How much protein do we really need?
Protein is essential for good health
But how much is too much?
Protein is essential for brain health, muscle development, energy production and more! Our bones, muscles, blood vessels, skin, hair, nails and organs are all made up of protein, so we certainly can’t live without it as a major part of our diet.
Many foods offer a good source of protein, particularly meat, fish, eggs and dairy. Protein can also be found in abundance in many plant-based foods such as legumes, tofu, seeds and nuts.
When we consume protein rich foods, they are broken down in the body into amino acids. These amino acids are used to make enzymes, hormones and more.
The amount of protein someone needs to consume daily depends on age, weight and health status. In general, 15-25% of a person’s total daily food intake should come from protein.
A healthy adult female is recommended to consume 0.75g of protein per kilogram of body weight, while a healthy adult male is recommended to consume 0.84g protein per kilogram of body weight. For example, a 70kg female requires 52g of protein per day.
Our bodies can’t actually store excess protein, and will instead excrete protein that it doesn’t need in the urine.
So, how much protein is in the foods we eat?
100g skinless chicken = 30g protein
100g beef steak = 25g protein
100g salmon = 20g protein
2 eggs = 12g protein
½ cup cooked lentils = 9g protein
250ml glass of milk = 8g protein
½ cup cooked kidney beans = 8g protein
100g tofu = 7g protein
30g almonds = 6g protein
What happens if I eat too much protein?
When protein is broken down in the body, ammonia is produced as a by-product. Ammonia can build up in the body and can cause serious harm. In order to prevent damage from ammonia, the body converts it to urea.
The kidneys are responsible for converting ammonia to urea, and then excreting the urea in the urine.
When we consume more protein than we need, the kidneys have to work a lot harder to convert the excess ammonia from the protein into urea and this can take a its toll.
Excess protein can also lead to increased calcium excretion, which can have negative effects on bone health if not addressed.
More protein does not lead to more muscle…
You may be surprised to learn that people who do a lot of exercise or weight training do NOT need to eat extra protein to achieve their exercise goals.
More and more evidence is revealing that people who do not eat extra protein are able to gain muscle mass at the same rate as those who consume extra protein in the form of food or powders.
So, you can have too much of a good thing! We know protein is essential for good health, and a range of protein rich foods are recommended daily in order to maintain muscle mass, energy, brain power and healthy skin, hair and nails.
However, too much protein can put a strain on the liver and kidneys, and can lead to calcium losses in the body.
In order to optimise your protein intake, consume smaller quantities of protein throughout the day. Be sure to include plenty of variety and with anything in life, don't overdo it. Your kidneys will thank you for it!
Written By Esther Rijk, Dietitian
Do you want to know more? Contact Esther at email@example.com