According to statistics, most individuals in the US take in 3-5 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. This calculates to about 40-70 grams of protein per day. 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
If you eat more protein than your body really can use can cause problems with your overall health and fitness in several ways.
Too much protein can lead to these health issues:
- Increased blood sugar
- Weight gain
- 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 the body, several essential amino acids cannot be made by the body tissues but must be taken in through food sources. Your amino acids are what make the protein that helps grow muscle, bony tissue, enzymes, and several hormones your body needs to survive.
Your body processes protein less efficiently as you age so that 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. Regular people who are not aging or pregnant can stick to eating 40-70 grams of protein daily as suggested.
There is an upper limit as to how much protein your body has the ability to make use of. 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 fat.
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 not high-quality meat and comes from animal farms where animals are fed grains that have been genetically altered instead of grass in a pasture. You should 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 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 the excesses 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 to the proper amounts.
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 May 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 the restriction of the amino acid known as methionine. This 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
You need to know exactly how much protein you need to consume in order to be healthy. It can be calculated as taking in 500 mg of protein per pound of lean body mass or about 40-60 grams of protein daily. If you are excessively exercising or are pregnant, you need to take in about 25 percent more than that.
You also need to remember that a serving of protein is about the size of one deck of cards. Then you need to estimate the amount of protein you need. Your lean body mass is your percent body fat subtracted from a hundred. Make that into a percentage and multiply that by your total weight in pounds. Multiply that number into 0.5 grams per pound to get your protein requirement for the day.
What Foods to Eat
To get the protein you need, but not too much, choose protein found in eggs, dairy products, meat, fish, legumes, seeds, and nuts. Forty grams of protein isn’t very much: about two hamburger patties. You do not need to be a vegetarian to avoid eating too much protein. Read food labels and look up the amount of protein in the foods you are eating. If you are eating too much, just adjust your diet so you are eating the right amount of protein.