Can too much protein be harmful?
The short answer is yes. As with most things in life, there can be too much of a good thing and if you eat too much protein, there may be a price to pay. For example, people who eat very high protein diets have a higher risk of kidney stones. Also, a high protein diet that contains lots of red meat and higher amounts of saturated fat might lead to a higher risk of heart disease and colon cancer, while another high protein diet rich in plant-based proteins may not carry similar risks.Source: health.harvard.edu
Too much protein intake can at times create complications. During discussions on Protein Digestion in various forums, we come across lots of curiosity regarding excessive intake of this macronutrient. I have just finished my research on the benefits of a high protein diet to the human body, so the following questions are asked even more frequently
When to eat Protein?
- How much Protein is too much Protein?
- Does Protein make you Gain Weight?
- Are there any harms of high protein diet?
There are various high protein foods like Chicken Breasts, Dairy Products, Egg Whites but these questions are especially linked to milk based proteins. Approximately 65 percent of the adult population produce only small amounts of lactase and are unable to eat unfermented milk-based foods. Lactose intolerance varies widely by genetic heritage; more than 90 percent of peoples of east Asian descent are lactose intolerant, in contrast to about 5 percent of people of northern European descent.
Whey Protein Powder
From a nutritional point of view, it is a unique product in the sense that no other natural product has such high proteins in it. Still, it is looked at by lot many people with great scepticism. Are you wondering why I called natural? Well, it is simply the dried whey left after making cottage cheese. All additions are to give it a taste or increase its shelf life.
Let us look at the harm from high protein diet if any.
When to eat Protein?
One of the main questions people ask is, ” When to eat Protein?” I would suggest you get most of it from your food only as then protein digestion will be easier as it will be properly distributed at various times throughout the day.
If you still need more dietary proteins for reducing your body weight, then have it as snacks between the meals. Due to this you will feel less hungry, have fewer cravings and will eat less during the meal times.
Now if your purpose is to gain muscle mass then have dietary protein within one hour of your morning workout as at that time there is maximum need for muscle repair and whey absorbs quickly too.
Casein is a slow absorbing dietary protein and if you are on a weight loss plan then, have it an hour before sleep at night, and it will get itself digested throughout the night. You may also have it if you exercise in the evening.
For the prevention of muscle loss in older adults, it is better to distribute it during the day evenly to aid proper protein digestion.
Some people do take dietary protein before a workout. Their purpose is to provide nutrients to the muscle for recovery along with their workout.
What are the advantages of hydrolysed protein over intact protein?
Hydrolysed protein is a pre-digested protein. As such it is easily absorbed by the body. The hydrolysates elicited about 50% more gastric secretion than the whole protein solutions, leading to better amino acid absorption (Calbet and Holst, 2004). Source: danonenutriciaacademy.in
How much is too much Protein?
It has to be noted that timing is not as important as consuming enough protein according to your body and activity level.
The Recommended Dietary Allowance of Protein(RDA) is 0.8 grams of protein for every kilogram of body weight she has.
Now, as society gets more health-conscious protein consumption is increasing. Not only people in the sports field but others too, irrespective of their age are increasing their consumption of protein per day. Some times to get quick gains, some of us increase its consumption to unreasonable levels.
Generally, the daily Protein consumption of bodybuilders, weightlifters, athletes is up to 2 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight and increase their intake further in the belief that it will boost their performance.
A couple of days ago a person asked me, “Whether I can have three scoops of protein powder a day”? Yes, I said, you can, but why? Why this sudden rush to have a superhuman body, six-pack abs and less than 20 Body Fat Ratio. Instead, can't you have some inexpensive protein foods which are light on pocket as well as body?
We can control our problems just by staying within the limiting line.
Proteins within limit are not at all harmful to a healthy body, period. You do get all the benefits associated with it if you were on a low protein food till date and are increasing the intake now. But if you want to have three scoops today then obviously you are inviting various troubles.
Is Protein Powder bad for Kidneys?
Protein is bad in case you have kidney disease. First and foremost get your medical examination done to know that you have healthy kidneys and liver.
Doctors do advise a low protein diet in case of kidney disease.
If you already have problems here, then extra protein diet is not advisable at all.
Whey or Casein Allergy
If you have milk protein allergies, then protein digestion is a problem. Then Whey or Casein protein should be avoided. You will suffer from diarrhoea, stomach upset, bloating and other related problems such as cramps, reduced appetite, nausea, headache, fatigue etc.
Does it have any side effects?
Most side effects are related to digestion only which is due to lactose intolerance.
Whey Protein Concentrate Alternatives
In that case, you can have
- Whey Protein Isolate – It is the more refined variant and does not have lactose.
- Hydrolysate – It is even more refined and pre-digested.
- Plant based Protein – A third option is plant-based protein like pea or rice protein or egg protein powder.
Sugar Content in Protein Powder
It is also important that you read the labels thoroughly on Protein packs.
The sugar quantity varies from 0 gm to 23 gm in one scoop. So you can get from 96 calories to 200 calories per scoop of protein. Instead of getting lean, you will start gaining weight if you are unaware.
Is protein powder bad for kids?
Yes, it is in certain cases. It is also mentioned on the manufacturer's packaging. Keep out of reach of children or Not recommended for children is usually mentioned on the Protein powder labels. The reason is Sucralose. Companies add this compound as it is a zero-calorie sweetener. Sucralose is good or bad for kids is not yet confirmed. But some companies using it do mention it on their pack along with the warning.
A non-profit group called The Clean Label Project survey reported this. After screening 134 products, they found that many protein powders have heavy metals in them like lead, arsenic, cadmium, mercury and also Bisphenol-A and other pesticides. It could be due to their manufacturing process or the existence of toxins in the soil. These can result in Cancer & other health problems in humans.
Does protein make you gain weight?
Generally, the whey protein is associated with weight loss. Low-calorie high protein meals cause weight loss. But over-enthusiasm can result in weight gain also.
As mentioned earlier, everything in excess is bad. If you are having a high calorie, high protein diet, then your proteins start converting to fat, and your purpose of reducing weight or increasing muscle mass is not solved. On the other hand, the weight starts increasing in such cases.
By the way, there are mass gainers available in the market for weight gain. These have much more carbohydrates in them than Protein powders.
Having a high excess protein can cause bad breath as well. More so if you are also restricting your carbohydrate intake.
It is because when the body goes into the ketosis state, it produces chemicals giving an unpleasant smell.
No amount of brushing will help get rid of this smell. Doubling your water intake does help, or you can chew gum to counter the effect.
Another side effect can be constipation due to this combination of high protein and low carbohydrate diet. As fibre consumption also reduces, it may result in constipation at times and the only prevention of this is by increasing fibre intake.
According to a small 2002 study , it might result in dehydration, as at times nitrogen also gets flushed out with fluids and water, especially in, active persons. More research is required on this, though.
The only way out is to drink more water.
Proteins and Cancer
Some studies have associated animal protein from red meat with cancer also. The risk can, however, be lowered by getting the same amount of proteins from fish & poultry. But more research is required in this case.
Similarly, it could have an impact on our heart as well, as red meat consumption results in a higher intake of saturated fats and cholesterol.
As the protein consumption increases, so do various studies & myths around it. In almost all the cases mentioned above the problem arises due to two reasons.
- Suppose you are allergic to lactose. Then you can shift to plant-based or egg protein.
- Your protein intake is very high.
For God's sake, please understand One cannot get muscles overnight by eating a drum load of Protein.
Nor can you lose weight overnight. You have to work on both, and you will get results.