There is a lot of information about protein. Google finds 563 million hits. But among all the pages there are many half-truths and myths. How can you tell what is true and what is not in the flood of information? So that you can shine in every protein discussion from now on, here is the explanation of the 8 biggest and most widespread protein claims.

1. Muscles only grow with sufficient protein intake

Yes and no. The fact is: protein is the most important building block for your muscles. Amino acids (each protein consists of many small amino acid components) not only form the basis for building new muscle fibers, but are also indispensable aids in the repair and regeneration processes of the muscles. But to build muscles or muscle mass, it is not enough to simply eat (more) protein. Because without the appropriate stimulus – in the form of exercise – the mountains of muscle will not start to grow. So: proteins are essential for building muscle, but you will only see success in combination with strength training.

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2. The body can only utilize 30 grams of protein

Anything that is eaten in excess is excreted again. However, this is not true. It is true that no more than around 30 grams of protein can be transported from the stomach to the intestine within 60 to 90 minutes. The rest simply stays in the stomach longer, but is definitely not excreted. The body regulates protein intake according to its own needs and the more protein is consumed, the slower the absorption. In addition, individual protein intake depends on one’s own metabolic type and body weight. Because even if the 30-gram myth is not true, everyone has an individual protein requirement per day, and this depends on body weight and fitness level:

Simply multiply your body weight by the corresponding values, for example 80 x 1.2. A regular amateur athlete who weighs 80 kilos can therefore consume a total of at least 96 g of protein per day. This is how much you can get from 2 eggs (14 grams), 200 grams of chicken breast (48 grams), 100 grams of tuna in its own juice (24 grams) and a protein shake made from 300 milliliters of milk and 30 grams of whey protein (32 grams) over the course of a day. By the way: The body can also “stand” maximum values ​​of 3 grams of protein per kilo of body weight, but this is not recommended over a longer period of time.

3. Chicken eggs have the highest biological value

The quality of a protein can be determined by its biological value. The biological value indicates how well your body can utilize the protein it ingests from food and build muscle mass from it. The more protein the body can produce from 100 grams of protein consumed, the higher the biological value. The whole egg (egg white and yolk) has a biological value of 100 and is considered the highest value and sets the gold standard – so the “myth” is true – at least in theory.

Because the 100 can definitely be topped: If you cleverly combine plant and animal protein, the value increases – even beyond 100. The combination of potatoes and eggs, for example, is 136, potatoes and curd have a biological value of 113, corn and eggs 114 and beans with eggs still manage 108.

4. Animal protein is better than plant protein

Animal protein is not generally better, BUT it can be better absorbed by the body. The more similar the dietary protein is to the body’s own protein, the better it can be utilized. And since humans are more similar to cows than to legumes, animal proteins can be better utilized by the body. Animal foods also perform better in terms of biological value (see point 2). But plant protein also provides you with all the essential (vital) amino acids and is therefore by no means a “second-class protein.”

Just eat as varied as possible: the more different, protein-rich foods you combine, the higher the chance that you will absorb all the important amino acids for optimal muscle building. Plus: Animal foods often contain a lot of fat (unhealthy saturated fatty acids) and cholesterol. Plant proteins in vegetables or grains, on the other hand, are naturally accompanied by more healthy unsaturated fatty acids and are cholesterol-free. They also provide a good portion of fiber, which fills you up and promotes digestion.

5. Proteins help you lose weight

Protein myths

Protein is the slimming agent among macronutrients

Yes, this claim is true. Proteins are good allies in the fight against excess weight. But: Just because you eat a high-protein diet doesn’t mean you’ll automatically lose weight. Losing weight always depends on your energy balance, and at the end of the day, this should be negative, meaning you have to burn more calories every day than you take in. You can only lose weight if your calorie balance is negative. Proteins can help you on the way to your dream body: Protein-rich foods such as fish and poultry, pulses and low-fat dairy products not only keep you full for a long time, they also keep your blood sugar level stable. This means that cravings when losing weight are a thing of the past.

6. Too much protein makes you fat

Wait a minute, didn’t we just explain that proteins help you lose weight? And now they’re suddenly supposed to make you fat? Yes, that myth exists. There’s actually some truth to this claim, even if it seems absurd at first. However, here too, the calorie balance at the end of the day is crucial: And since proteins – just like carbohydrates and fat – provide calories, you can of course consume too many calories by eating too much protein.

7. Protein powder is better than protein from food

It is true that with a good protein shake you consume protein in a very high quality form that can be easily utilized by the body. Protein powders are manufactured in such a way that the body can digest them easily and use the amino acids they contain optimally for building muscle.

However, you should not forget that protein powder is not a food, but merely a dietary supplement. The word “supplement” describes it very well: you don’t necessarily need such products, but you can supplement your diet with them if necessary. A healthy, balanced and varied diet is essential for your body, and this also applies to building muscle. For maximum success in muscle growth, you should eat protein-rich foods every day and cleverly vary animal and plant proteins. This way, your body gets all the essential amino acids. Protein powders are therefore no better than natural, protein-rich foods – but they can certainly supplement your diet because they provide high-quality protein.

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8. Too much protein damages the kidneys

The classic among protein myths. The fact is: If you have two healthy kidneys, you don’t need to worry about possible kidney damage from too much protein. Various studies have already shown that high protein consumption (up to 4 grams per kilo of body weight, really HIGH!) has no negative impact on the health of the kidneys in a healthy person. However, if you have a known kidney disease or a hereditary predisposition, you should clarify with your doctor how high your daily protein requirement should ideally be.

Conclusion: Don’t believe all protein myths

With so many claims about protein, it’s hard to separate myths from facts. It’s true, for example, that proteins help you lose weight and build muscle (but only in combination with strength training). And don’t worry: if you’re healthy, high protein consumption won’t harm your kidneys.

Sources mentioned

Jose Antonio et al.: The effects of a high protein diet on indices of health and body composition–a crossover trial in resistance-trained men. Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition, January 2016, doi 10.1186/s12970-016-0114-2