Is a protein detox a yay, or a nay, according to a dietitian?

Dietitian Melissa Meier goes deep on the latest dieting trend – protein detoxes. She explains how even though protein gets a lot of the lime light – it is possible to overdo it.

In the world of wellness, protein gets a lot of the lime light. Rarely shunned from fad diets and commonly touted as *the* nutrient to get onto your plate to help build muscle, tone up and shed fat, you’d be forgiven for thinking you need to eat more of it. Turns out, however, most of us are actually eating too much protein. Enter: the protox (a detox from eating protein, duh).

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Can you eat too much protein?

The simple answer is yes, you can overdo it on the protein front… You might be surprised to learn that just because you’re eating a lot of protein, doesn’t mean it’s automatically converted to lean muscle. An over consumption of any of macronutrient (protein, carbs or fat) will increase your total caloric intake and can therefore lead to weight gain.

Eating too much protein could lead to micronutrient deficiencies, too. Although protein-rich foods offer many essential vitamins and minerals (like energising iron, zinc for wound healing and vitamin B12 for a healthy nervous system), narrowing your focus to protein only could displace other food groups, and therefore limit other micronutrients.

If all you’re worried about is eating chicken breast, for example, your diet could be lacking in wholegrains, dairy and/or vegetables, and therefore the essential nutrients these foods provide (like gut-loving fibre, bone-strengthening calcium and Vitamin C for immunity), which obviously isn’t a good thing.

Should you go on a protox?

No – you absolutely do not need to go on a protein detox (or any other type of detox, for that matter). Why? Protein-rich foods play an important role in any healthy diet. They’re essential for building and maintaining muscle mass, they keep you feeling full and they’re nutrient-dense. There is absolutely no need to shun protein from your diet altogether.

With that being said, you’re recommended to have a diet consisting of just 15 to 25 per cent protein. That’s right – only a quarter, or less. Based on the average daily energy intake of 8700kJ (2080cal), that’s just 77 to 128 grams of protein per day – and that’s *very* easy to achieve with a balanced diet (goodbye huge slabs of steak and copious protein shakes…).

Protein is found in many different foods – not just red meat and chicken. You’ll find it in seafood and eggs, dairy and many plant foods, including tofu, legumes, nuts and seeds. Wholegrains, like brown grainy bread and rolled oats, can provide a small boost of protein, too.

To give you a helping hand with nailing your protein portions, here’s a healthy day on a plate that provides plenty of protein for an 18-50 year old female, along with a good balance of other food groups and nutrients, too.

  • Breakfast – half a cup of muesli, 170g plain Greek yoghurt, two passionfruits and 30g macadamias
  • Snack – one milk-based coffee and a banana
  • Lunch – roasted vegetable salad with one cup of chickpeas, one hard-boiled egg and 40g cheddar cheese
  • Snack – one piece of wholegrain toast and half a tablespoon of peanut butter
  • Dinner – 100g salmon and healthy homemade fried rice, made with vegetables and brown rice

Melissa Meier is a Sydney-based accredited practising dietitian. You can connect with her on Instagram @honest_nutrition.