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 vital foods can have an effect on our bodies.
Protein is essential for repairing and forming muscle, making hormones, staying satisfied, bone health, 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 ordinary and can lead to health concerns.
Weight Loss—We’re not talking the good kind, like body fat loss. 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 helps build 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 start losing muscle mass. As we become older (usually around age 35 for women and as early as age 25 for men), we naturally start losing muscle mass.
Liver Issues—Particular areas of our bodies need different resources to function properly. Protein is essential for healthy liver functions. Too little and you could damage your liver.
Joint Pain—Strong, healthy muscles help keep joints in place. Protein is used to add and restore muscle, but with a low 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 limits the movement of essential nutrients and oxygen to vital organs and tissue. In addition, you could end up with anemia, which is a condition where your body can’t produce enough red blood cells.
Edema—This is a condition in which swelling occurs, 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 locations, it could be a sign of low protein consumption.
Immune System & Recovery—Your immune system needs protein to remain healthy. If you’re getting sick more often 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 get over 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 eating more snacks, you’re possibly not consuming 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 appropriate and how much is “extra.”
Kidney Failure—A common concern of a high-protein diet, kidney failure, is only a risk 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 balance your protein sources between 50% plant-based 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 kept 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 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 method of changing protein amino acids into muscle. New studies have shown 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 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 concluded 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.
When preparing your meals and protein sources, 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 fine, 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 include.
At Farrell's, we show our members uncomplicated, decent, balanced nutrition so their bodies are working effectively and efficiently, allowing them to perform at their best performance in and out of the gym.
We designate protein, carb, and fat intake for six daily meals, ensuring members are getting the appropriate 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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