Is too much protein dangerous?

Is too much protein dangerous?

Is too much protein dangerous?

By Published On: June 22nd, 2023

Visiting my Mom last week at her senior’s residence was a little like looking into the future.

It’s a real-time reminder about aging. 

Many of the outcomes of our lives are controlled by our awareness and actions of our daily habits. Behaviours around exercise, sleep, managing stress and nutrition all add up to optimal (or less than) aging.

Whether we take action or not is the subject of another blog:)

One simple nutritional habit we can all garner awareness around is the powerful nutrient punch we get from protein.

Twenty-five years ago, there was plenty of skepticism about protein.

After all, bodybuilders ate lots of it and experimented with all kinds of “questionable” things.

Plus, the late 1990s ushered in the rise of high-protein diets for weight loss—an approach many health experts then labelled “unsafe.”

Over the years, much of the hand-wringing about protein has faded. (And some of those same experts now advise people to “eat more protein.”)

But one claim won’t seem to die: “Protein is bad for your kidneys.”

Spoiler: It’s a myth.

Here’s why: The concern about high protein and kidneys began because doctors tell people with poorly functioning kidneys—usually from pre-existing kidney disease—to eat a low-protein diet.

But, but, but…

There’s a big difference between avoiding protein because your kidneys are already damaged versus protein actively damaging healthy kidneys.

It’s the difference between jogging with a broken leg and jogging with a perfectly healthy leg.

Jogging with a broken leg is a bad idea.

Doctors would probably tell you not to do that. But does jogging cause your legs to break? No.

Same with protein and kidneys.

Eating more protein increases how much your kidneys work, just like jogging increases how much your legs work.

But protein hasn’t been shown to cause kidney damage—again, just like jogging isn’t going to suddenly snap your leg like a breadstick.

Clinical studies show people can eat up to 4.4 g of protein per kg body weight (or 2g per pound) without any short-term health problems. (Granted, that’s a very high intake, and very few people would voluntarily consume that much.)

How Much Protein Do You REALLY Need?

Protein deficiency isn’t a concern for the average person eating a standard diet.

However, “not deficient” doesn’t mean optimal.

It just means getting enough protein to maintain function and prevent malnutrition. And particularly as we age, we lose muscle more quickly.

So if you shortchange protein, you will most certainly pay the price because we cannot build or maintain muscle mass without it.

👉🏾For sedentary, generally healthy adults, about 0.4 g per pound is enough to cover basic daily requirements. (That’s about 60 grams for a 150-pound person.)

But because protein is involved in so many essential processes, protein needs can go up you’re:

🏋🏻‍♀️Training hard frequently or having a heavy physical job

🤒Injured, sick, or recovering from surgery

👴🏻Older (because protein digestion tends to reduce with age, so you need more to meet requirements)

💪🏽Trying to lose body fat but still maintain muscle (or you’re trying to maximize strength)

If you fall into these groups, research shows you want to shoot for around 0.7-1.0 g per pound. (That’s about 105-150 g for a 150-pound person.)

But if all that sounds too complicated…

Don’t worry about the numbers.

Instead, habitually shoot for 1-2 palm-sized portions of protein at each meal.

Of course, if you’re not even close to that now, you’ll probably find it challenging to get there overnight.

So start from wherever you are, and try to eat more.

For example, if you only have one palm-sized protein portion daily, try to have two.

Or if, like many people, you typically get most of your protein at dinner, can you focus on adding a palm to your breakfast and/or lunch?

Try it for two weeks, and if it’s working for you—that is, you enjoy it, you’re moving closer to your goals, and it’s not disrupting your life—build on your success.

That’s how you make lasting progress.

Play on!

Your friend and coach,

Janet  xox

PS: Whenever you are ready, here are three more ways I can help you PLAY for life:

  1. Click here to grab a copy or listen to the Audible version of The Play Book: How To Get In The Habit Of Good Health
  2. Join the FREE 7-Days of Healthy Habits Course that can help you starting today.
  3. Want to work with me personally on your health while having fun? Click here to book a call.

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About the Author: Janet Omstead

To re-ignite people’s passion for play (movement) to fight chronic disease while improving their quality of life as they age.

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