It’s no secret that protein can do wonders for the body— it can help people gain muscle mass, make them feel fuller longer, and prevent those late-night trips to the cookie jar  . And while protein is essential in a healthy, balanced diet, there can be risks when people eat too much of it.
MACHO, MACHO MAN — WHY IT MATTERS
Proteins contain amino acids that helprepair and rebuild body tissue. The human diet should include ten to 35 percent protein, which comes from foods like meat, poultry, fish, and legumes. Protein can help with weight management, as people tend to feel fuller after eating protein-rich meals. (Eggs make for a better lunch than a double Dorito serving.)
People ages 18 and older should consume 0.36 grams of protein daily for every pound they weigh. So a 150-pound person needs about 54 grams of protein,equivalent to six ounces of cooked chicken breast. Who knew a little chicken could go a long way? Especially active people like marathoners or bodybuilders, should gobble down more protein to keep up with their fast metabolisms.
As important as protein is, eating too much is potentially dangerous. People looking to bulk up sometimes load up on protein, thinking steak and protein shots will produce insta-muscles. But a diet of green eggs and ham alone doesn’t do much toward defining those pecs, since eating protein without pumpin’ iron won’t build body muscle . High protein intake also often goes hand in hand with skimping out on the carbs, which can lead to insufficient fiber— a cause of constipation and diverticulitis.
PROTEIN: PERIL OR POWER? — THE ANSWER/DEBATE
There are definite health dangers to going after the Schwarzenegger look with an all-protein diet. It turns out our bodies can’t store excess protein, so once it’s broken down into amino acids, the kidneys excrete the nitrogen content. And the more protein we chow down, the harder the kidneys have to work to remove the waste. Studies suggest people with kidney disease should limit their protein intake, though there isn’t enough evidence to prove that excessive protein intake can actuallycause kidney disease .
But don’t toss away all the eggs and bacon just yet, since not getting enough protein has its risks too. An insufficient amount of protein can lead to undernutrition, which may result in extreme weight loss, fatigue, or diarrhea. It’s best to get most protein from plant sources like beans, legumes, nuts, and soy products to steer clear of excess cholesterol. Skip the pig (we know bacon is heavenly, but still), and opt for lean meats like turkey, chicken, and beef tenderloin in moderation.
Published by Laura Schwecherl on October 5, 2011.