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Protein: Too Little or Too Much

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Fitness Tips

We’ve all heard the value of eating a balanced diet of protein, carbohydrates, vegetables, and fats, but what we don’t often hear about is why it’s necessary and how too little or too much of these basic foods can affect our bodies.

Protein is essential for restoring and creating 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 typical and can lead to health concerns.

Weight Loss—This isn’t the good kind, like reducing 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 its first fuel source rather than 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 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 components to function properly. Protein is vital for healthy liver functions. Too little 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 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 happens when your body can’t create enough red blood cells.

Edema—This is a condition in which swelling develops, often in the hands, feet, and ankles, from body fluid trapped in the tissue. Protein helps block fluids from concentrating in tissue. If you notice swelling in these locations, it could be a sign of not eating enough protein.

Immune System & Recovery—Your immune system needs protein to continue being 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 a greater length of time to recover from an injury if you are lacking protein.

Cravings—Too many carbs and not enough protein can contribute to 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 hard 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 using 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% 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 stored as fat. Our bodies are not skilled at turning 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 MuscleMuscle protein synthesis is the method of changing protein amino acids into muscle. The latest 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 assist in muscle growth, but consuming 50 grams per meal won’t have any more positive impact 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 found that strength trainers who ate 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 planning 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 great sources to have.

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

We set protein, carb, and fat intake across six daily meals, ensuring members are taking in the appropriate 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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