A basic building block for muscle, healthy mass gain, and maintenance, Protein is essential for any body at any age. Prevalent in all animal products, it’s easily accessible and affordable for most people. Meat, Eggs, and Dairy products are all great sources. Better still, they taste great. Who doesn’t love a Sunday roast, or a BBQ with friends, or that full plate of eggs and bacon for breakfast? And while I’m not big on dairy as too much seems to want to take on my digestive system in an all out bar fight, occasionally having fresh cream in my coffee or that small bowl of ice cream are two things I look forward to each week!
Pull the Protein!
But what if you can’t stomach even the average amounts of daily recommended Protein? What if you had a medical condition, either existing or new, that simply prevented you from indulging in this essential Macronutrient? And how do you maintain weight, let alone put on muscle mass? Even the Sunday Roast would be a rare treat savoured more than the ice cream! Unfortunately, there are illnesses out there that do prevent certain people from being able to eat even the daily recommended amounts of protein. That’s not to say they can’t eat any protein. It just means they have to cut down on the standard amount. This means less meat, eggs, and most forms of dairy (the ice cream doesn’t fall into this category, so breathe a sigh of relief!). Also, having reduced Protein is not a death sentence for your muscle gaining or workout regimen. Yes, it will be more difficult, however all people and therefore metabolisms are different. Some people will be more affected than others when it comes to increasing or maintaining mass. However, we’ve added in some bonus Workout Tips below which should help.
When Protein attacks!
Urea is a waste product created by the food you eat. The Liver metabolises your meals and snacks, and passes the waste to your Kidneys to deal with. A healthy pair of Kidneys will deal with this no problem. However, when your Kidneys aren’t so healthy, or you may only have one kidney, removal of Urea is severely impaired. Similarly, if you’re Liver is not up to scratch, it will have trouble converting food to waste. Fatigue and loss of appetite (hence high protein / low carb diet fads) will result from this build up of waste product. There is also evidence on excess Protein causing issues with healthy individuals causing things like kidney stones, however there is a lot of conflicting data here. To balance this out though, as a Personal Trainer and student studying a Food and Nutrition degree, I am on a high Protein diet most of the time and have no problems whatsoever. Again, it would come down to the individual as their tolerance around the amount of Protein they consume as long as they have no known existing Liver or Kidney issues.
Top 5 tips when you can’t do Protein
So for those who can’t tolerate even normal amounts of Protein, let alone increased amounts for fitness, Core Health Dynamics recommendations are below:
#5 – Reduce your intake of all meat: Note we said ‘reduce’, not ‘stop’. Unless you have a severe Kidney condition, your body should be able to handle eating smaller servings of meat at longer intervals. This would mean eating a half to a third of the recommended portion size. For example, instead of that 200g (7oz) steak, cook, order or cut it down the middle. And perhaps make that your single red meat serving for that week, substituting in vegetarian options or other meat options as per the tips below.
Workout Tip: Use your heavier workout days to consume meat. For example, if you can only stomach say two reduced servings of meat per week, time these to fit in with these bigger days.
#4 – Eat turkey and fish instead of red meats: Turkey and fish will have slightly less amounts of Protein per serving than red meats. For example, 100g(3.5oz) turkey and salmon will have 30g (1.1oz) and 26g (0.9oz) of Protein respectively, versus 100g (3.5oz) of beef having 36g (1.3oz) of Protein. It may not sound like a lot, but you could probably see if your body reacts positively having one serving of fish or turkey and one serving of red meat per week.
#3 – Find low protein Dairy and Dairy alternatives: Almond Milk, Oat Milk, frozen yoghurt and even custard (yes, a dessert, so watch the sugar content) have lower Protein contents. Typically, the frozen yoghurt and custard will have 3g (0.11oz) – 4g (0.14oz) of Protein per standard serving. And that is the key for this tip – ‘per standard serving’. Don’t go crazy and over indulge, otherwise that Protein content will rise dramatically. Being an Oat Milk aficionado myself despite being on a low-Gluten nutrition plan, I can personally vouch for it being a yummy alternative and great for recipes. It also has only 1g (0.04oz) of Protein per 100ml (3.4oz)!
Workout Tip: Homemade custard is fairly to make, and despite using egg yolks, can be made with relatively low protein (use 1 egg!). Find the recipe here, and throw in a banana for Supper or that late night snack if you’re still hungry after dinner.
#2 – Consume more Fat: There, I said it! However, ensure it’s ‘good’ fat. And by good fat I mean Olive Oil, Coconut Oil and Butter. Try and source organic versions of each of these, with the butter being grass-fed where possible. The cognitive, nervous system, skin and body joint benefits of consuming these Fats is well documented. Plus they have a high satiety rating, meaning they will help fill you up and not tempt you to eat too many bad Carbs or sugar laden foods.
#1.5..and consume Carbs: whew, never thought I’d do a Post advocating Carbs, but here we are! I am not a fan of grains, especially wheat based products such as breads, pasta and especially cereals. However, there are some exceptions. And if you can’t consume the requisite amount of protein, you will need Carbs to power yourself up each day. Brown rice, Sourdough bread, and Porridge (Oatmeal) are good sources of energy and won’t have such a detrimental impact on you even if you are Gluten intolerant. This is not to say that you overdo these foods. Having too much will affect you if you are gluten intolerant, or have even slight gluten allergies. However they are more viable options in the land of Carbs than their industrially produced, sugar laden and hydrolysed fat wheat and corn-based cousins.
Workout Tip: For Fitness, it’s not just what you eat, but WHEN you eat. Having Carbs BEFORE to a training session will fuel you up. Having fat AFTER a training session will make you feel fuller quicker, so you won’t be starving a reaching for the first ‘bad’ snack you see.
#1 – Love your vegetables and fruit: low-Protein or not, eating lots of vegetables is beneficial for everyone! It is hard to consume too many of these and have any dire medical issues. In fact, going to the toilet more regularly or excessive flatulence are the main areas of concern, probably more for those around you than yourself. Most green, leafy vegetables and cruciferous vegetables will have higher amounts of Protein. Even then though these higher amounts are much, much lower than the content in meats and dairy. The more colourful vegetables such as Capsicum (Peppers), Tomato, and Carrots have a bunch of antioxidants per serving. So mixing up the greens with colours is a good option.
Fruits get a bad rap thanks to Fructose. Remember from my previous Post on the Top 5 Food Additives to Avoid, anything that ends in ‘ose’ is a sugar. Table sugar is ‘Sucrose’. Sugar inside fruit is Fructose. Consuming excessive amounts of Fructose, especially when its an additive inside fruits juices, lollies (candy), cakes and processed foods as High Fructose Corn Syrup is bad. However, it occurs naturally in fruits, with Apples typically having the highest amount. However, having an apple a day will not cause you to put on excessive weight or suffer from Diabetes. Add in a banana per day too. Your body will thank you for it.
So, let me know what you think. Are you on a low-Protein diet? If so, how do you compensate for this food wise?
Do you still workout? Can you still go as hard as you used to and get results? I’d love to know so I can learn more myself and help out those Clients where high Protein for both weight loss or muscle gain is not an option!
Sources and Notes: