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Are you on a high protein diet? Beware of these symptoms of protein overconsumption

If you are on a high protein diet, watch out for any of these symptoms of protein overconsumption.
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Protein rich foods can keep you energised! Image courtesy: Shutterstock
Aayushi Gupta Updated: 28 May 2024, 12:07 pm IST
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You must have already heard that eating too much of anything is injurious to health. But does the same happen with protein? Is too much protein bad? Yes. Our body requires daily protein consumption to function properly. However, eating too much protein can have adverse effects on your health.

Protein is one of three micronutrients, along with fats and carbohydrates. That means, protein is necessary but with all other nutrients in your diet. But can you eat too much protein? While each one is important, most people follow a high-protein diet because it is essential for sustaining and increasing muscle mass but to do so they make the mistake of avoiding other nutrients, which increases the risk of protein overconsumption, especially a diet which doesn’t include fat and carbohydrates.

The importance of protein in your diet

Protein is necessary for the functioning of our bodies, and helps us in many ways. Protein plays a crucial role in various biological functions of our body such as repairing tissues, and building new ones. It also supports our immune system. Read here to know all about why protein is essential for us.

How much is too much protein per day?

Wondering how much protein is too much? According to the Dietary Reference Intake report for micronutrients, it is recommended to consume 0.8 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight or 0.36 grams per pound regularly. We should all stick to that amount only because consuming too much protein can negatively impact your health.

symptoms of too much protein
Protein plays a crucial role in the functioning of the body, across all age groups. Image courtesy: Shutterstock

Side effects or symptoms of having too much protein:

Wondering what happens if you eat too much protein? An overdose on protein can cause many ailments such as dehydration as well as weight gain. Here are the symptoms of an extremely high protein diet.

1. Dehydration

Consuming too much protein isn’t a problem for most people but if you consistently overdo it for a longer period of time, it can eventually lead to dehydration. This happens because when your body consumes excess protein, your kidney has to work harder to remove the excess amount of it and the nitrogen waste from the body through the urine, explains Internal medicine doctor, Dr Bela Sharma. This increases your visit to the bathroom which ultimately raises the risk of dehydration. A study conducted amongst athletes, published in Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology, states that increased protein intake led to decrease in hydration levels.

2. Liver

Consuming excess protein for a prolonged period of time can overload your liver, disturbing its function. Too much protein gets converted into triglycerides. These are fat cells and are stored in the liver.

3. Weight gain

Yes, a high protein diet helps in weight loss, but these results may only be for a short term, especially if you’re consuming excess protein. Does excess protein turn into fat? When you consume more protein than your body can use or is required, it will be stored as fat. For weight loss, include lean protein along with carbohydrates and other nutrients. If you replace carbohydrates, and not fats, with protein, it can lead to weight gain, states this study, published in Clinical Nutrition.

symptoms of too much protein
Excess protein in the body can cause weight gain. Image courtesy: Shutterstock

4. Constipation

Yes, protein constipation is a real ailment. A high protein diet means a low fiber and low carbs diet which can easily lead to digestive issues ranging from constipation, nausea and diarrhea etc. Along with that, you may also experience cramping and bloating.

5. Kidney damage

The major side effects of overconsumption of protein is a negative impact on the kidneys. The National Kidney Foundation notes that overconsumption of protein indicates possible kidney disease and failure. Fatigue, sleep trouble, frequent urination, poor appetite, muscle cramps, swelling in legs and ankles are some of the signs of kidney problems.

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6. Bad breath

If you consistently have a bad breath, it is a sign that you are consuming excess protein. This happens because in order to promote protein intake, you limit the intake of carbs. This shortage of carbs forces the body to make energy from other sources which lead to the production of chemicals that may give an unpleasant smell.

symptoms of too much protein
Bad breath is common if your’e consuming excess protein. Image courtesy: Shutterstock

7. Heart diseases

Consuming an excess of protein can lead to high cholesterol levels in the body. A study, published in Circulation, suggests that too much protein can lead to coronary heart disease in women, especially if the protein is from high fat dairy or red meat.

Where does protein come from?

There are two main sources or food groups that help us in getting protein. Protein can be found in lean meat, poultry, sea food as well as eggs. Besides this, protein is also found in milk, yoghurt as well as cheese. Beans, legumes, nuts and seeds also have protein.

Are high protein diets safe?

A high protein diet is usually recommended when you are trying to shed kilos. However, too much protein can have a downside as well. It may overpower other nutrients in the body, and cause a deficiency. Too much protein can also put a strain on your liver and kidneys. Read here to know more.

When is the best time to consume protein?

The best time to consume protein or protein supplements depends on your end goal. If you want to lose weight, then consuming a high protein snack between meals will keep you fuller, and make you eat less. This means you will have lesser calories in a day, states this study, published in Cell Metabolism. If you want to build muscle, then the best time to take your protein supplement is 15-60 minutes after workout. This time frame is referred to as the anabolic window, states this study, published in Current Sports Medicine Reports.

Protein supplements

Be it for building muscles, losing weight or even for overall health and wellness, protein powders have become a go-to item in every kitchen. However, with so many options in the market, you need to know exactly which powder is the best for you. Read here to understand how to choose your protein supplement.

What does 15–30 grams of protein in whole foods looks like?

In terms of food consumption, 15-30 grams of protein would look like about 5 ounces of meat, which can be a large chicken breast, or a medium sized steak. It can also be a big fish fillet. It means about 5-6 whole eggs. For vegetarians, one can have about one and a half cups of cottage cheese or Greek yoghurt.

Summary

While protein is an essential nutrient for our body and is needed to build muscles, repair tissues and strengthen immunity, too much protein can cause great harm to us as well. It can lead to dehydration, as well as heart problems and weight gain. Therefore, it is essential to stick to the daily limit of protein consumption and not overeat protein.

 

 

 

 

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About the Author

Aayushi Gupta is a health writer with a special interest in trends related to diet, fitness, beauty and intimate health. With around 2 years of experience in the wellness industry, she is connected to leading experts and doctors to provide our readers with factually correct information. ...Read More

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