Proteins are known as the “building blocks of life.” They are an essential component in the building and growth of muscles and tissues, they improve cognitive function, and give a boost to the basic metabolic rate.
Most of our proteins come from the foods we eat. Some of the dietary sources include meat like chicken, lean beef, seafood, milk, cheese, soy, yogurt, etc.
However, there is a variety of protein supplements available in the market today to provide the body with proteins the easy way.
Before you buy your next stock of such supplements, nutrition bars, or protein shakes to meet your daily protein needs, here are a few things you need to be aware of.
How Much Protein Do You Really Need?
The protein needs of every individual vary according to their age, health, and activity levels. In general, experts recommend a minimum of 0.8 grams of protein for every kilogram of body weight per day.
For all women over the age of 19, this amount comes up to 46 grams and for men of the same age, it is 56 grams every day.1
However, for athletes and those seeking to gain more muscle mass through strength and endurance training, the daily protein requirement is much higher, as much as 1.8–2 grams for every kilogram of body weight every day.
This higher requirement helps prevent the loss of lean muscle during exercise while promoting a steady fat loss and a boost in athletic performance.2
Also, pregnant and breastfeeding women need a higher amount of protein for keeping up with the needs of the baby. Keeping the body fueled with the necessary amounts of protein every day has proven to be helpful in weight management, retention of lean muscle mass, maintenance of fat-free mass, and increased satiety that beats the extent of satiety offered by carbohydrates and fats.3
That means, proteins keep you feeling full for a long time, automatically eliminating unhealthy hunger cravings and spells of binge eating.
Signs Of Excess Protein Intake
It is interesting to observe most people worrying about their protein intake at a time when most of them could be actually consuming a lot more than what they need!
According to a National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, most men and women over 20 years have been consuming double the recommended amount of protein every day. 4
Fortunately, our bodies have a way of warning us for everything that might be wrong internally. Similarly, if your protein intake is well beyond the recommended intake, your body may show signs that something is wrong.
If you begin to experience any or all of the following symptoms, you may want to check the amount of your daily protein intake in order to prevent these symptoms from turning into something more serious.
- Increased thirst, a sign that you are dehydrated as the body uses up extra fluids to wash out the excess nitrogen produced when digesting proteins5
- Sudden onset of bad breath because of dehydration
- Sudden weight gain, mood swings, or fatigue due to the deficiency of other necessary nutrients because proteins are taking up most of your plate
- Constipation and other digestive problems due to dehydration or a lack of fiber in the diet
The Risks of A High-Protein Diet
Excessive protein consumption could contribute to an increased calorie intake and trigger fluctuations in the body weight. However, this is only a minor side effect of excess protein consumption.
The following are some of the serious health issues caused by a high-protein diet:
1. Cardiovascular Ailments
High-protein diets, especially those involving a higher quantity of red meats and processed foods, are also high in cholesterol. Naturally, a higher consumption puts the whole cardiovascular health at risk by blocking the arteries and increasing the risk of a heart attack.6
2. Impaired Kidney Function
When protein is digested, it releases nitrogen into the blood. More protein leads to more nitrogen and the kidneys have to work extra hard to process the same out of the body, through a process known as the urea cycle.
It is the same reason why a high-protein diet may pose a risk of worsening a urea cycle disorder, a genetic mutation that causes a deficiency of enzymes that remove ammonia from the bloodstream. The disorder causes nitrogen in the blood to accumulate as ammonia to a point that’s fatal.7
3. Cancer And Diabetes
People who eat a lot of red meat or processed meat to meet the body’s protein requirements put themselves at an increased risk of cancer. When cooked at high temperatures, these meats react with the heat and produce several cancer-causing compounds.
High red meat consumption has also been linked to the risk of developing type-2 diabetes because these meats may trigger a higher glucose production.8
Digesting protein also releases several acids in the bloodstream and calcium is required to neutralize them. A high protein diet may force the system to extract more calcium from the bones, weakening them over time.9
Protein Sources To Include In Your Diet
The more variety you include, the more likely are you to get all the necessary nutrients in healthy doses. So, when it comes to choosing your sources of protein, a mix of both plant-based and meat-based foods are highly recommended.
Good sources of plant-based protein include the following:
- Legumes like soy and chickpea
- Vegetables like peas, spinach, and broccoli
Among the best sources of animal protein, fish and poultry rank the highest as they minimize the risks that come with proteins consumed through red meats like mutton, beef, and pork. When it comes to dairy-based proteins, cheese and milk on a regular basis are sufficient.
It is also important to remember that the more natural a protein is, the healthier it tends to be. So, rather than depending too much on health bars and premix powders, eating whole foods is always a smarter choice.
The main reason behind this is the fact that processed proteins contain other unnecessary additives like sugar and fat.10
The significance of proteins can never be ignored as they are necessary for overall growth, development, and maintenance. However, it is important to strike a balance between protein consumption in the right amounts and other nutrients for overall good health and for the prevention of complications that may arise out of a protein overdose.
|↑1, ↑9||Protein. Harvard T.H.Chan School of Public Health.|
|↑2||Phillips, S.M., and Loon L.J.,Van “Dietary protein for athletes: from requirements to optimum adaptation.” Journal of Sports Sciences 29,no.1 (2011):29-38.|
|↑3||Paddon Jones, Douglas.,Westman, Eric, Mattes, Richard D., Wolfe, Robert R., Astrup, Arne, and Westerterp-Plantenga, Margriet. “Protein, weight management, and satiety.” American Society for Clinical Nutrition 87, no.5 (2008): 1558- 1561.|
|↑4||Adults’ daily protein intake much more than recommended. National Center for Health Statistics.|
|↑5||Too Much Protein Can Lead to Dehydration, Researchers Find. UConn Advance Archives, University of Connecticut.|
|↑6||The Protein Myth. Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine.|
|↑7||What is a urea cycle disorder? National Urea Cycle Disorders Foundation.|
|↑8||Plant protein may protect against type 2 diabetes, meat eaters at greater risk. University of Eastern Finland.|
|↑10||Hoffman, Jay R., and Falvo, Michael J. “Protein – Which is Best?” Journal of Sports Science & Medicine 3, no.3 (2004): 118-130|