Protein and a Healthy Liver

Protein: How much do we need?

One of the biggest concerns among athletes and people concerned about a healthy diet, healthy liver, and healthy weight is the amount of protein they should be consuming.

Americans are often said, by observers from abroad, to be obsessed with it.

Supplements, tablets, powders, and high protein foods like meats, cheeses, and eggs are the pre-occupation of many nutrition-conscious people in this country.

Believe it or not, it is possible to get an adequate intake through diet alone.

If you are eating a variety of foods with enough calories to maintain your weight, you should be getting an adequate amount in your diet. Protein shakes or supplements are likely not needed. Your liver is going to have to process any excess protein which means less energy for you.

The supplements are no better, or no worse, than getting your protein from food, but they are typically more expensive and can lack nutrients that are found only in whole foods, and your liver prefers the whole foods for the extra nutrients.

Think about the fact that a Gorilla consumes a vegetarian diet for the most part, and so does an elephant. Both are extremely powerful and strong without eating a diet full of meat or protein supplements.

There are some liver, and other, health concerns linked to excessive protein intake:

  • Some high-protein diets restrict carbohydrate intake so much that they can result in nutritional deficiencies, or insufficient fiber. This can cause such health problems as constipation and diverticulitis, and may increase your risk for certain types of cancer.
  • High-protein diets often promote foods such as red meat and full-fat dairy products. Some experts believe that for some people a diet rich in these foods can increase their risk of heart disease.
  • A high-protein diet may cause or worsen liver or kidney problems because your body may already have trouble eliminating all the waste products of protein metabolism.

Just be sure to choose your protein wisely. A few good, high quality, and liver-friendly protein food choices are listed below.

Include carbs in your diet that are high in fiber, such as whole grains and nutrient-dense vegetables and fruits.

Always be cautious if you have kidney disease, liver disease or diabetes, if you're taking medication for a chronic health condition, or if you're pregnant or breastfeeding, and talk to your doctor before starting a high-protein diet.

How Much Protein for a Healthy Liver and Body?

The current recommendation for protein intake for healthy adults is approximately 0.8 g protein per kilogram of body weight per day.

Pregnant and breastfeeding women, and people over the age of 70 may require closer to 1 g per kilogram of body weight per day.

For those of us who measure our body weight in pounds; divide your weight in pounds by 2.2 to find out how much you weigh in kilograms.

Now what about the athletes? If you are working out a few times a week for an hour or less each time, you probably don’t need additional protein. The protein recommendations for endurance athletes and strength-trained athletes are slightly higher.

According to the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) and the American Dietetic Association (ADA), protein requirements are slightly increased in highly active people:

Protein recommendations for endurance athletes are 1.2 to 1.4 g per kilogram of body weight per day, whereas those for resistance and strength-trained athletes may be as high as 1.6 to 1.7 g per kilogram of body weight per day.

These recommended protein intakes can generally be met through diet alone, without the use of protein or amino acid supplements, if energy intake is adequate to maintain body weight.

The ACSM and the ADA also state that quality protein consumed after exercise will provide amino acids for the building and repair of muscle tissue.

Athletes should consume a mixed meal providing carbohydrates, protein, and fat soon after a strenuous competition or training session.

Quality Protein Foods for a Healthy Liver and Muscles

If you're consuming a healthy, liver-friendly diet you are going to be consuming healthy protein. The following is a list of some of the highest quality, high protein foods:

  1. Eggs are very nutrient dense and energy dense with lots of vitamins, protein and fats. One egg may contain over six grams of protein and several important nutrients.

    That's really good news because eggs are very satisfying. Eating an egg (or two, if you love them as I do) as part of a healthy breakfast may help you lose weight by keeping you from getting hungry later in the morning, really!

  2. Fish is an excellent high protein food that should be a regular part of your diet. Fish contains very high amounts of quality protein, virtually no carbohydrates, and little saturated fat. Fish is very good for your liver health.

    The most beneficial fish to eat are those of the cold water variety such as salmon, trout and sardines. These fish are not only an excellent source of protein, but also high in omega 3 fatty acids.

  3. Fowl is an excellent high protein food, as it contains high amounts of quality protein, and little fat. The white meat of chicken and turkey are the most economical and popular choices of fowl.
  4. Beans, peas, and lentils are delicious and highly nutritious foods (and inexpensive!). They are an excellent source of high quality protein, and unlike most other muscle building foods, contains high amounts of fiber.

    Kidney beans in particular pack a real punch, as they contain a whopping 14 grams of protein, and 11 grams of fiber per cup. And beans can be consumed by vegetarians.

    By the way, your liver loves all of the fiber and nutrients beans provide.

  5. Lean cuts of red meat are a good high protein food. You don't have to stick to beef alone. Buffalo and venison are also excellent choices.

    I have three deer hunters in my household which means lots of venison. I have discovered that you can substitute venison for beef in many recipes!

    When possible choose organic, grass-fed beef to avoid those factory-farmed cattle fed diets that are not natural for animals and try not to consume red meat every day.

  6. Low fat cottage cheese, yogurt, and milk are excellent high protein foods, if you aren't allergic to them.

    Each contain high amounts of usable protein. Yogurt offers the additional benefit of live bacterial cultures, which are very good for your digestive system.

    Consume organic diary products whenever possible so your liver doesn't have to deal with added hormones or antibiotics.

  7. Nuts and seeds are other vegetarian sources of protein and extremely liver-friendly. They are a very nutritious and inexpensive source of quality protein and are handy to take on the road for a quick snack.

There is alot of information out there about protein consumption. Keep in mind that the liver has to process all of the excess protein from the supplements and shakes, and in people with liver disease protein consumption is most often decreased.

Always pay close attention to how your body responds to the foods you eat when you are trying to determine the best foods to consume.

Are you tired, bloated, and cranky after that meal or do you feel light, happy, and energetic?

I hope this information helps you make healthy decisions about the protein you consume. At the goal is quality of life for your entire life.

Return from Protein and a Healthy Liver page to The Athlete's Liver page.

Return from Protein and a Healthy Liver page to the home page.