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 essential foods can affect our bodies.
Protein is essential for repairing and forming muscle, producing hormones, staying full, having healthy bones, and more; but does too little or too much protein have negative side effects?
Let’s find out!
Too Little Protein
A low-protein or protein-deficient diet is typical and can cause health problems.
Weight Loss—We don’t mean the good kind, like reducing body fat. Instead, overall weight loss is an effect of a low-protein, and most likely, a calorie-deficient diet. If you’re not eating enough, your body will use protein as its first fuel source rather than creating muscle.
Muscle Loss—Protein aids in building muscle, but like we mentioned above, if your protein is being used for fuel, you won’t gain or even maintain muscle and can even lose muscle mass. As we age (usually around age 35 for women and as early as age 25 for men), we usually start losing muscle mass.
Liver Issues—Certain areas of our bodies need different nutrients to function properly. Protein is important for healthy liver functions. Not enough and you could damage your liver.
Joint Pain—Strong, healthy muscles help keep joints in place. Protein is used to build and fix muscle, but with a reduced 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 bad, however low blood pressure restricts the flow of essential nutrients and oxygen to vital organs and tissue. In addition, you could end up with anemia, which is a condition where your body can’t create enough red blood cells.
Edema—This is a condition in which swelling develops, usually 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 areas, it could be evidence of low protein consumption.
Immune System & Recovery—Your immune system needs protein to stay healthy. If you’re getting sick frequently 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 aren’t eating enough protein.
Cravings—Too many carbs and not enough protein can cause unwanted food cravings. If you’re finding yourself wanting more snacks, you’re probably not eating enough protein and too many carbs.
Too Much Protein
So what about too much protein? While it’s more difficult to eat too much protein, there are some health concerns and general knowledge about how much is appropriate and how much is “extra.”
Kidney Failure—A common concern of a high-protein diet, kidney failure, is only a possibility if you are eating 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 have too much protein it will be accumulated as fat. Our bodies are not efficient at converting proteins into fat like with carbs, however it eventually does. Like eating too much of anything, weight gain can still take place. 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. Recent studies have shown 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 assist in muscle growth, but having 50 grams per meal won’t have any more positive impact 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 concluded that strength trainers who ate 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 figuring out your meals and types of proteins, 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 acceptable, but keep it lean and always keep an eye on the portions. For plant-based proteins, beans, quinoa, nuts, and soy are ideal sources to use.
At Farrell's, we show our members simple, decent, balanced nutrition so their bodies are working effectively and efficiently, enabling them to perform at their best performance in and out of the gym.
We assign protein, carb, and fat amounts over the course of six daily meals, ensuring members are having the correct amounts of each macronutrient source.
To get more information about the Farrell's group fitness program and nutrition coaching, contact your local Farrell's today!
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