We’ve all heard the value of eating a balanced diet of protein, carbohydrates, vegetables, and fats, but what we don’t often hear about is why it’s needed and how too little or too much of these basic foods can affect our bodies.
Protein is essential for mending and forming muscle, hormone production, staying satiated (full), creating healthy bones, and more; but does too little or too much protein have adverse side effects?
Let’s read more about it!
Too Little Protein
A low-protein or protein-deficient diet is ordinary and can cause health problems.
Weight Loss—We’re not talking the good kind, like body fat loss. Instead, overall weight loss is an effect of a low-protein, and most likely, a limited calorie diet. If you’re not eating enough, your body will use protein as a fuel source first as opposed to adding muscle.
Muscle Loss—Protein aids in building muscle, but like we stated above, if your protein is being used for fuel, you won’t increase or even maintain muscle and can even decrease muscle mass. As we get older (usually around age 35 for women and as early as age 25 for men), we naturally start losing muscle mass.
Liver Issues—Particular portions of our bodies need different components to function properly. Protein is important for healthy liver functions. Don’t eat enough and you could develop liver disease.
Joint Pain—Strong, healthy muscles help keep joints in place. Protein is used to add and repair muscle, but with a limited or protein-deficient diet your protein is going to be used as a basic fuel function, rather than building muscle to keep joints strong and stable, which could lead to joint discomfort.
Low Blood Pressure—This may not seem problematic, however low blood pressure restricts the movement of essential nutrients and oxygen to vital organs and tissue. In addition, you could develop anemia, which happens when your body can’t create enough red blood cells.
Edema—This is a condition in which swelling occurs, often in the hands, feet, and ankles, from body fluid trapped in the tissue. Protein helps stop fluids from accumulating in tissue. If you notice swelling in these locations, it could be a sign of low protein consumption.
Immune System & Recovery—Your immune system needs protein to stay healthy. If you’re getting sick more often or can’t recover from those common colds, it could be from low protein consumption. It’s the same with healing an injury. Proteins are needed to repair tissue and muscle. It will take more time to get over an injury if you don’t get enough protein.
Cravings—Too many carbs and not enough protein can lead to unwanted food cravings. If you’re finding yourself reaching for more snacks, you’re likely not getting enough protein and too many carbs.
Too Much Protein
So what about too much protein? While it’s harder to eat too much protein, there are some health concerns and general knowledge about how much is suitable and how much is “extra.”
Kidney Failure—A common concern of a high-protein diet, kidney failure, is only a risk if you are consuming a majority of animal-based protein sources like meat or have a kidney disease. To avoid possible kidney troubles, aim to balance your protein sources between 50% vegetarian and 50% lean, unprocessed meat-based.
Weight Gain—Protein helps build muscle, and like carbs, if we eat too much protein it will be stored as fat. Our bodies are not efficient at turning proteins into fat like with carbs, however it eventually does. Like eating too much of anything, weight gain can still occur. A six-year study of 7,000 participants found that those who ate a high-protein diet were 90% more likely to gain up to 10% of their body weight.
Building Muscle—Muscle protein synthesis is the method of turning protein amino acids into muscle. New studies have determined that there is a limit to muscle growth in a high-protein diet, which is about 30 grams per meal. What does that mean? Consuming 30 grams versus 20 grams will aid muscle growth, but consuming 50 grams per meal won’t have any more positive influence on building muscles. Larger individuals may need a little more on average, but essentially, there is a cap to protein intake related to muscle growth.
A 2014 study in the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition found that strength trainers who had 5.5 times the recommended daily protein (that’s just over 2 grams per pound of body weight) saw no positive or negative effect on body composition.
When preparing your meals and protein sources, we recommend a healthy balance of both plant- and animal-based proteins. When selecting animal-based proteins, stick with lean, unprocessed meats like skin-free chicken and turkey. Red meat is OK, but keep it lean and always keep an eye on the portions. For plant-based proteins, beans, quinoa, nuts, and soy are great sources to use.
At Farrell's, we teach our members about uncomplicated, decent, balanced nutrition so their bodies are working effectively and efficiently, allowing them to perform at their best performance in and out of the gym.
We assign protein, carb, and fat intake for six daily meals, ensuring members are taking in the right amounts of each macronutrient source.
To learn more about the Farrell's group fitness program and nutrition coaching, contact your local Farrell's today!
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