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Using Protein For the Prevention and Treatment of Kidney Disease
The health of our kidneys is not something to be taken lightly. There are a number of serious diseases and conditions directly related to the kidneys and some of them are even life threatening. One way to help prevent the onset of kidney disease, or to treat a kidney condition that is already present, is to eat a healthy, well-balanced, protein-rich diet.
What is the role of the kidneys?
Although they are relatively small organs (only about four inches each in length and weigh less than a pound when weighed together), the kidneys play a vital role in our health, even our survival. The kidneys perform an extremely important function in our body: filter waste and excess liquids from the blood. In fact, the kidneys filter more than half of the body’s digested fluids, releasing up to two liters of fluid (urine) each day, and process more than 18 liters of blood each hour of the day.
Diseases and other conditions of the kidneys
There are a number of serious conditions that affect the kidneys, including kidney stones, high blood pressure and diabetes. Many of these conditions, if left untreated, can lead to chronic kidney disease (CKD), a condition that affects 26 million Americans. This condition can eventually lead to kidney failure if the patient does not follow the correct course of treatment, which includes eating a healthy, protein-rich diet.
One of the most commonly heard conditions with the kidneys is kidney stones, which is a very painful condition. There are many ways kidney stones are caused and they are formed from a variety of crystals. Most patients with this condition are Caucasian men between the ages of 40 and 70, and the condition is more common if the patient has a family history of kidney stones and other kidney conditions.
There is a chemical process in most people that keeps the crystals from sticking together and forming lumps, which equate to a hard mass located in the urinary tract. As the lump grows, the condition becomes more and more painful, causing the sufferer a lot of discomfort when urinating. Although most kidney stones pass through the body easily enough on their own, some kidney stones can grow large enough to actually block the urinary tract, requiring emergency medical attention.
There are different types of kidney stones, from calcium oxalate stone to phosphate oxalate stone. Rarer forms of kidney stones include struvite stone and cystine stone. Conditions that can cause kidney stones include gout, too much vitamin D in your system, use of diuretics, and a blockage in your urinary tract. Some hereditary conditions that can lead to kidney disease are:
Hypercaluria – This is a buildup of calcium in the body and is the cause of as many as 50% of all kidney stones.
Cystinuria – This is a rare inherited metabolic condition that causes a buildup of cystine, an amino acid that is created when proteins are broken down in the digestive process.
Hyperoxaluria – This is another inherited metabolic condition directly related to the accumulation of calcium oxalate (a salt) in the blood.
Can protein help kidney conditions like kidney stones?
This is a question that has conflicting answers. On the one hand, having enough protein in our diet is obviously a good choice, but, just like anything else, when using protein to treat kidney disease, moderation is key. To maintain good kidney health (and overall good health in general), we must eat a healthy and balanced diet with the right amounts of proteins, carbohydrates, fats, sugars, etc. When we follow such a diet, we not only reduce the risk of kidney disease, but we also reduce the risk of developing high blood pressure and numerous other health conditions. Often times, having too much protein in our diet (more than 35% of our daily calorie intake) can negatively affect our kidneys and a number of conditions can develop.
Before we discuss how protein can affect chronic kidney disease, let’s look at what protein actually is. Protein is a macronutrient made up of strings of amino acids. There are 22 amino acids that the body must have in order to function, eight essential amino acids and 14 non-essential amino acids. Essential amino acids are so called because they are needed by the body, which is unable to produce them on its own. These amino acids are leucine, lysine, valine, tryptophan, threonine, methionine, isoleucine and phenylalanine.
Get the protein you need
It’s easy to make a few changes to your diet to live a long and healthy life. You need protein, but you also need to know how much protein is enough for your body. This is why you should consult your doctor before starting a high protein diet or any other type of diet.
There are a number of delicious food sources of protein, including meat, fish, poultry, eggs, dairy products, nuts and whole grains that are healthy to add to any diet. However, if you’re not getting enough protein, you can still get what you need by using protein supplements, either included in your meals or used as a meal replacement.
How to know how much protein is enough
According to the American Heart Association, the amount of protein digested daily by the average adult shouldn’t exceed 35 percent of total daily calorie intake. Your doctor can tell you how much protein is good for you, and there’s a way you can make your own estimate, too.
Most average adults require 0.8 grams of protein for every kilogram of body weight per day. This number, when combined with a number of other factors, including your age, level of health and activity level, can help you figure out how much protein you need in your diet. For example, if you are an active person, you can have a little more protein in your diet, because you will cut it out. But if you’re more of a stay-at-home, your body may only require half of what the average person usually needs.
The following is a formula you can use to figure out how much protein you need: Divide your weight (in pounds) by 2.2, which will give you your metric weight. Then, multiply this number by 0.4 if you’re a couch potato, 0.5 to 0.8 if you’re active enough, and 8 to 1 if you’re active enough. If you are a bodybuilder, you may need 1.2-1.6 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight.
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