PROTEIN: TOO MUCH PROTEIN DAMAGES THE KIDNEYS; TOO LITTLE THE WHOLE BODY

Protein is found in meat and dairy products, but you can also meet your protein requirements with plant-based foods. Athletes like to reach for additional protein powders and protein shakes – but is this necessary? How much protein does the body need and what tasks does it perform? You should also find out about the tasks on Vave blog.

PROTEINS ARE PROTEINS

Not everyone always realizes that the two terms refer to the same substance: “protein” is the colloquial term for protein. Alongside fats and carbohydrates, proteins are among the macronutrients that provide energy. In chemical terms, they consist of amino acids, of which our body needs 20 to maintain its bodily functions, eight of which are essential and must be taken in with food. We therefore need to consume protein, which is broken down into amino acids during digestion and thus ensures the development and maintenance of muscles, organs, cartilage, bones, skin, hair, and nails.

Proteins are found in each of our cells – the different proteins fulfill different tasks: Structural proteins ensure the stability of organs and tissues, others ensure the transport of substances in the blood and the cell, yet other proteins perform functions in the body’s immune and defense system, influence chemical reactions in the cells or regulate the metabolism.

PROTEIN FOR THE MUSCLES

Everyone knows by now that the main component of our muscles is the body’s protein. This leads to the belief that the more protein you consume, the more muscle you can build. For this reason, fitness studios like to offer “training-optimizing” powders to maximize the desired muscle growth.

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A protein shake after training is unnecessary. Unfortunately true: a protein shake after training is unnecessary. What is always forgotten: The most important source of energy for our muscle motor is carbohydrates. Protein alone does not build muscle – only regular and effective training does. Protein alone is therefore not enough to maintain or build muscle mass. But without a corresponding training stimulus, there is no adaptation in the body and therefore no growth. If you really want to benefit from protein, you should incorporate exercise and strength training into your daily routine.

Protein shakes, which are supposed to help athletes build muscle, are “creamy, practical, and good” because they are well-saturated. However, they – like protein puddings – lack the important fiber, of which we should consume 30 grams a day. 

TOO MUCH DAMAGES THE KIDNEYS

You should generally not overdo it with protein. Too much protein intake can put a strain on the kidneys. Excess protein is converted to urea in the body and has to be removed via the kidneys in the urine. If kidney dysfunction is already present, this can lead to a further deterioration in kidney function. In healthy people, there is not (yet) enough scientific evidence to conclusively assess the relationship between protein intake and kidney function. Nevertheless, the motto “a lot helps a lot” does not necessarily seem to apply to protein.

The high-dose intake of individual amino acids in the form of protein supplements can also lead to an imbalance in amino acid metabolism. In animal models, this resulted in an undersupply of other amino acids or neurological disorders. Anyone taking protein powder should therefore have their kidney function checked by a doctor. To be on the safe side and also pay attention to the ingredients of the supplements. As the Bremen Consumer Advice Center found out in 2020, many supplements contain additives, artificial sweeteners, and flavorings.

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PROTEIN REQUIREMENTS FOR ADULTS

During normal physical activity, the (normal-weight) body needs to be supplied with around 0.8 g of protein per kilogram of body weight every day. 

Therefore, an additional protein intake through special protein supplements is generally unnecessary. Under the most extreme training conditions, a maximum protein intake of up to two grams per kilogram of body weight is tolerable. But let’s be honest, how many of you train as hard as an extreme athlete every day? And even these two grams could be achieved through normal food without special protein supplements.

How much is two grams of protein? If you are of normal weight, you can easily calculate your requirements. A person of 70 kilos body weight therefore needs 56 g (70 x 0.8 g) of protein a day. With three meals a day, this corresponds to around 18 g per meal. And that in turn corresponds to 50 g of cooked tofu and 100 g of cooked mushrooms. If you are overweight, you should refer to the rule of thumb. That protein should only make up 10 to 15 percent of your meal. Specifically, this is up to 20 g per meal for women and up to 25 g for men.

Incidentally, pregnant women, breastfeeding women, and adults over the age of 65 have a slightly higher protein requirement. But this is also 58 and 63 g per day on average.

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