Too Pro-Protein?

Each to their own of course, but I think I’d need to be immersed in a fairly slow news day to consider meal-prepping for the week ahead. I never know what I’ll feel like eating for lunch/dinner from one day to the next, but I’d be confident enough whatever class of rubbery chicken/salmon/old boiled eggs I’d have prepared would never feature too prominently on the wishlist.

Meal prepping for the majority seems to focus on truckloads of protein and veggies and it often leaves me questioning actual protein requirements. While protein provides vital building blocks for muscles, skin, hormones, enzymes and antibodies (soldiers of the immune system), do we really need that much? On that note, I’m going to attempt to dispel a few mainstream beliefs in today’s brief post.


Protein-filled tuna steak from La Maison, Dublin, Saturday night last


  • Will dramatically increasing protein intake expedite weight loss?



While protein has much to commend it from a weight loss perspective- it promotes satiety and also usurps mammoth energy during digestion compared with other food groups- it’s surprisingly easy to overdo it. For illustrative purposes, the average adult requires c. 50gr of protein daily according to NHS (UK) guidelines. (More if you’re very active or breastfeeding etc… In fact, amounts of up to 2.2gr per kilo body weight have been quoted for heavy exercisers… I’m not convinced you need to burden your digestive system with such an amount, but would rather you increase your overall calories in direct proportion to the amount of exercise you’re undertaking and aim to derive 10-35% of your caloric intake from protein sources.)

Remember that a portion of protein is supposed to roughly equate to the size of your palm. Have a look at the picture below to get an idea of the grammes contained in a few commonplace sources of protein and if you are angling to shift a few pounds or are exercising strenuously, incorporate a serving of protein into each meal/snack accordingly.


(Remember it is not unusual for an average chicken/salmon breast to weigh upwards of 100gr! Image via


  • You need protein galore to build muscle? While you may require a daily top-up that a sedentary person may forego, it is stimulation via various forms of exercise that causes your muscles to develop, supported by adequate nutrition in general, rather than wedges upon wedges of pure protein.



  • You need a ginormous portion of protein after working out? While it’s true that strenuous exercise tears muscle fibres, your post workout snack should feature carbs in tandem with protein. While the amino acids, the body’s ‘building blocks’, contained in protein, help repair muscle damaged through exercise, carbs are equally as important to transport those amino acids to areas of need after exercising.


  • Protein = protein = protein? No, not all protein is created equal… Eggs, meat and fish/seafood offer all of the different types of amino acids and are therefore known as ‘complete’ protein sources, as opposed to plant-based sources which do not. This means you must combine them in order to meet your nutritional requirements. This combining need not be done at each meal because your amazing body will store the amino acids from one meal to the next, adding to them and combining them as appropriate. When you consider the well established evidence base for very high intakes of animal protein and increased mortality, substituting plant-based sources seems very worthwhile. In addition, plant sources bestow another world of nutrients (#EatTheRainbow) that meat and fish simply do not. If, like yours truly, you’re very dependent on animal sources of protein, have a gander at the picture below for some plant-based sources… I definitely need to make a concerted effort to feature more meat-free days in my week for a myriad of reasons, most of which extend far beyond the scope of today’s post.



Have a great week!


My name is Michelle and I’m a Dublin-based GP (family doctor). Life is short: take the minimalist approach to maximise your health!

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