With all the protein-packed foods and protein powders and the emphasis on eating a high-protein, low-carb diet to lose weight, the world is protein-obsessed! While protein is essential for muscle growth, satiety, which helps with weight loss, and bone health, there is such a thing as getting too much protein.
So how much is too much? Everyone's daily protein needs are different, based on their weight and activity level. Whip out your calculators because registered dietitians Stephanie Clarke, RD, and Willow Jarosh, RD, of C&J Nutrition say there's an easy way to figure out the number of daily protein grams that's right for you.
Take your weight in pounds and divide it by 2.2 to figure out your weight in kilograms. Then multiply that number by 0.8 (not very active), 1.3 (active or pregnant), or 1.8 (extremely active), depending on how much exercise you get. For example, per day, a 150-pound woman needs 54.7 grams (not very active), 88.7 grams (active or pregnant), or 122.8 grams (extremely active).
Aside from getting enough protein per day, how you break up your daily protein is important, too. Certified dietitian Leslie Langevin, MS, RD, CD, of Whole Health Nutrition told POPSUGAR, "The body can only absorb 20 to 30 grams at one time. Eating this amount of protein is a good target per meal because that will help with satiety and be the max your body can absorb at the meal for muscle repair."
If you've heard that eating more protein is better for weight loss, it's true, but these six things happen when you eat too much:
Nicole Van Groningen, MD, shares that studies show women who eat too much protein are actually more likely to gain weight. Dr. Luiza Petre, a board-certified cardiologist and weight-management specialist, adds that "protein shakes can be full of calories and sugar, as well as red meat which can be loaded with fat and calories. Thus, if you add protein bars for snacks, these are also packed with calories, sugar and chemicals — hence weight gain."
Constantly thirsty? That's another indication that you're consuming too much protein. Dr. Petre says, "Dehydration occurs when your kidneys are overworked by removing nitrogen waste and excess proteins from metabolizing the protein causing you to urinate in excess." Willow and Stephanie say this can eventually put a strain on the kidneys.
Fiber is a must in keeping you regular, and chances are, if you're focusing on a high-protein diet, you're not getting the 25 to 30 grams you need to keep your digestive system rolling along properly. "You will wind up feeling bloated, gassy, and constipated," says Dr. Petre.
Your body is used to running on glucose that's broken down from the carbohydrates you eat. If you're eating a high-protein, low-carb diet, your brain function is likely to be affected, "impairing our ability to make decisions, judgment, and awareness. So if you're having difficulty thinking, focusing, finding the right word and/or are forgetful, welcome to brain fog and too much protein."
Since our brains run on sugar from the carbs we eat, when your sugar dips too low, you can't produce serotonin. Dr. Petre says, "Low serotonin will cause you to feel irritable, blah, and grouchy," which will then increase your cravings for sugar.
Cardiovascular Issues and Cancer
Dr. Groningen says getting too much protein, mainly from sources such as meat and dairy products, means you're twice as likely to die from cardiovascular causes and 48 percent more likely to die from cancer, including colon cancer.
Registered dietitian Amy Shapiro, MS, RD, CDN, of Real Nutrition NYC points out that Americans eat "way more" protein than they need to. Although current recommendations state that the average woman should eat about 46 to 70 grams of protein per day, the typical American woman actually eats twice that.
Aside from those terrible side effects of eating too much protein, Amy says, "Eating too much of any food group can be harmful to your health and diet goals. It's about balance." Strive to eat a mixture of protein, healthy fats, and carbs, and you'll not only feel more satisfied, but it'll ensure you're getting all the nutrients you need to stay healthy.