Episode 92 Summary


  • Protein Is An Essential Macronutrient. Unlike fats or carbohydrates, protein is not used as a primary fuel source under normal circumstances. The protein in the food we eat is broken down into amino acids and used to build our cells, tissues, hormones and enzymes. For this reason it is very important to eat enough protein. We cannot store protein and if we consistently undereat protein, our body has to scavenge the protein in a process called autophagy. Some autophagy can be a good thing, but we want to maintain our lean muscle mass for strength, function and mobility.


  • How Much Protein Is Enough? Recommendations on how much protein to eat vary wildly in the various guidelines available. We at Real Life Medicine recommend a minimum of one gram of protein per kilo of bodyweight per day. For example, an 80kg person should aim to eat at least 80g of protein each day.

  • Does 100g Of Steak = 100g of Protein? Great question! No it doesn’t.  People often find themselves confused and think that 100g of meat equals 100g of protein, but it doesn’t. Meat, eggs, fish and other protein sources all contain water. As a rough estimate, 100g of meat will contain 25g of protein. As an example, a 100kg person should aim for 400g of meat a day. Of course we don’t have to get all of our protein from meat. There are many other great sources of bioavailable protein. Each egg will contain 6-7g of protein, so three eggs are roughly 20g of protein. Fish and hard cheese contain around 25% protein by weight. Soft cheeses contain around 15% protein and greek yoghurt contains around 10% protein by weight. For those of us who enjoy plant based foods, tempeh contains 20g of protein per 100g and tofu contains 10g per 100g. Hemp seeds can also contribute to our daily protein intake. 


  • Plan Ahead For Success. Make sure to always have a protein source available.  If you enjoy tinned fish it can be helpful to keep some in your pantry or at your work for the base of an emergency meal.


  • Keep Things Simple With Our “Build-a-Plate” Formula. Choose a protein that you like as the base of your meal. Add some low carb veggies. Add healthy fats if the protein is lean and last of all, add some salt, pepper, herbs and spices for flavour.  It’s that easy to put together a delicious and healthy meal.


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Show notes:

Episode 92: Do You Need More Protein? 


Dr Mary Barson:  Hello, my lovely listeners! I'm Dr. Mary Barson.


Dr Lucy Burns:  And I'm Dr. Lucy Burns. Welcome to this episode of Real Health and Weight Loss. Good morning, lovely listeners, Dr. Lucy here with the gorgeous Dr. Mary, bringing you another fabulous episode of Real Health and Weight Loss this week, and I'm sounding very formal!


Dr Mary Barson:  You are sounding very calm. It's good. I like it!


Dr Lucy Burns: I know. Yes. Good. I might just channel my inner calm, a bit formal, and a bit less “rah rah” this week, because we have, of course, got a wonderful topic. And I guess what we're bringing this week is a little blend of some science with some practical know-how to really optimise your health and weight loss.


Dr Mary Barson: Coming back to basics. I think it's good. It's good to revisit basics every now and again.


Dr Lucy Burns:  Absolutely. And you know, I'm a bit of a basic girl.I love basic! Basic keeps it simple. Simple is easy! And I am trying, trying to come up with various ways this year to make my life easier and less complicated.


Dr Mary Barson: Ease! We all want a bit more ease. I like that.


Dr Lucy Burns: Yeah, I know, there are people out there that like tracking and documenting and having data galore and, you know, there's nothing wrong with that, if that's what you want to do. But it's certainly something for me that puts a barrier into doing anything if I've gotta get really technical and “documenty”.


Dr Mary Barson: Yes! So, back to basics, today. We're gonna be talking about how we build our plates easily, and the macronutrients and as a quick little reviser, you know, the macro nutrients that we eat are fat, carbohydrate, and protein. And we're gonna really be focusing on protein today, because unlike fat or carbohydrates, protein is not usually used as a primary fuel source. Not under normal circumstances. We actually use protein, protein in meat, we break it down, and we use it to make ourselves. We use it to make our cells, tissues, hormones and enzymes. It's the building blocks of us largely. We are scaffolded with protein and you need to get enough protein.


Dr Lucy Burns: And it's so interesting. So we looked up, you know, we did a tiny bit of prep, ie. one minute before this show. And we looked up a few recommendations on the current guidelines for protein intake. There are lots of different ways that you can calculate how much protein you need. But again, for ease, we're looking at using perhaps just your general bodyweight. You can use your lean body mass, but you've got to go and put in some calculations. Basically lean body mass is how much your body weighs minus the fat content and the water content. And you can do that. But I mean, that's hard. So let's go for easy! So if we're taking total body weight, that’s your weight as you step on the scales (if you haven't thrown them out - and if you have, hurray!). And if you haven't, well, if you have thrown them out, just go and find somewhere to sneak on once! Because it's, and again, it's just an estimate and it doesn't have to be perfect. But, the guidelines range from about 0.8g per kilo. And interestingly, diet doctor recommends up to two grams of protein per kilo.  


Dr Mary Barson: Quite a lot more! 


Dr Lucy Burns: It is a lot more. So if you weigh 100 kilos, for example, then we recommend a minimum of one gram of protein a day, per kilo of body weight. So if you weigh 100 kilos, you should be aiming for roughly 100 grams of protein a day.


Dr Mary Barson: I think that's a good thing to aim for. If you eat more protein than that, it's okay. And you can also listen to your body and your body will kind-of let you know if you're still hungry, and you want a little bit more eggs, protein, meat - whatever it is that you're eating. These are just, they’re rough estimates. But what you don't want to do is to consistently under-do your protein. Why don't you want to do that Lucy?


Dr Lucy Burns: Well, we can't store protein.  So we can store fat, as fat, which is fuel. We can store glucose. A little bit of glucose gets converted into glycogen and then the rest gets stored as fat.  So we can store those two macros, but we can't actually store protein. And if we're constantly under-eating our protein, our body is trying to find the essential ingredients - so the amino acids - to make the things it needs to make. If it wants to make some hormones, it's got to go and scavenge some protein from somewhere. Now, again, it's this tricky thing because people go, “What about autophagy? Autophagy is all about, you know, recycling your protein.” And if you've listened to our fasting episodes, that is absolutely true. But we don't want to fast all the time either, because if you do too much fasting, first of all, you won't get enough protein and your body will start to slow its metabolic rate. This is because it's not getting enough fuel either. So like everything in the world, it is about a balance. And sometimes it can be a bit tricky to get the balance right but we try and make it easy. So, if you keep it simple, aim for roughly a gram per kilo of body weight. So if you weigh 80 kilos, you have 80 grams. If you weigh 130 kilos, you have 130 grams. If you're on a quest to lose weight, you will reduce your protein as you lose weight, which is fine.


Dr Mary Barson: So I want to have 80 grams of protein. Does that just mean that I eat 80 grams of steak?


Dr Lucy Burns:  No! 


Dr Mary Barson: Leading question.


Dr Lucy Burns: Very leading question, but a good question! Because it is confusing. People do think that 80 grams of protein is 80 grams of meat, but meat has lots of water with it. And when it doesn't have lots of water, it's called jerky.


Dr Mary Barson: I love jerky!


Dr Lucy Burns: My brother - when he was doing muscle training - when he was, you know, a young man in his early 20s, would be eating jerky and I’d internally kind of puking, thinking, “Why would you eat that?” Not realising for all these years I missed out on all that deliciousness! 


Dr Mary Barson: That's good. 


Dr Lucy Burns: I know. But I was sort of lured away. You know, my brain was thinking, “Why would you eat jerky when you can have a Mars bar?” .


Dr Mary Barson:  Well, yes, haha! I could see how a brain would do that.


Dr Lucy Burns:  Yeah, a 20 year old brain that didn't know any better. And of course now I'm thinking, “Why would you have a Mars bar when you can have jerky?” So, Mares, if you wanted to eat 80 grams of protein a day, could you give somebody a little sample of what that might look like in terms of practical food?


Dr Mary Barson: Yeah, so roughly and this is rough, but about 100 grams of steak is gonna have about 25 grams of protein. That's about right. So if I'm wanting to have, say I want to hit about that 100 gram mark of protein - just to make the maths easier because I'm all about ease. We're all about making our lives easier. So I'm looking at having about 400 grams of meat a day, just to use the meat example, because meat is a very high protein food. And I think I would struggle to have that all in one meal. I could have that over the day.


Dr Lucy Burns: Mares, the way I look at it, most people probably don't eat 400 grams of meat a day and you don't actually need to because there's lots of sources of protein. And eggs. You all know we love eggs. We love eggs for so many reasons. They have protein. They have some incredible vitamins including vitamin D and choline. Well choline is not a vitamin, but it's a nutrient, which is a micronutrient. Maybe we'll do that another time. But one egg, again, depending on the size of your egg, has about six or seven grams of protein. So three eggs will give you, say 20 grams.


Dr Mary Barson: Yeah, fish are also around about that 25% protein. So 100 grams of fish is going to have about 25 grams of protein. Lots of great sources.


Dr Lucy Burns: And cheese is also pretty good. So, hard cheese is about 25 grams per 100 grams. Soft cheese, because soft cheese has a much higher fat content is only about 16 grams or 15. If you want to do even, you know, not even. I mean 15 is not an even number, but it is an easy number to add up.


Dr Mary Barson: And if you want your plant based sources of protein, then tempeh is a good one. It's an ancient food. It's a reasonably good, fermented form of soy. That's about 15 to 20% protein, so 100 grams of good quality tempeh, we'd have about 20 grams of protein. Tofu is another, you know, nice, fermented soy product, but it's a bit lower, it's about 10%. So it's still pretty high in protein. And also another lovely source that I really like is greek yoghurt.  Surprisingly high in protein. It's about 10% protein too.


Dr Lucy Burns: Yeah. And you can buy yoghurts that are fortified with extra protein. And I think that the people that probably struggle the most to get their protein are people who've had weight loss surgery. It's really hard, if you've had weight loss surgery, to get adequate protein for multiple reasons.  One of them is protein, it's actually quite hard to digest. Now that might sound like a negative, but actually I think it's a positive because, assuming you haven't had weight loss surgeries, assuming you've got a standard sized stomach, then when you eat your protein, it actually takes quite a bit of energy to break it down. So, your body has to produce enzymes to break down proteins, which are giant, long chains of amino acids. So it sort of just gets to them and cleaves them and that takes a lot of energy. And it also produces heat. So there's this concept of the thermic effect. So it can keep you warm, which is very lovely. But, if you've had weight loss surgery, it's much harder to do that. Because you don't, you just don't have the room, like you don't have the size to be able to get your protein. So for people that struggle to get their protein levels, maybe because of surgery, or maybe they're ill, and they just can't, you know, haven't got appetite, then you can supplement your protein with protein powders. And if you had enormous requirements for protein, so let's say (Mares, I don't think you and I'll ever fit into this category!) but let's say you're training for the Olympics, to be a weightlifter and you have huge muscles, so your bulk, your weight is quite heavy. You have huge muscles and you're trying to grow muscles and you're using them all the time. It's actually pretty hard probably to get your protein. 


Dr Mary Barson: Yep. 


Dr Lucy Burns: But the majority of us, it's okay. We can do it.


Dr Mary Barson: Yep we can just have an egg and yep, our protein requirements will be fine.


Dr Lucy Burns:  So Mares, we've talked about some ideas for your protein. So far we've got, you know, we've got meat, eggs, fish, dairy, some yoghurt. Hemp seed is another great protein source. So you can add small amounts of lots of things if you didn't feel like just limiting your protein source to 400 grams of meat a day! So, at Real Life Medicine, we love the formula “build a plate” to keep it nice and simple. So you pick your protein, add some veggies and if your protein is lean, then you can add a bit of fat, and then some flavour. And if you're low carb, that flavour can be in the form of salt, herbs or spices. I do this all the time. It is the easiest way to make sure that you get your protein and you can make delicious food and it’s so easy. And in the olden days, I would stand at my fridge and go, “Oh God, what are we going to eat?” And I just looked at this fridge door and all this fridge and it would have so many things in it. Oh god no. And then I ended up getting some sort of packet of pasta out. Whereas now I go, “Alright, what's my protein?” Like, that's the question I've got. “What's my protein?” and in dire need, I mean, I have always got tuna. I say “dire need” because it's not my husband's favourite. I don't mind it. It's not my favourite. I don't mind it, but it's alright. I know you've got a few backup protein options if you haven't got fresh food in the fridge. What are yours? 


Dr Mary Barson: Yeah, so I love tinned fish. I'm a little bit weird like that. I've got sardines, mackerel. I've got herring. I've got tuna. I've got wild caught salmon and I am very happy eating all of those foods. I do. I am one of those people who genuinely likes sardines. I'm not making that up. I could quite happily eat the sardines out of the tin, in good quality olive oil, not canola oil or seed oil. And if I can't find good fish in olive oil, I'll buy it in spring water and add my own oil. So handy. I have tins of the stuff at work. So my workmates think I’m a bit weird as well. But it is really handy if I forget my lunch, which honestly can't happen. Or if pre-pregnancy I'm intending to fast, but for whatever reason I decided not to fast, usually because something really stressful has happened at work.  And you know the life of a doctor. There can be moments of extreme stress. I'll often break my fast if I've got a lot of stress. And I'll just often have to go outside because people don't like it when you open a tin of sardines in the tea room. But we've got a nice little outdoor area. I’ll sit outside and eat my sardines and I'm very happy!


Dr Lucy Burns: I would love to know if you have some sort of Icelandic genes, Norwegian genes or some fish eating culture through your veins.


Dr Mary Barson: Dad's from Canada, you know. It could be a bit of, you know, Inuit in there.


Dr Lucy Burns: I know,  and whereas, yeah, I can certainly… I don’t mind tuna and don’t mind salmon, but if given the choice, they're not my first. It's not firstline.


Dr Mary Barson: Yeah, no, I definitely go there.


Dr Lucy Burns:   So, I think one of the things again with eating low carb is to make sure you choose foods that you do like. I mean, there's a plethora of food out there. Yes. And you will have heard a couple of episodes like maybe 50 episodes ago, I was talking about training myself to eat oysters because I don't love them, but they’re very, very good for zinc. And I don't know why I don't love them because they're quite salty and I like salt. But I think it's possibly a textural thing. And anyway, that's actually working out, alright. I don't mind oysters. Now, I'm quite happy to eat oysters. But I think when sometimes you sort of just keep eating food because you think you have to, your brain can then start rebelling and going, “You know what? Where’s some nice food?”, and then it will suddenly offer you up cake as the option.


Dr Mary Barson: Yep. Yeah. So, making it easy. Pick food you like. Have your backup options. What else makes building your plate, your low carb plate easy?


Dr Lucy Burns: So, recognising you don't need 200 vegetables a day. On your plate. I've got my favourites and there's a couple of colours. So I do like a few green things. I like some red things. Eggplant, I'll stick in. I don't know, I'm not going to eat diced eggplant, but I will put it in curries or stews. So there's a bit of a purple thing, some yellow things. Maybe some capsicum or bell pepper or some yellow squash and occasionally some pumpkin. So, trying to get a few different veggies with different colours, oh and mushrooms. I do love mushrooms. Do you love mushrooms?


Dr Mary Barson: Yes, yeah. And I do. I do like them. On their own. Strangely. Yes, I do.


Dr Lucy Burns: Yeah. With butter, though, I’m not a raw mushroom fan.


Dr Mary Barson: Butter and salt. 


Dr Lucy Burns: Yeah, absolutely. 


Dr Mary Barson: Yeah. So having your food available. Basically, you got to know how to build your plate. Focus on the protein. Once you've got your protein sorted, then you add your veggies, your salad, and make sure to eyeball it and see how much fat you need. If the meat is really lean, you can add a bit of fat, and if the meat is really fatty, you don't add it. Making sure that you've stocked your fridge and your pantry appropriately. And you make sure there's food that you like. And I would say that it's also okay to have really simple meals if you want to. It doesn't have to be elaborate, you know, a build-your-plate. You know, it could be something as incredibly simple as some scrambled eggs and steamed broccoli. Or it could be as elaborate as the most incredible, you know, lamb mince “Crack Slaw” recipe that you could imagine.


Dr Lucy Burns: Absolutely. And in fact, in our membership, we've got some clearly gourmet cooks who do present beautiful looking food. Not only, you know, the presentation, the photography, everything about it, I think oh my god, it's in a magazine. But Mares, you and I are not, we're not that skilled. And in fact, we've coined the #uglyfood, which surprisingly has not taken off. We'd like it to because there's nothing wrong with #uglyfood. It doesn't have to look like it's out of a magazine for it to taste amazing. And be delicious and be nutritious.


Dr Mary Barson: But it's very unlikely that any micro herbs are making their way into my house anytime soon. Even though they do make food really pretty.


Dr Lucy Burns: They do! They do! So I think lovelies, we would really urge you just focus on the protein first. Add your couple of veggies and I guess here a side note: people go, “What about dessert?” You know, I like yoghurt and berries and yoghurt is great. I think as a main meal, it's probably not got quite enough protein in it. So you could add some things in it to increase the protein. So maybe add some hemp seeds through it or some nuts, or you can have it at the end of your meal. So if your brain has that penchant for some dessert at the end, then you can have your yoghurt and berries then. So I would just be mindful of those. There's actually, and this will be another episode because we're running out of time now. But there's some great ways to be able to manage your glucose levels too, by combining your macros. So for people that want to perhaps have some carbs now, you know, I'm not saying run out and get a toffee apple, but people who want to be able to eat some potato or sweet potato or even some rice. There's ways in which you can do that that will minimise the impact of the glucose and the insulin. And I think we might talk about that next time.


Dr Mary Barson: That's a great idea. I think people would love to hear about that topic. Beautiful people, build your plate. Keep it simple, and enjoy your delicious low carb, real food meals.


Dr Lucy Burns: Wonderful. Alright darlings, see you next time. So, my lovely listeners, that ends this episode of Real Health and Weight Loss. I'm Dr. Lucy Burns.


Dr Mary Barson: and I'm Dr. Mary Barson.  We’re from Real Life Medicine. To contact us please visit rlmedicine.com.


Dr Lucy Burns: And until next time, thanks for listening. The information shared on the Real Health and Weight Loss Podcast, including show notes and links provides general information only. It is not a substitute, nor is it intended to provide individualised medical advice, diagnosis or treatment, nor can it be construed as such. Please consult your doctor for any medical concerns.


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