Pump Up The Protein?

Athletes, especially of the male variety, are often drawn to the so called “high protein diet”. High protein intake means big muscles right? What else could a man want? In the quest for muscular definition, however, it is important to be aware of specific short and long term effects of nutritional diets that contain high amounts of protein. 
High protein diets need to be monitored carefully, as unchecked increases in any major food group can create dietary imbalances that can be detrimental to overall health. The recommended protein consumption per day is directly dependent on the individual, being proportional to body weight, at 0.8g/kg/day. Unrestrained increases in protein consumption are linked to short-term consequences including dehydration, constipation, fatigue, nausea, hyperlipidemia, and salt and water depletion.


Photo: pieuvre.ca

By increasing your protein intake, you may compromise the intake of other important nutrients.  For example, a high protein diet usually decreases fruit, vegetable, grain and legume intakes. Furthermore, this disparity leads to lower levels of fiber and micronutrients. The diet is now overcrowded with protein heavy foods, largely produced by animals. In turn, the increased absorption of animal produce leads to increases of saturated fatty acids (SFA) and dietary cholesterol. In the long-term, decreased levels of micronutrients allows for a greater risk of cancer, and the increase animal produce makes one more susceptible to cardiovascular diseases and obesity.
As students, budgeting is frequently at the forefront of our minds. High protein diets can prove to be extremely costly to maintain. The addition of supplements and increase of animal produce lead to a budget that is unrealistic for most students.
Synthesizing the increased proteins can also be extremely demanding on your gastrointestinal tract, specifically your kidneys, as they are the sites of excess protein excretion.
Furthermore, a desirable, balanced proportion of calcium to protein is imperative to reaching optimal growth for young adults, specifically targeting athletes. The recommended chemical balance of calcium to protein is 20:1 Ca(mg): PRO(g). However, with an increase in protein intakes, an imbalance is created. The altered ratio of less calcium to more protein spawns physiological turmoil as more calcium is released from bones in attempt to rebalance the ratio. Most athletes strive for increases in protein to repair muscle damage, when really they are decreasing bone foundations essential for proper maturation.

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