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 affect our bodies.
Protein is essential for restoring and creating muscle, producing hormones, staying satiated (full), creating healthy bones, and more; but does too little or too much protein have harmful 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 body fat loss. Instead, overall weight loss is an effect of a low-protein, and most likely, a limited calorie diet. If you’re not eating enough, your body will use protein as its first fuel source as opposed to 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 age (usually around age 35 for women and as early as age 25 for men), we naturally start losing muscle mass.
Liver Issues—Specific areas of our bodies need different resources to function properly. Protein is important for healthy liver functions. Don’t eat enough and you could develop liver disease.
Joint Pain—Strong, healthy muscles help keep joints in place. Protein is used to create and fix muscle, but with a low 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 pain.
Low Blood Pressure—This may not seem problematic, however low blood pressure limits the stream 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 block fluids from building up in tissue. If you notice swelling in these areas, it could be evidence of low protein consumption.
Immune System & Recovery—Your immune system needs protein to continue being healthy. If you’re getting sick more often or can’t beat those common colds, it could be from low protein consumption. It’s the same with healing an injury. Proteins are needed to mend tissue and muscle. It will take a greater length of 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 probably not getting 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 danger if you are eating 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 eat too much protein it will be stored as fat. Our bodies are not good 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 turning 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 aid muscle growth, but consuming 50 grams per meal won’t have any more positive effect on muscle development. 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 found that people who lift weights 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 types of proteins, we recommend a healthy balance of both plant- and animal-based proteins. When selecting animal-based proteins, stick with lean, unprocessed meats like chicken and turkey without skin. Red meat is acceptable, but keep it lean and always limit the portions. For plant-based proteins, beans, quinoa, nuts, and soy are good sources to include.
At Farrell's, we show our members uncomplicated, proper, balanced nutrition so their bodies are working effectively and efficiently, enabling them to function at their top performance in and out of the gym.
We set protein, carb, and fat intake for six daily meals, ensuring members are taking in 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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