Proteins, carbohydrates, and dietary fats are examples of macronutrients that our bodies need to survive. In general, carbohydrates provide energy, fats are essential for hormone production, and proteins contain amino acids which build and repair muscle and bone.
Can You Eat Too Much Protein?
Bodybuilders, strength and endurance athletes, and weekend warriors buy protein by the tub and add scoops of it to milk, eggs, or even ice cream and blend it for a quick boost of muscle-building protein. If a little is good, a lot is better, right? Not necessarily, like everything in life, too much of a good thing may be bad for you. Too much protein in too short a time may provide too many calories and cause unnecessary stress on your kidneys. Additional problems caused by overeating protein include:
Increased Body Fat: Many people, including athletes who should know better, believe that protein builds (only) muscle, and fat is caused solely by carbs (sugar) and fats. While partially true, excess carbs are easily converted and stored around your waist, and saturated fats from cheeseburgers and fried foods lead to unhealthy weight gain. Too much protein can also be converted to and stored as fat! Protein contains the same number of calories per gram as carbs, and if you overeat, the protein not used or eliminated will become stored body fat.
Kidney Stones – When protein is digested and then metabolized, the process creates uric acid, which increases the acidity of your blood. Your body releases calcium phosphate (an alkaline substance) from your bones into your bloodstream to balance this increased acidity. While this release does reduce your blood’s acidity, it also increases uric acid and calcium levels, which then increases your risk for kidney stone formation. Too much protein taken too quickly also reduces your levels of urinary citrate , the chemical substance in your urine that generally helps prevent kidney stones from forming.
Increased Risk of Osteoporosis: As mentioned above, too much protein can lead to calcium phosphate being leached from your bones. If you continue consuming high protein levels and low levels of calcium, you will soon have osteoporosis. Osteoporosis is a weakening and softening of your bones as the density (strength and hardness) of your bones falls. Over time this condition can lead to weak bones that often break or fracture.
Dehydration: High levels of protein require more water to digest and metabolize. Your body will draw fluids from many areas of your body (including your blood) if you do not consume enough water to support your protein levels. Additionally, your body will increase your kidney function and urine output to eliminate the waste products produced by protein metabolism. Combining these two processes and their need for additional water can lead to severe dehydration and symptoms, including fatigue, muscle cramps, headaches, low blood pressure, and loss of consciousness.