Too much protein or not enough protein?

too much protein or not enough protein

Although the body needs a certain amount of protein, too much can be harmful for a person's health. 

Too much protein

  • There is a significant risk of high cholesterol, due to the high amount of saturated fats in certain foods, which could in turn lead to heart disease and stroke. If you are concerned about your cholesterol, there are several inexpensive cholesterol testing kits available on the market. However, if in any doubt always consult your doctor for professional medical advice.
  • Too much protein also puts a strain on the liver and kidneys. Foods that contain protein have high levels of nitrogen that are harmful to the body and must be eliminated. The role of the kidneys is to filter out waste products and therefore an excess of protein will force the kidneys to work harder to remove the nitrogen waste from the body. This stress could ultimately lead to kidney disorders or damage to the body's filtering capacities. 
  • Due to the inability of the body to store excess protein, any surplus protein that is consumed is then converted into glucose in the liver and either used up as energy or stored as fat
  • Some protein-rich foods are high in nucleic acids, which when broken down, are converted into uric acid. Consequently, too much uric acid in the blood can lead to gout, an extremely uncomfortable condition that causes a person's joints to become inflamed, tender and agonizingly painful to move.
  • Finally, too much protein in the diet could also lead to osteoporosis (thinning of the bones), as an excess of protein promotes the loss of calcium in the bones through urine. 

            Cod liver oil tablets can help prevent the onset of osteoporosis.

Not enough protein

Just as too much protein is detrimental to our health, too little protein can also have a negative affect on the body. 

  • Many foods containing protein are also good sources of iron amongst other minerals and vitamins. A lack of iron can result in tiredness and fatigue, leaving the body weak and with little energy. 
  • Protein in the body is lost daily, hence must be replenished daily through the diet. Too little protein can cause skin problems and generally give us an unhealthy and tired appearance. 
  • Protein is needed to repair and create new cells, tissues, hormones, enzymes and muscles and a lack of protein can prevent these processes from being carried out correctly. 

Consuming more protein than you need certainly offers no advantage in terms of health or physical performance. Once your requirements have been met, additional protein will not be converted into muscle, nor will it further increase muscle size, strength or stamina.

The nitrogen in protein is converted into urea in the liver. This is then passed to the kidneys and excreted in the urine. The remainder of the protein is converted into glucose and used as an energy substrate. It may either be used as fuel immediately or stored, usually as glycogen. If you are already eating enough carbohydrate to refill your glycogen stores, excess glucose may be converted into fat.

Read more from our protein series:

Related Articles

Diet DIY - an end to rigid diets.

Basic Diet Construction - A step by step...

Don't let the gym beat you before you've even started

Joining a gym should be as simple as choosing...

Where does my energy come from?

The energy in our body is generated in the form...

How to take body measurements

When attempting to change your body shape in...