Protein is often defined as a building block for muscles. This is true, however, there is plenty of other benefits to it. Protein has a key role in tissue, hair and skin support and repair. Also, hormones, blood, and enzymes can’t be produced and sustained without protein. Let's take a closer look at how much protein intake you need in order to support your body functions.
Can There be Too Much Protein?
As with any nutrient, the body needs a balanced intake of protein, not too little and not too much. Despite that some athletic magazines might claim, there can be too much protein. Usually, when it comes to too much protein consumption, people are thinking about protein powders, but it is possible to consume too much protein from natural foods too.
Harvard Health Publishing of Harvard Medical School outlines the following side effects which might be linked to excessive protein consumption:
- High cholesterol and a higher risk of cardiovascular disease
- Increased cancer risk
- Kidney disease and kidney stones
- Weight gain
- Constipation or diarrhea.
However, the publication noted that there is only an association of those conditions with high protein intake, not causation. These conditions were noted in people on a high-protein diet, but not necessarily caused by over-consumption of protein. In short, you should stick to your recommended daily value of protein consumption and you would not have any issues.
How Much Protein to Consume?
There is a lot of misunderstanding and misinformation about how much protein individual got to consume per day. The main thing you need to understand about your daily protein intake is that there are no cookie cutter recommendations to protein consumption. It greatly varies by age, gender, activity level, level of training, etc.
If you are a bodybuilder in the bulking stage of your path, you need to consume a lot of protein to build your muscle. If you are a triathlete training for an Iron Man marathon or you are an infantry soldier training for deployment, you need a lot of protein to supplement and sustain heavy endurance exercises. If you are a 120 lb female IT professional and you spend most of your day in front of your laptop, you need much less protein than groups mentioned above.
So, your best bet would be to calculate more or less precisely how much protein you personally need to consume.
Some bodybuilding publications I read over the years recommend a tremendous amount of protein to be consumed which is nearly impossible to sustain, hard on your body and wallet and pretty unnecessary. Some of the authors would recommend close to 300 grams of protein a day for a 200lb male like me, which is overkill, to say the least.
The Special Operations Forces Nutrition Guide suggests from 0.4 to 0.5 grams of protein per pound of weight for individuals with low to moderate activity levels. Meanwhile, individuals participating in endurance or strength training are recommended to consume anywhere from 0.6 to 0.9 grams of protein per pound of weight.
These are the guidelines for service members serving and training in special units across the US Military. If these numbers are recommended to elite combat athletes, these sure will work for regular folks who would like to improve body composition.
Moreover, you can shift your protein intake depending on your training intensity. If you moved from simply lifting weights in the gym 3 times a week to train for obstacle course or marathon, you can slide your protein intake within a given window. If you took 0.6 grams of protein while lifting, you can bump it up to 0.8 in order to sustain your body while preparing for an event.
In addition, The Special Operations Forces Nutrition Guide suggests that over 1.6 grams of protein per pound of weight may, in fact, compromise muscle growth. So, your best bet would be to stay within a given window of protein consumption.
Protein Supplementation and Side Effects of Protein Supplements
When it comes to protein supplements you need to remember that keyword is a supplement. Protein powders, high protein drinks, and so on exist to supplement your current diet if you are lacking protein in it. Ideally, it is better to fulfill all of your protein needs through natural nutrient dense foods; however, it might not be the most optimal way.
Due to a busy lifestyle, it might be more convenient to drink a protein shake on the go, rather than take your time to grill steak, but remember to keep balance in your diet, not just consume liquid protein shakes and protein bars to get your protein needs.
If you have dairy allergies or you are lactose intolerant, make sure you buy non-dairy or lactose-free protein powder. Also, pay attention to other additives which your protein shake of choice contains. Sugar is one which you might want to have less off, however, generally you will have much less sugar in protein powders than in any other foods.
Overall, when it comes to protein powder side effects, use it strategically and you will have no issues. If you take 3 scoops at a time, 3 times a day, you might have a problem. However, if you calculated your needed protein allowance and you get most of it from real foods and you take a scoop or two to bump up your number to the needed level, you are not going to have any issues.
Just be smart with your diet choices.