by Dr. Alberto Villoldo: At the heart of my Grow a New Body program is a new way of thinking about what you eat and when you eat it…
In a recent blog I mentioned that there are two foods that will prevent you from growing a new body. The first was sugar—this week we tackle the second: Excess protein.
A good general rule for most people is to limit your total protein intake (animal and plant-based) to 200-400 grams or less per week, depending on your weight. Protein makes up about 33 percent of the weight of a piece of beef, so if you eat a 100-gram steak you are getting about 33 grams of protein. Lentils, meanwhile, have 9 grams of protein per 100 grams; salmon has nearly 25 grams of protein per 100 grams.
The key to animal protein is high quality, not high quantity. When we eat meat, we need to be concerned about what the animal ate too. Meats from animals that are not raised on the food nature intended for them are not the best protein source. After all, animals did not graze on the corn that they are fed in the factory farms of today. Make sure that your meat is free range, grass fed, hormone-and-antibiotic-free, and vegetarian. Wild-caught fish are better than farmed fish, which are fed cereal.
Most important, forget about your daily protein intake, and think about weekly protein intake. Our ancestors were hunter-gatherers who consumed all their protein at once when they had a good day of hunting. They feasted and fasted, cycling their protein consumption.
Cycling protein is important. I consume about 300 grams of protein a week, which is perfect for my 165 lb. (75 kg) frame, and level of activity (moderate). And I eat most of my protein on days one and four of the week, in two sittings. So, Sunday and Wednesday, I will have a protein feast, maybe eating at my favorite fish restaurant or having a double scoop of plant-based protein powder at lunch or a helping of black beans and rice, which is a typical Cuban dish and a complete protein.
I know that what I’m telling you flies in the face of our current popular beliefs about our protein needs but stay with me. Years ago, I was a fervent advocate of restricting carbs. Now that new research has come out and I have experienced for myself the benefits of restricting protein intake, I am convinced that eating less protein is key to growing a new body and to sustaining health and longevity. I believe that many Paleo dieters are exposing themselves to increased risk of cancer and degenerative disease because of excessive protein intake.
To understand our basic food requirements, we have to go back to when life first appeared on Earth. Around 2 billion years ago, the first bacteria appeared on Earth. Their mission was to eat and reproduce. When there was lots of food available, they grew strong and multiplied. When
food was scarce during times of starvation, nature turned off reproduction and all their resources went into repair and survival. These early bacteria needed a system to determine if there were abundant nutrients for reproduction or if they needed instead to conserve energy, using scarce food supplies to repair in preparation for a time when food would be more plentiful.
This protein-sensing system is known as TOR (target of rapamycin), and it is shared today by all creatures from bacteria to whales to humans. This is what we now know: Consuming too much animal protein stimulates the TOR pathway, which can cause out-of-control growth of cancer cells. Cancer cells want to multiply quickly.
Why would our bodies be controlled by a process that could end up killing us? Remember that nature selects for the longevity of the species, but not of the individual. It wants us to reproduce so that our species doesn’t become extinct—and if you happen to die on the way to the species surviving, nature shrugs. Your challenge is to work with your natural intelligence to continue to enjoy good health and live long past your reproductive years. Restrict your protein intake and quiet TOR, and your chances of living a long and healthy life improve immensely.
For a species to survive, birth rates need to be higher than death rates—and this must happen even when there are times of extreme hardship. But nature will not allow any animal to reproduce if there is danger of famine or starvation. That’s because carrying and nursing offspring, as mammals do, requires a lot of energy and takes a huge toll on the mother, who must feed herself as well as the young she is carrying. When we practice intermittent fasting (with adequate nutrition) our body focuses on repair and renewal. We literally trick the brain into thinking that there is danger of starvation and that its resources should go into growing a stronger and more resilient body.
The Grow a New Body program works by calibrating the level of TOR in your system. The human TOR system is called mTOR (“m” is for mammalian.) On the Grow a New Body program, you don’t fast for months, just hours, to get a similar result.
Understanding the science behind mTOR allows us to make dietary choices that downregulate it (such as restricting protein) and effectively send our bodies into repair and longevity mode. This is fully explained in my forthcoming book, Grow a New Body, which also offers shamanic practices, along with cutting-edge science, detox strategies, and power-plant foods that can switch on every cell’s ability to regenerate and repair.