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 important and how too little or too much of these basic foods can affect our bodies.
Protein is essential for restoring and creating muscle, hormone production, staying satisfied, bone health, and more; but does too little or too much protein have harmful side effects?
Let’s learn more!
Too Little Protein
A low-protein or protein-deficient diet is typical and can lead to health concerns.
Weight Loss—This isn’t the good kind, like losing body fat. Instead, overall weight loss is an effect of a low-protein, and most likely, a low calorie diet. If you’re not getting enough calories, your body will use protein as a primary fuel source rather than 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 build 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 usually start losing muscle mass.
Liver Issues—Specific portions of our bodies need different components to function properly. Protein is vital for healthy liver functions. Too little and you could develop liver disease.
Joint Pain—Strong, healthy muscles help keep joints in place. Protein is used to build and fix muscle, but with a low 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 like a problem, however low blood pressure limits the movement of essential nutrients and oxygen to vital organs and tissue. In addition, you could develop anemia, which occurs when your body can’t produce enough red blood cells.
Edema—This is a condition in which swelling appears, 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 spots, it could be a sign 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 beat those common colds, it could be from low protein consumption. It’s the same with recovering from an injury. Proteins are needed to fix tissue and muscle. It will take a greater length of time to get over an injury if you are lacking protein.
Cravings—Too many carbs and not enough protein can contribute to unwanted food cravings. If you’re finding yourself eating more snacks, you’re probably not consuming 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 possibility if you are using a majority of animal-based protein sources like meat or have a kidney disease. To avoid possible kidney problems, 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 eat too much protein it will be kept as fat. Our bodies are not good at changing 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 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 consuming 50 grams per meal won’t have any more positive influence on muscle growth. 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 determined that people who lift weights 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 protein sources, we recommend a healthy balance of both plant- and animal-based proteins. When selecting animal-based proteins, keep it to lean, unprocessed meats like chicken and turkey without skin. Red meat is fine, but keep it lean and always watch the portions. For plant-based proteins, beans, quinoa, nuts, and soy are good sources to have.
At Farrell's, we coach our members on uncomplicated, proper, balanced nutrition so their bodies are working effectively and efficiently, enabling them to perform at their peak performance in and out of the gym.
We designate protein, carb, and fat amounts for six daily meals, ensuring members are having the appropriate 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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