The elevation of protein’s status on your plate could teach a reality star a thing or two about social climbing.
Hailed for its bulking prowess and ability to fill you up, it’s lacing powders, balls and bars, and being stuffed into everything from bagels to cheese. Convenient? Sure. But can you eat too much protein?
Dietitian Laura Tilt unwraps the high-protein movement.
Can you eat too much protein?
Yes and no. Protein is essential to your health, since the amino acids that form protein provide the raw materials your body uses to make and repair tissues, muscles, hormones and enzymes. What has perhaps been over-egged is the amount you need.
That’s before adding the smaller quantities of protein naturally present in veggies, grains and seeds.
So, what happens if you’re eating more than the standard?
For starters, the claims around protein’s potency aren’t wrong; studies show that high-protein breakfasts (say, those featuring eggs) boost feelings of fullness more effectively than high-carb options, like cereal or toast.
There’s also evidence to suggest protein intakes over the RNI can help to preserve muscle mass during dieting, and for those regularly strength training, higher protein intakes (1.2g to 1.6g per kilo) help with muscle growth and recovery.
The problem comes in thinking that because some protein is good, lots must be better.
Studies have shown that consuming over 2g per kilogram of body weight brings little benefit when it comes to building muscle. Given that there’s no storage facility for protein, eating more than you need means the surplus will be used for energy but if you consume more calories than you expend trying to get your protein fix, then the excess can be stored as fat.
Can protein affect your kidneys?
Despite fears about the connection between high-protein diets and kidney failure, a recent wide-ranging review of studies from scientists at McMaster University concluded that there was no evidence to show that eating large amounts of protein could impair kidney function in healthy adults.
Excessive intakes of protein can also result in some protein escaping into the colon, potentially feeding less favourable bacteria.
So what’s the bottom line on how much protein you should eat?
Balance is best. Plus, dietary surveys show that the average UK woman’s intake is well above the RNI. So, if you find yourself gobbling chicken strips at 4pm when you really want a Pink Lady, or piling protein powder into an already protein-heavy brekkie, at ease. Nutritionally, you’ve likely already got it nailed.
What would a day of protein goals consist of?
- 100g Greek yoghurt 9g protein
- 125g cooked lentils 14g protein
- Your average salmon fillet 24g protein