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Protein: Too Little or Too Much

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Fitness Tips

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 essential foods can impact our bodies.

Protein is essential for restoring and building muscle, making hormones, staying full, creating 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 most common and can lead to health concerns.

Weight Loss—We don’t mean the good kind, like reducing body fat. Instead, overall weight loss is an effect of a low-protein, and most likely, a low calorie diet. If you’re limiting food, your body will use protein as its first fuel source instead of adding muscle.

Muscle Loss—Protein aids in building muscle, but like we stated 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 get older (usually around age 35 for women and as early as age 25 for men), we naturally start losing muscle mass.

Liver Issues—Specific portions of our bodies need different resources to function properly. Protein is important for healthy liver functions. Too little and you could develop liver disease.

Joint Pain—Strong, healthy muscles help keep joints in place. Protein is used to build and restore 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 discomfort.

Low Blood Pressure—This may not seem problematic, however low blood pressure lowers the stream 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, usually 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 areas, 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 more often or can’t get over those common colds, it could be from low protein consumption. It’s the same with injury recovery. Proteins are needed to repair tissue and muscle. It will take more time to get over an injury if you aren’t eating 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 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 suitable 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 keep 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 efficient 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 turning protein amino acids into muscle. The latest 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 consuming 50 grams per meal won’t have any more positive impact 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 determined 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.

Good sources of protein

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, choose lean, unprocessed meats like skin-free chicken and turkey. 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 have.

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

We designate protein, carb, and fat intake over the course of six daily meals, ensuring members are getting the correct 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!

Sources:

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