ounces of animal protein per day recently, and not only gained 8 pounds, but started looking at protein and feeling I couldn’t eat a bite of it. I’m a former binger – believe me, this was a shocking experience. And my B12 levels were high! So, I understand what Chris is saying, and it was a revelation to realize I had the same normal response as anyone to overdoing protein.

        But I think it’s odd that just 10 – 11 ounces per day was too much for me. And I’m concerned now that I’m under-eating protein, because I cannot eat to satiety. I always want to keep going – with the exception of the above situation. Well meaning practitioners never understand this, because they tend to be thin! I’m always amazed at the way they really believe it’s just about the diet. I hope this doesn’t sound like an attack on Chris, whose work I value immensely; in fact, he’s one of the very few whose recommendations I usually listen to. And the diet is huge, I’m not saying Paleo or LCHF doesn’t make an enormous difference, but there is still an emotional side, or whatever you want to call it. This must be taken seriously, especially since in my case I find it very hard to calibrate my macronutrient needs since I can’t do it based on satiety.

        And I would really like to see the topic of daily calorie totals for women with metabolic syndrome and older women in general looked at more closely.

        • Maria says

          What is you daily calorie intake if I may ask. I’m interested in the subject since my motabolism has lost it’s mind since I am over 40. But to me, eating 300 g (11 ounces) of animal protein in one day is enormous. Or am I mistaken?

      • Nadia Dowgailenko says

        I keep picking your book up in the store. I want to tead it then when I read your responses on your blog you appear negative, almost sarcastic. It deters me. Why do you get so defensive if you are content with your theory? I like your methods. Portray your wishes, forget the rest.

      • Debbie says

        One more question: assuming one tolerates whey protein powders, is there a benefit to using one or the other, whey or the beef powder? Thanks.

  52. pm says

    I eat 5 eggs cooked sunny side up in coconut oil and tablespoon of organic turmeric. I feel so sated that I rarely eat lunch. I feel good and only have a problem with my weight when I stray and eat sugar laden desserts/carbs.

    • wenchypoo says

      Jimmy Moore? This is his same regimen, only it lasts him all day. He also eats a stick of butter as a side.

      • pm says

        Actually, Dr. Joel Wallach. He highly recommends eggs in large quantities as long as they’re poached or soft scrambled in butter. He advises against all vegetable oils, but I know coconut oil to be healthy even in high heat cooking.

  53. pjm says

    The study attributing weight loss to higher protein in low carb diets (rather than carbs per se) appears to be a speculation more than anything else. It is almost certain both contribute to weight loss and carbs unquestionably have the bigger impact on insulin levels.
    Also, protein is more satiating that fat, really? (And is it possible that the correct ratio of the two is more than either alone?)

    • Chris Kresser says

      Yes, protein is more satiating than fat. And there are many other studies suggesting that protein is the most important macronutrient when it comes to weight loss.

      • Yasmin says

        Agreed, provided it’s protein with its in-built fat. Notwithstanding, I don’t see much indoctrination regarding intake of omega-3-rich fat like fish and flax. I wonder why.

        Speaking about collagen, I read that
        afro descents have a great amount
        of collagen in their bodies (they never
        wrinkle) and should not supplement or
        add much of it through food, esp. for women,
        due to uterus myomas formation.

  54. Wenchypoo says

    I hit “post comment” too soon.

    Regarding the glycine and kidneys, I can attest to this one–I have a cat who’s a kidney patient, and was put on a low protein/high carb prescription diet. He doesn’t like it, so I juiced it up with meat drippings refrigerated until they form a gelatin, then add some of the “meat jello” in with his canned food. He also gets treats of raw chicken hearts and livers–NDB says that when raw, they’re lower in protein than when cooked. He also likes hard-boiled egg, so I give him little bits of white, and all the yolk he can handle (we share egg snacks).

    His last kidney checkup showed a normal BUN, but an elevated creatinine, so I added burdock and nettle root extracts, plus cranberry supplements to ramp up his urinary output.

    He’s been at stage 0-1 for about 3 years now. I’m trying to delay as long as possible the need for IV fluids–he’s cantankerous (Russian Blue mix), so the thought of getting him to sit still with a needle stuck in his back is not what any of us desires.

    I eat powdered gelatin in my smoothies, as well as take glycine supplements, and my urine hasn’t darkened after feasting on meats–it used to unless I drank tons of water immediately afterward. My knee cartilage thanks me.

      • wenchypoo says

        My vet keeps telling me not to play doctor, but what can you do when a vet’s all too willing to put animals on Prozac and statins?

        The doctor situation is just as bad in the animal world.

        When you have the info (from this site and others), and the knowledge that our pets are mostly just like us in metabolic functions and dietary needs, playing doctor isn’t as risky as the vets want you to think.

        • wenchypoo says

          I’ve only had one “normal” cat in my life, and she got hit by a car. All the rest of my cats have needed doctoring of some sort–diabetes, kidney ailments, cancer, heart problems, etc., so “playing doctor” is second nature to me. I also play doctor to Hubby and myself–my kitchen is my laboratory.

          If I had the patience to sit through schooling, and the stamina to make it through residency, and the sheer will to make it through all the politically expedient medical and nutritional policies, I’d probably be a doctor today. But for now, I’m satisfied keeping the household healthy and strong.

      • FlowerPower1234 says

        I’m confused. Glycine is not an essential amino acid. Our bodies manufacture it. So, what does “especially if you make sure to get enough glycine in your diet” mean? While glycine is in high protein foods like fish and meat, no one needs to consume glycine.

    • Natalie says

      I have a question for you about your cat. Do you know how much glycine you end up adding to her food? I have a cat with early stage kidney disease, too (dx about a year ago) and her levels have elevated slightly but not too much. She was on a regular raw diet at the time of diagnosis but a few months later switched to an animal-only raw diet.

      Rx kidney diets are generally not prescribed until later stages, so luckily no one has forced that on me yet (we also see integrative vets). While I can see while limiting protein in a human kidney disease patient makes sense, I just can’t put the pieces together for a carnivore. If I could somehow put together my own diet for her, I guess it would be somehow the lowest protein diet I could make all from animal sources. Unfortunately that would mean higher fat (and also not be feasible) and she has chronic pancreatitis.

      But my real question is about the fact that rx kidney diets aren’t just about low protein/high carb – they’re also about low phosphorus, which is definitely found in bone and I would also assume cartilage (i.e. things that give you gelatin). That’s why I’m hesitant to real animal products to her food because I know how much phosphorus her food has in it and while it’s not as low as a special kidney diet, it’s still fairly low. I’m just wondering if you’ve talked to your vet about it and if he/she mentioned phosphorus. Or if you could quantify how much glycine she’s getting – because I would love to add my Great Lakes powder to her food, but I wouldn’t want to overdo it.

      However, phosphorus is secreted in one area and reabsorbed in another, so to me it seems like depending on where the disease is taking place, you’d either want more or less phosphorus in the diet. Maybe virtually all kidney disease is about an inability to secrete it… or maybe it’s just conventionally and traditionally accepted, so that’s the way it is. So maybe phosphorus doesn’t actually matter.

      Luckily I have vets who encourage me to play doctor to my pets. When I come in and they check what supplements they’re taking, and I mention adding quercitin for allergies, DGL for reflux, or l-glutamine after a bout of diarrhea, they couldn’t be happier.

      How do you dose the nettle, burdock, and cranberry?

      Thanks!

  55. Wenchypoo says

    You had me right up until I checked the ingredients–tapioca dextrose? No thanks–I’d rather just eat the beef from Sweden.

    I know others may ask this: can you cook and bake with this the way people do with whey protein powder? I use egg white protein powder, even though my arthritis says not to–a little curcumin and fish oil a day makes the pain go away.

    • Chris Kresser says

      Nothing wrong with just eating beef! The protein powder is for people that don’t want to eat more meat to boost their protein intake, and tapioca dextrin is a Paleo-friendly carbohydrate source. There are only 4 g of carbohydrate in each serving, so unless someone is on a ketogenic diet that’s negligible.

        • Fred says

          I’m not quite sure I believe that the ketogenic diet is the best one. In Anthony Calpo’s book, The Fat Loss Bible, he recommends a minimum of 70g of carbohydrates per day. While I do believe limiting carbohydrate consumption has benefits such as lowering triglyceride levels, I also believe that carbohydrates are necessary as well.

          This is a direct quote from The Fat Loss Bible.

          “The effect of ketosis on branched chain amino acid (BCAA) metabolism is another reason why ketogenic diets are best avoided if optimal body composition is your goal. The BCAAs are comprised of three crucial amino acids – leucine, isoleucine and valine – that belong to a group known as the essential amino acids. The BCAAs differ from other essential amino acids in that they are mainly metabolized, not in the liver, but in skeletal muscle. The BCAAs therefore play an important role in the preservation of muscle, and supplementation with BCAAs has been shown to attenuate lean mass losses during caloric restriction [15]. However, when researchers compared ketogenic (25 g/carbs/day) with non-ketogenic (200 g/carbs/day) diets in healthy volunteers eating maintenance calories, they found the keto diet caused blood BCAAs to remain much higher after a beef meal. This indicates that BCAAs were not being taken up by muscles; an unfavourable development as BCAAs exert their anabolic effects after being absorbed by muscle cells, not by floating aimlessly through the bloodstream. By the way, becoming “fat-adapted” (i.e. following a ketogenic diet for an extended length of time) will not excuse you from this unfavourable scenario. The muscle-sparing agent responsible for muscle preservation on the non-ketogenic diet is most likely insulin. One of insulin’s functions is to promote the uptake of amino acids by muscle cells and stimulate muscle synthesis. Very low insulin levels on the keto diet appear to have impaired the uptake of BCAAs from the bloodstream into the muscle [16].”

          • jerf says

            “they found the keto diet caused blood BCAAs to remain much higher after a beef meal. This indicates that BCAAs were not being taken up by muscles”

            while this is possible, i think it’s a faulty conclusion without more testing to back it up. perhaps sufficient BCAAs were being taken up by the muscles, but the keto participants simply had more excess BCAA in their blood.

            • Fred says

              [15] http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/9059905
              [16] http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/84127

              Perhaps, but [16] says “Severe carbohydrate restriction thus leads to increased accumulation of plasma branched-chain aminoacids after protein feeding which is at least in part due to reduced utilisation of these aminoacids.”

              Well they were both given the same lean beef meal on their normal diet and after 7 days of the ketogenic diet. So maybe while on the ketogenic diet they absorbed enough BCAAs, but it’s pretty obvious that they absorbed less. I still think insulin has its benefits. Like stimulating muscle synthesis and suppressing protein degradation. I also doubt that our ancestors never ate carbohydrates.

              http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/10331397

    • Jackie says

      Hi Wenchypoo (love that name!!)
      Have you looked into Great Lakes Collagen powder? It’s from grassfed beef and is pure hydrolyzed collagen with no other ingredients. I’m super picky about added non essential ingredients/fillers also, and I really like the collagen powder. The only thing is that it’s not a complete protein – it doesn’t have tryptophan. They also have a beef gelatin which is kosher and a gelatin from pigs. Good stuff! :-)

      • wenchypoo says

        I take collagen supplements, as well as eat meat on the bone, and use meat drippings in my soups/stews. Split ends are now a thing of the past!

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