Speaker 1: 00:00 Welcome to The Dr. Gundry Podcast, the weekly podcast where Doctor G gives you the tools you need to boost your health and live your healthiest life.
Dr. Gundry: 00:13 Welcome to The Dr. Gundry Podcast. You know, it seems like every week I’m getting questions about the one essential building block of a healthy body, and that is protein. Don’t you need a lot of protein to build muscle and stay fit and strong as you age? There’s certainly a lot of controversy out there about how much protein you got to have, particularly if you get older. Well on today’s episode of The Dr. Gundry Podcast, I’m going to talk all about this critical nutrient. How much of it you need, which proteins to eat and which to avoid, and what to do if you’re a vegan or vegetarian, or a high performance athlete. So stick around, because things are about to get a little controversial.
Okay. First question that I get all the time, Doctor Gundry, how much protein do I need to eat? The question of how much protein you need to eat is I think fairly well-settled by researchers in longevity, like my colleague and friend, Doctor Valter Longo. If you’ve noticed in my books, both the Plant Paradox and the Longevity Paradox, I use his formulas to calculate the amount of protein a normal, let’s call it a 70 kilogram man, 150 pound man, would usually need to eat. It comes down simply put to probably about 20 to 30 grams of protein per day.
Now, where are those figures come from? Well, one of the things that many nutritionists look at and forget is we actually recycle all of the protein that’s in the lining of our gut wall. We tend to shed most of our gut wall almost daily, at least every other day, all the cells lining our gut wall are kicked out and a new one replaces them. We don’t waste those cells, so we actually eat those cells. Mucus, you know, in your runny nose and the mucus in the back of your throat are mucopolysaccharides. They’re sugar molecules with protein. We actually digest that mucus. So, we actually have a continuous source of protein within us that can make up for a lot of the protein we assume we need on an everyday basis.
That’s where these figures come from. Now, I think one of the most striking studies that was Published in 2009 in the Journal of the American Dietetic Association, there is a lot of controversy that as you get older, your protein needs may increase, and even a Doctor Longo thinks that maybe after the age of 65 or 70 you should perhaps add more protein to your diet. My personal feeling about that, which was refuted by this study, is that even if you’re elderly, you don’t need to consume more protein. So in this study, they took volunteers of two age groups, young adults and senior citizens, and they had them eat a meal of either 30 grams of lean ground beef, 90% lean ground beef, or a meal of 90 grams of lean ground beef.
Then they actually looked at muscle synthesis, building of muscle. In other words, incorporating that protein into muscle. What they found auto shock. Everybody who thinks that protein is really, really important. The 30 grams of protein in that meat completely provided for muscle synthesis in both the young and the old. But the really startling thing was the 90 grams, either in the young or the old, did nothing more for protein synthesis.
Now you have to ask, okay, what happened to the rest of that 60 grams of protein? Well, we don’t waste energy, as I’ve talked about over and over again. We convert that protein, which we do not need to build muscle, we already met those needs with 30 grams, into sugar. It’s called gluconeogenesis. Look it up. It’s done in your liver. And that sugar is converted into fat. The idea in human studies that you need more than 30 grams a day to completely synthesize muscle is refuted by human studies, even in older adults.
30 grams actually is a lot of protein, and you can meet your total protein needs in this study with 30 grams. Doctor Valter Longo and I would like you to have a little less than that, maybe down to 20 grams, but we’re talking about semantics here between 20 and 30. But the point is you can meet all your protein needs, muscle synthesis, with 30 grams a day, so you don’t need to eat a side of bison everyday as some of the carnivore folks would have you believe.
Okay. What happens if your body has too much protein? Well, there’s really pretty good evidence that too much protein does not destroy your kidneys. Although quite frankly, when I have people with chronic renal failure, the two things I really restrict is protein and carbohydrates, particularly fruit carbohydrates, fructose. There’s some beautiful papers in the literature, please look them up about how dangerous fructose is in aging and producing advanced glycation end products, and as mitochondrial poisons. The idea that to give fruct the boot is a really good idea. But back to protein.
One of the things I like to point out to anyone who will bother to listen is a bear in hibernation. A mother bear goes into hibernation pregnant. She gestates her young. She suckles her young. She spends about five months in the den. She doesn’t eat during those five months. She leaves the den with all of her protein, all of her muscle mass, intact. The reason for that is if she used her muscles as a source of energy, she couldn’t hunt. Now, she leaves the den really skinny, and I have some wonderful photographs of grizzly bears really skinny up in Canada right after they came out of the den. But all our muscle is intact.
The point of all that is if you eat, for instance, on a ketogenic diet, protein should be really only about 10% of your calories. About 80% of your calories should be fat, and you’ll spare your muscles. You will not go after your muscles as a source of energy. We’re not that dumb. Our design is pretty doggone smart. We’re over proteinized in this country.
I think one of the best examples of a human being who transformed from a high fat diet to a high protein diet is the late Doctor Robert Atkins. I have the pleasure of actually taking care of Doctor Atkins head nurse. I have the pleasure of knowing Doctor Adkins co-writer in all of his books. Doctor Atkins was a cardiologist, and Doctor Adkins is most of us know was as being the high fat doctor. He got into so much trouble with the American Medical Association that he morphed into a high protein doctor, because after all, protein’s good for you. You can actually see, you can actually see pictures of him.
Again, I have eye witness accounts of him that he went from actually a fairly thin person when he was a high fat doctor to progressively overweight. And when he died, he was obese. I think he’s probably the perfect example of us on a high protein diet converting what protein excess that he was eating into sugar, which is then converted into fat. Now, you could mitigate this in a carnivore diet by, quite frankly, fasting. So many of the people who describe a carnivore diet are actually combining a carnivore diet with fasting.
But let me say this about the carnivore diet. One of the things that’s missing from this discussion, and I think it’s an incredibly important part, is there is this crazy sugar molecule called Neu5Gc, and in my book I say, who knew, that is present in beef, and lamb, and pork, which is the prevalent things you eat on a carnivore diet.
This sugar molecule does two really bad things. We don’t have Neu5Gc. We have a very similar sugar molecule that lines our blood vessels that lines our gut wall called Neu5Ac. We share that with chicken, and fish, and shellfish. They have our sugar molecule. There’s a new study out recently that you probably saw that beef eaters had a much higher incidence of breast cancer, then chicken eaters. Once again, the difference between those two sources of protein actually comes down to the fact that chicken has Neu5Ac and beef has Neu5Gc. The evidence is overwhelming. Sorry, carnivore diets that Neu5Gc promotes inflammation, promotes an auto immune attack on our blood vessels, and promotes cancer cell growth. Also interestingly enough, there’s really good info that perhaps our species became a separate species from great apes because of this mutation.
The other great apes actually make Neu5Gc, like beef. Neu5Gc damages your brain. It actually hurts neurons. There’s some really cool nerdy papers showing that one of the reasons we may have a bigger brain is because we mutated into a sugar molecule that doesn’t bother neurons. Again, that’s a nerdy stuff, but the point of all this is there is no evidence of long-living people on a carnivore diet. Sorry. Find one. I’ll be happy to take it back. There is none. The overwhelming evidence of the blue zones is the one thing they all share and they all have different diets is they have very, very little animal protein in their diets. Very little. It’s the universal feature of these diets. Please, look up Neu5Gc and you’ll be shocked. I wish it wasn’t true. Again, I’m from Omaha, Nebraska originally. But it’s there and it’s an important thing to realize.
So, people want to know, okay, how come so many people are getting such great results on the carnivore diet? I said this on the podcast and I agree completely with it. A carnivore diet is in a way the ultimate elimination diet. You have eliminated all sources of plant compounds that have the potential to be temporarily harmful to you. But again, an elimination diet is an elimination diet. It doesn’t mean that this is a life-sustaining diet for the rest of your life. So, I don’t really have a problem with an elimination diet, but quite frankly, if I was going to do a carnivore diet, I would do a pescatarian diet, where all I would eat is wild fish and shellfish for a limited amount of time.
I certainly wouldn’t do a B for pork or lamb diet and expose myself to Neu5Gc. I mean, every study that’s done on humans show that red meat, and no, pork is not the other white meat, red meat contributes to cancer, and contributes to heart disease. It’s because it’s not an evil thing. It’s because it’s got Neu5Gc instead of Neu5Ac. That’s all.
Okay, so we’re going to get to the different types of protein that you can eat, but before that we’re going to do a quick break and we’ll come right back to The Dr. Gundry Podcast. Okay, so let’s take a quick break.
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All right, welcome back to The Dr. Gundry Podcast. Today, I’m tackling the all important topic of protein. How do you know you’re getting enough protein in your diet? Are there symptoms, signs that show up in your body if you’re not getting enough? Well, again, that takes me back to the fact that it’s incredibly rare in this country to not get enough protein in your diet. That’s really one of the last things we see.
Now, what I do see in my practice is there are a lot of elderly individuals who are not synthesizing protein in their liver properly, and that albumin is 80% of all the protein in your body. It’s the primary protein in your blood. Albumen is the white of egg whites if you want to know what albumin looks like. What I see in my practice in elderly individuals is they actually have low albumins, even though their total protein may be quite high. What I’ve found in my practice is that this is actually because they’re done so much damage to the lining of their gut wall that they don’t have enough surface area to absorb vital nutrients like protein.
That’s a really great point, because so many of my patients who I put on my program, we’ve actually lowered the amount of protein they’re eating per se, but we’ve taken away the gut damaging components of lectin containing foods. We take away their whole grain breads, their whole grain muffins, and we take away their cereals and their beans, and they actually regenerate their gut wall. Again, think about this, the surface of your gut wall is the same surface area as a tennis court. But if you constantly damage that surface by my lectins, by antacids, by NSAIDs like ibuprofen or Naproxen, you limit the surface area maybe down to the size of a ping pong table. No wonder there some evidence that the the older you get, the more protein you need, because you don’t have a surface area. But it’s been really fascinating to me that actually limiting people’s protein, but taking away the gut harming products out of their diet, restores their ability to have normal protein levels, even though I’m lowering the amount of protein they’re eating. I think that’s a big missing clue to why this myth exists, that the older you get, the more protein you need.
One thing before we leave animal protein, and we’re not going to leave it for good, but animal protein, there are several amino acids that are more prevalent in animal protein than they are in plant protein that can stimulate a receptor of energy availability called mTOR, the mechanistic target of rapamycin, and subsequently increase insulin like growth factor one or IGF-1. Studies of super old individuals show that IGF-1 is extremely low in these people and is really a hallmark of successful aging. Since animal protein contains far more of the amino acids that this receptor of energy availability, mTOR, is looking for, it’s exciting to see in my patients when we lesson animal protein in their diet, not necessarily remove it, their insulin like growth factors plummet compared to when they were eating their normal diet.
This research has been shown by researchers at Washington university in St. Louis, which I mentioned in all my books, where they took calorie restricted individuals in the calorie restriction society, change them to a vegan calorie restricted diet, and their already low insulin like growth factors plummet, again, confirming in human trials how important the amino acids in animal protein are in turning on mTOR.
Now, it is true in a pig study that the addition of the amino acid glycine to a pig diet negated the effect of what’s called a methionine enrich diet, methionine is one of the big drivers of mTOR, and several of us in the longevity community will admit to taking several grams of glycine a day in the off chance that the big study is right. So, have some glycine. It’s actually going to be appearing in one of my products soon.
If you’re going to eat animal protein, first of all, please, please, please try to limit your consumption of beef, or lamb, or pork to the occasional treat, and make sure it’s from grass-fed grass-finished beef. There’s a big difference between the label grass-fed and the label grass-fed and grass-finished. Because there is actually no government requirement to say what grass-fed is, and all cows for at least one day of their lives eat grass. It’s perfectly legal to say grass-fed beef and have that cow eat grass for one day and take it to the feed lot and feed them grains and beans and still label it grass-fed. Look for grass-finished. Find a farmer who does it. They are available. At Whole Foods, you’ll look for the level five availability. There’s a lot of great online sources who will ship overnight. I won’t mention them here, but you write me and we can tell you where they are.
The other option that was developed by Doctor Valter Longo, which I think is so important, he’s shown that you can pretty much do what you want to do for 25 days a month, and for five days straight during that month, do a modified vegan fast where you eat somewhere between 600 and 800 calories strictly vegan. He is shown in humans that that will be the equivalent as if you were calorie restricted the entire month in terms of activating stem cells, in terms of lowering mTOR stimulation. I think it’s a way of having your cake and eating it too. You know, you’re not going to eat cake, but I think it’s a way of mitigating the suffering, if you will, of being calorie restricted the entire month. If you want to restrict your calories every day, knock your socks off, you’re not going to be very happy and you’re going to be pretty cold and skinny.
The third thing that my wife, Penny and I do is make a meat day a cheat day. Do it if you want on a special occasion or do it every three months. For instance, you may see us at one of our favorite restaurants in Montecito that has a six ounce grass-fed grass-finished filet. You will see us actually order that about once every three months and split it. Now, the good news about that is you’ll both probably enjoy it and you both won’t eat much of it. The third thing is it will be far less expensive than if you each had it themselves. So, it’s a win win. The waiters get disappointed because the bill’s not very good, but this is a great way to enjoy the occasional cheat. I have no problem with my patients or people who know me saying, “I saw you eat a steak.” It’s okay. Yeah, I admit, I do it about once every three months, and it’s a grass-fed grass-finished steak, and usually Penny and I split it. Don’t deprive yourself. But again, the evidence is pretty doggone scary that beef, and lamb, and pork are not your longterm friends.
All right, so enough about demonizing animal protein. So what kind of protein should you be eating? Now first of all, you do not have to be a vegan or vegetarian, but I personally take care of a large number of vegans and vegetarians. As I’ve described before, usually during the week, my wife and I eat a vegan diet from Monday through Friday. Then on the weekends, we tend to eat wild fish and wild shellfish. But you don’t have to do that. There are great sources of plant proteins, concentrated plant proteins. One of my favorite is hemp protein.
It’s actually a great source of protein. Hemp ,incidentally, has all the essential amino acids. Veruca nuts have one of the highest proteins of any nuts. In general, nuts have anywhere from four to six grams of protein, including all of the essential amino acids per a one ounce serving. One ounce is about a handful. For instance, you could actually have, say, four handfuls of walnuts per day, and pretty much come close to your total protein requirement for the day. Now, that’s not including the protein that’s going to be available in leaves, or asparagus, or I mean, for instance, there’s two grams of protein in almost every serving of vegetables that you can name. Mushrooms have some protein, but they’re not extremely high in protein. You’d actually have to eat quite a few mushrooms every day to meet your protein requirements. But a trick with eating mushrooms is if you cook them, they’re mostly water, So you can actually eat all lot more mushrooms if you cook them. And so, mushrooms are another source of protein.
There’s a great algae source of protein called spiralina. Flaxseed powder, flaxseed protein, is another great source of protein. And don’t forget, there is hemp tofu, and please don’t be afraid of getting your protein from lentils that had been pressure cooked. For those of you who are still afraid of a pressure cooker, Eden brand beans pressure cook their lentils in the can, so it’s perfectly safe to eat them. By the way, why didn’t I mentioned other beans? Well, beans are also great sources of proteins, but lentils have the most protein per bean, if you will, with very little carbohydrates, so it’s my definite go-to choice. Plus as you read in the Longevity Paradox, lentils are a rich source of this cool compound called polyamines, which actually turn on longevity genes. So, there’s fantastic sources.
Now, there’s been a lot of questions. We get, say, you say that gorillas and horses get all the protein they need by eating leaves and grass, and that’s perfectly true. There is some confusion that our digestive track is different from that of a gorilla or even a horse. While it’s true that our digestive track is different than a gorilla, in fact, we have the exact same components as a gorilla or a horse. Now, we’re totally different than the grazing animals like cows and sheep, which are ungulates. They have five different stomachs for the purpose of fermentation. We’re what’s called a hind gut fermentor. That means most of the fermentation of plant products in humans takes place in the colon. On the other hand, gorillas are what are called mid gut fermentors. Almost all the fermentation of plant products that they eat happens in their small intestine. It’s true that their small intestine is much larger than ours. We’ve actually shrunken our small intestine considerably.
The ungulates, again to be nerdy, are four gut fermentors. They ferment in there five stomachs, so it’s where plant material is fermented that differentiates us. But actually, we absorb about 20% of all the protein from our colon because that’s where that fermentation takes place. So, you don’t have to be a gorilla and eat 15 pounds of leaves and twigs, that’s not my point. The point is that all the largest animals on Earth are actually plant eaters, and they get all of their protein requirements met from the protein in plants.
Now, do you have to eat a lot of plant material? Yes, you absolutely do. My wife and I every night during the week consume a mixing bowl of salad greens. It’s a lot, and believe me, we never leave the table hungry. I think that’s a great solution. I’m full, I’m satisfied, I’m getting plenty of protein, and if I’m even worried that I’m not getting enough protein, I have several handfuls of nuts right before dinner. And if not, get your protein for instance, like we do on the weekends from fish or shellfish. That’s a great compromise. But you can get plenty of protein from plants if you know which plants to choose.
All right, well what should you do if you’re an athlete or if you’re trying to quickly build more muscle? I think the important thing is there are a large number of vegan and vegetarian athletes, and I think the impressive thing is that vegans can be athletes. There are a number that I can mention. There are professional football players who are vegans. There are professional basketball players who are vegans. One of probably the most famous professional athletes, Tom Brady, pretty much follows the Plant Paradox program with a few exceptions. By the way, he just signed another two year contract for a lot of money, and that’s a pretty impressive guy who’s aging very well, I might add, without a huge amount of animal protein.
I think what I talked about at the beginning of the podcast is what we need to remember. In people who were challenged with a 30 gram animal protein load versus a 90 gram protein load, low and behold, after 30 grams there was no additional benefit of 60 grams of animal protein in building muscle. I think you need to take that to the gym, take that to the bank, and realize that we have completely overestimated the need for huge amounts of protein in muscle synthesis. We just don’t need it. And these are human studies, not animal studies.
Okay, so that’s it for our discussion of protein today. Before I go, I’ve got a full list of Doctor Gundry approved animal products that we’ll put in the show notes, so if you’re curious about which meats are good and which you should avoid, check out the show notes for this episode on drgundry.com.
All right, it’s time for audience question. This week, we’ve got a great question from Dav Dav on YouTube who asked, “Can prolonged fast negatively affect the microbiome, IE, good bugs?” That is a great question and it’s actually a two part answer.
Number one, I’ve talked about this before. I think Doctor Mercola and I talked about this on his podcast. You really, really, really got to be careful in this day and age about prolonged fasts, because during fasting, you will use your fat stores, and fat is where all of our heavy metals, and all of our PCPs, and organopesticides are stored basically safely. And when you do a prolonged fast, you release these into your circulation. As Doctor Ray Walford from UCLA approved years ago in biosphere two, those heavy metals will not be excreted and will accumulate in your bloodstream for up to a year after your fast. So you’ve got to be really careful about how you accomplish this. We talk about this before.
But getting back to the microbiome. It turns out that in terms of your microbiome, fasting may be one of the best things in the world you can do for your microbiome, because it selects out a really cool bug called Akkermansia muciniphilia, which can live on the mucus that lines your gut wall. The more Akkermansia muciniphilia you have, the more mucus it eats, but in a weird way, the more it stimulates your gut wall to make more mucus. And the more mucus you have, the better your longterm health and the more protected you are against lectins and other bad bacteria when you begin to eat. As strange as it may seem, fasting is one of the best ways to preserve and stimulate probably the best bug in your gut, Akkermansia muciniphilia. That’s actually why I do routine three day fasts, plus, believe it or not, if I’ve got any pesticides or heavy metals in me after doing this for 20 years, I’m not worried about that anymore. But most people should be very worried about that.
Thanks for joining me on this episode of The Dr. Gundry Podcast. Before you go, I just wanted to remind you that you can find the show on iTunes, Google play, Stitcher, or wherever you get your podcasts. And if you want to watch each episode of The Dr. Gundry Podcast, you can always find me on YouTube at youtube.com/doctorgundry. because I am Doctor Gundry and I’m always looking out for you.