Protein is an essential part of a healthy, well-balanced diet. It aids in building and repairing muscles, and high-protein diets are helpful with reducing fat, losing weight, and retaining muscle. However, there are several risks with high-protein diets that are worth noting.
How Much Protein Should You Consume?
Most Americans consume 3-5 times more protein than they actually need, along with excessive starchy carbs and not enough healthy fats. If you look at food labels, you will notice that protein is in almost everything! One reason why protein may be so popular opposed to carbs and fats, is that excess protein is not stored as fat. However, excess calories from any source will be stored as fat in the body (5).
Nutritional experts do not recommend exceeding the recommended daily amount of protein consumption. When calculating your total amount of protein you should eat, you need to factor in protein from both your diet (food) and supplements (protein powder).
The Dietary Reference Intake is 0.8 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight. In other words, 0.36 grams per pound of body weight. On average, this amounts to 56 grams for men and 46 grams for women per day (2).
Calculate your protein: Protein Calculator
How is Protein Digested & Absorbed?
When we consume protein, it is then broken down in the body into its building blocks called amino acids. Once broken down, amino acids are used for growth and repair of muscles, supporting immune function, as an energy source, and in the production of other compounds needed by the body. However, protein digestion is not as simple as eating protein and magically getting amino acids. It takes time for a large protein molecule to break down in both the stomach and in the small intestine before it becomes the amino acids.
So, here is how proteins are broken down by the digestive system. Protein digestion begins in the stomach with the action of an enzyme called pepsin. Pepsin is the active protein-digesting enzyme of the stomach. When pepsin acts on the protein molecule, it breaks the bonds that hold the protein molecule together, called peptide bonds. When these bonds are broken, you get chains of amino acids linked together called polypeptides. These chains of amino acids then move into your small intestine, where digestion is completed. Because amino acids are very small, they are able to be absorbed through the small intestine lining and into your bloodstream (3).
Potential Risks of Excess Protein
As stated above, the average american is consuming 3-5 times the amount of protein they need. Excess protein could lead to elevated blood lipids and heart disease. This is due to the fact that many high-protein foods are high in total fat and saturated fat. Consuming more protein poses an additional risk to individuals predisposed to kidney disease (5). Although it is believed that there is no risk when healthy people consume high-protein diets, the lack of long-term studies should be taken into account (4).
Whenever your body breaks down protein into amino acids, the excess is excreted opposed as being stored as fat. However, your kidneys have to work harder to get rid of the extra waste products of protein metabolism. Also, due to the increase in excretion, water is important to avoid dehydration.
Amino Acids Instead of Protein
There is a misconception with muscle growth (gainz) and protein intake. Adequate protein intake is necessary. However, it is the extra strength training is what leads to muscle growth, not simply extra protein intake. You cannot build muscle without the exercise to go with it. (5)
First, we recommend meeting your dietary protein needs with whole foods as opposed to protein powders or supplements alone. We believe the best way to give your body all of the nutrients it needs is through eating a well-balanced diet. To make sure you are eating a well-balanced diet, try tracking your macro nutrients – carbohydrates, proteins, and fats.
If you are active or an athlete, supplementation with amino acids can benefit you in many ways. When working out, your body needs the specific amino acids to repair and rebuild muscles. By supplementing with pure amino acids instead of protein powder, your body does not need to digest anything. Instead, amino acids are absorbed straight into the bloodstream which, on average, is 3x faster than protein. Not only are you are getting the amino acids your body need during exercise quicker, your body does not need to work as hard to get them. This could negate any long-term risk with consuming high amounts of protein.
If you are looking for an amino acid supplement to replace your post-workout protein powder, try aminoVITAL Rapid Recovery. Rapid Recovery contains amino acids (BCAAs, Glutamine, and Arginine), electrolytes and complex carbs to help your muscles recover faster. Rapid Recovery is clinically proven to reduce next-day muscle soreness.