How much protein do you really need?

Welcome to the positive corner of wellness. Here’s a daily digest designed to make you healthier in less than 5 minutes. If...

Welcome to the positive corner of wellness. Here’s a daily digest designed to make you healthier in less than 5 minutes. If you were forwarded this message, you can get the free daily email here.

Today’s Health Upgrade

  • Depression RX

  • The minimum effective dose of protein

  • Why you lose and regain weight (and how to stop it)

Depression RX

People laughed in Pumping Iron when Arnold uttered his famous line about his love of the pump. But Arnold might’ve underestimated exercise’s feel-good euphoria.

According to the largest study of its kind, exercise can be as effective as prescriptive drugs for treating depression.

Scientists reviewed 41 different studies on more than 2,000 people suffering from depression. They found that exercise — any movement that elevates your heart rate — helped reduce symptoms of depression. If you could push yourself to at least moderate intensity, you’re likely to experience better results. But even something as simple as household activities made a significant difference.

This isn’t the first time exercise has been linked to helping fight depression. We know from previous research that exercise is an effective form of prevention and that even a few minutes per day makes a difference.

Does that mean you can sweat away your sadness? Not exactly. Each individual case is different, and research shows that therapy — in addition to exercise and possibly medication — is likely the most effective path to better mental health (it's not just about feeling better, but also learning methods of coping and understanding your emotions). Just like exercise alone won’t make you fit (diet and sleep matter, too), a similarly comprehensive approach is the best bet for a healthy mind.

How much protein do you really need?

Research overwhelmingly suggests that moderate-to-high protein diets help with muscle gain and fat loss, controlling hunger, supporting recovery from workouts, and fighting against aging.

But how much should you eat per day? Many people talk about the upper limit (more on that in a moment), but we’ve found it’s more helpful to think about your minimum effective dose. We’re all about habits, and building a great routine means starting with what’s doable and doing it repeatedly.

The minimum effective dose for protein is approximately ½ a gram of protein per pound of your goal body weight, according to Dr. Don Layman, one of the most trusted protein researchers in the world. So if you want to weigh 180 pounds, your minimum is approximately 90 grams.

Here’s what 90 grams of protein looks like:

  • Breakfast: 3 eggs (20 grams)

  • Turkey sandwich + 1 scoop protein powder (40 grams)

  • Dinner: Chicken breast (30 grams)

The more active you are, the more your body will put protein to good use. Research suggests that you can eat up to 1 gram of protein of your goal body weight to support both muscle gain and fat loss.

If you hate counting calories, don’t worry (Arnold never counted calories in his life). Just use your hands to eyeball portion sizes. The palm of your hand is the equivalent of about 20 to 30 grams of protein. So, depending on your goal, you can enjoy anywhere from 1-3 servings of protein per meal.

Also, don't stress having too much protein. Some people suggest the limit is 20 to 30 grams per meal, but your body can handle (and put to use) much more than that. And, if you’re healthy, high-protein diets do not cause damage to your kidneys.

Love numbers and want to know exactly how much you should eat? We like this calculator from

Why you lose and regain weight

Remember the story of the tortoise and the hare? Even though it was written for children, the wisdom of a patient and calculated approach might be exactly what you need to end weight loss struggles.

Diets love to glorify rapid changes, but if you drop weight too quickly, your metabolism could recalibrate, causing you to easily (and frustratingly) regain the pounds.

Researchers examined The Biggest Loser contestants six years after they left the show. In most cases, the contestants gained back the weight. Unfortunately, that’s not too abnormal. The interesting part?

Some contestants — even when back at their original weight — were burning 500 fewer calories per day than before they started the show. Turns out, too much too soon can be a bad thing if you want to keep off the weight.

But all hope is not lost. Your metabolism isn't broken, it simply needs a more methodical path to the finish line.

People who took a slower approach lost 20 pounds over the course of 4 months, and — more importantly — didn’t see the same metabolic slowdown, according a study done at the Mayo Clinic.

Note from Adam: I recently coached 500 people through a weight loss program where we focused on changing expectations. Instead of obsessing over rapid changes to the scale, the goal was to average 1 pound lost every two weeks. I didn't want anyone stressing if they went a week without weight loss, as long as a two-week average was, at least, 1 pound down. A funny thing happened. The average weight loss was about 3 pounds every two weeks, and people lost -- and kept off -- the weight, with some losing nearly 30 pounds in just a few months. By removing the pressure (and not stressing a week if no weight was lost), it was easier to stick to the plan, build good habits, and see results.

So remember, while extreme approaches and promises of rapid weight loss are tantalizing, they are nothing more than a mirage that will likely leave you worse off.

How much protein do you really need?

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