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 necessary and how too little or too much of these basic foods can have an effect on our bodies.
Protein is essential for restoring and building muscle, producing hormones, staying satisfied, having healthy bones, and more; but does too little or too much protein have negative side effects?
Let’s learn more!
Too Little Protein
A low-protein or protein-deficient diet is typical and can have some health concerns.
Weight Loss—We’re not talking the good kind, like losing body fat. Instead, overall weight loss is a result of a low-protein, and most likely, a calorie-deficient diet. If you’re not eating enough, your body will use protein as a primary fuel source instead of building muscle.
Muscle Loss—Protein helps build muscle, but like we said above, if your protein is being used for fuel, you won’t build 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 usually start losing muscle mass.
Liver Issues—Certain parts of our bodies need different nutrients to function properly. Protein is essential 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 reduced 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 achy joints.
Low Blood Pressure—This may not seem bad, however low blood pressure lowers the movement 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 create enough red blood cells.
Edema—This is a condition in which swelling occurs, usually 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 locations, it could be evidence of low protein consumption.
Immune System & Recovery—Your immune system needs protein to stay healthy. If you’re getting sick more often or can’t get over those common colds, it could be from low protein consumption. It’s the same with healing an injury. Proteins are needed to repair tissue and muscle. It will take more time to heal an injury if you are lacking 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 eating 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 useful and how much is “extra.”
Kidney Failure—A common concern of a high-protein diet, kidney failure, is only a risk if you are consuming 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 stored as fat. Our bodies are not skilled at turning 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 process of changing protein amino acids into muscle. Recent studies have shown 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 help muscle growth, but consuming 50 grams per meal won’t have any more positive effect 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 concluded that strength trainers 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 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 OK, but keep it lean and always limit the portions. For plant-based proteins, beans, quinoa, nuts, and soy are ideal sources to use.
At Farrell's, we show our members uncomplicated, proper, balanced nutrition so their bodies are working effectively and efficiently, letting them achieve their best performance in and out of the gym.
We set protein, carb, and fat amounts over the course of six daily meals, ensuring members are having the correct 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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