The P Word

Jamie Sukroo - 3 May 2019

The P Word

Everywhere you turn nowadays you see products packed full of protein – like Carb Killa Protein Bars, Mar’s chocolate bars with added protein, whey protein added to ice-cream etc.

The question I want to address in this post is twofold:

1.      Do we really need a stack of extra protein in our diet?
2.      What is the effect on our bodies of pursuing too much protein in our diet?

To answer the first part of the question – here are some interesting facts about protein:

In the UK, adults are advised to eat 0.75g of protein per kilogram of body weight per day.  So, on average 56g a day for men and 45g day for women. This can very easily be achieved by eating a varied diet that includes meat, eggs, dairy and nuts. It’s also easily achieved as a vegetarian/vegan by focussing on a mix of plant-based proteins like grains, pulses, beans etc.

Almost everybody in the UK gets more than enough protein and would only need to up their intake if they were an elite athlete where it provides around 3-4% improvement in performance.

The European Food Safety Authority concluded in 2010 that there was insufficient evidence to support claims that whey protein increased strength, muscle mass or endurance in the general population. This prevented manufacturers of high protein products from making spurious claims.

A 2016 study in the US showed that protein can make you feel fuller but an overall change in eating habits is also required if you want to shed weight –

Hopefully these points below address the second part of the question (the effect on our bodies of pursuing too much protein in our diet):

Most high protein products contain higher levels of sugar or so-called “natural sweeteners”. Look at a Mars High Protein chocolate bar and it’s stacked full of sugar. Carb Killa protein bars have so called safer alternatives in sugar alcohols (which if you read the last blog that was posted – are worse for you). So be careful when selecting any of these products that you aren’t overloading on sugar or sugar alternatives.

Excess protein in our bodies is filtered from the blood and excreted as urine. Research done on animals has shown that a greater protein intake than is required increases the workload on the kidneys and can cause damage to them long term. People with Kidney disease perform better on low protein diets (lower renal failures and deaths from complications).

This Finnish study – found that men who reported high protein intake (an average of 109 grams per day) were 33% more likely to experience heart failure than those who consumed the least (a daily average of 78 grams).

In summary:

  • You are likely getting more than enough protein from your diet provided you are eating healthily.
  • Don’t be tempted to splash out on expensive high protein products just because you think they will boost your muscles and/or performance.
  • Personally I think there is a small place for a bit of extra protein maybe for men during Intermittent Fasting or to boost Human growth hormone after a High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) session where 20g is advised.
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