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Examining Some Dietary Protein Controversies

The following represents the entirety of Chapter 8 from The Protein Book: A Complete Guide for the Coach and Athlete.

Protein Controversies

Before looking at whole proteins and protein powders, I’d like to address some of the most common protein controversies that tend to surround the high protein intakes typically seen in and recommended to athletes. The major ones are kidney function, bone health, and heart disease and colon cancer. Related to the issue of bone health, I’m also going to address the topic of metabolic acidosis and the impact that dietary protein intake has upon it.

Kidney Function

A common criticism of high protein intakes/diets is the concern that they are damaging to the kidneys. This belief seems to stem from the fact that, in individuals with preexisting kidney damage, protein intake often has to be reduced to prevent further development of the disease. Incorrectly, this has been turned around to suggest that high-protein intakes are damaging to the kidneys.… Keep Reading

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Is a Calorie a Calorie?

Nutrition and nutritional science is often controversial in the sense that there may be vast disagreements over individual aspects of it.   And perhaps one of the biggest is the question “Is a calorie a calorie?”   While this seems obvious at first glance, the simple question hides a bit more nuanced debate.

Is a Calorie a Calorie?

The basic debate over whether or not a calorie is a calorie comes down to the following question: is all that matters to the body calorie/energy balance (i.e. calories in versus calories out) or do the source of those calories matter.

How you answer that question sort of depends on what you are talking about.  Are we talking about weight loss?  Fat loss?  Health?  Fullness?  Something else?    This matters but few will define their terms ahead of time.  And this just leads to people arguing across one another, making points about different things.

Now in the simplest sense, a purely energetic one, a calorie is a calorie. … Keep Reading

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Calories, Nutrients, or Food?

In this article, I want to look at a somewhat fundamental aspect of general nutrition; that is the distinction between calorie intake, nutrient intake, and food intake. This is relevant for the simple fact that the average person doesn’t think in terms of calorie intake, and they probably don’t think in terms of nutrient intake. Rather, they think in terms of eating food; thus it’s important to examine the distinction between those three “categories” of intake.


Ignoring the fringe that claims that the calorie counting theory is invalid or doesn’t work, most diet books deal predominantly with calories (everywhere but the US, joules are used). They’ll discuss caloric intake (from food) or caloric expenditure (from activity) or compare the two. In discussing what is happening to the body (weight gain or loss), they’ll compare the energy balance equation which compares calories in to calories out.

So what, you ask, is a calorie?… Keep Reading