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Protein: Too Little or Too Much

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Fitness Tips

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 basic foods can have an effect on our bodies.

Protein is essential for repairing and creating muscle, making hormones, staying satiated (full), creating 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’re not talking the good kind, like body fat loss. Instead, overall weight loss is an outcome of a low-protein, and most likely, a calorie-deficient diet. If you’re not getting enough calories, your body will use protein as a primary fuel source instead of adding muscle.

Muscle Loss—Protein aids in building 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 lose muscle mass. As we age (usually around age 35 for women and as early as age 25 for men), we usually start losing muscle mass.

Liver Issues—Certain portions of our bodies need different nutrients to function properly. Protein is vital for healthy liver functions. Don’t eat 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 repair muscle, but with a reduced 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 like a problem, 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, often in the hands, feet, and ankles, from body fluid trapped in the tissue. Protein helps stop fluids from concentrating in tissue. If you notice swelling in these locations, it could be a sign of eating too little protein.

Immune System & Recovery—Your immune system needs protein to remain healthy. If you’re getting sick frequently or can’t get over 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 more time to recover from an injury if you are lacking 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 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 eating a majority of animal-based protein sources like meat or have a kidney disease. To avoid possible kidney issues, aim to keep 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 stored 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 MuscleMuscle protein synthesis is the process of changing protein amino acids into muscle. New studies have found 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 having 50 grams per meal won’t have any more positive effect on building muscles. 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 concluded that weightlifters 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.

Good sources of protein

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, choose 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 ideal sources to include.

At Farrell's, we teach our members about uncomplicated, decent, balanced nutrition so their bodies are working effectively and efficiently, letting them achieve their top performance in and out of the gym.

We designate protein, carb, and fat levels over the course of six daily meals, ensuring members are getting the appropriate amounts of each macronutrient source.

To find out more about the Farrell's group fitness program and nutrition coaching, contact your local Farrell's today!

Sources:

  1. Men's Journal
  2. Eat This, Not That!
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