We’ve all heard the value 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 essential foods can impact our bodies.
Protein is essential for mending and forming muscle, making hormones, staying satisfied, having healthy bones, and more; but does too little or too much protein have adverse side effects?
Let’s learn more!
Too Little Protein
A low-protein or protein-deficient diet is ordinary and can have some 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 not getting enough calories, your body will use protein as a fuel source first as opposed to creating 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 start losing muscle mass. As we get older (usually around age 35 for women and as early as age 25 for men), we generally start losing muscle mass.
Liver Issues—Certain 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 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 discomfort.
Low Blood Pressure—This may not seem bad, however low blood pressure limits 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 make 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 keep fluids from building up in tissue. If you notice swelling in these spots, it could be a symptom 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 recovering from an injury. Proteins are needed to fix tissue and muscle. It will take longer to recover from an injury if you don’t get enough protein.
Cravings—Too many carbs and not enough protein can lead to unwanted food cravings. If you’re finding yourself reaching for 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 more difficult 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 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 accumulated 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 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 process of transforming protein amino acids into muscle. The latest studies have found 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 aid muscle growth, but consuming 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 determined that people who lift weights 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.
When figuring out your meals and protein sources, 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 fine, but keep it lean and always watch the portions. For plant-based proteins, beans, quinoa, nuts, and soy are good sources to use.
At Farrell's, we show our members simple, 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 set protein, carb, and fat amounts over the course of six daily meals, ensuring members are getting the right 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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