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Proteins are used to build, repair, and maintain tissues and cells. They play a major role in hormonal balance and the production of enzymes in the body. They are the building blocks of the body and are essential for its proper functioning.

If the body does not receive an adequate amount of carbohydrates, the energy it needs is derived from proteins. Less protein in the diet can hamper growth rate and lead to a weakened immune system and loss of muscle mass.

In extreme cases, it can lead to impairment of important body systems like the circulatory and respiratory systems. Before moving on to the side effects, let us first see how much protein does the body need daily.

Protein Requirement of the Body

With the intent to increase muscle mass and promote bone health, one may be tempted to include high amounts of protein in the diet. A high intake of proteins is of no use if the body is not able to absorb them properly. Increase in protein intake should be supplemented by adequate exercise. However, an excessively high intake of protein (higher than what the body requires) may have adverse effects on overall health. Let's understand how much protein our body requires.

The daily protein requirement (based on age), as sourced from WebMD is:
  • Infants: 10 g
  • Teenaged boys: 52 g
  • Teenaged girls: 46 g
  • Adult men: 56 g
  • Adult women: 46 g
  • Pregnant and lactating women: is 71 g

Side Effects of Eating too Much Protein

A sudden switch to a high-protein diet can cause health problems. A high-protein diet is followed with the intent to gain muscle mass. It helps build muscle and lose fat, and often nutritionists advise bodybuilders to increase their protein intake.
Excess protein, especially with less carbohydrates, can create a condition called ketosis. It is a condition characterized by increased ketone bodies in which the body uses stored blood sugar owing to the lack of carbohydrates. Other effects of ketosis include headaches and irritability.
High-protein diets are high in saturated fat, thus increasing the risk of heart disease.
It burdens the kidneys and may affect their functioning. It is shown to have less effect on people with normal kidney function. But it may affect renal function in those with mild kidney problems.
It impacts calcium absorption, leading to hypercalciuria (high levels of calcium in urine). Protein digestion releases acids in the blood from which calcium is drawn from the bones to neutralize it. This may lead to the bones becoming porous and fragile. In extreme cases, it can also lead to osteoporosis.
A high protein diet restricts carb intake. A low-carb diet restricts the intake of plant-based foods. This restricts variety in the diet, and also makes the diet deficient in phytochemicals and antioxidants, which the plant foods are rich in.
Along with the above-mentioned side effects, there are a few more health issues that can be evoked by consumption of protein in high amounts. They are dehydration, fatigue, headaches, muscle cramps and muscle spasm, confusion, constipation, loss of concentration, and difficulty in breathing. It also stresses the liver. It can cause lack of some essential vitamins and minerals, leading to other health conditions and loss of physical endurance.

It is a fact that protein intake is very important for a healthy body, but anything in excess affects the health adversely. While concentrating on the intake of any one nutrient, a diet should not neglect the other equally essential ones. A major change in diet should be done only after consulting an expert in the field.

Disclaimer: The information provided in this article is solely for educating the reader. It is not intended to be a substitute for the advice of a medical expert.