It’s hard enough trying to lose weight but what’s more challenging is keeping the weight off. Some diets recommend reducing carbs and increasing your protein intake, others suggest too much protein can be unhealthy. Personal trainers in gyms suggest replacing one big meal a day with a protein shake whilst fitness-savvy shoppers are replacing whole snacks such as fruits and nuts with protein bars in the hope of shedding weight and keeping it off. There are so many conflicting opinions — how do you make the right choice?
Can too much protein be bad for health?
Protein aids muscle growth, wards off hunger and aids weight loss so this may seem like a good thing. But consuming too much can have some serious consequences for your waistline and health. “We don’t need as much protein as some diets may suggest,” explains Katharina Elbracht, Clinical Director at Beyond Nutrition in Dubai.
“The recommendation is a protein consumption of 0.8g per kg of body weight, which is sufficient to maintain and build protein and muscle.Even professional athletes need only slightly more protein, which will be reached by meeting their increased energy needs.”
Elbracht says eating too much protein can stress your kidneys, as they need to eliminate the nitrogen wastes — by-products of the protein metabolism — from the blood to flush it out. It may also lead to a lack of other nutrients in the diet, especially carbohydrates. This in turn may increase the risk of nutritional deficiencies and result in gastrointestinal problems such as constipation or diarrhoea.
High-protein diets are also associated with several other health risks such as osteoporosis, kidney conditions as well as some types of cancer. Many high-protein animal foods also contain a lot of fat, especially saturated fat, which can result in elevated blood lipids and heart conditions.
Health benefits of protein
A high-protein diet reduces hunger, helping us eat fewer calories. This is caused by improved function of weight-regulating hormones.
Reduces food cravings
Research shows that eating more protein has been shown to reduce cravings and desire for late-night snacking. Eating a high-protein breakfast will kick-start the metabolism and keep it going through the day.
A higher protein intake has been shown to boost your metabolism significantly, helping burn more calories throughout
Aids muscle gain
Muscle is primarily made of protein, a high intake of which can help in gaining mass and strength while also reducing muscle loss when losing weight.
Improves bone health
People who eat more protein tend to have better bone health as they get older. They have a much lower risk of osteoporosis and fractures.
Lowers blood pressure
Several studies have shown that a higher protein intake can lower blood pressure. Some studies also show improvements in other risk factors for heart disease.