Benefits and Dangers of Protein: Finding the Right Balance

There’s a great deal of hype in the nutrition world about consuming large amounts of protein. We are encouraged to eat high protein diets and add protein supplements, most particularly if we are actively involved in bodybuilding and high intensity exercise. However, can you get too much protein and can it be bad for your health?

Benefits of Protein

Protein is quite beneficial for repairing and building muscle mass and filling you up, which helps to cut down on eating those unhealthy snacks in between meals. It is also a key factor in a balanced diet that is essential in keeping you healthy, especially when participating in strenuous workout programs. Protein-rich foods such as meat, poultry, fish, eggs, and legumes are great sources of amino acids that are used by the body to rebuild tissue. Protein is also beneficial in weight loss programs because foods containing protein make you feel fuller and stick with you longer, assisting in both the shedding and managing of weight.

Dangers of Too Much Protein

Many people are under the impression that consuming large amounts of protein and protein supplements will automatically bulk them up. Unfortunately, muscles are not going to grow without paying the necessary dues of exercise or weightlifting. Slamming high doses of protein can also lead to a significant reduction in carbohydrate consumption, which is where we get a good amount of our fiber. If fiber intake becomes too low, you could experience constipation or diverticulitis. Also, the body does not store protein, but breaks what it needs down into the required amino acids in order to repair and grow any muscles that have been damaged or stressed through workouts. Any leftover nitrogen (a byproduct of amino acids) remaining in the system is sent to the kidneys to be excreted. If you consume more protein than is needed, it will be sent to the kidneys, which have to work overtime to get rid of it. Current studies are suggesting that a consistent high intake of protein can actually cause kidney disease.

Dangers of Too Little Protein

There are also risks with consuming too little protein. Insufficient doses can result in such symptoms as fatigue, diarrhea, and extreme weight loss as a result of becoming malnourished. If you are a vegetarian, make sure to eat plenty of nuts and legumes, supplemented by soy products. If you’re just a light eater, add moderate amounts of lean meats that include chicken, beef tenderloin, fish, and turkey.

How Many Grams of Protein Should I Eat?

It’s relatively easy to determine what amount of protein is right for you. People over 18 years old who are involved in normal activity need to consume 0.36 grams per pound of body weight daily. However, if you are a bodybuilder, marathon runner, or highly active in another sport or aerobic exercise, you should consume much more protein (at least 1 gram per pound of body weight) due to the extra use of the muscles and the elevated metabolic levels that are a direct result of such activities. Keep in mind that a nutritionally balanced diet is what’s important and this is definitely true when it comes to consuming dietary protein and protein supplements.

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