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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 vital foods can have an effect on our bodies.

Protein is essential for mending and creating muscle, producing hormones, staying satiated (full), having healthy bones, and more; but does too little or too much protein have negative side effects?

Let’s find out!

Too Little Protein

A low-protein or protein-deficient diet is most common and can cause health problems.

Weight Loss—This isn’t the good kind, like reducing body fat. Instead, overall weight loss is a result 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 rather than creating muscle.

Muscle Loss—Protein assists 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 become older (usually around age 35 for women and as early as age 25 for men), we generally start losing muscle mass.

Liver Issues—Particular areas of our bodies need different components to function properly. Protein is vital for healthy liver functions. Not enough and you could end up with liver disease.

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 main fuel function, rather than building muscle to keep joints strong and stable, which could lead to joint discomfort.

Low Blood Pressure—This may not seem problematic, however low blood pressure restricts the flow of essential nutrients and oxygen to vital organs and tissue. In addition, you could have anemia, which occurs when your body can’t create enough red blood cells.

Edema—This is a condition in which swelling appears, generally in the hands, feet, and ankles, from body fluid trapped in the tissue. Protein helps keep fluids from building up 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 remain 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 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 cause unwanted food cravings. If you’re finding yourself eating more snacks, you’re possibly 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 using a majority of animal-based protein sources like meat or have a kidney disease. To avoid possible kidney problems, aim to equalize your protein sources between 50% plant-based and 50% lean, unprocessed meat-based.

Weight Gain—Protein helps build muscle, and like carbs, if we eat too much protein it will be stored 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 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 transforming 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 aid muscle growth, but consuming 50 grams per meal won’t have any more positive influence on muscle development. 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 strength trainers who had 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 preparing 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 fine, but keep it lean and always keep an eye on the portions. For plant-based proteins, beans, quinoa, nuts, and soy are ideal sources to have.

At Farrell's, we coach our members on easy, 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 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!

Sources:

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