Protein : How Much Exactly is Enough?
As fitness enthusiasts, we all know the importance of protein in our diet to aid lean muscle building and repairing of damaged tissues and cells. Instead of piling on lots of meat and beans on your meal plate, the popularity of soluble powdered protein has increased over the recent years. Because of the convenience it brings for its users, having a protein powder that dissolves in water and mixes with almost anything is just so easy and appealing to us.
I do take my protein shake together with a nutritional mix on a daily basis. I will share this on a subsequent article later on. Writing this article is to address the concern of the possibility of having too much of protein. In fact, we all know that too much of any one thing, is not necessarily good for our health.
Many athletes believe that consuming large amounts of protein will help to improve their performance. Engaging in strength and endurance training day in and out does require a fair amount of protein. This theory is true to a certain extent; but to consume too much will possibly result in a decrease in performance as well because other nutrients are then sacrificed.
The Science behind Proteins
Proteins are large molecules consisting of one or more chains of amino acids. There are some 21 different types of amino acids that combine to make protein. These amino acids when absorbed, help to make up blood plasma, tissues, and muscles. They also activate the vitamins we ingest. Proteins also help to speed up body chemical reactions and regulate the breakdown of carbohydrates and fats used for giving energy.
As with any nutrient in our body, there is only so much our body can use at one time, and the extra gets stored as carbohydrates or fats! (OOPS!*) The recommended daily intake for protein is : 0.8g per kg of body weight. If you are physically active everyday, you may have a higher protein requirement as compared to one who isn’t. 1.2g per kg of body weight is a good gauge for those who wishes to monitor their intake. Till date no research has shown that taking more protein than the recommended can actually prove to be more beneficial. Calories are also essential to ‘fuel’ up your body to utilize the protein.
Harmful effects of excess amounts of protein
- Dehydration – Excess amount of protein requires extra water to break down, which could lead to dehydration. (Read below)
- Calcium Loss – Depending on the type of protein you take, a high protein intake generates large amount of acids, which will lead to urinary calcium loss, resulting in negative calcium balance.
- Stress – Extra protein intake can actually add additional stress to your bodily system.
Too much protein cause a buildup of toxic ketones. Ketones can ‘overwork’ your kidneys as they try to flush out these ketones from our body. The process in itself can cause a loss of water, which could put you at risk of dehydration, especially so if you exercise heavily. The water loss from your body often gets misread as weight loss, but this water loss is actually losing muscle mass and bone calcium.
Therefore, think again before cutting down on your carbohydrates and substituting with proteins. Drastically reducing your carbohydrates intake may prompt your body to fight back harder. It does not mean I am opposing protein shakes, but I could not stress more on the importance of using it CORRECTLY, and EFFECTIVELY. Diet can be a tricky topic but with proper knowledge, you will soon find a balance that is optimal for your ideal health and energy level. Protein is afterall essential to our body’s normal functions and a key building block for muscles, bones and cartilage.
Start counting your protein intake today. If you are eating more than what you need, decrease the amount because you do not want to live with a misconception that could ruin your health in the long run.