Is too much Protein Bad?

Protein. The most hyped and disputed macronutrient in the health and fitness industry. While, I think we can agree, high fat vs. high carb is something which ultimately comes down to the preference of the individual, protein requirements are quite a grey area with lots of sides claiming that they have the perfect formula for muscle hypertrophy and performance. And what of protein and toxicity, a myth which many use to scare off bodybuilders who follow the old school chicken and rice diet?

Let’s shed some light on what are, and aren’t, the facts.

 

 

Why we need Protein, or more specifically, the amino acids our body breaks protein down into:

  • Hormones
  • Enzymes
  • Antibodies
  • Building materials (not just muscle, also hair, tendons, bones, nails…)
  • Energy production
  • …and more!

As you can see, protein is incredibly important for our body to function optimally. However, this does not mean that more is necessarily better. Protein is not favoured by the body as an energy source, therefore, overconsumption of protein will take away from the performance benefits that you might see taking in more carbohydrate.

 

How much?

General recommendations are:

General population: 0.8-1.2g/kg

Endurance athlete: 1.2-1.4g/kg

Resistance athlete (includes bodybuilders, powerlifters and weightlifters): 1.6-2g/kg

 

We also often see the recommendation of 1g/lb of bodyweight for those looking to build or maintain muscle which is also a good rule of thumb.

 

Are some protein sources better than others?

Complete proteins are generally considered superior as the contain all of the essential amino acids. These are largely proteins from animal products. Although, do not let this turn you against vegetarian and vegan diets. With enough knowledge, incomplete proteins can be paired together in a meal so that the person is not missing out!

Struggling to get enough?

As a backup, if you simply do not have the time or money to prep meat and fish meals to consume at regular intervals throughout the day, protein bars and powders are great to fill the gaps.

 

Risks of too much protein

  • Dehydration is a very common side effect of a high protein diet, yet another reason why is incredibly important to drink enough water throughout the day.
  • Adverse effects on kidneys. Rare unless a kidney issue is already present.
  • Increase excretion of calcium in urine
  • Amino acid toxicity. Again, very rare.
  • Increased CVD risk. Mostly due to fat, not protein. More so when poor quality, fatty meats such as sausages and bacon are consumed in large amounts.

 

Conclusion

Eating ridiculous amounts of protein is probably not going to do you any harm. It will however be expensive, unnecessary and probably won’t get you the best results from your training! Play around with different amounts of protein to find your ideal amount within the suggested ranges.

About the Author

Savannah Westerby BSc Sport and Exercise Nutrition, Toned Figure competitor
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