Protein plays a number of vital roles in the human body, especially for those who want to gain lean muscle mass in short order. However, like most things that people consume from day to day, too much of a good thing can have some undesirable effects. In particular, too much protein can cause significant side effects, but there are ways to mitigate them.
How Much Protein Does the Average Body Really Need?
According to some online leading sources, the average human body needs about .36 grams of protein per pound of body weight. As such, in order for a 200-pound man to maintain his existing muscle mass and provide the protein necessary for the creation of hormones, antibodies, neurotransmitters, and more, he would need to consume about 72 grams of protein per day. However, there are plenty of studies that show this is simply not realistic for anyone, and there is evidence to suggest that especially active bodies need much, much more in order to put on muscle mass. Most often 1 gram per pound of body weight is ideal.
Protein Consumption among Fitness Enthusiasts, Athletes, and Bodybuilders
Simply put, those who lead very active lifestyles need more protein than those who are sedentary or who only exercise three to four times per week to stay fit.
- Fitness Enthusiasts – Someone who works out daily in order to keep their muscles strong and fitness levels up will often consume 100g or more of protein per day.
- Athletes – Competitive athletes who burn thousands of calories per day need even more protein in order to maintain muscle mass; they may consume up to 200g of protein per day.
- Bodybuilders – Competitive bodybuilding, on the other hand, is all about gaining rock-solid muscle mass – and doing it quickly. These individuals may consume up to 300g of protein per day, or more depending on their size.
The Dangers of Too Much Protein
Too much protein in the human body can cause some fairly significant side effects. First, if you’re consuming a lot of protein from animal sources, then your body may be missing out on plant proteins and the dietary fiber that comes with them. Believe it or not, conditions like hyperaminoacidemia, or an excess of amino acids, and hyperammonemia, or excessive ammonia in the body, really do exist. What’s more, nitrogen, which is a byproduct of the breakdown of proteins, can overwhelm your kidneys and cause damage. This can also lead to mild to severe dehydration, which negates much of the positive effects of excess protein in the diet.
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Mitigating the Risks
Although it is certainly possible to consume too much protein, there are several steps you can take to ensure that the extra protein you consume via your diet or a protein powder benefits you rather than harms you.
- Increase your water intake each and every day that you utilize extra protein. For example, if you generally consume the recommended 64 ounces per day, increase to 100 or even 120 ounces per day to provide optimal hydration.
- Stay active. When you use your muscles regularly throughout the day, and when you engage in hard workouts, the extra protein you consume is used more efficiently and therefore less likely to cause health problems.
- Take a multivitamin along with a calcium and vitamin D supplement to ensure that your body is getting all of the nutrients it needs to keep your muscles, brain, eyes, and bones healthy.
- When supplementing with protein powder or protein blends, be certain that you are eating a diet that contains plenty of fruits and vegetables to ensure that you’re getting enough plant protein, vitamins, minerals, and dietary fiber.
Although too much protein can certainly cause problems, you can mitigate almost all of the risks by adjusting your diet and water intake. If you have certain health conditions, especially those that affect the kidneys, a high-protein diet and protein supplementation may not be right for you. Always talk to your doctor before adjusting the amount of protein in your daily diet if you have preexisting medical conditions.