Nutrition / Food

How to Tell If You’re Eating Too Much Protein

It turns out, there actually isn't much to worry about.

If you’re someone who is trying to eat a healthy diet, you’ve probably made a point to make sure that you’re eating enough protein. We constantly hear how protein is necessary to help build muscle and keep you full. And, for many people, protein is the most important part of every meal. But, as is with any nutrient, you never want too much of a good thing. However, it can be hard to discern whether you’re eating too much protein, as most of us don’t sit and measure each meal.

Eating too much protein can have an adverse effect on your health even if you are active with a fitness app like Aaptiv.

“When we digest protein, waste products are made, which are processed by the kidneys,” says Registered Dietitian Megan Casper, MS, RDN, CDN. “Eating a diet very high in protein for a prolonged time can increase the risk for kidney disease and osteoporosis.”

Thankfully, most of us don’t have to stress about eating too much of the nutrient. So, how much is too much? We spoke with a number of registered dietitians to help break it down.

How much protein do we need?

“The average adult needs about 50 grams per day to meet their needs,” says Casper. The exact amount will depend on different factors, such as your body weight and physical activity.

The Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) for protein (the minimum requirement that you should be getting) is 0.8 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight. To figure out how much protein you need, just multiply your weight in pounds by .36. You can also use an online calculator, which will factor in your activity level.

Consuming protein to help build muscle? Check out the strength training workouts in the Aaptiv app.

Do some people need more than others?

“Protein needs are unique to the individual and depend on several factors including gender, weight status, level of activity, digestion, stress, and medical history,” says Registered Dietitian Tanya Zuckerbrot MS, RD. Because of this, some people will need more protein than others.

“Someone who has a high level of physical activity, like a weightlifter or runner, would need more protein than someone who does not exercise,” says Registered Dietitian Stacey Bala, MS, RD, LDN. “Protein is used to repair and rebuild muscle that is broken down during exercise.”

Anyone who is pregnant or breastfeeding will need more protein, says Bala. This is also the case for the elderly, as protein is essential for maintaining muscular health as you age.

On the flip side, those with certain conditions may be advised to eat a lower amount of protein. This includes people in certains stages of kidney disease and people with metabolic disorders like Phenylketonuria and Homocystinuria, says Casper.

Should you worry?

“Unless you are diagnosed with a condition that would require limiting the intake of protein, or you experience significant unwanted weight gain, there is little concern with an increased intake of protein,” says Registered Dietitian In Jung Lifrieri. Although there can be some physical side effects of an abnormally-high intake of protein, protein toxicity is not something we need to worry too much about.

“Although Americans do typically exceed their protein needs daily, there is not much to be concerned about in the average, healthy person,” says Zuckerbrot. “This is true even with the use of protein powders, as long as they are consumed in appropriate servings.”

What’s most important to pay attention to is whether you’re eating a balanced diet. “If you’re eating too much protein instead of other food groups, you’re likely missing out on fiber, vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants found in vegetables and whole grains, which can contribute to deficiencies and a host of health issues,” says Zuckerbrot.

Signs That You May Be Eating Too Much Protein

If you’re still not sure if you’re eating too much protein, you can look out for signs in your body that you’re getting too much of the nutrient. Not everyone will show physical signs of too much protein consumption, though. When in doubt, consult with a nutritionist or your doctor.

To start, a high-protein diet can make you dehydrated. “One study found that eating a diet high in protein not only decreased thirst, but caused dehydration,” says Casper. Your body flushes out the breakdown of protein along with water. So, eating too much protein may cause your body to eliminate excess water.

A diet too high in protein—and low in other important nutrients, such as carbohydrates—can cause gastrointestinal discomfort along with constipation. “Oftentimes when y ou are on a high protein diet, you may be restricting carbohydrates,” says Registered Dietitian Nicole Hinckley, RD, LD. “Fiber is a major part of maintaining a regular bowel regimen. Make sure to fill up on fruits, veggies, or whole grains when consuming a high protein diet.”

Eating too much protein can come with a few negative side effects. However, generally, it’s not a cause for concern for most people. Make sure to stick to a balanced diet that includes all food groups, and you shouldn’t have to worry.

A balanced diet goes along great with a workout regimen. View Aaptiv’s workouts by downloading the app today.

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