Protein is seen as the most useful and important macronutrient when it comes to bodybuilding and simply building muscle. Less attention has been given to the problems that can arise within the body from the constant over consumption of protein.
You’ve probably heard a number of different people say that in order to promote muscle growth to its full effect when paired with training, we should be consuming anywhere between 1.5-2.0 g of protein per pound of our body-weight.
Although the body will still show great growth in muscle tissue when only consuming 1.0-1.2 g of protein per pound of bodyweight, many people often believe that the more protein they consume, the better the results will be. Protein is what’s responsible for muscle growth and an increase in metabolism, so its understandable why many people try to consume as much of this macronutrient as possible.
How Much Protein is Too Much?
This will vary from one person to another. You’ve probably heard a number of different people say that in order to promote muscle growth to its full effect when paired with training, we should be consuming anywhere between 1.5-2.0 g of protein per pound of our body-weight.
Although the body will still show great growth in muscle tissue when only consuming 1.0-1.2 g of protein per pound of bodyweight, many people often believe that the more protein they consume, the better the results will be. Protein is needed for muscle growth and an increase in metabolism, so its understandable why many people try to consume as much of this macronutrient as possible.
I would never recommend eating above 2 g of protein per pound of bodyweight. In fact, 2 g is actually a high amount and unless you are a professional athlete, this amount will be way more than you should ever consume. So, if you do consume too much protein what will happen?
Effects of Protein
✗ Weight Gain
For starters, you will notice that your weight is will increase dramatically. When we eat too much of any nutrient, the body will gain weight in the form of either fat or muscle. Many people will eat extra protein believing that added protein in your diet will only lead to greater muscle growth. This is actually false.
Although you will gain muscle tissue, an excess consumption of protein will also lead to an increase in fat production due to the body trying to store all of the extra nutrients anywhere it can. When trying to lose weight, protein can help you drop weight, but if your diet is too high in protein, it will do the opposite and lead to weight gain. Stick to around 1.2-1.5 g of protein per pound of bodyweight for optimal results for lean muscle tissue.
✗ Kidney Damage
The next thing that can happen from too much protein consumption is that you can actually damage your kidneys. Since protein is rich in many nutrients, and one of those nutrients being nitrogen, which the body doesn’t want to store, the kidneys will have to filter unwanted nutrients out of the body to be excreted as a waste product.
By eating too much protein, you have to filter more nutrients out of the body, which means the kidneys will have to be active for much longer periods of time. If your kidneys undergo too much strain/activity for an extended period of time, it can lead to issues such as possible kidney failure or other kidney damage. Avoid damaging your kidneys by staying under 2.0 g of protein per day for the advanced bodybuilder.
✗ Lack of Fiber
Although protein is a great nutrient, and protein rich foods like eggs and chicken breast will lead to great lean muscle growth, what these foods typically lack is an adequate amount of fiber. If you eat a high protein diet, fiber is going to be a nutrient you will want to consume high amounts of in order to keep your digestive track active and healthy.
If you do not eat enough fiber, the body will have a hard time digesting the protein you’re eating. If you cannot digest these proteins and foods properly, you’ll end up spending a lot of time feeling extremely bloated, constipated and can eventually lead to chronic flatulence. Although it may seem like you’d have to eat a lot of protein for issues like these to occur, this is also possible to show from a lower amount of protein if someone is on a low carb diet, since protein is still high when compared to amounts of other nutrients consumed. Remove some of your protein for complex carbs like fruits and vegetables to keep your GI tract/digestive tract healthy.
✗ Diet Imbalance
The last issue I’d like to discuss is that too much protein means a decrease in other nutrients in the body. By consuming fewer fats and carbs, you are ignoring essential carbs that contain sugar and starch to help the brain function. Too much protein and too little carbs and sugar will eventually lead to a decrease in cognitive activity, which in turn will result in the body feeling more lethargic, irritable and upset your all round mood. Keep your protein levels adequate and carbs high to help the body continue to function normally.
Take Home Message
Although a high protein diet may seem like the best answer or path in order to obtain a lean, muscular physique, too much protein can actually damage your progress and lead to a number of issues. Keep your protein levels moderate and around 1.0-1.2 g of protein per pound of bodyweight, and although this may seem like a low amount for some, I can assure you that this amount of protein is more than enough in order to help promote muscle growth and overall body health.
Stay healthy, eat healthy, and don’t try to focus your diet solely around protein. It’s important to remember that carbohydrates and fat are still your friend, and not your enemy, when it comes to losing weight or gaining muscle.
Our articles should be used for informational and educational purposes only and are not intended to be taken as medical advice. If you're concerned, consult a health professional before taking dietary supplements or introducing any major changes to your diet.