Protein is an essential nutrient in the diet that is not only used to create hormones, enzymes, and other body chemicals, it is also the foundation material for your muscles, bones, cartilage, skin, and blood. This is not that surprising when you consider that your body is predominantly formed from proteins!
Types of protein:
You can get protein in your diet in two ways:
- The natural way, by eating protein-rich foods such as meats, eggs, dairy, legumes, beans, nuts, seeds, and grains.
- Through supplements, the most common being whey, soy and casein protein. These supplements can come in the form of powder, drinks, bars etc.
Can you have too much protein?
Because of its key role in muscle growth and development, protein is the most popular supplement used in the fitness industry. However, despite the push for protein supplements (mostly by the companies that sell it) it is possible to have too much of a good thing!
Protein is made up of amino acids, and a component of these amino acids is nitrogen. Normally when you eat protein, in the form of steak, chicken or beans and rice, your kidneys work to filter out the nitrogen. This is normal and part of your kidney’s function and nothing to worry about. The problem is that if you stress your kidneys with too much protein, by using supplements in excess, you run the risk of overloading and damaging them. Your kidneys are very important, so damaging them is not a good idea!
That being said, it is unlikely you will damage your kidneys unless you are consuming more than the recommended dosage. So, for this reason, it is very important to always follow the consumer guidelines. Eating/drinking more protein than you need is not going to amp up your muscle growth, it is only going to overload your kidneys and end up being excreted as waste, or stored as fat.
The bottom line:
Though protein supplements have their place and can be beneficial when used correctly, they are not essential to exercise or to building lean muscle mass. As long as you eat a balanced diet with a variety of complete protein sources or combinations of incomplete protein sources, then you will be getting all the protein you need on a daily basis.