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How much protein is too much?

Protein is an essential macronutrient necessary for growth and maintenance. Foods rich in animal protein include meat, fish, eggs, poultry, and dairy products, and plant foods rich in protein are primarily beans, nuts, and grains. The current recommended daily allowance (RDA) for protein is 0.8 g protein/kg body weight/day for adults (1.5 g protein/ kg body weight/day for children and 1.0 g protein/kg body weight/day for youngsters).

The nutritional supplement industry vigorously promotes high protein diets (defined as an intake greater than the current RDA), and many athletes consider them the set standard for muscle development, and/or reduction of body fat. On the other hand, some scientists claim that excessive use of protein supplements or a high protein diet can cause health disorders.

So, let us analyse the pros and cons of the same. Protein intake through food should supply essential amino acids which the body cannot produce. Adequate protein intake is mostly required during childhood, teenage, pregnancy, lactation, and old age. During adulthood, it is required to maintain daily losses of protein that occur during day-to-day activity.

Therefore, it is necessary to consume enough protein to avoid malnutrition as we age. It is also important to maintain muscle mass and strength. In recent years, some people have advocated a high-protein diet to speed up metabolism and promote weight loss, although the degree of success in this area varies widely.

How much protein is too much?

*The ideal amount of protein that should be consumed every day is somewhat uncertain. The commonly cited recommendation is 56 grams per day for men and 46 grams per day for women. You can get 46 grams/day of protein in a 4-ounce serving of low-fat Greek yogurt, a serving of lean chicken breast and a bowl of skim milk cereal.

*The recommended daily allowance (RDA) based on weight is 0.8 grams per kilogram of body weight. For a 140-pound person, you need 51 grams of protein per day. (You can convert your weight from pounds to kilograms by dividing by 2.2, so 140 pounds is 64 kilograms; multiplying by 0.8 equals 51.) Active people, especially those trying to build muscle mass, may need more.
protein A high protein diet may affect people with pre-existing kidney disease. (Source: Getty Images/Thinkstock)
*Percentage based on calories: For an active adult, about 10 per cent of calories should come from protein.

*Pay more attention to the type of protein in the diet than to the amount. For example, cut back on red meat and increase salmon, yogurt, or beans intake.

Protein is usually utilised by the body for repairing and building muscle, organs, and bones. However, if an excess of protein is consumed, it might start getting stored in the body as fat and may lead to obesity. A high protein diet with restrictions on carbohydrates is usually low in fibre, which may lead to constipation. Eating a high amount of protein in the form of meat, fish, and poultry can lead to diarrhea. Excess nitrogen is excreted out of the body through urine, which may lead to dehydration even when you do not feel thirst than usual.

A high protein diet may affect people with pre-existing kidney disease. This is because the main function of the kidney is to excrete excess nitrogen from the body that is the waste product of protein metabolism. If the kidneys are not working well, it will put pressure on them to excrete out waste, thus, leading to kidney damage. High protein intake in the form of red meat can also lead to heart disease as these foods are rich in cholesterol along with high protein value. Red meat is usually fried and consumed which subsequently leads to higher fats, bad cholesterol, and carbohydrates, thus leading to heart diseases. Moreover, red meat also contains bad bacteria which alters the gut microbes, which results in toxicity in blood and poorer heart health.

So, choose your protein wisely, as per your body’s requirement. Always consult a qualified dietitian before deciding the protein requirement of your body.

The author is co-founder and head dietitian, Diet Insight

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