Whether you’re building muscle to add bulk, or to enhance your metabolism for weight loss (or – both!) – your muscles need protein to grow. And, with the popularity of diets such as Whole30, Keto, and Paleo, all based around the concept of low-carb / high protein, it seems as though there is no limit to how much protein you can take in. But, it is possible to overdo the amount of protein you’re taking in. How much is too much protein?
What Happens When Eat Too Much Protein?
It depends. Your body requires a certain number of calories per day to operate. If you take in less calories than you burn, your body would take that protein and convert it into glucose for your brain and kidneys. If you take in more calories than you need to burn, that protein can be stored as:
- Body Fat – Your body can turn that protein into fat, storing it for later for extra energy.
- Glycogen – In other words, sugar, that can be burned right now for energy.
- Actual Organs & Muscles – Yup, your body can burn muscle for fuel if needed.
Do Macronutrients Matter?
In a word, yes. Extra calories get stored. But their macronutrient makeup makes a difference where your body stores them. Fat gets stored as fat, but calories from carbs and protein can go either toward glycogen (for immediate fuel) or body fat (fuel stored for later).
But, protein gets prioritized to be used to rebuild muscle and organs before getting stored for energy. So, eating a proper amount of protein as part of your overall caloric daily intake helps to rebuild muscles and organs. But, too much protein means that after your body had rebuilt muscles and organs, any extra unused protein gets stored at fat!
What is the Right Amount of Protein Daily?
The general rule is, .8 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight. To calculate that, take your weight in pounds. Divide that weight by 2.2 to get to your weight in kilograms. Then multiply that number by .8 to see your overall protein required per day in grams.
Now, keep in mind that the recommended protein intake for a person is for those that are inactive – not exercising. If you’re exercising, you many want to up the recommend protein daily from .8 g / kilogram to 1.2 g / kilogram. And if you’re extremely active, that number may go as high has 1.4 to 2 g / kilogram!
Bodybuilders can go as high as 2.3 – 3 g / kilogram. But going any higher than 4g not only means your body may start storing it as fat, but with protein levels that high, your kidney’s have to work extra hard. You can erode kidney and bone health if you overdo your protein intake on a regular basis.
So, eating a reasonable amount of protein means making sure your total protein intake daily is reasonable for the amount (and type) of physical activities you’re engaging in, while keeping your overall caloric intake at a reasonable level. And, replacing meat-based protein sources with plant based ones, like nuts, seeds and beans, brings other micronutrients into play as well. Balance your protein with healthy fats and carbs, and you’ll have plenty of energy for your workouts and plenty of protein for muscle growth and rebuilding.
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