Can you have TOO much protein?
Updated: Jul 30, 2018
Protein is one of the three macronutrients that we need on a daily basis for many important functions: hormones, muscle recovery, enzymes, antibodies, and transportation of molecules in the body. The one you're probably most familiar with is muscle recovery. Getting the proper amount of protein is especially important while following a fitness routine to help you form muscle, decrease recovery time, and reduce injury. You may be familiar with the protein-post workout theory and therefore have your protein rich smoothie or meal immediately after your workout.
In fact, when I was in school at University of Arizona, I have memories working at the gym and seeing many guys mixing up their protein powders with water immediately after they finished their sessions.
This is meant to provide your body the amino acids it needs to repair the micro-tears in your muscles as a result of exercise... as long as you have the proper amount.
So what is the right amount of protein? Can you have too much? What about if you're exercising... do you need more? Today, I'm sharing everything you need to know about protein to maximize your sports performance and reach your fitness goals!
A little physio about protein ~
In your stomach and small intestine, your body breaks down the protein in your diet to individual amino acids so that it can be absorbed and used throughout your body. One of the areas that it gets used is your skeletal muscles (aka the muscles you use while working out). It's used to repair and restore your muscles so that you can continue to see results from your workouts. But your body only needs so much before your muscles have had enough protein love. So what happens to the protein that you've eaten in excess?
Is there such thing as too much protein?
When your muscles have had their fill of protein, your body starts to break amino acids down and convert it into sugar via a process called gluconeogenesis. This process is essential for if you're in starvation mode in order to help you survive. However, if you've simply just eaten too much protein, those proteins that were converted to sugars will spike your blood glucose levels and get stored as fat. This can hinder your progress toward your weight loss and wellness goals.
How much do I need?
You don't need nearly as much protein as you may think. In fact, most Americans are getting too much protein... about 2x too much to be exact. That means that excess protein is surpassing your body's needs and being stored as fat as a result. Unless you are an elite or professional athlete, you only need between 1.2-1.5g of protein/kg of body weight per day.
You can find out how much protein you need by dividing your weight in pounds by 2.2. This equals your weight in kilograms. Then multiply this number by 1.2 (or 1.5) to get the upper amount of protein you need per day!
For example, a 130 lb (59kg) woman should have between 71-89g of protein per day.
What protein should I be eating?
Many foods are high in protein and add up to your total protein intake. For example:
-2 cups of broccoli = 5g of protein
-1/2 cup of lentils = 9g of protein
-2 Tbsp. peanut butter = 7g of protein
-2 Tbsp. chia seeds = 6g protein
-1/2 cup cooked spinach = 3g protein
-1/2 avocado = 2g protein
Let alone the protein powder, chicken, fish, turkey, and beef that you may be having as well! It's easy to see how protein adds up to provide you more than enough per day. The best way to get protein is by mixing up your nutrient sources. Change up the protein powder, the vegetables, and the meat that you use on a week-by-week basis. Consuming too much of one type of nutrient/food can lead to food allergies or vitamin and mineral deficiencies.
Check out 30+ of my favorite recipes HERE that utilize the proper variety of protein and nutrients to help you reach your fitness and wellness goals!