You know how the saying goes - you can never have too much of a good thing. But is this true of protein sources in our diet? After all with the rise of protein products on the market, from protein crisps, to protein coffee and even protein sweets, you'd be forgiven for thinking that you simply can't over-eat protein.
Protein is a vital part of our diets, it gives us amino acids that provide us with the building blocks to create muscle and bone. But of course with most things in life, there is such a thing as too much protein. An excess of protein in your diet can lead to:
- Kidney Damage - when we eat protein, one of the natural atoms found within amino acids, nitrogen is also consumed. When we're eating a normal amount of protein this doesn't cause our bodies any problems, however if we're eating too much it can cause our kidneys to have to work extra hard to be able to deal with the excess nitrogen. On a long term basis this could lead to kidney damage in individuals with pre-exisiting problems.
- Weight Gain - protein sources, especially animal or processed ones can often be high in fat or sodium which could lead to an unbalanced diet and weight gain.
- Dehydration - when we subject our bodies to excessive amounts of protein, our blood urea nitrogen levels can become too high. This means the body has to work harder to flush them out to return the levels to a normal range. If you don't make a conscious effort to replace these fluids, then you could easily become dehydrated.
Ok, so how much protein should I be consuming?
The amount of protein you should be consuming varies depending on what your goals are. US guidelines suggest that the average adult should be consuming 5-6oz of protein a day. However, many people will eat much more protein than this, especially if they are training heavily and trying to grow their muscles.
Obviously it's fine to increase your protein levels if they fit in with your diet and goals, but be mindful of the safe maximum intake levels - 2 - 2.5g of protein per kg of bodyweight (this is a huge amount of protein and most active adults will have no need to consume this much protein)
The biggest risk when it comes to over-eating protein, is the danger that you will neglect the other food groups such as carbohydrates and fats. Our body needs all 3 major macronutrients to work at it's maximum performance, carbs amongst other benefits help us with the energy to smash our workouts and you can check out the benefits of fat here.
As always we believe that what works for you is a very personal thing, but more importantly we believe that a healthy lifestyle is one that feels great, is sustainable and allows you to be as active and happy as possible.
Want to include more protein in your diet? Check out these portable protein ideas for when hunger strikes!