We’ve all heard the importance 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 have an effect on our bodies.
Protein is essential for repairing and building muscle, producing hormones, staying full, having 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 typical and can lead to health concerns.
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 low calorie diet. If you’re limiting food, your body will use protein as a primary fuel source as opposed to building muscle.
Muscle Loss—Protein helps build 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 start losing 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—Certain portions of our bodies need different nutrients 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 build and fix muscle, but with a reduced 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 joint pain.
Low Blood Pressure—This may not seem problematic, however low blood pressure limits the flow of essential nutrients and oxygen to vital organs and tissue. In addition, you could have anemia, which happens when your body can’t make enough red blood cells.
Edema—This is a condition in which swelling occurs, often in the hands, feet, and ankles, from body fluid trapped in the tissue. Protein helps keep fluids from concentrating in tissue. If you notice swelling in these locations, it could be a sign 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 injury recovery. Proteins are needed to mend tissue and muscle. It will take more 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 reaching for more snacks, you’re probably 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 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 troubles, aim to keep your protein sources between 50% plant-based 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 good at turning 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 action of transforming protein amino acids into muscle. Recent studies have determined 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 assist in muscle growth, but eating 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 found 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 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 skin-free 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 great sources to include.
At Farrell's, we teach our members about uncomplicated, suitable, balanced nutrition so their bodies are working effectively and efficiently, enabling them to perform at their best performance in and out of the gym.
We designate protein, carb, and fat levels across six daily meals, ensuring members are getting 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!
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