Article At A Glance:
Protein is a crucial component in the recovery process for individuals suffering from addiction. This essential macronutrient is responsible for regulating hunger, reducing cravings, building muscle, synthesizing neurotransmitters, repairing cellular damage, and preventing malnutrition.
Getting optimal protein intake can be difficult, so understanding dietary sources and having a quality protein powder can be beneficial.
In this article, we delve into the importance of protein in addiction recovery, underscore how much you should be consuming and recommendations on quality sources.
Why Is Protein Important for Addiction Recovery?
Protein is one of the core essential macronutrients in the diet, responsible for the structure of all body tissue, organs, and the production of critical hormones and neurotransmitters.
This means without adequate protein intake, we can see impacts on some of the following core areas:
- Craving dysregulation: Protein plays a role in regulating hunger and reducing cravings, an important area in ensuring long-term sobriety (Leidy, 2014).
- Muscle mass: Protein is made up of Amino acids, which are the building blocks for muscle repair and growth. Weight loss is a common concern in substance abuse individuals, and this is often due to poor nutrient intake and malnutrition (Cowan & Devine, 2008).
- Mood & energy: We need protein (or Amino acids) for synthesising neurotransmitters, which play a critical role in many areas associated with mood, motivation and energy levels, overall supporting recovery from addiction (Tomkins & Sellers, 2001).
- Cellular repair from addiction: When we do drugs or consume alcohol in excess, we can damage vital organs, inhibit metabolic processes and impact our digestion. Consuming adequate protein can help these areas repair, which can better support addiction recovery (Zakhari, 2006).
- Malnutrition: Poor nutrient intake is often one of the most common factors that impact individuals going through substance abuse. Although there’s an array of key nutrients to consider, protein intake is one of them, as chronic substance abuse impairs protein metabolism, making protein intake extremely important in addiction recovery (Jeynes & Gibson, 2017).
Basically, we need protein to function optimally, making it a pretty big deal in addiction recovery.
I write more about Whey Protein in this article – Whey Protein: Why You Shouldn’t Just Buy The Cheapest & How Premium Grade Whey Could Be Better.
How Much Protein Should I Consume Though?
Optimal protein intake depends on your weight, goal and level of physical activity.
As a general rule of thumb, you should be aiming for at least 1.2-1.8 grams per kilogram of body weight (Optimal Protein Intake Guide, 2023).
If you’re 85kg, you should be aiming for 102g-153g of protein intake daily.
Keep in mind this is a general snapshot and doesn’t include varying levels of exercise, pregnancy or other fitness goals, so I suggest using a Protein Intake Calculator.
Consuming the correct amount of protein per day can better help support our physiology, and allow important processes to repair and function correctly in addiction recovery.
Where Should I Source My Protein From?
Dietary sources of protein should always be top of mind, and when planning meals, start with the protein source first.
Some key dietary sources of protein include:
- Meat (Red Meat, Poultry, Seafood)
- This can be beef, pork, chicken etc. Try to go grass-fed and free-range if you can!
- Eggs –
- Try to go cage-free / barn-laid eggs.
- Dairy (Milk, Cheese and Yoghurts).
- Aim for raw milk, or at least non-homogenised milk, and aged cheeses are always best.
- Nuts and Seeds.
- Legumes (Peas and Beans).
- Try and soak your legumes for 24 hours prior to use if you can, this deactivates some of the compounds that can cause gut issues.
- Soy and Tofu.
- Grains (Quinoa, Rice).
It’s also a good idea to have a quality protein powder on hand, which can be used to supplement in between meals to easily hit those daily protein targets.
Having a good protein powder on hand can do wonders, and can be mixed into snacks such as yoghurts, or added into cooking to elevate the protein content of baked goods.
Protein is important for addiction recovery as it plays a key role in regulating hunger, reducing cravings, building muscle, synthesizing neurotransmitters, repairing cellular damage, and preventing malnutrition.
Optimal protein intake varies based on weight and physical activity and can be obtained from dietary sources such as meat, eggs, dairy, nuts, legumes, soy, and grains.
Supplementing with protein powder can also be helpful, and the brand UM Sports, which uses premium Fonterra whey, is what I recommend. The correct amount of protein intake is essential to support the physiological processes needed for addiction recovery.
If you have any feedback regarding this article, reach out. Help Clarity reach more people and quit addiction by following us on Instagram, it’s also the perfect place to message us and ask questions!
- Cowan, J., & Devine, C. (2008). Food, eating, and weight concerns of men in recovery from substance addiction. Appetite, 50(1), 33–42. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.appet.2007.05.006
- Jeynes, K. D., & Gibson, E. L. (2017). The importance of nutrition in aiding recovery from substance use disorders: A review. Drug and Alcohol Dependence, 179, 229–239. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.drugalcdep.2017.07.006
- Leidy, H. J. (2014). Increased dietary protein as a dietary strategy to prevent and/or treat obesity. Missouri Medicine, 111(1), 54–58. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6179508/
- Optimal Protein Intake Guide. (2023). Examine.com. https://examine.com/guides/protein-intake/
- Tomkins, D. M., & Sellers, E. M. (2001). Addiction and the brain: the role of neurotransmitters in the cause and treatment of drug dependence. CMAJ : Canadian Medical Association Journal = Journal de l’Association Medicale Canadienne, 164(6), 817–821. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC80880/
- Zakhari, S. (2006). Overview: how is alcohol metabolized by the body? Alcohol Research & Health: The Journal of the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, 29(4), 245–254. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/17718403/
Former drinker, Nutritionist, Biohacking enthusiast, self-experimenter, research fanatic, and self-taught writer, Stephen immerses himself deep into the literature of human optimisation and better understand the nature of addiction. His goal is to help people take control of their addiction, reset their cravings, unscramble their broken brain circuitry and use actionable strategies that work ten times better than anything else.