Is Too Much Protein Bad for You

(Last Updated On: August 3, 2018)

How could the building block of life ever be too much to consume? Even the idea that too much protein could be bad for you should raise some eyebrows. There could be some validity to this point. Why would it even be brought up? You may reach a point when you do consume too much protein. If you do reach that point what will the symptoms be? Could too much protein be fatal?

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What is protein?

Definition

Any of a class of nitrogenous organic compounds that consist of large molecules composed of one or more long chains of amino acids and are an essential part of all living organisms, especially as structural components of body tissues such as muscle, hair, collagen, etc., and as enzymes and antibodies. Proteins collectively, especially as a dietary component. Protein is also known for building muscle mass and some primary sources of protein are animal mets, fish, eggs, nuts, and legumes. (leguminous plant (member of the pea family), especially one grown as a crop.a seed, pod, or other edible part of a leguminous plant used as food.)  Protein is considered to be one of the three macronutrients; Macronutrients provide calories or energy. The human body requires large amounts of macronutrients thus the term “macron” this definition is according to “the  University of Illinois Mckinley Health Center”. Proteins make up 15 percent of the body’s total weight and each gram of protein contains 4 calories.

So, in this way one side effect of too much protein could be weight gain through consuming too much protein. This is never healthy for the body to put on excessive weight. The chemical composition of proteins are amino acids, organic compounds such as carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen, oxygen or sulfur. Amino acids are the building blocks of proteins, and as was mentioned before proteins are the building blocks for muscle mass. Proteins also help with metabolism. Protein also helps with feeling full. There was a study conducted with women who ate high-protein snacks which reduced hunger which helped them avoid afternoon snacks. But can too much protein be bad for you?

Americans Consume Too much Protein

Americans Consume Too much Protein

It is reported that most Americans consume 3 to 5 times more protein than they should. The ideal protein consumption would be one-half gram of protein which translates to 40-70 grams per person. Excessive protein consumption can lead to blood sugar, weight gain, kidney stress, leaching of bone minerals, and stimulating cancer cells. These are some serious negative effects that excessive protein can bring to your body. Leaching of the bone minerals is not a good condition for the bones to be in. It may lead to weakening of the bones which could cause the bones to become brittle and break much easier. Another bad effect of excessive protein intake is dehydration which could be fatal if left unattended to. Did you know that too much protein may also interfere with health and fitness goals.

Imagine you are a potential olympian and you have trained all your life to participate in the olympics. We are talking a major portion of your waking hours have been spent training for this one event with the obvious goal to win a gold medal and became an olympic hero.

But somewhere along the way you decide that you must accelerate your body mass production so you start overloading on protein intake. Your body cannot take all the extra protein being fed into it. The body begins to breakdown and you are unable to compete at the level you need to. There go your lifelong ambition of participating in the olympics. All that hard work and those years of sacrifice gone with the wind. All because you thought you needed to speed up the body mass production by inhaling all that protein. You should have just followed a natural training regiment and let the body build its mass on a natural timeline. Was the excessive protein intake worth it?   

Excessive weight Gain   

If you intake too much protein (meaning more than your body needs) it will convert those excessive calories to sugar which will eventually become fat. This increased in weight will drive blood sugar levels up-we all know what happens if our blood sugar levels stay to high. Diabetes will set in and with it all types of harmful health effects.

Bad Bacteria     

Too much protein consumption will lead to increased blood sugar levels as was mentioned. This may lead to pathogenic bacteria and yeast such as Candida albicans (candidiasis) these unwanted yeast organisms will lead to all types of yeast infections which can create weight gain, fatigue, joint pain, and gas.

Yes Cancer Potential

One alarming effect of too much protein is the possibility that it could lead to the growth of cancer cells. Excessive protein will  have a stimulating effect on what is known as the on an important biochemical pathway called the mammalian target of rapamycin (mTOR). This passageway can encourage the growth of cancer cells. But if you limit the intake of protein this passageway will remain inactive and will be able to stimulate cancer cell growth.

Nitrogen Explosion

Another effect of excessive protein is the body is forced to remove many more nitrogen waste products which will eventually tax the kidneys. Kidney ailment are a health issue no one wants to deal with. You could end up having chronic dehydration which could be fatal as was mentioned before. This chronic dehydration from excessive protein intake was confirmed in a study involving athletes.

Longevity Issues   

We want to stumble onto the fountain of youth. Let us face reality we all want to live as long as we can. Studies conducted using animals as subjects found that reducing protein increased the animal’s lifespan. This could be promising for humans who want to find ways to extend their lifespans-reduce protein intake. Specifically this animal study zeroed in on an amino acid called methionine which can be found in many meats. Remember, protein is composed of amino acids.  

Other studies have indicated it may be the balancing it may be the balancing of amino acids that will lower the amino acid methionine which will still increased the human lifespan.

Cholesterol Busters

This is a short but very important bad effect of excessive protein intake. If you consume too much protein eventually it will lead to higher cholesterol levels which will lead to strokes, heart diseases, heart attacks, and cardiac arrest. All potentially fatal health issues so you get the hint.  

Reign in the Protein

As we said earlier most people need about 40 to 70 grams of protein a day. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has recommended this daily requirement for protein. Males typically need 56 grams a day and females need 46 grams a day. The exceptions to this are people who excessively compete in athletics and pregnant women. These typically need 25 percent more protein intake then the rest of the population. The amount of protein recommended would amount to the size of a deck of cards to put it into perspective. The formula to calculate proper protein intake involves weight and body composition as opposed to age and gender. So, in other words it doesn’t matter how old you are or what your gender type is.

Protein calculating formula.

Protein calculating formula

First determine the lean body mass. (This would be a reasonable first step since protein builds our body mass or muscle.) Next, subtract your percent  body fat from 100. For example, if you have 20 percent body fat, then you have 80 percent lean body mass. So, you would multiply that percentage (in this case 0.8) by your current body weight to get your lean body mass in pounds or kilos. Whatever measurement you fancy. So, in the above example, if you weighed in at a lean 160 pounds, 0.8 multiplied by 160 equals 128 pounds of lean body mass. Using the standard “one-half gram of protein” rule, you would really need about 64 grams of protein on a daily basis. Keep in mind that if your body weight fluctuates that your protein daily allowance will change with the weight gain or loss. 

A reminder that meat, fish, eggs, dairy products, legumes, nuts, and seeds contain protein in ample quantities. You can even intake protein from certain vegetables. These vegetables will have abundant amounts of protein such as broccoli. Be careful though because you will consume your recommended allowance in no time. Two small hamburger patties or one six-ounce chicken breast will bring your protein level to 4 0 grams. It would be beneficial for you to track your daily protein intake. All you have to do is calculate your body’s protein requirement by figuring out your lean body mass according to the above formula. Then right down everything you eat for a couple of days. You will know what your protein intake is on a daily basis. Now, you will know to increase or decrease the protein intake.  

Protein amounts by Food

Red meat, pork, poultry, and seafood carry about 6 to 9 grams of protein per ounce. Eating these meats and you will reach your protein requirements in no time. According to one doctor an ideal amount would be 3-ounce serving of meat or seafood (forget those 9to 12 0unce steaks!) which would give you about 18 to 27 grams of protein. Seeds and nuts contain about 4 to 8 grams per quarter cup. Next, you have cooked grains which have about 5 to 7 grams per cup. Eggs, (our protein buddies) contain 6 to 8 grams per egg. An omelette made from two eggs would carry about 12 to 16 grams of proteins. Cheese must be calculated in the protein intake as well. Check the package label for protein amounts. Cooked beans will average about 7-8 grams per half cup and most vegetables contain about 1-2 grams of protein per ounce.

Healthy Protein Recipes

Bean Salad with Bacon and Chives

Ingredients:

  • 6 slices bacon Lean bacon is recommended
  • 3 15.5-ounce cans cannellini beans, rinsed
  • 3 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil fat free
  • 3 tablespoons whole-grain mustard
  • kosher salt and black pepper
  • 3 tablespoons chopped fresh chives

Instructions:

Cook the bacon in a large skillet over medium heat until crisp, 12 to 15 minutes; crumble, cover, and set aside at room temperature. Toss together the beans, vinegar, oil, and mustard and season with ½ teaspoon each salt and pepper. Refrigerate for up to 8 hours. Just before serving, toss with the chives and bacon. Buy the leanest bacon you can find for cholesterol concerns.

Pork Cutlets With Sautéed Peppers and Beans

Ingredients:

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 8 pork cutlets (about 1½ pounds), pounded ¼ inch thick Lean pork chops are recommended
  • kosher salt and black pepper
  • 2 medium bell peppers, thinly sliced
  • 2 large shallots, thinly sliced
  • 1 15.5-ounce can cannellini beans, rinsed
  • ½ cup pitted kalamata olives, halved
  • ½ cup fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves
  • 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar

Instructions:

  • Heat 1 tablespoon of the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Season the pork with ¼ teaspoon each salt and black pepper. Working in 2 batches, cook the pork until browned and cooked through, 2 to 3 minutes per side; transfer to a plate.
  • Heat the remaining tablespoon of oil in a second large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the bell peppers, shallots, ½ teaspoon salt, and ¼ teaspoon black pepper. Cook, tossing occasionally, until softened, 5 to 7 minutes.
  • Add the beans, olives, parsley, and vinegar to the skillet and toss to combine. Serve the pork topped with the vegetable mixture.

Steak With Skillet Tomatoes and Spicy Green Beans

Ingredients:

  • kosher salt and black pepper
  • 3 tablespoons plus 3 teaspoons olive oil
  • 2 strip steaks (1 inch thick; about 1½ pounds total) Cook the steaks well done
  • 2 pints grape tomatoes
  • ¼ cup fresh oregano leaves
  • 1 pound green beans, trimmed
  • 2 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
  • ¼ to ½ teaspoon crushed red pepper

Instructions:

  • Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Heat 2 teaspoons of the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Season the steaks with ½ teaspoon salt and ¼ teaspoon black pepper and cook to the desired doneness, 4 to 6 minutes per side for medium-rare. Let rest for at least 5 minutes before slicing.
  • Wipe out the skillet and heat 1 teaspoon of the remaining oil over medium-high heat. Add the tomatoes and ¼ teaspoon each salt and black pepper. Cook, tossing occasionally, until beginning to soften, 4 to 6 minutes. Mix in the oregano.
  • Meanwhile, cook the green beans in the boiling water until tender, 3 to 4 minutes; drain. Wipe out the pot and heat the garlic in the remaining 3 tablespoons of oil over medium heat, stirring frequently, until fragrant, 1 to 2 minutes. Add the green beans, ½ teaspoon salt, and ¼ teaspoon black pepper and toss to combine. Sprinkle with the red pepper and serve with the steak and tomatoes.

Slow-Cooker Bean and Spinach Enchiladas

Slow-Cooker Bean and Spinach Enchiladas

Ingredients:

  • 1 15.5-ounce can black beans, rinsed
  • 1 10-ounce package frozen chopped spinach, thawed and squeezed of excess liquid
  • 1 cup frozen corn
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 8 ounces sharp Cheddar, grated (2 cups)
  • kosher salt and black pepper
  • 2 16-ounce jars salsa (3 1/2 cups)
  • 8 6-inch corn tortillas, warmed
  • 1 medium head romaine lettuce, chopped (6 cups)
  • 4 radishes, cut into matchsticks
  • 1/2 cup grape tomatoes, halved
  • 1/2 cucumber, halved and sliced
  • 3 tablespoons fresh lime juice
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • sliced scallions, for serving

Instructions:

  • In a medium bowl, mash half the beans. Add the spinach, corn, cumin, 1 cup of the Cheddar, the remaining beans, ½ teaspoon salt, and ¼ teaspoon pepper and mix to combine.
  • Spread 1 jar of the salsa in the bottom of a 4- to 6-quart slow cooker. Dividing evenly, roll up the bean mixture in the tortillas (about ½ cup each) and place the rolls seam-side down in a single layer in the slow cooker. Top with the remaining salsa and Cheddar.
  • Cover and cook until heated through, on low for 2½ to 3 hours.
  • Before serving, toss the lettuce, radishes, tomatoes, and cucumber in a large bowl with the lime juice, oil, and ½ teaspoon each salt and pepper. Serve with the enchiladas and sprinkle with the scallions.

Spanish Omelet With Potatoes and Chorizo

Ingredients:

  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 large yellow onion, chopped
  • 2 ounces Spanish chorizo (cured sausage), sliced into thin half-moons
  • 3/4 pound red potatoes, diced
  • kosher salt and pepper
  • 3/4 cup flat-leaf parsley, roughly chopped
  • 10 large eggs, beaten
  • 1 cup (4 ounces) shredded Manchego or sharp Cheddar
  • 1 small head green-leaf lettuce
  • 1/2 small red onion, thinly sliced

Instructions:

  • Heat oven to 400° F. Heat 1 tablespoon of the oil in a large ovenproof skillet over medium heat. Add the yellow onion and cook for 5 minutes.
  • Add the chorizo, potatoes, and ½ teaspoon each salt and pepper and cook, covered, stirring occasionally, until the potatoes are tender, 10 minutes.
  • Stir in the parsley. Pour in the eggs and stir to distribute the ingredients. Sprinkle with the cheese and transfer to oven.
  • Bake the omelet until puffed and brown around the edges and a knife comes out clean, about 15 minutes.
  • Divide the lettuce and red onion among plates and drizzle with the remaining oil. Cut the omelet into wedges and serve with the salad.

The Final Word

can be some serious health issues related to too much protein consumption

Despite the above evidence there will still be those who argue that you can never consume too much protein. Our discussion hopefully will stimulate your thinking about how much protein you are injecting into your body on a daily basis. There can be some serious health issues related to too much protein consumption. Please think about how much protein you are consuming. So, maybe consuming a truckload of protein everyday may not be such a wise decision.

Written by Irina Radosevic MD
Irina graduated from the University of Belgrade, School of Medicine as a Doctor of Medicine (MD) and spent over 3 years working in the Clinical Hospital Center Zvezdara, in the Department of Emergency Medicine. She also undertook a postgraduate in Cardiology from the same University and had previously worked for over a year as a Physician and Nutritionist Dietitian for the Fitness club Green Zone. She eventually left her chaotic but fulfilling job in the ER to pursue her passion of writing, travelling and mountain climbing which has included writing a first aid course for the alpine club of Belgrade. Irina currently works as a VA for PintMedia focusing on medical and travel writing. Feel free to connect with Irina on LinkedIn and FaceBook. Her CV can be seen here.