'Extra protein equals bigger muscles.'
If you’re an active person who regularly partakes in strength training, cycling, hiking, or any other various physical activities, then you may have come across that age old saying that the more protein you ingest, the more muscle you will put on.
Protein is an organic compound that is found throughout every cell, tissue and organ in our bodies. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), these body proteins are constantly being broken down during digestion, and replaced by the amino acids found in our foods.
A person needs protein in their diet to help the body repair cells and create new ones. Protein is also needed during the growth and development stages in a person’s life: childhood, adolescence and pregnancy.
Bodybuilders and other fitness advocates often suggest adding extra protein into a diet in an effort to increase muscle, while at the same time losing fat. Now, why this may seem beneficial at the time, too much protein can actually do more harm than good.
“Medical research shows that too much protein ⎯ more than 70 percent of your total daily caloric intake ⎯ could actually harm your body,” said Dr. Gail Butterfield, director of Nutrition Studies at Palo Alto Veterans' Administration Medical Center.
Butterfield reports that a diet containing excess protein can create the following adverse effects:
- The imbalance of protein versus calorie intake and exercise won’t help your body build more muscle mass. Instead, it may put your other bodily systems under stress.
- Consuming more protein and increasing calorie intake while maintaining the same level of physical exercise will build an equal amount of additional fat and muscle mass.
If you’re a person who is also considering exchanging carbohydrates for a protein-rich diet, you might want to reconsider. According to WebMD, drastically eliminating carbohydrates from your diet may force your body to fight back.
A diet, in which protein makes up more than 30 percent of your caloric intake, causes a build up of acids known as ketones. Ketones build up when the body needs to break down fats and fatty acids to supplement as fuel. This normally occurs due to the lack of sugar and carbohydrates.
These so-called ‘ketogenic diets’ can thrust your kidneys into overdrive in order to flush these toxic ketones from your body.
HOW MUCH IS ENOUGH
The amount of protein your body desires is dependent upon your weight and caloric intake. According to the CDC, most Americans consume more than enough protein in their daily diets.
Ideally, a person should consume 0.36 grams of protein for every pound of body weight, according to the recommended daily allowances (RDA) set forth by the Food and Nutrition Board. An example would be if you weighed 170 pounds, then you would need about 61 grams of protein each day.
KNOW YOUR BODY
Although limiting your protein intake is important, just remember it’s also an essential nutrient for your body to function. Protein is a building block for our muscles, bones, cartilage, skin, hair and blood.
Protein-rich foods include, meat, fish, eggs and cheese. And for vegetarians, healthy forms of protein can be found in tofu and in food combinations such as rice, corn and beans.
So, whether you’re a strength trainer, an avid runner, or just your average exerciser, a balanced diet that is rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, meats and complex carbohydrates ⎯ is the best recommendation for a healthy lifestyle.
Less is more.