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Protein: Too Little or Too Much

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Fitness Tips

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 important and how too little or too much of these basic foods can impact our bodies.

Protein is essential for mending and forming muscle, hormone production, 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 body fat loss. 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 as opposed to adding muscle.

Muscle Loss—Protein helps build 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 lose muscle mass. As we get older (usually around age 35 for women and as early as age 25 for men), we naturally start losing muscle mass.

Liver Issues—Specific portions of our bodies need different resources 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 build and fix muscle, but with a limited or protein-deficient diet your protein is going to be used as a primary 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 like a problem, however low blood pressure lowers the movement of essential nutrients and oxygen to vital organs and tissue. In addition, you could end up with anemia, which happens when your body can’t create 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 keep fluids from accumulating in tissue. If you notice swelling in these locations, it could be a symptom of eating too little protein.

Immune System & Recovery—Your immune system needs protein to stay 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 healing an injury. Proteins are needed to mend tissue and muscle. It will take a greater length of time to heal 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 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 danger if you are consuming a majority of animal-based protein sources like meat or have a kidney disease. To avoid possible kidney troubles, 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 take in too much protein it will be stored 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 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 MuscleMuscle protein synthesis is the method of changing protein amino acids into muscle. New studies have determined that there is a restriction 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 aid muscle growth, but having 50 grams per meal won’t have any more positive impact on muscle development. 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 strength trainers 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.

Good sources of protein

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, choose lean, unprocessed meats like skinless 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 good sources to use.

At Farrell's, we teach our members about uncomplicated, decent, balanced nutrition so their bodies are working effectively and efficiently, enabling them to achieve their top 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 learn more about the Farrell's group fitness program and nutrition coaching, contact your local Farrell's today!

Sources:

  1. Men's Journal
  2. Eat This, Not That!
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