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This week we respond to questions about high protein diets and insomnia.

Dear HOUSE Calls,    

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My boyfriend is on a high protein diet to build muscle.  How much protein is too much?

A high protein and low carbohydrate diet is increasingly common for weight loss and building muscle mass.

There was some concern on the part of the medical community early on that these high protein diets might increase blood levels of bad cholesterol or place a strain on the kidneys as they eliminate the byproducts of protein metabolism.

The first concern has largely been unfounded with high protein diets for weight loss. We find that losing weight by almost any means improves cholesterol profiles. As far as the kidney strain, we tell people with healthy kidneys that this is not an important concern of a typical high protein diet for weight loss.

This may not be true to a high protein diet directed at muscle building, especially as microscopic injury and healing (primary goals of body building) leads to an increase in muscle turnover. A diet high in plant-based proteins or mixed sources might be a little better than one based solely on animal proteins. Some experts recommend a maximum of 0.5 to 0.8 grams of protein per pound of weight for endurance and strength trained athletes. That is about 80 grams to 125 grams for a person that weighs 160 pounds, or about double the US recommended daily allowance.

Dear HOUSE Calls,    

I’m having trouble sleeping at night and I don’t want to use sleeping pills because of their side effects.  What do you recommend?

That is great that you want to find non-medicine ways to work on this problem.

We recommend looking at ways that you could change your lifestyle to increase the quality of your sleep. There are common sense things like not drinking caffeine too late in the day, as well as trying to keep a consistent waking time and bedtime.

We also tell people to keep bedroom dark and quiet, and the bedroom should be reserved for sex and sleep. Reading and watching TV are great ways to settle down, but should not be done in the bedroom if you are having trouble with sleep. Try to avoid being plugged in (no ipad, smart phone, etc) too close to bedtime.

Try cutting out alcohol for awhile—a drink may help you fall asleep but is likely to interfere to sleep quality. Avoid exercise for about two hours before bedtime. Try relaxation exercises at night, such as mediation to settle down before bedtime.

If those things don’t work, melatonin or an occasional diphenhydramine (Benadryl) are good options.  Sweet dreams!

HOUSE Calls is a weekly column by Dr. Adam Zolotor, Dr. Adam Goldstein, and Dr. Cristy Page on behalf of YOUR HEALTH™ and the UNC Department of Family Medicine.

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