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 vital foods can have an effect on our bodies.
Protein is essential for restoring and building muscle, making hormones, staying satisfied, 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 have some health concerns.
Weight Loss—We’re not talking the good kind, like losing body fat. Instead, overall weight loss is an effect of a low-protein, and most likely, a calorie-deficient diet. If you’re not getting enough calories, your body will use protein as its first fuel source instead of creating 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 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—Particular parts of our bodies need different nutrients to function properly. Protein is essential 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 create and restore muscle, but with a low 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 pain.
Low Blood Pressure—This may not seem problematic, however low blood pressure lowers the stream 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 produce enough red blood cells.
Edema—This is a condition in which swelling develops, 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 areas, it could be evidence of eating too little protein.
Immune System & Recovery—Your immune system needs protein to continue being healthy. If you’re getting sick regularly or can’t recover from those common colds, it could be from low protein consumption. It’s the same with recovering from an injury. Proteins are needed to repair tissue and muscle. It will take a greater length of time to recover from an injury if you aren’t eating 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 getting enough protein and too many carbs.
Too Much Protein
So what about too much protein? While it’s hard 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 issues, aim to equalize 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 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 action of turning protein amino acids into muscle. Recent studies have shown that there is a cap 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 help muscle growth, but eating 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 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 preparing 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 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 good sources to include.
At Farrell's, we show our members simple, suitable, balanced nutrition so their bodies are working effectively and efficiently, letting them function at their peak performance in and out of the gym.
We assign protein, carb, and fat amounts for 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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