We’ve all heard the significance 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 mending and forming muscle, making hormones, staying satisfied, bone health, and more; but does too little or too much protein have negative side effects?
Let’s read more about it!
Too Little Protein
A low-protein or protein-deficient diet is typical and can cause health problems.
Weight Loss—This isn’t the good kind, like reducing body fat. Instead, overall weight loss is a result of a low-protein, and most likely, a low calorie diet. If you’re limiting food, your body will use protein as its first fuel source instead of adding muscle.
Muscle Loss—Protein assists in building muscle, but like we said 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 usually start losing muscle mass.
Liver Issues—Certain parts of our bodies need different resources to function properly. Protein is vital 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 reduced or protein-deficient diet your protein is going to be used as a main fuel function, rather than building muscle to keep joints strong and stable, which could lead to joint pain.
Low Blood Pressure—This may not seem bad, however low blood pressure limits the stream of essential nutrients and oxygen to vital organs and tissue. In addition, you could develop anemia, which is a condition where your body can’t produce 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 building up in tissue. If you notice swelling in these areas, it could be a symptom of not eating enough protein.
Immune System & Recovery—Your immune system needs protein to continue being healthy. If you’re getting sick more often or can’t get over those common colds, it could be from low protein consumption. It’s the same with injury recovery. Proteins are needed to repair tissue and muscle. It will take a greater length of time to recover from an injury if you don’t get enough protein.
Cravings—Too many carbs and not enough protein can contribute to unwanted food cravings. If you’re finding yourself wanting more snacks, you’re likely not consuming 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 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 eating a majority of animal-based protein sources like meat or have a kidney disease. To avoid possible kidney issues, aim to equalize 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 accumulated as fat. Our bodies are not skilled at changing proteins into fat like with carbs, however it eventually does. Like eating too much of anything, weight gain can still happen. 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 changing protein amino acids into muscle. Recent studies have found 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 influence on building muscles. Heavier 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 people who lift weights who consumed 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 sources of protein, 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 fine, but keep it lean and always watch the portions. For plant-based proteins, beans, quinoa, nuts, and soy are great sources to use.
At Farrell's, we coach our members on simple, proper, balanced nutrition so their bodies are working effectively and efficiently, enabling them to function at their peak performance in and out of the gym.
We set protein, carb, and fat intake over the course of 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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