Ask any health nut who hits the gym daily what their diet looks like and they’ll probably tell you they follow a high protein (and low carb) diet. Proteins are often associated with health benefits such as a stronger immune system and improved brain and heart health. But before you hop on the bandwagon, consider how these seven ways too much protein can harm your health.
You might gain weight
Meat is a great source of protein, but it is also likely to contain more calories than you bargained for. A 250g piece of steak will certainly make you full, but it packs over 600 calories. And we haven’t taken condiments and sides into consideration. Depending on how the meat is prepared, and what it’s served with, a high-protein meal can easily add up to a 1000 calories. Alternative sources of protein like dairy products are also high in calories and saturated fat.
You might suffer from kidney problems
With nitrogen as a byproduct of protein metabolism, over-consumption of protein may put a strain on your kidneys when it struggles to eliminate waste in your body. Furthermore, according to a study published in the Clinical Science journal in England, adding about 34g/day of animal protein to a normal diet increases the risk of urinary tract stones forming by as much as 250 per cent. Scary stuff.
You might be plagued with gastrointestinal issues
Overindulging in protein may put a strain on your digestive system. As your body is equipped to digest a variety of food, consuming too much protein may overwhelm the protein-digesting enzymes in your body to slow down digestion. The large amount of undigested protein sitting in your stomach may cause stomach aches and other gut problems like constipation.
You are regularly dehydrated
Protein contains nitrogen that can cause you to feel thirsty all the time. As nitrogen is a toxic byproduct from protein metabolism, your body uses large amounts of water from tissues to flush out the nitrogen. This will result in frequent urination and even unquenchable thirst.
You might have body odours and bad breath
The high levels of protein create gas in your digestive system that may cause you to struggle with flatulence. A high-protein and low-carb diet also mean that your body may go into ketosis where your body starts to burn fat instead of carbs for fuel. While that is good news for weight loss, it leaves your breath smelling funky. Furthermore, if you have been working out excessively, you may be more dehydrated than usual. With less saliva in your mouth to remove odour-causing bacteria, your breath will smell even worse.
You are at a higher risk of cardiovascular disease
Proteins in moderate amounts may improve heart health. But excessive consumption of proteins like red meat increases your intake of saturated fats. According to a study published in the British Medical Journal, a low-carb and high-protein diet is associated with increased risk of cardiovascular disease. Using a dietary questionnaire on over 43,000 women, it was found that women who decreased carbohydrate intake by 20g (equivalent to two slices of bread) and increased protein intake by 5g (equivalent to one hard boiled egg) were 5 per cent more likely to suffer from cardiovascular disease.
You may suffer from higher cholesterol levels
The addition of red meat and full-fat dairy products into a high-protein diet may increase the levels of LDL (bad) cholesterol and saturated fats. Researchers at the University of Colorado found that LDL (bad) cholesterol levels for those on a low-carb diet increased, but decreased for those on a high-carb diet. This was due to free fatty acids being released into the blood when the body breaks down stored fat, which increases your blood sugar level.
Text: Claudia Tan / Shape Singapore / April 2018
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