A healthy diet should be simple right? Just eat plenty of nutrient dense, wholesome foods and limit your intake of processed goods, refined sugar and alcohol. However, when it comes to our health, us humans like to complicate things.

Today, in an attempt to loose weight and be healthy, many of us are cutting out all forms of carbohydrates from our diet, instead replacing them with more protein.

Food companies have jumped onto this trend, now selling product alternatives which are low in fat and carbohydrates and high in protein. Just walk down any shopping isle and you’ll see this phenomenon, from protein enriched bread to high protein yogurt.

Don’t get me wrong, consuming an adequate amount of protein is vital for our health and longevity. Protein plays a fundamental role in many bodily processes from muscle growth and repair to hormone production. Likewise, it prevents us from overeating by increasing satiety.

But how much is too much?

Does our health suffer if we over consume protein?

Keep reading to find out…

What is the recommended daily intake of protein?

The recommended daily intake of protein is 0.75 g/kg for adult women and 0.84 g/kg for adult men. This amount is slightly increased in special populations such as athletes, pregnant or breastfeeding women, and those over the age of 70. Is this protein target easy to hit with a balanced diet? The recommended daily protein intake is very easy to achieve with a balanced diet. However, with our increased fixation on protein, many people consume well above their daily needs.

Take, for example, a 65 kg female. For breakfast she may consume a protein smoothie which includes 20 g of protein powder, half a cup of yogurt which contains 10 g of protein and half a cup of skim milk which contains another 10 g of protein. The day has only just begun and she has already consumed over half her recommended daily intake of protein.

I want to lose weight, will replacing carbs with protein help me to shed fat?

Not quite. Like any macronutrient we consume, protein that is not burned as energy gets stored as fat. Thus, increasing your protein intake without increasing your overall energy expenditure may in fact cause you to gain weight.

The short term advantage of eating more protein and fewer carbohydrates is that it helps you to feel more satiated with fewer calories, thereby promoting weight loss.

Ultimately, decreasing your caloric intake below that of your energy output will facilitate weight loss. Hence, if your overall caloric expenditure remains the same, eating a higher ratio of protein to carbohydrates will not significantly aid weight loss.

Surely consuming more protein than my body needs isn’t harmful…right?

There are many adverse consequences that result from following a long term high protein diet, consisting of more than 30 % protein. Firstly, replacing carbohydrates with protein may lead to an inadequate intake of fibre. Low fibre intake is associated with an increased risk of bowel and colon cancer.

Moreover, excess protein consumption prompts the body to excrete calcium, thereby increasing your risk of developing osteoporosis. Likewise, a long term high protein diet can cause liver and kidney problems, as these organs need to work extra hard to eliminate toxic protein waste products, such as urea.

Final remarks

Therefore, like with most things in life, you can have too much of a good thing. Protein should be eaten in moderation as part of a healthy, balanced diet.

Are you confused about how much protein you should be eating? Send me a message to receive advice on protein amounts, timing and types to meet your individual needs.

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