Proteins are essential macronutrients that contribute to tissue growth and repair – which is very important in building muscle. They also provide the body with energy and are an important source of enzymes, hormones, and other substances.
Protein is found in meat, fish, eggs, milk, yogurt, and cheese. Some vegetables also contain protein, like peas and spinach.
Can too much protein be harmful?
Maintaining a well-balanced diet is important for your overall health. Proteins are an essential part of your daily diet, but it’s easy to overeat them.
Too much protein can be bad for your digestive system, while not enough protein can leave you feeling weak and/or tired.
When Too Much Protein Becomes Harmful
Eating too much protein can also lead to protein toxicity and organ failure. (1)
For context, protein molecules are made up of amino acids. These molecules serve as the building blocks of our existence. They are used to create and repair muscle tissue, regulate chemical reactions within the body, and produce energy for us to use.
Our body has an intricate network of these proteins that connects each organ to every other part of the body; this is what keeps us alive and functioning well.
When you consume too much protein, these networks may become overwhelmed with too much work — which can lead to buildup in various tissues (e.g., kidney or liver). This build-up may cause acidosis or toxicity in those tissues and can result in organ dysfunction if untreated over time. The kidneys, for example, may become unable to process the chemicals in your body.
This buildup also occurs if excess protein is not excreted from your body through urine.
Protein toxicity can also make you tired and weak so that you have a harder time doing physical activities like working, sports and going to the gym.
The different amounts of amino acids found in protein sources such as meat, egg whites, milk, and yogurt may lead to different levels of toxicity and response.
In addition, eating too much protein could cause problems in your liver, kidneys, or bones as well as a weakened immune system. (1)
But remember, not getting enough protein could lead to fatigue and a lower metabolic rate, since proteins help build muscle mass.
How do you know if you're eating too much protein?
Signs that you’re eating too much protein include:
- Fatigue or muscle weakness
- Unexplained weight gain around your waist or hips
- Darkened urine — a sign of kidney stress or liver damage
Avoiding protein toxicity is not difficult if you pay attention to how much you’re eating. While it’s important to include adequate amounts of protein in your diet, you should be careful not to eat more than is healthy for you.
So, when it comes to protein, how much is too much?
For a healthy diet, the World Health Organization recommends 0.36-0.8 grams (g) per kilogram of body weight each day (1 kg equals 2 pounds).
More than 1.5 grams per kilogram of body weight is unhealthy and dangerous – even if you’re lean and physically active.
What types of protein should you eat?
Proteins are found in meat, fish, eggs, milk yogurt, and cheese, as well as some vegetables, such as peas and spinach.
If you’re looking to build muscle, the best sources of protein are red meat and poultry, like chicken or turkey.
If you’re vegetarian or vegan, then you can get protein from seeds, soybeans, nuts, and peas. They’re also present in small quantities in some fruits and vegetables.
The key to being healthy with protein is moderation. Too much can be harmful, while too little will lead to fatigue and weakness.
As stated earlier, the World Health Organization recommends 0.36-0.8 grams (g) per kilogram of body weight each day (1 kg equals 2 pounds). For better overall health, try to keep it around this range.
On another note, if you’re wondering about carbs and how much is too much, then read this.