Protein is an important part of everyone’s diet. Whether you’re eating a plant-based diet or enjoy animal products too, we all need to get enough protein from our diets to live a healthy life
While we all know the importance of protein especially when building muscle, it’s tricky to figure out how much protein we should actually be eating and how eating too much or too little protein impacts our health. We spoke to Angela Leach, the Head Dietician for FUTURELIFE® about getting the right amount of protein and how to tell if we’ve got our balance wrong.
Can you ever have too much protein?
Too much of a good thing can be sickening.
Understanding the importance of protein as part of a healthy diet means understanding the role of protein as part of a balanced diet. A balanced diet has its limits because while all food groups have a part to play in a healthy lifestyle, portion control is vital.
Angela leach says eating too much protein can be detrimental to your health. Just like other nutrients, you can consume too much protein and this has been associated with some negative health effects. These health effects may also be due to the source of protein consumed, especially as much animal-derived protein can be high in saturated fat,” she says.
Angela explains that foods that contain proteins also contain kilojoules and eating too much protein often means you are generally eating too much which may affect your weight.
‘Too much’ also depends on who you are
The RDA (recommended daily allowance) on most food items is a generalised guideline, an actual daily allowance differs from one person to another, and Angela says several factors influence how much of a specific food group you should eat, including protein.
“Protein requirements for any individual are dependent on many factors, including gender, age, current weight, activity level, muscle mass, physique goals and current state of health. As a general guide, the World Health Organization recommends at 0.8g of protein/kg/day or 15-20% of your total energy intake for healthy adults, however, these requirements can be increased in active individuals or various disease states,” says Angela.
Cutting down on protein shouldn’t be a weight-loss strategy
Eating too much protein could contribute to healthy weight loss simply because it means reducing a high kilojoule intake, however, a protein deficiency could work against your weight loss goals.
Angela says there are four main ways that protein contributes to healthy weight loss:
- Studies have shown that eating breakfast assists with long-term weight control, even more so if the breakfast included a protein as this helped individuals to reduce their calorie intake later in the day.
- Protein increases levels of satiety. Satiety is the feeling of fullness and the suppression of hunger for a period after a meal is ingested. Feelings of satiety can influence how much and how soon we eat next. Several signals in the body begin when food or drinks are consumed. These are regulated by the hypothalamus area in your brain. Hormones are signalled to your brain in response to feeding. A higher-protein intake increases levels of satiety by releasing hormones namely GLP-1, peptide YY and cholecystokinin which are appetite-suppressing hormones and reduce levels of our hunger hormone, ghrelin Individuals then consume fewer calories as they feel less hungry.
- The thermic effect of protein (the amount of energy needed to absorb and digest food) is higher than carbohydrates and fats. This means that protein uses more energy (calories) for absorption, digestion and storage. This has shown to assist in weight management.
- Protein helps to lower the GI of foods consumed. Lower GI foods help to keep us fuller for longer and give us slow, sustained energy.