We’ve all heard the importance 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, having healthy bones, and more; but does too little or too much protein have negative side effects?
Let’s read more about it!
Too Little Protein
A low-protein or protein-deficient diet is typical and can lead to health concerns.
Weight Loss—This isn’t the good kind, like losing body fat. Instead, overall weight loss is an outcome of a low-protein, and most likely, a limited calorie diet. If you’re limiting food, your body will use protein as its first fuel source instead of adding muscle.
Muscle Loss—Protein assists in building muscle, but like we said 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 naturally start losing muscle mass.
Liver Issues—Particular areas of our bodies need different components to function properly. Protein is vital for healthy liver functions. Don’t eat enough and you could damage your liver.
Joint Pain—Strong, healthy muscles help keep joints in place. Protein is used to create and restore 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 problematic, however low blood pressure limits 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 make enough red blood cells.
Edema—This is a condition in which swelling appears, 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 areas, 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 healing an injury. Proteins are needed to fix tissue and muscle. It will take longer to get over an injury if you aren’t eating 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 eating 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 useful 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 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 have too much protein it will be stored as fat. Our bodies are not efficient at changing 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 Muscle—Muscle protein synthesis is the method of transforming protein amino acids into muscle. New 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 help muscle growth, but eating 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 found 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 preparing your meals and types of proteins, we recommend a healthy balance of both plant- and animal-based proteins. When selecting animal-based proteins, keep it to lean, unprocessed meats like chicken and turkey without skin. Red meat is OK, but keep it lean and always watch the portions. For plant-based proteins, beans, quinoa, nuts, and soy are great sources to include.
At Farrell's, we show our members simple, proper, balanced nutrition so their bodies are working effectively and efficiently, allowing them to perform at their top performance in and out of the gym.
We assign protein, carb, and fat amounts across 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!
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