You know how sometimes you hear the same thing over and over and then one day it clicks and you just get it? And you wonder why it didn’t click the first 10 times you heard it or even considered it? I’m having that experience right now. Today I read this transcription of a talk given by Ron Rosedale in 2006 for the American Society of Bariatric Physicians (ASBP), entitled “The good, the bad, and the ugly of protein.” Although much of this information is new to me (and a lot of it I’d have to spend more time with to really understand – leptin, MTOR, IGF-1, for example), the theme that too much protein can cause problems is one that has been recurring for me. This passage jumped out at me today:
A high protein intake has endocrine effects such as it increases insulin, increases IGF, and we know these hormones increase the rate of aging. Furthermore the metabolic effect of high urea and many amino acids may exceed the kidney and hepatic system’s ability to metabolize and excrete the excess nitrogen.
In other words, when you use protein as a fuel, you take off the excess nitrogen, and then you have to do something with it. Because, it’s a poison. If you take too much, It causes acidosis in the blood and that causes redistribution of calcium and magnesium, and all sorts of things, and what the consequence are for that is manifold.
So what’s high. Certainly above 1 gram per kilogram of lean mass is probably high. Most people, I’ll put on .7 or .75 grams per kilogram of lean body mass. But if I’ve got a diabetic, and I really want to reverse their aging, which means reverse their diabetes, because diabetes is a model of aging, I’ll put them down to .5 or .6 grams per kilogram of lean body mass per day.
A year ago when I was attempting to eat a ketogenic diet (but failing, cuz too much protein, but I didn’t realize it because I wasn’t bothering to test for ketones) my labs were disappointing. High uric acid, high (bad) lipids, poor BUN/Creatinine ratio, struggling thyroid, high calculated anion gap (which can indicate acidosis). After 4-5 months I was tired and irritable all the time and quit. The above passage explains that maybe some of this was because of my high protein intake, which led to sustained high insulin levels and high nitrogen. Too much protein = high insulin and difficulty eliminating excess nitrogen = metabolic acidosis and feeling shitty.
Rosedale goes on to recommend limiting protein and increasing fat consumption. Starting today I’m using his recommended 0.5 to 0.6 grams of protein per kg of lean body mass. For me that is somewhere in the neighborhood of 60-70g of protein per day. I’ve been eating twice that amount. What do I have to show for it? Overall good energy and sleep, but very slow fat loss and still relatively high hunger. I’ll be using Cronometer to track my intake for a while to make sure I’m staying within that range.
Since my last update I’ve gained back a pound or so. 6 weeks of keto and I’ve lost about 4 pounds and a couple inches from my waist. I’m not complaining….well actually, yes I am complaining. It’s not easy eating a diet this restrictive and exercising 3x a week with so little to show for it. I think the amount of protein I’ve been eating is a critical factor. A possible confounder is that I’ve been eating butter in an otherwise dairy-free diet. I’ll be eliminating that too for now. I can always add it back in later to test for problems.