Make no mistake: Consumers are interested in protein right now — very interested, almost to the point of infatuation. But bakers need to exercise balance when marketing to this desire.

Higher protein may be suitable for light- to moderate-intensity exercise, but carbs are essential for high-intensity efforts and endurance sports, said Glenn Gaesser, Ph.D., director, Healthy Lifestyles Research Center, and professor, Arizona State University, a leading nutrition and exercise researcher. Dr. Gaesser is a spokesman for the Grain Foods Foundation.

“In fact, high-protein diets have been shown to impair high-intensity exercise performance due to excessive acid build-up in the blood, which reduces exercise tolerance,” he added.

Balance is essential.

“The protein efficiency ratio (PER) is less for grain products compared to protein-rich sources such as dairy and most meat products,” Dr. Gaesser said. “However, if a person consumes a balanced, mixed diet that includes sufficient quantities of protein-rich foods (dairy, eggs and meat), the PER of an individual food, or food group, is not that important.

“The major value of grains (particularly whole grains) is not the protein but rather all the minerals, vitamins, fiber and phytochemicals in grains that are not obtained in the traditional protein-rich foods.”