Protein Overload

Regardless of whether you’re a top class professional athlete or a recreational weight lifter who visits the gym several times a week, protein is an essential part of everyone’s diet. In a nutshell, protein can be considered the building block from which all life forms exist and is required in optimal amounts to ensure the human body can function both efficiently and effectively.

So how much protein is considered optimal? This really is the million dollar question – but there isn’t a straight forward black and white answer. To answer this question fully, you have to weigh up and contemplate numerous variables about a particular individual; what’s adequate for one person is likely to differ significantly for another.

One key variable to consider when contemplating optimal protein requirements is the activity levels of the individual. Those undertaking regular exercise, and in particular strength training, will require greater daily protein intake than their sedentary counterparts.

One of the reasons for this is that protein is required for recovery and repair processes as well as the laying down of new muscular mass. This is obviously more relevant for those individuals that are considered physically active as opposed to those who choose to spend their time completing alternative activities.

With the above in mind, surely for physically active individuals the more protein you consume the better? With all these positive benefits on offer, can there really be such a thing as too much protein?

As with everything in life, too much of a good thing can sometimes negatively impact upon the body. So today we take a look at recent guidelines in relation to protein consumption levels and consider some of the tell-tale signs and symptoms of excessive protein consumption…

Protein Consumption Guidelines

Many researchers have contemplated and debated what the optimal protein intake is for years – and it appears this debate will continue long into the future. Having said all that, there is some common ground amongst researchers: regardless of whether you’re an endurance athlete or strength athlete, you still require greater protein consumption levels when comparisons are drawn against a sedentary individual.

Lemon (1995), in his aptly titled research investigation ‘Do Athletes Need More Dietary Protein And Amino Acids?’, concluded that sedentary individuals require approximately 0.8g of protein per kilogram of bodyweight per day while endurance athletes would benefit from a heightened protein diet of 1.2-1.4g of protein per kilogram of bodyweight per day. The range for strength athletes can again be seen to rise and is in the region of 1.4-1.8g of protein per kilogram of bodyweight per day.

It is often the latter group that produces most conflict, with alternative research investigations suggesting an even greater figure of 2.6g of protein per kilogram of bodyweight per day for strength athletes.

Symptoms Of Too Much Protein Consumption
Lower Back Pain

All proteins contain amino acids and when consumed in excessive amounts, your body breaks them down into a product known as ammonia.

This ammonia is then further converted into a waste product known as urea. In high amounts, urea can impact negatively upon the kidneys and create a painful response, which can often be localised to your lower back region.

Too much protein can cause lower back pain

Excessive Sweating And/Or Urination

This next symptom follows on nicely from the first. In a nutshell, the more protein you consume, the more water lost through either sweating, urination or both.

The reason for this is the process of ridding urea from your body utilises water. Enhanced protein intake should be supplemented with enhanced water intake to prevent any dehydration.

If you are sweating or urinating more than usual, your protein intake could be too high

Reduced Appetite And Sickness

The consumption of high protein diets often falls in line with low carbohydrate consumption. This method of nutrition can often result in reduced appetite, sickness or a combination of the two.

When carbohydrates are in short supply, the body often turns to fat stores as a fuel source and this can result in harmful effects on your liver, while also affecting appetite levels.

Increased levels of protein could lead to a reduced appetite and even sickness

If you are currently experiencing one or more of the side effects listed above then it might be time to evaluate your protein consumption levels and overall eating habits. If symptoms persist, you should also make contact with your local medical practitioner.

It should be noted that this is by no means a definitive list – other short and long term signs and symptoms might include weight gain, intestinal irritation, dizziness, heart palpitations, bone calcium deficiencies and kidney issues.

Final Word

Regardless of whether you’re a sedentary individual, recreational weight lifter or top class professional athlete, protein consumption levels matter to you and your overall health and fitness.

Research investigations and their subsequent findings and recommended guidelines have been produced for a reason; you wouldn’t consume more medication than the doctor prescribed for you or ignore the guidelines for use on your favourite pre-workout supplement, so why should the consumption of protein within your daily diet be any different?

At the very least, consuming excessive protein levels is a waste of both food and money; at the most, it can significantly impact upon your overall health and fitness levels and bring about numerous undesirable and potentially dangerous medical implications.

If you’re an endurance athlete, try following the recommended 1.2-1.4g of protein per kilogram of bodyweight per day guidelines. Conversely, if you’re a strength athlete then why not abide by the recommended 1.4-1.8g of protein per kilogram of bodyweight per day?

Obviously, these stated values will require you to adopt a trial and error approach to determine which end of the scale works best for you, but provided you don’t massively deviate from the norm, you should be able to continue to develop at your chosen activity while also remaining both fit and healthy.

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