According to statistics, most individuals in the US consume three to five times more protein than they need. An ideal protein intake is about 0.5 grams (500 mg) of protein per pound of lean body mass.
While high protein diets are extremely popular, eating excessive amounts of protein can be damaging to your health.
The Dangers of Eating Too Much Protein
Eating more protein than your body needs can cause problems with your overall health and fitness in several ways.
Too much protein can lead to these health issues:
Increased blood sugar
Too much body fat
Stress on your kidneys, which must get rid of excess protein
Loss of minerals from your bones
Cancer cell stimulation
That being said, you need to know that your body cannot live without protein. While some amino acids can be made by your body, several essential amino acids cannot be made by your body tissues but must be consumed from food sources. Amino acids are what make the protein that helps grow muscle, bony tissue, enzymes, and several hormones your body needs to survive.
While it can be beneficial, it is not necessary to eat “complete proteins,” which are proteins that contain all of the essential amino acids. As long as you are eating a wide variety of foods, your body will get all of the amino acids it needs. It then has the ability to store each amino acid and put them all together into complete proteins it can use.
Your body processes protein less efficiently as you age, so eating enough high quality protein becomes more important. You also need more protein during pregnancy so the fetus can use that protein in order to grow. Those individuals who are not aged or pregnant can stick to eating 40-70 grams of protein daily, depending on their lean body mass.
There is an upper limit as to how much protein your body has the ability to utilize. In the U.S., we eat, on average, much more protein than our bodies need as well as too many carbohydrate-containing foods and not enough foods high in healthy fats.
Part of the problem is that the consumption of meat has risen to a great degree in the last century. Most of this meat is low-quality meat and comes from animal farms where animals are feeding on grains that have been genetically altered instead of feeding on grass in a pasture.
If you choose to eat meat or other animal products, it is a better idea to eat meat that has been pasture-fed, but even this can lead to protein excesses in the body.
What Protein Does In Your Body
When you eat protein, your body takes what it needs and converts all of the rest of it into sugar and, finally, into fat. When your blood sugar levels are increased from eating too much protein, you put yourself at risk of getting infections by yeast (called Candidiasis) and pathogenic bacteria. The growth of cancer cells is stimulated by an excess of sugar and fat in your body.
There is a biochemical pathway known as the mammalian target of rapamycin that is stimulated by having too much protein in your system. This pathway plays a role in cancer formation. In order to avoid stimulating the pathway, you need to keep your protein levels in check.
Furthermore, eating too much protein causes stress on the kidneys. The kidneys are responsible for removing the nitrogenous waste products in the bloodstream, and when there is too much protein, both the excess protein and water is lost through the kidneys, resulting in dehydration. This was proven in a research study that involved athletes who engaged in endurance sports.
Less Protein Could Prolong Your Life
There have been recent research studies that relate to calorie restriction and longevity. In particular, restriction of protein intake leads to a longer life, particularly restriction of the amino acid known as methionine, which is found in high levels in meats. Other research indicates that the balance of amino acids might be the most important factor in gaining a long life.
Calculating the Amount of Protein You Need
The amount of protein you need is about 0.5 grams (500 mg) of protein per pound of lean body mass. Your lean body mass is your percent of body fat subtracted from one hundred. Convert that number into a percentage, and multiply it by your total weight in pounds. Multiply that number by 0.5 grams per pound to get your protein requirement for the day.
If you exercise excessively or are pregnant, it is ideal to consume about 25 percent more protein than that.
Foods to Eat
You do not need to be a vegetarian to avoid eating too much protein, but know that forty grams of protein isn’t really very much. If you choose to consume animal products and you do not have an intolerance, protein can be found in eggs, dairy products, meat, and fish.
Contrary to popular belief, however, protein is not only contained in animal products but is abundant in many, many plant foods. Plant-based sources of protein foods include: quinoa, avocadoes, mushrooms, legumes, seeds, nuts, and leafy greens (kale, spinach, etc.).
Read food labels and look up the amount of protein in the foods you are eating. If you are eating too much, adjust your diet so you are eating the right amount of protein.
Do you get too much protein? Do you get enough protein? Please share your thoughts in the comments below.