As we age, we lose muscle. Though still strong, even Jack LaLanne lost muscle tone in his later years. You have heard of the middle-age spread. But it’s now apparent in society and from a research study that there may be a direct correlation between protein consumption, muscle atrophy and obesity. The study led by Dr. George A. Bray, MD, included 25 men and women restricted from much exercise who lived in a carefully controlled research facility for three months.
Those in the low-protein group stored about 90 percent extra daily calories as body fat while losing 1.5 pounds of lean body mass. The other groups saw 50 percent of the added calories became fat. Those with high-protein intake, gained an average of 6.5 pounds of muscle mass. 
What Is Adequate Protein?
According the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, the minimum recommended protein amount is 46 grams per day for women and 56 grams per day for men—about 5 to 6 ounces of protein-rich food.  To maintain muscle mass, Bray and his team learned that study participants had to consume at least 78 grams of daily protein—40 to 70 percent more.
These findings are particularly important to vegetarians and vegans who might frequently forego a balanced meal in favor of steamed vegetables or a field-greens salad with vinaigrette dressing. Simply eliminating meat—red or otherwise—does not make one healthy. For proper nutrition, it is important to monitor daily protein consumption.
A bowl of cereal with almond milk provides about 1 gram of protein. By way of contrast, a breakfast of two veggie bacon strips, a two-egg omelette with mozzarella cheese, two tomato slices  and a cup of almond milk provides about 23 grams of protein. As you can see, with two meals to go, this is not even a third of what Bray says is necessary. Vegetarians often rely on protein powder nutritional supplements.
Those with chronic kidney disease (CKD) should limit their protein intake. If you eat lots of protein and have CKD, you may want to make a few changes because a high-protein diet is hard on your kidneys. On the other hand, a diet too low in protein is even worse for you. 
Of course, staying fit is not all about eating protein. You must moderate carbohydrate consumption and maintain a regular exercise routine. Metabolic disorders can also contribute to weight gain. ClinicalPosters offers several posters in the diet category that help nutritionists, dietitians, and physicians educate patients on proper nutrition.
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This updated article was originally published January 5, 2012 on ClinicalPosters.
- Too little protein may equal too much body fat. health.com
- All about the Protein Foods Group choosemyplate.gov
- High Protein Vegetables. highproteinfoods.net
- Kidney-Friendly Diet: Can it Slow Progression of Chronic Kidney Disease?. davita.com
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