As someone interested in leading a healthier and fitter life, you’ve probably come across various recommendations for your protein intake.
Unfortunately, it can be easy to get confused and not know what to do, given the numerous suggestions from athletes, bodybuilders, and experts.
So, let’s break it down and answer the question, “How much protein is too much?”
What is Protein?
Protein is one of the three macronutrients (along with carbs and fats) the body needs to get energy and carry out its many complex biological processes (1).
The nutrient consists of amino acids, which some refer to as the building blocks of life. We must get nine essential amino acids through food every day because the human body cannot synthesize them.
Once you ingest protein, your body breaks it down, and the amino acids flood your bloodstream, lending themselves where needed.
The Importance of Protein in Fitness and Health
While some think protein is only good for bodybuilders and professional athletes, that is far from the truth. The nutrient plays a pivotal role in overall health and fitness, and everyone should get at least the bare minimum every day.
Among protein’s roles in the body, we have:
- Supports muscle growth and repair (2)
- Provides energy for the body
- Contributes to satiety (3)
- Promotes cell growth and repair
- Assists in nutrient transport
- Supports healthy skin, hair, and nails (4)
- Aids in hormone production
- Helps in enzyme creation
- Supports immune system function (5)
What is the Recommended Protein Intake?
There are various protein recommendations, ranging from as little as 0.7-0.8 grams per kilogram of body weight to as high as 4-4.5 grams per pound. As you can imagine, that is a vast range, which makes it difficult to determine your ideal intake.
A 70-kilogram person (154 lbs) can eat as little as 49 grams or as much as 693 grams daily.
Fortunately, there is a sweet spot clearly outlined by research. According to data, the ideal entail for active individuals is 1.6 to 2.2 grams per kilogram (6). This comes out to about 0.8-1 grams per pound.
For example, if someone weighs 154 lbs, their daily intake should fall between 123 and 154 grams.
How Much Protein is Too Much?
Research doesn’t suggest an upper limit for protein intake for healthy individuals. In fact, one study showed that up to 4.4 grams per lb daily didn’t have any adverse effects (7).
That said, eating too much protein could be bad for other reasons. For one, getting more of your calories from that nutrient would leave less room for carbs and fats, which are essential for good health, well-being, and fitness.
Second, protein is highly satiating, and eating too much of it can make it challenging to eat enough calories, which can be problematic while bulking to gain muscle (3).
The bottom line is that a protein intake of 1.6 to 2.2 grams per kilogram (0.8 to 1 gram per lb) appears to be ideal for most people.
Anything less than that could affect your ability to build muscle and recover after training; conversely, a higher intake likely doesn’t offer any benefits but doesn’t seem harmful for healthy individuals.