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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 essential foods can affect our bodies.

Protein is essential for restoring and building muscle, hormone production, staying satisfied, creating 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 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 outcome of a low-protein, and most likely, a limited calorie diet. If you’re limiting food, your body will use protein as a fuel source first instead of creating muscle.

Muscle Loss—Protein helps build muscle, but like we mentioned above, if your protein is being used for fuel, you won’t build 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 generally start losing muscle mass.

Liver Issues—Particular parts of our bodies need different nutrients 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 repair 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 restricts the flow 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 appears, usually 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 evidence of not eating enough protein.

Immune System & Recovery—Your immune system needs protein to stay 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 healing an injury. Proteins are needed to fix tissue and muscle. It will take more time to heal 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 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 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 take in too much protein it will be stored as fat. Our bodies are not good at converting 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 process of turning protein amino acids into muscle. New studies have determined 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 eating 50 grams per meal won’t have any more positive impact on building muscles. Bigger 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 weightlifters 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 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 skin-free chicken and turkey. Red meat is OK, but keep it lean and always watch the portions. For plant-based proteins, beans, quinoa, nuts, and soy are ideal sources to include.

At Farrell's, we coach our members on easy, proper, balanced nutrition so their bodies are working effectively and efficiently, allowing them to perform at their best performance in and out of the gym.

We set protein, carb, and fat levels across six daily meals, ensuring members are having 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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