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How much protein is TOO MUCH?

If you feel you require a cupboard full of protein supplements to consume enough protein to achieve results, you’re not alone. You would realize that in most cases, this is incorrect. Agreed that it is a major nutrient that your body needs to build and repair the cells in your body. But you might be consuming too much protein.

So how much protein does one need in a day? The answer is that most people need between 70% to 120% of their body weight of protein (in grams) to meet their everyday requirements.

Supposing you are a woman who weighs 60kg, you need 42-72g of protein across a day. There are a few occasions, however, when you will need increased amounts of protein. These are 

  • earlier stages of life (during times of fast growth in children and adolescents)
  • during pregnancy,
  • during illness and post-surgery
  • for athletes involved in physically demanding sports (such as weightlifting) in the earlier phase of their training regime.

How much protein can food give your body?

Is it possible for the food and beverages you consume to provide enough protein to meet your daily needs or is a supplement actually worth the cost and the taste?

Yes indeed. Moreover, with fresh foods, the absorption is better.

The following table shows you options of certain foods you can consume to add 10 grams of protein to your diet. 

Name of food Quantity needed for 10 grams of proteinHow to use Other benefits
Greek yogurt/ curdHalf cupUse as dip or dressing, add to smoothies and dessertsprobiotic
Eggs 2 noBoiled or omelet, Add to salads, vegetables, curriesRich in minerals carbs and vitamin D
Peanut butter3 tablespoonsAdd to sliced fruit, soup, bread topping or smoothieContains omega-6, lowers bad cholesterol(LDL), and increases good cholesterol(HDL)
Chia seeds4 tablespoonsSprinkle on toast, add to salads, baked goods, smoothies, and desserts Rich in minerals, omega-3 fat, antioxidants & fiber
Cottage cheese/paneerOne-third cup heapedAdd to salads, soup, and barbecueB vitamins, minerals like calcium and folate
Lentils (dals)Half cupAdd to tadka while sauteeing, as a main dish or snack like Dahi bhalla, dhokla, or curryiron, potassium, folate, and fiber
Soy products or tofu3 ouncesAdd to pasta, and salads, churn tofu in a smoothie, or replace egg in stir fryGood source of iron, calcium, and fiber
Canned Fish 2 ouncesSalads, sandwiches, or curriedContain omega-3, prevents inflammation and blood clot formation
Milk 1.5 cupAdd to fruit shakes, coffee, and dessertsbenefits bone health, enriched with calcium, vitamin D, phosphorus, and magnesium
Chickpeas/ kidney beans( rajma)⅔ cupCurry, hummus, chhole, salad, pizza topping Lots of fibre and calcium
Quantity of different food items needed for 10 grams of protein

As you can see, if you eat a balanced diet that includes some whole grains and a lean source of protein in most meals, you can easily reach 70 to 120 percent of your weight in grams of protein in a day. 

Before you reach for the supplements, try looking at your overall diet and, if needed, make some tweaks here first. The benefits whole foods can give your body are far greater than what a supplement can provide, and you would also be saving a lot of money. 

Unfortunately, consuming more protein does not mean more or quicker results. Your body can only process between 23 and 30 grams of protein in a meal at the most.

What happens to the excess protein?

Any excess protein you eat is stored as fat. This is precisely why, in most cases, taking additional supplements is not required and in some cases can add unnecessary energy to your diet which can make it even harder to accomplish the results you expect.

To help prevent some cancers, such as upper digestive tract and kidney cancer, an upper limit of 25 percent of your total daily calories should come from protein sources —or 2g/kg/day or around 120g of protein —is recommended.

Some research has shown an increased risk of developing other types of cancer, such as breast cancer, with a high intake of protein, but there isn’t enough evidence to set an upper limit.

You may have also noticed that supplements have been front and center in the media for all the wrong reasons. Some supplements have been found to contain additional ingredients that have not been disclosed in the packet. This

may lead you to unintentionally provide your body with ingredients or substances that may make you sick. Or, if you are an athlete, they can even spike a drug test.

Risks of consuming too much protein

Most studies indicate that eating more than 2 g per kg of your body weight daily of protein for a long time can cause health concerns. You may experience symptoms such as intestinal discomfort &indigestion, dehydration, unexplained exhaustion, nausea, irritability, headache, and diarrhea.

There are grave risks associated with chronic protein overconsumption, some of which could be fatal. These include:- 

  • Cardiovascular disease
  • Blood vessel disorders
  • Liver and kidney injuries
  • Seizures

Research has also linked certain diseases to chronic protein overconsumption. These include:

  • Type 2 Diabetes
  • Cancer
  • Osteoporosis and Osteopenia

Take-home message

By choosing whole foods and beverages over supplements, you can, in most cases, easily meet your required protein needs and achieve the results you desire. Remember, whole foods provide your body with far greater health benefits than a supplement can.

If you need assistance to create a diet that meets your individual needs and gives your body all the protein it requires for results, seek the support of an Accredited Practicing Dietitian who can help you succeed in achieving long-term results without any side effects.

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