Patient Education

All About Dietary Protein

Protein is a macronutrient that helps to build and maintain muscle and tissue (other macronutrients are fat and carbohydrate). Protein is made up of amino acids and is required in every cellular function. Some protein exists naturally within our bodies, and some is required through food. This protein, known as dietary protein, is essential to life.

The SHAPE ReClaimed program requires that you eat a minimum of 8 oz. of dietary protein daily, with increases based on your practitioner’s recommendation. Always measure dietary protein sources in ounces (oz.), not number of grams per serving. You can use a food scale to measure by weight or a measuring cup to measure by volume.

Dietary protein

Because not all sources of dietary protein are purely protein, we classify proteins into dense, mid-dense and non-dense:

  • Dense protein includes beef, poultry and fish. While these foods contain mostly dietary protein, they also contain some fat. When cooking with dense proteins, be sure to cut off visible fat before cooking and measure after cooking.
  • Mid-dense protein includes eggs and tofu. They contain protein, but also a fair amount of fat and a small amount of carbohydrates.
  • Non-dense protein includes yogurt and cottage cheese. These foods contain protein, some fat (in 2% cottage cheese) and carbohydrates in the form of lactose, a naturally-occurring sugar.

The following chart breaks down these differences:

Serving Size (4 oz) Calories Fat Carb Protein
Dense Beef, 90% lean 200 11 g 0 g 23 g
Chicken Breast 120 1 g 0 g 26 g
Halibut 124 2.6 g 0 g 23 g
Mid-Dense Eggs 143 9.6 g 0.8 g 12.6 g
Tofu 72 4 g 4 g 8 g
Non-Dense Greek Yogurt, Non-Fat 65 0 g 4.5 g 11.5 g
Cottage Cheese, 2% 90 2.5 g 4 g 13 g

If you’re a vegetarian, you won’t be eating any dense proteins, so in order to meet your daily requirements, you’ll need to consume more than the minimum 8 oz. of mid-dense and non-dense dietary proteins. Your practitioner will help you determine what is necessary for your success or you may decide that you feel better adding a few dense protein options.

If you’re not a vegetarian, your practitioner will help you determine how much dense protein is necessary based on your urinalysis results. Non-dense protein can be added, up to 14 oz. per day above the minimum dietary protein requirements determined by your practitioner.

Why did SHAPE Central change approved portion sizes for non-dense protein?

Based on clinical observation, we have adjusted the SHAPE ReClaimed program to allow up to 14 oz. of dairy, or non-dense, protein in addition to your minimum protein allowance.

Non-dense proteins, like yogurt and cottage cheese, are not digested and metabolized the same as denser proteins, like meat, poultry and eggs.

dietary protein 2

For example, if you are limited to 8 oz. of protein daily and choose to eat 4 oz. of yogurt and 4 oz. of beef, you will feel as though you are starving. This is because eating 4 oz. of yogurt does not have the same thermogenic (energy producing) effect on the body as eating 4 oz. of beef.

We also found that, while many patients start with 8 oz. of protein, they often have that amount increased based on their total health history, their response to the program and the results of their urinalysis. And some people, including vegetarians, simply prefer dairy over meat for their protein requirements. Those who rely on dairy tend to struggle more with their protein requirements.

In addition, trying to come to a standardized recommendation for how to measure and count dairy protein was an exercise in futility. A 4 oz. steak is the same weight and grams of dietary protein no matter how you look at it, but that is not the case with dairy. Depending on the form, 4 oz. of yogurt may have more or less protein than 4 oz. of cottage cheese.

Keep in mind that this change to allow an additional 14 oz. of dairy each day is not a mandate. Just because you are allowed to have 14 oz. a day doesn’t mean you have to eat 14 oz. a day. If you are dairy sensitive, you should avoid these dietary protein choices altogether. If you increase your non-dense protein intake and your progress slows, go back to what you were doing before. If you feel better eating more dairy, continue to do so. Always discuss any changes with your practitioner.

What about protein days?

Protein days should only be done in Phase III or as recommended by your practitioner. Your guidebook explains more about how to do a protein day. You can also read our position on this subject by clicking here. If your practitioner recommends that you do a protein day, be sure to choose only dense protein sources. If you’re a vegetarian, talk with your practitioner about the best way to do a protein day.

Remember: the SHAPE ReClaimed program is not, and never has been, a “one size fits all” program. We realize that each of our SHAPE Warriors is different. It’s up to you and your practitioner to determine what is best for your SHAPE ReClaimed journey.

protein day steak

SHAPE Central will continue to study the health effects of various foods, products and ingredients, which may result in changes to our program from time to time. Please know that we are intentional with our program, and all decisions are made with your health and success in mind.

August 6, 2018