Beyond Protein I Say

Men love food. Not only do we generally eat more of it than our female counterparts, food (especially meat) plays a significant role in how we produce our identities as men and how we relate to each other. As poignantly stated by one of the chefs, er, manly food cookers, in Man Cooking: Swiss Meat Roll, “Little known fact, weaving is manly, as long as you’re weaving with BACON!” Meat, cooking (particularly with fire, not an induction stove top), and our ideas about manliness are inextricably linked to one another in the defining of the masculine. The average male body requires more protein than a female one simply by virtue of body size, we’re generally bigger, unless you’re a giant Dutch woman… But how much do our bodies actually need? According to Gloria Tsang, Registered Dietician for

The average requirement is calculated based on 0.8 grams of protein per kg of body weight. Therefore, a 165 pound (75 kg) man would need 60 grams of protein daily. In general, both healthy men and women (regardless of body size) will do fine with 60 grams of protein a day. That is equivalent to eight ounces of meat.

I’m about 170 pounds or 77 kg, so according to this calculation, my daily protein needs average to about 61 grams a day. 8 ounces of meat? That’s about the size of a deck of cards! If you’re the average guy like me, you eat far more than a deck of cards worth of meat a day, chances are you’ve eaten a Caesar’s Palace worth in one sitting. The average Canadian eats about 62.61 kg (132 lbs) of meat (inclusive of red, seafood, and poultry) a year. 132 lbs!? That’s a f*cking person worth of flesh! Nonetheless, that averages out to about 172 grams a day, nearly three times the necessary intake for the general man population without counting non-meat sources of protein.

Despite the fact that the average man (read: not an elite athlete, ‘roid monkey, or Chuck Norris) doesn’t need any more protein for nutrition’s sake, according to Food Ethics Council, the worldwide consumption of meat is expected to be double the 229 million tonnes we consumed in 2000 by 2050, especially in heavily populated and increasingly wealthy countries like China where the population already consumes nearly 50% of the world’s supply of pork. And you thought you liked bacon… Human bodies haven’t changed much over the last few thousand years (sorry Kansas) and neither have our dietary requirements. Although our diets have become arguably richer and more diverse due to the advancement of agricultural practices, food science and globalization – the rates of cardiovascular diseases, colorectal cancers, and prevalence of gynecomastia (a.k.a. ‘manboobs’ or ‘moobs’) amongst men is higher than it has ever been (manbra sales up?).

While blaming our health woes and jiggling man breasts on the increased consumption of meat is far too simplistic, it is a difficult factor to ignore. Our failing health coincides with the feverish global dialogue about global warming, the environment and sustainability, and whether or not you believe in any of those things, it’s a fact that the aptly named “diseases of affluence” are severely impacting the quality of life for our brothers, fathers, partners, friends, and ourselves.

What’s happening to us is far more subversive, widely ignored, and deeply rooted in our conceptions about masculinity; the solution more complex than the popularized “go green, buy green” attitude. Mass media, the health and fitness industries, dusty gender stereotypes, the economy; all valid areas to direct our questions. Given the consequences, I think it’s time we began to look for answers. Let’s start at that bucket of fried chicken.

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