Too much protein: 7 signs and how to stay balanced

Is there any risk of eating too much protein ?

He who eats on a full stomach digs his grave with his teeth.

(Turkish proverb)

It is so true that a balanced diet with quality foods contributes to your health. They bring you everything you need to live: nutrients, vitamins, carbohydrates, lipids, proteins and many other substances. 

And as the proverb in the introduction points out, it must be admitted that the quality and quantity of these different elements are also important for good health. 

Besides, who has never read: "For your health avoid eating too fat, too sweet, too salty". Yes, yes, it's written at the bottom of your screen when an ad for a good little industrial dish or a packet of crisps.

It is a proven fact that excess fat, especially saturated fat, and carbohydrates are detrimental to health. But what about proteins? Is eating a lot of protein harmful? 

With an increase in the vegetarian and vegan market and the growing popularity of high protein diets in recent years, this macronutrient has been in the spotlight. And suddenly, research on its effects on the human body has multiplied. 

What do they reveal? 

Testoprime

Can we eat too much protein?

Following a few alerts in the scientific community, a study was carried out to define whether or not the overconsumption of protein supplements or a high protein dietary intake could be the cause of health concerns.

The 2 main problems revealed are: 

  • Excess protein is not not used effectively by the body and can impose a metabolic load on the bones, kidneys and liver;
  • High-protein diets with regular consumption of certain meats with a high level of saturated fatty acids can also be associated with an increase heart disease or even a risk of cancer.

The importance of protein intake

Nuts sources of protein
22.60 g protein in almonds

In our countries, the fairly easy access to a varied diet means that daily protein intake is not a major concern. This is true if your daily diet is balanced and contains every nutrient.

NOTE : this statement obviously excludes anyone with a pathology requiring a higher than average intake.

If, for example, you are used to eating animal products on a daily basis (meat, fish, egg, dairy products, etc.), your required daily protein intake is probably reached. And if you add legumes or nuts to that, then you don't really have to worry.

However, if you follow a vegan diet low protein, the problem must be resolved quickly. By doing it right, a vegan or vegetarian diet with whole grains and rich foods with the correct amino acid profile may be sufficient. You will learn more about “complete proteins” later.

But if you do a resistance sport like bodybuilding, you will probably need to supplement your daily intake.

What is the daily protein requirement?

For an adult, the current Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) is 0.8 g of protein consumed daily per kilo of body weight. It is 1g for a person with minimal physical activity, 1.3g with moderate physical activity, 1.6g with intense physical activity and around 2g for someone who wants to gain muscle mass. 

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For a teenager, this intake should be 1 g per kg of body weight, and for a child it should be 1.5 g.

The occasional overconsumption of protein remains safe up to the upper safe limit of approximately 3.5 g/kg for healthy people.

But on the long term, high regular consumption (> 2 g/kg) can lead to digestive, renal and vascular abnormalities. Many professional bodybuilders have paid dearly for it. Well, it's true that they generally don't only eat red meat or chicken breast and 5g of protein per kilo of body weight 😉     

Signs you're eating too much protein

Do you think you are consuming too much protein?

The consequences of excessive protein consumption can be classified into 2 categories: direct or indirect. Here are some physical clues that can alert you…

Direct consequences of excess protein

Eating too much protein and headaches

Risk of dehydration

You know you're drinking enough water, but you feel dehydrated. It may be the result of a diet that is too high in protein. Indeed, one of their components is nitrogen. To evacuate it through the urine, the body uses a lot of water, which leads to increased urination and a feeling of thirst.

Frequent urination 

Besides flushing out protein nitrogen with urine, there is another reason for frequent urges to pee. The kidneys process a limited amount of this nutrient at a time. The buildup of unprocessed protein in the kidneys creates a much more acidic environment. The urge to urinate is a reaction to this discomfort.

Headache

Headaches can appear because of dehydration problems. This symptom can also be the result of not consuming enough carbohydrates. These nutrients are indeed the main source of energy and they must be part of your diet, even if you reduce them (see the “fatigue and irritability” section).

Kidney stones

Eating too much animal protein like meat, eggs, and seafood can raise uric acid levels in your body and lead to the development of kidney stones over time. This problem is something to watch out for especially for people who already have kidney problems.

Such an excess also lowers levels of urinary citrate in the body, a chemical that prevents the formation of kidney stones. And finally, this dietary imbalance impacts the calcium level, which can also promote this phenomenon.

bad breath

too much protein - bad breath

If you follow a ketogenic (or keto for short) diet and your friends drift away when you talk, don't be surprised. And it's even worse if your kid tells you: "But your mouth stinks!"

The conversion of fat into ketosis by the liver produces that smelly breath.

In addition, it seems that proteins can also generate this annoying characteristic. And so, if you abandon all the carbohydrates in favor of them, the excess, which is difficult for the body to digest, will produce amino acids which, associated with a bacterium, will give a sulfur compound eliminated by urination and exhalation. And if you know that sulfur smells like rotten eggs... You have been warned 😄

Indirect consequences of high protein diets

Tiredness and irritability

Energy is found in fats, carbohydrates and proteins. But the main source of energy for the body are carbohydrates. Some "weight loss" diets advocate cutting carbs while increasing fat and protein. It is totally true that excess carbohydrates are a major health hazard. Their decrease, especially that of fast sugars, is a good thing, especially when you have excess body fat.

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But the total stop is not not the best solution for the organism. Slow sugars, found mainly in starchy foods, should normally cover 40 % of energy needs. Final point.

If you don't give it, your body will compensate by converting protein into carbohydrates to produce energy, but this "digestion" is slow. This process then generates a physical and mental fatigue. And a lack of energy in the brain sends distress signals that can lead to mood swings or irritability. 

So if you want to stay bearable for those around you, don't cut out all carbohydrates 😉

Digestive discomfort. 

Nausea, constipation and diarrhea can be consequences of a high protein diet. It is not this macronutrient which generates these disturbances, but deficiencies resulting from stopping the consumption of certain foods essential to the proper functioning of the digestive system.

For example, some diets that focus on consuming animal-based protein skip foods containing fibers which are mainly found in fruits, vegetables and cereals. However, fibers play an essential role in the consistency and evacuation of stools. 

Diarrhea, on the other hand, can be caused by the regular intake of protein shakes and powders. Artificial sweeteners, stevia, and added sugar alcohols in some of these products may be linked to stomach upset and diarrhea. If you buy whey protein or vegetable powder, so favor those that are no additives or fragrances.

NOTE : These symptoms and these discomforts only correspond to a problem of overconsumption of proteins. They can also be signs of another health problem. 

Recent discovery on protein overconsumption

mouse reading an article about proteins

A recent study on the effects of high-protein diets reveals an increase in cardiovascular risk.

This study (in English), made on mice, shows that high dietary protein causes atherosclerosis. Their absorption drastically elevates blood amino acid levels and increases the formation and complexity of atherosclerotic plaque. This plaque is also unstable and can easily rupture the arterial wall.

Of course, you're probably not a mouse since you're reading this article... or a very educated mouse. But it is good to take this type of study into account so as not to take unnecessary risks for your health.

Proteins are our friends

Now you know how much you should eat and the possible risks if you consume too much. But that doesn't mean you should skip it. On the contrary !

As with everything else in life, usus is good, but abusus is not. Or as other people would say, “we must not push granny in the nettles” 😂

The takeaway is that it's an essential macronutrient for muscle tissue. You need to learn to eat enough quality protein foods. Your diet should have about 30 % to 35 % along with 25 to 30 % of healthy fats and 40 % of complex carbohydrates.

And know that if you are of the ectomorphic morphological type, weight training and appropriate protein consumption are your allies for weight gain.

Why Quality Protein Foods

Proteins are made up of thousands of amino acids. But depending on their source, they don't all contain the same amino acids. 

For this nutrient to play its role well and participate correctly in the production of new muscle fibers in the body, it must contain the 9 essential amino acids to form "complete" proteins.

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These essential amino acids are:

  • Histidine
  • Isoleucine
  • Leucine
  • Lysine
  • Methionine
  • Phenylalanine
  • Threonine
  • Tryptophan
  • Valine

On the other hand, your body knows how to manufacture the other 12 itself if you do not supply it.

Foods of animal origin, such as meats, dairy products or fish are mostly good complete sources. And among the plants, it is the same with quinoa, soya, buckwheat, hemp, chia seeds and the spirulina, among others.

For other foods, they often have to be associated with others with the missing amino acids to provide the building blocks necessary for muscle building. For example, you can combine brown rice with lentils or white beans.

But it is also essential to take into account the other components protein foods. For example, white or red meat, fish, an egg or peanuts also contain lipids, carbohydrates, fibre, sodium, etc. It is all these components that will have an impact on your health. Absorbing a food simply because it is rich in protein, without taking into account the rest would be a mistake. 

Here are 2 examples: 

  • A ham steak of about 120 g with 22 g of protein also contains 1.6 g of saturated fat and 1500 mg of sodium.  
  • A plate of lentils (about 200 g) that contains 18 g also provides 15 g of fiber and almost no saturated fat or sodium. Add brown rice for a better amino acid profile.

Moreover, lentils and almonds are among the foods with the least saturated fat and sodium with a good protein profile.

What about protein supplements?

Protein Shaker for Muscle Recovery

It can be a great choice for sports enthusiasts or for snacks to replace sweets and crisps.

However, protein powders should also be checked carefully. You can find for example proteins on Eafit.com with very different compounds. They can be made from eggs and whey (whey) or from plants such as soybeans or peas.

Check the product contents

However, they may also contain other non-protein ingredients. For example, the manufacturer may add thickeners, ingredients to enrich them such as vitamins and minerals, or to give them flavor such as sweeteners and artificial flavors. You should therefore read the composition carefully before deciding.

These supplements can therefore be good allies to promote muscle gain or rebalance a diet too rich in sugar. Especially since this nutrient is more satiating and will help you lose weight.

Too Much Protein – Conclusion

Optimizing your health, keeping a balanced weight, having a beautiful musculature, all of this requires investment and a basic knowledge of nutrition. 

Some people regret for a long time having rushed headlong into high-protein diets without having taken the time to understand the process and know their real needs.

Continue to take care of yourself, eat a balanced diet, stay well hydrated, exercise enough, rest properly and LONG LIVE THE PROTEINS that help each of these stages to be done well.

What do you think ? Leave a message in the comments area below to share your experience or to ask your questions. THANK YOU !

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