Fit, Fabulous, and the Power of Protein


Protein and spinal cord injuries: how much protein do we really need and why?  This article is not just for SCI women, it’s for men, teenagers, and babies.  We all need protein, but what for?

The benefits and the mysteries of protein can be further broken down (pun intended) by our dietician.  Being a nurse that is also spinal cord injured, I would rather discuss our needs for protein and the dangers of not consuming enough.

This was a great statement from WebMD: “It’s easy to understand the excitement. Protein is an important component of every cell in the body. Hair and nails are mostly made of protein. Your body uses protein to build and repair tissues. You also use protein to make enzymes, hormones, and other body chemicals. Protein is an important building block of bones, muscles, cartilage, skin, and blood…But unlike fat and carbohydrates, protein is not stored in the body and therefore has no reservoir to draw on when it needs a new supply.”  We can NOT store protein.  For wound healing, some protein must be consumed every day.  Symptoms of not enough protein in the diet include fatigue, muscle wasting, blood sugar instability, low blood pressure, swelling due to water retention, and many others.

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Your body uses protein to build and repair tissues. Image by Dave Cameron for

Protein in necessary in our daily dietary intake but when injury occurs to our skin, more protein may be needed to aid in healing. Sometimes doubling the protein intake is necessary.  How much is actually needed on a daily basis for healthy individuals? The rule of thumb is 56 grams per day for men and 46 grams per day for women.  The popular low-carb, high-protein diets can contain about 145 grams of protein or more.

Depending on articles read, they will state the dangers of eating too much protein foods.  Weigh the benefits of protein. If you have a skin breakdown or a bedsore, then increased protein is beneficial.  I try to consume some form of protein at each meal.  Do I measure the amounts of protein I consume? No, but having a bedsore after my accident, I found it beneficial to consume some protein at every meal and if my skin has a breakdown or injury, as it will occasionally, then I increase my consumption of protein-rich foods and supplements.

You may ask, “How do I get the protein?”  Well, a rule of thumb is an ounce of cooked meat is about 7 grams of protein, an egg is about 7 grams of protein, and an eight ounce cup of milk contains about 8 grams of protein.  I keep cheese sticks in my fridge for a healthy snack and one stick contains five grams for protein.  As I have mentioned in other articles, read the labels, an ounce of peanuts contains 7 grams of protein. If nothing else, smear two tablespoons of peanut butter on anything because it contains 8 grams of protein.  By doing the math, it doesn’t take much to get enough protein.  Discussion of consuming a 16 oz. steak is not even needed.

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Vegan Protein Sources

In an article written by Nancy Collins, PhD, she states “Nutrition is a critical factor in the wound healing process, with adequate protein intake essential to the successful healing of a wound. Patients with both chronic and acute wounds, such as postsurgical wounds or pressure ulcers, such as bedsores that we as spinal cord injured people easily acquire, require an increased amount of protein to ensure complete and timely healing of their wounds.”  She includes the recommendations for increased protein but the one that relates to us is for patients with pressure ulcers, the recommendation is also 1 to 1.5 g/kg; those with deep ulcers or multiple pressure-ulcer sites may need 1.5 to 2 g/kg.  If I have a skin breakdown, abrasion or cut, in my lower extremity, then I increase protein until healing has occurred.  Being a spinal cord injured woman, my perfusion has decreased in my lower extremities, so I use all the help I can get.  As a nurse, I am very tuned into my body and its needs.

How would I add protein to my diet for healing, you may ask.  There are many ways but adding meat, eggs, and/or cheese to any dish helps.  You may also purchase supplemental nutritional protein drinks, beverages, and/or bars.

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a protein shake can be a delicious way to get the daily requirement.

In the opening paragraph, I mentioned I would discuss the dangers of too much protein.  As I stated earlier, protein cannot be stored.  Because protein is unable to be stored, extra protein is converted and stored as fat.  Also extra protein has been linked to a loss of calcium.  Women are at an increased risk of loss of calcium due to osteoporosis concerns.  You know as the saying goes, “Too much of a good thing can be bad too.”

As a nurse and a woman, I am aware that some of these articles are not the most riveting but I try to remove any questions that may surface as a spinal cord injured person.  Tuck the information provided away for a rainy day. We could all use protein in wound healing.  Power to the protein.


Fit life.   Obtained July 20, 2015 from

How dietary protein intake promotes healing.  Obtained July 9, 2015 from

The benefits of protein.  Obtained July 1, 2015 from

The effects of not enough protein in the diet.  Obtained July 22, 2015 from

Where’s the beef?  Where’s the health benefit?  Obtained June 30, 2015 from

For questions, you can “Ask Patty

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The Rollin RN, Patty Kunze, RNC, BSN

Patty has been a Nurse for 31 years, since 1983. She actually worked for two years prior to her spinal cord injury (SCI) in the SCI Unit at the Veterans Hospita,l working with new injuries. She then transferred to neonatal intensive care and ultimately to education of students in nursing.

Patty, The Rolling RN, Is A Regular Contributor To PUSHLiving

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