High-protein diets have a lot of following among bodybuilders, weight lifters, professional athletes, and those who are trying to lose weight. In various studies, a protein-rich diet has been shown to help people lose weight as well as retain and build muscle mass.
However, eating too much protein can also have adverse effects, especially if the diet isn’t balanced with other food types that are required by the body. Moreover, adhering to a high-protein diet for extended durations isn’t recommended because of various health concerns.
#1 Digestive System Problems
When you consume a lot of protein with little or no carbohydrates, it means your intake of dietary fiber is low. When you don’t eat enough fiber, it can lead to digestive problems like constipation. You may also experience diarrhea if you consume too much processed foods and dairy products, or if your main protein sources are fried meat or poultry.
#2 Weight Gain
If you’re following a high-protein diet to lose weight, you should know that the weight loss is often only temporary. Any excess protein that you eat is stored by the body in the form of fats.
This means that if you eat too much protein, you may just be adding to your body fat. This is especially true if you’re not accompanying your high-protein diet with sufficient exercise or if you’re eating too many calories as you try to increase your protein consumption.
A recent study showed that when you eat a lot of protein as a replacement for carbohydrates, it can actually lead to higher risks of weight gain. But if you’re eating proteins as a replacement for fat, you may be able to avoid gaining weight.
The problem is that if you maintain a high-protein diet for a long time, it can increase your risks of all-cause death. The study also showed that a high intake of animal protein can increase the risks of fatal outcomes.
On the other hand, if you eat a lot of plant-based foods that are rich in protein, you can lower your risks of cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and obesity. In addition, you can also get a lot of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants from protein-rich vegetables.
Proteins contain nitrogen and when there’s an excess of nitrogen in the body, your body will try to flush the excess nitrogen out of your system with fluids and water. This means that when your consumption of protein is higher than recommended, nitrogen will accumulate in your body.
The more excess nitrogen you have, the more your body will try to get rid of it. And this can lead to dehydration.
#4 Bad Breath
When proteins are the main components of your diet, it can trigger your body to go into a metabolic state that’s referred to as ketosis. This metabolic state occurs when your carbohydrate intake is very low such as when you are following a ketogenic diet. Unfortunately, ketosis results in bad breath and an unpleasant fruity smell emanating from your body.
#5 Calcium Loss
When you’re only eating proteins and meat, you may be missing out on various important nutrients like calcium. This unbalanced high-protein diet can cause calcium loss and can lead to deteriorating bone condition and osteoporosis.
#6 Kidney Damage
When you are on a high-protein diet, your kidneys have to work extra hard to get rid of the excess nitrogen and the other protein metabolism by-products. Thus, your risks of developing kidney damage and diseases increase.
It’s not just your risks of kidney damage that go up when you follow a high-protein diet for a long time. Your risks of developing various cancer diseases also go up. Prostate cancer and colon cancer are both associated with a high intake of meat.
#8 Cardiovascular Diseases
Adhering to a high-protein diet with meat and full-fat dairy foods as your main sources of protein can increase your risks of heart diseases. Red meat and dairy products usually contain high concentrations of cholesterol and saturated fat.
How To Balance Your High-Protein Diet
If you really need to follow a high-protein diet, you may want to take some precautionary measures to avoid the adverse effects of consuming too much proteins. What you can do is to use plant-based proteins as your main source of protein instead of red meat or processed meat.
The best sources of proteins are plant-based foods that contain all the essential amino acids that your body needs, just like soy beans and quinoa. Soy products like tofu are also great sources of protein. In addition, tofu also contains iron and calcium, so you can avoid calcium loss.
Another great source of proteins, lentils also contain a lot of dietary fiber, so you can be sure that you won’t be suffering from constipation if you add a lot of lentils to your diet. Plus, lentils also contain potassium, iron, and other important nutrients. Moreover, as an ingredient, lentils are versatile. You can add them to your salad, you can mix lentils in your stew, or you can use lentils as rice toppings.
Nuts like almonds and peanuts are also healthy sources of proteins. You also get vitamin E from almonds, which is good for keeping your skin young. In men, vitamin E also plays a special role in keeping sperm cells healthy and motile.
Chia seeds not only contain a lot of protein, they’re also a good source of dietary fiber and omega-3 fatty acids. Plus, chia seeds are so easy to eat since you can just sprinkle them on top of your yogurt snack or add them to your morning smoothie.
If you’re taking protein supplements, make sure to check the label as your chosen supplement may contain high concentrations of sodium and sugar. You should also check if your protein supplement contains all the essential amino acids. If not, you will need to consume other complete protein sources like tofu.
If you’re following a protein shake diet, try to supplement your diet with plant-based foods like whole grains and leafy vegetables. These shouldn’t add much to your calorie count but should take care of your other nutritional requirements.