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7 Signs You Need To Start Consuming Less Protein Right Away
Our bodies need protein — to build muscle mass, feel full, promote healthy brain function, and so much more. Unfortunately, there is a lot of confusion about protein. Should we be eating high-protein diets? Low-protein diets? And what, exactly, is the best source of protein?
Here is everything you need to know:
What Is Protein? And the Best Sources
Before understanding how much protein we need, it’s important to understand exactly what protein is. Proteins are long chains of amino acids, which are molecules we get from our diets. Amino acids can be found in vegetables, but the highest amino acid sources are animal products (meat, dairy, eggs and fish). A large number of our cells, muscles, and tissues are made up of amino acids, which means they play an important role in a number of bodily functions.
The body can make some amino acids on its own, and these are considered non-essential amino acids. For the rest, our bodies depend on protein foods to obtain them. These are called essential amino acids. Without diverse protein sources in your diet, you risk becoming deficient in certain essential amino acids. Some of the best sources of protein with a number of different amino acids are grass-fed beef, organic chicken, bone broth, wild-caught salmon, black beans, eggs, yogurt or kefir, and goat cheese. Plant-based protein options include tempeh, lentils, beans, nuts and nut butters, brown rice, oats, quinoa, seeds and avocado.
Proteins are used every day to keep the body going. They’re constantly broken down and must be replaced. For that reason, eating diverse protein foods every day is high beneficial and recommended in order to prevent protein deficiency.
The Risks of Protein Deficiency
Signs of protein deficiency include:
- Low energy
- Mood swings
- Slow metabolism
- Brain fog
- Unstable blood sugar levels
- Difficulty maintaining or losing weight
- Trouble building muscle mass
- Insomnia or trouble sleeping
- Low immunity
- Slow wound healing
- Constipation or other digestive troubles
Even if you are eating enough diverse, high-protein foods, it is possible to experience these symptoms because your body is not properly absorbing the protein.
An inability or difficulty in processing these essential nutrients can be caused by low stomach acid, so if you log your protein intake and find that you are consuming the recommended daily value and still feeling these unwanted side effects, it may be time to think about naturally boosting your stomach acid levels. You can do this by supplementing with apple cider vinegar (I recommend mixing one cup of raw apple cider vinegar in a cup of water and drinking five minutes before eating) and/or digestive enzymes.
The Risks of Protein Excess
The risks of protein deficiency are legitimate, but you may be surprised that a condition far more common than protein deficiency is protein excess. With the hype of high-protein diets, many Americans are eating upwards of five times more protein than is needed by their bodies. This, too, can have damaging effects of your body and daily life. Symptoms include but are not limited to:
- Bad mood
- Brain fog
- Irregular digestion and constipation
- Excess thirst
- Bad breath
- High blood sugar levels
- Bacteria and yeast overgrowth
A number of other general health and nutrition problems arise from eating excess protein. Overall, eating more calories than your body can use will contribute to weight gain. Additionally, neglecting other nutrients while eating high amounts of protein can stress your organs as they attempt to balance your body’s pH level, as animal foods are highly acidic. Some experts even worry that too much protein can damage the kidneys or liver, although little research is available to prove or dispute this.
How Much Protein You Should REALLY Be Eating (And When)
Essentially, there is no one-size-fits-all guide to protein consumption, and your body weight, gender, age, existing health conditions, and level of activity should all be considered when determining how much protein is best for you. As an example, athletes will need much higher quantities of protein in comparison to office workers who are only moderately active.
That said, there are general guidelines that exist to help you reach the appropriate amount of protein for your body type. The USDA states that the daily intake of protein for adults who are at an average weight and activity level is 56 grams per day for men and 46 grams per day for women. These numbers are the minimum amounts of protein you should aim for each day (if you are otherwise healthy and moderately active). I personally recommend multiplying your body weight by 0.5 and eating that number of grams of protein each day. For example, someone weighing 150 pounds should eat 75 grams of protein daily.
While the amount matters, it also matters when you eat your protein. The body cannot store protein, and only so much can be used before the rest is stored as fat or is eliminated from the body. As a result, it’s more beneficial to eat small amounts of protein throughout the day as compared to all at once. Eating protein at every meal will also help prevent overeating or snacking on junk food between meals, and it’s the easiest way to balance blood sugar levels, keep hunger at bay, and promote a healthy metabolism. A good way to ensure you are getting enough at each meal is to make about 30 percent of your plate a high-quality source of protein.
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Dr. Josh Axe, DNM, DC, CNS, is a doctor of natural medicine, clinical nutritionist and author with a passion to help people get well using food as medicine. Dr. Axe is the author of Eat Dirt
and Essential Oils: Ancient Medicine
, and he's also the founder of www.DrAxe.com
, one of the world's top natural health sites that draws more than 11 million visitors each month.
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