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 essential foods can impact our bodies.
Protein is essential for mending and forming muscle, producing hormones, staying satisfied, 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 ordinary and can cause health problems.
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 calorie-deficient diet. If you’re not eating enough, your body will use protein as a fuel source first as opposed to creating muscle.
Muscle Loss—Protein assists in building muscle, but like we stated 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 get 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 nutrients to function properly. Protein is vital 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 basic 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 like a problem, however low blood pressure restricts the movement of essential nutrients and oxygen to vital organs and tissue. In addition, you could end up with anemia, which occurs when your body can’t create 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 accumulating in tissue. If you notice swelling in these areas, it could be evidence of not eating enough protein.
Immune System & Recovery—Your immune system needs protein to continue being healthy. If you’re getting sick frequently 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 mend tissue and muscle. It will take longer to get over an injury if you don’t get enough protein.
Cravings—Too many carbs and not enough protein can cause unwanted food cravings. If you’re finding yourself wanting more snacks, you’re likely 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 suitable and how much is “extra.”
Kidney Failure—A common concern of a high-protein diet, kidney failure, is only a possibility 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 balance 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 changing 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 method of turning protein amino acids into muscle. Recent studies have shown that there is a restriction 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 eating 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 determined that strength trainers who consumed 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, keep it to lean, unprocessed meats like skin-free chicken and turkey. Red meat is acceptable, but keep it lean and always watch the portions. For plant-based proteins, beans, quinoa, nuts, and soy are great sources to use.
At Farrell's, we coach our members on simple, proper, balanced nutrition so their bodies are working effectively and efficiently, allowing them to achieve their top performance in and out of the gym.
We set protein, carb, and fat amounts for six daily meals, ensuring members are taking in the appropriate amounts of each macronutrient source.
To learn more about the Farrell's group fitness program and nutrition coaching, contact your local Farrell's today!
- Men's Journal
- Eat This, Not That!