Today’s post will be a quick one in response to a question I received last week. The question was, “what happens when you get too much protein?” There’s not a simple answer because it’s really multiple questions all in one. For instance, is there such thing as too much protein? If so, how much is too much? What types of protein are we talking about, and how many meals? Are there negative consequences to over consumption, or positive ones? I could go on and on. However, I wanted to break down protein problems into bite-sized chunks so that you can easily digest the info!
Can’t Get Enough
For healthy people, there is no such thing as getting too much protein. You can eat and drink it to your heart’s content without having to worry about bodily injury (1). While dieting, an increased amount of protein will only help you retain muscle mass, and not be a tremendous source of fat mass gain (2). Below are some general recommendations; however, more is better.
If you are an athlete or highly active person currently attempting to lose body fat while preserving lean muscle mass, a daily intake of 1.5-2.2g/kg bodyweight (0.68-1g/lb bodyweight) would be a good target.
If you are an athlete or highly active person, or you are attempting to lose body fat while preserving lean mass, then a daily intake of 1.0-1.5g/kg bodyweight (0.45-0.68g/lb bodyweight) would be a good target.
If you are sedentary and not looking to change body composition much, a daily target of 0.8g/kg bodyweight (0.36g/lb bodyweight) and upwards would be a good target.
Protein does have a positive role when it comes to the rate of your metabolism. However, your metabolism is incredibly complicated. The image below shows just how different individuals will respond to protein in their diets (3). So increasing your protein will not necessarily be a cure-all.
Do Sources Matter?
In short, yes the source of protein matters. You want to get a wide variety of protein to get all of the essential, and nonessential, amino acids. Which is why taking BCAA’s is useless. With rapid absorbing sources, like whey, consuming up to 40 grams at a time is useful after a workout (4). Some sources are also better for appetite/hormone control (5). Regardless of the source, it’s important just to try and eat a little bit more protein.
As short as this post may be, it’s important to recognize a few things. First, no, you cannot get “too much” protein. Second, there are a lot of nuances when it comes to protein ingestion so a broad overview such as this may not give you perfect information. Consult a registered dietitian, or other healthcare professionals, for details into exactly which sources and quantities you should be getting. Finally, don’t let fear mongering or sensational headlines deter you from doing the right thing. Unlike high fat or high sugar diets, it’s really difficult to gain fat from over-consumption of protein. So go grill up some chicken and be happy!
1. Leidy, H. J., Carnell, N. S., Mattes, R. D., & Campbell, W. W. (2007). Higher protein intake preserves lean mass and satiety with weight loss in pre‐obese and obese women. Obesity, 15(2), 421-429.
2. Antonio, J., Ellerbroek, A., Silver, T., Vargas, L., & Peacock, C. (2016). The effects of a high protein diet on indices of health and body composition–a crossover trial in resistance-trained men. Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition, 13(1), 3.
3. Bray, G. A., Smith, S. R., de Jonge, L., Xie, H., Rood, J., Martin, C. K., … & Redman, L. M. (2012). Effect of dietary protein content on weight gain, energy expenditure, and body composition during overeating: a randomized controlled trial. Jama, 307(1), 47-55.
4. Macnaughton, L. S., Wardle, S. L., Witard, O. C., McGlory, C., Hamilton, D. L., Jeromson, S., … & Tipton, K. D. (2016). The response of muscle protein synthesis following whole‐body resistance exercise is greater following 40 g than 20 g of ingested whey protein. Physiological Reports, 4(15), e12893.
5. Pal, S., & Ellis, V. (2010). The acute effects of four protein meals on insulin, glucose, appetite and energy intake in lean men. British journal of nutrition, 104(08), 1241-1248.