Back to Basics Part 5: Protein

I've sung the praises of fat, I've discussed health issues associated with certain carbohydrates, and now it's time for the final macronutrient: protein.

A common misconception is that the LCHF (low carb high fat), primal and keto eating plans equate to bacon, eggs and steak all day long. This is most certainly not the case! 

In "The Keto Reset Diet" Mark Sisson summarizes new research indicating that humans do not need as much protein as advocated by conventional wisdom. In fact, Sisson gathered advice from experts in the field and determined that 0.5 grams of protein per pound of lean mass is enough for the average human, with 0.7 being the recommendation for more active individuals. That is really not that much!  (For example, my daily protein intake is about 60 grams.)

The over-consumption of protein has been linked to increased risk of cancers; when we eat too much we feed all of our cells, even the unhealthy ones. Overfed cells divide and multiply, which is quite scary if the cells are cancerous.  Protein in excess is also converted by the liver into glucose, which causes insulin to rise, just like carbohydrates do. Too much protein is taxing on the liver and the kidneys and can lead to systemic inflammation. 

The majority of a fat burner's calories truly come from fat.

Doesn't that sound like fun? 

Don't get me wrong, protein is an essential macronutrient. It builds and repairs tissues, aids in the creation of hormones and controls chemical reactions in the body. But just like anything (with the exception of leafy greens!), we should avoid eating too much

As we've talked about with fats and carbs, not all protein is created equal. The most complete amino acid profiles (amino acids that we must acquire from ingested foods) come from animal proteins. However, I understand that eating animal protein is not for everybody!

This leads me to an interesting question I received recently:

Can vegans and vegetarians become fat burners?

While I don't have first hand experience, I did a quick Google search and found a number of LCHF vegetarian and vegan websites. From what I can tell, it is possible, but a tad more challenging to obtain sufficient protein levels while simultaneously lowering carb levels. This is because most protein must be obtained from plants, which are higher in carbs. But as protein consumption is relatively low in a far burner's diet, I think it is possible. 

The Best Sources of Protein for Carnivores: 

  • wild game, particularly organs 
  • fatty fish (salmon, sardines, mackerel) 
  • grass fed, pasture raised beef/bison/lamb/goat
  • fowl and their eggs (avoid factory farmed/caged fowl) 
  • full fat dairy; goat and sheep is best 

The Best Sources of Protein for Vegetarians:

  • eggs (avoid eggs from factory farmed/caged fowl) 
  • full fat dairy; goat and sheep is best 

Protein for Vegans:

  • nuts
  • quinoa
  • hemp
  • seeds 
  • fermented soy, like tempeh

What are your thoughts on protein? Do you have any experience as a LCHF vegetarian or vegan? Do you have any questions you'd like me to address?