Can You Get Sick From Protein?

January 30, 2018

Protein overdose


According to Rice University, a typical active adult needs about 0.4 to 0.6 grams of protein per pound of body weight per day.  However, most Americans eat more protein than they need daily, according to the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, and consistently taking in excess protein can harm your health over time.  According to one study published in 2013 in the “American Journal of Clinical Nutrition,” men who strength trained and then ate protein got the most benefit from eating about 20 grams max; their bodies were not able to effectively use more than that at a single meal.  That means if you eat three or four times a day, your body is likely only able to use 20 grams of protein at each meal or snack -- and any more than that means you're overdosing.  If you take protein powder regularly, experiencing gas, bloating and digestive discomfort can sometimes be symptoms of taking in too much of the nutrient, so if you notice those signs, consult your doctor.


Side Effects of Too Much Protein


How do you know if you’re getting too much protein?  The signs are rarely obvious, so it can be hard to tell.  Weight gain, for example, could be attributed to eating more protein -- and calories -- than your body can use.  Another potential side effect is nutrient deficiencies, which you could acquire over time if you’re focusing too heavily on protein in your diet in lieu of other macronutrients -- for example, fiber doesn't appear much in protein-rich foods, but it is prevalent in carbs.  More severe side effects include elevated risks of osteoporosis, kidney stones, kidney disease, heart disease and cancer.  The Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine advocates for moderating your protein intake, noting that long-term high-protein diets can be associated with increased disease risk.  Harvard University researchers acknowledge that eating a lot of protein may harm kidney function in individuals who already have kidney damage. 


Keep reading to see how to avoid protein overdose


How to use protein the right way


Protein is an essential nutrient that your body can use every day.  Proteins are the building blocks of life and every living cell uses them for both structural and functional purposes.  They are long chains of amino acids linked together like beads on a string, then folded into complex shapes.  There are 9 essential amino acids that we must get from the diet and 12 that are non-essential, which the body can produce out of other organic molecules.  The quality of a protein source depends on its amino acid profile.  The best sources of protein aren't supplements (most are incomplete sources lacking all the 9 essential amino acids), rather nutrient rich foods that contain all the essential amino acids in ratios that are appropriate for humans.  A T-bone steak is obviously high in protein, but also high in fat, hard to digest and not accommodating to every lifestyle. 


However, there is one superfood that may not immediately leap to mind, quinoa, which happens to be the staple ingredient in QuinoAmino, is rich in protein and has the 9 essential amino acids.  Dr. Craig E. Coleman Associate Professor of the Plant & Wildlife Sciences dept. at Brigham Young University says "The quinoa in QuinoAmino is the best known source of complete protein because of its perfect composition of amino acids."  A 1955 paper also dubbed quinoa a superstar long before 21st century publications were touting it for its nutritional powers.  The authors of “Nutritive Values of Crops, Nutrient Content and Protein Quality of Quinoa and Cañihua, Edible Seed Products of the Andes Mountains” wrote: "While no single food can supply all the essential life sustaining nutrients, quinoa comes as close as any other in the plant or animal kingdom."  A good rule of thumb to always remember about protein is that it's not the quantity but the quality that counts.  

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