Can We Have Too Much Protein In Our Diets?
Protein is essential to good health. The very origin of the word — from the Greek word protos, meaning “first” - reflects protein’s top-shelf status in our diet.
High protein diets have been linked to many health benefits, including improvements in body composition and reduced blood sugar levels. But you may be wondering whether you can get too much of a good thing.
This article reviews the science behind protein and whether you should be concerned about eating too much in your diet.
What is protein needed for?
Short answer: pretty much everything! Proteins are the most versatile molecules for the human body and are comprised of key building blocks (amino acids) that make up our organs, hair and nails, hormones and, of course - muscles.
How much protein should I be consuming?
The recommended dietary allowance (RDA) for protein is 0.8 grams per kilogram of bodyweight.
That means that the average sedentary male should eat about 56 grams of protein per day, and the average woman should eat about 46 grams.
Active people - especially those looking to increase their muscle mass - may need more like 1.4 and 2 grams of protein per kilogram of bodyweight daily, according to the International Society of Sports Nutrition.
Research has also shown that most people can safely consume even up to levels of 2 to 3.5 grams of protein per kilogram of bodyweight daily - especially those who need more protein than others, including athletes, pregnant and breastfeeding women, and physically active people.
Protein and weight loss
High protein diets have been found to promote weight loss and may help to:
- Increase satiety or feelings of fullness after eating
- Control appetite and food cravings
- Speeding recovery after exercise
Can too much protein be harmful?
The short answer is yes. Like other foods, too much of a good thing is certainly possible. You may have heard some scary things about how too much protein can damage your kidneys and liver. But before you throw away all your chicken drumsticks and protein powder, we’re here to tell you not to worry too much!
The biggest concern about overconsumption is for those who are predisposed to kidney disease as your kidneys may not be able to remove all the waste from eating protein.
However, eating excessive protein for prolonged periods can cause a metabolic burden on your kidneys, liver and bones - causing them to work overtime.
How much is too much?
This is difficult to answer specifically, as there is no agreed consensus. For the average person, it is probably best to consume no more than 2g of protein per kg body weight.
This is because most research indicates that eating more than 2 g per kg of body weight daily of protein for a long time may cause health problems.
Symptoms associated with too much protein include intestinal discomfort and indigestion. Eating too much protein in one sitting over and over again can stress your kidneys which could lead to dehydration.
What happens if I have too much protein?
Our bodies cannot store protein and once the requirement is reached, excess protein is converted into fat or energy. For this reason, research shows that spreading our protein intake during the day at each meal is best for optimal muscle synthesis.
Where should I get my protein from?
Choosing organic animal and plant-based proteins is always the best option. In moderation - lean, grass-fed meats or wild-caught fish are also healthy options.
On the plant side, lentils, beans and nut butters are easy and nutritious sources. Some other great protein options include:
- Pea protein
- Whey protein
- Beans and lentils
- Eggs/egg whites
- Fish and seafood - prawns, crab, lobster, mussels, oysters, scallops, clams
- Nuts and nut butters
- Dairy products - milk, yoghurt (especially Greek yoghurt), cheese (especially cottage cheese)
- Lean meats - pork, beef, veal
- Poultry – chicken, turkey, duck
Pea protein is one of the most easily absorbed plant-based protein sources, so is a great option for those who are plant based and suffer from digestive issues.
Wondering if whey or pea protein is better muscle-building? Turns out, it’s a tie: A 2019 study suggests the two types of protein have similar results. Therefore, there appears to be negligible difference between pea protein and whey protein when it comes to athletic performance and muscle building.
Our NGX BodyFuel is a complete vegan protein with a mix of premium brown rice and pea protein, so contains all 9 amino acids for optimal muscle growth and repair.