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 necessary and how too little or too much of these basic foods can impact our bodies.
Protein is essential for mending and forming muscle, making hormones, staying satisfied, having healthy bones, and more; but does too little or too much protein have negative side effects?
Let’s learn more!
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 losing body fat. Instead, overall weight loss is an effect of a low-protein, and most likely, a limited calorie diet. If you’re limiting food, your body will use protein as a fuel source first instead of adding 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 decrease muscle mass. As we age (usually around age 35 for women and as early as age 25 for men), we generally start losing muscle mass.
Liver Issues—Particular portions of our bodies need different resources to function properly. Protein is vital for healthy liver functions. Not 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 basic fuel function, rather than building muscle to keep joints strong and stable, which could lead to achy joints.
Low Blood Pressure—This may not seem bad, however low blood pressure limits the movement of essential nutrients and oxygen to vital organs and tissue. In addition, you could have anemia, which is a condition where your body can’t make 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 block fluids from accumulating in tissue. If you notice swelling in these areas, it could be a sign of not eating enough protein.
Immune System & Recovery—Your immune system needs protein to stay healthy. If you’re getting sick frequently or can’t beat those common colds, it could be from low protein consumption. It’s the same with recovering from an injury. Proteins are needed to mend tissue and muscle. It will take longer to recover from an injury if you aren’t eating enough protein.
Cravings—Too many carbs and not enough protein can lead to unwanted food cravings. If you’re finding yourself eating more snacks, you’re possibly not eating 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 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 keep your protein sources between 50% non-meat 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 skilled 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 process of turning protein amino acids into muscle. The latest 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 assist in muscle growth, but eating 50 grams per meal won’t have any more positive influence on building muscles. Bigger 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 weightlifters 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 planning your meals and types of proteins, we recommend a healthy balance of both plant- and animal-based proteins. When selecting animal-based proteins, keep it to lean, unprocessed meats like skinless chicken and turkey. Red meat is acceptable, but keep it lean and always limit the portions. For plant-based proteins, beans, quinoa, nuts, and soy are ideal sources to include.
At Farrell's, we teach our members about uncomplicated, proper, balanced nutrition so their bodies are working effectively and efficiently, allowing them to achieve their top performance in and out of the gym.
We set protein, carb, and fat amounts over the course of six daily meals, ensuring members are taking in the right amounts of each macronutrient source.
To find out more about the Farrell's group fitness program and nutrition coaching, contact your local Farrell's today!
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