The importance of proteins in your diet: shortage and excess

Nancy Heijnis
27 October 2023
Reading time: 10 minutes

Proteins are an essential part of our diet. They are the building blocks of our body and play a crucial role in various bodily processes. A balanced intake of proteins is vital for good health. However, both a deficiency and an excess of proteins can cause problems.

Protein deficiency: A lesser-known issue

Proteins are macronutrients composed of amino acids, the body’s building blocks. They play a crucial role in various bodily functions, including tissue building and repair, muscle maintenance, enzyme and hormone regulation, and supporting the immune system. When the body does not receive enough proteins, several health problems can arise.

Muscle Weakness: Proteins are essential for the growth and maintenance of muscle mass. A deficiency in proteins can lead to muscle weakness and loss, hindering daily functioning. Proteins support the rapid recovery of muscles after training/sports performance.

Bones: Proteins contribute to the maintenance of strong bones and are important for bone composition. Proteins are essential for the formation and preservation of bone mass. A lack of proteins can result in a loss of bone density and an increased risk of fractures.

Poor Growth in Children: Proteins are necessary for the normal growth and development of children’s bones. A deficiency in proteins can lead to poor growth, both physically and mentally, affecting the overall development of the child.

Adding protein-rich foods to the diet is an effective way to prevent protein deficiency. In addition to eggs, whole grain bread and crackers, and whole grains, there are numerous other protein sources such as meat, fish, dairy products, legumes, nuts, and seeds. It is important to have a varied diet that contains sufficient proteins so that the body receives all the essential amino acids it needs for optimal health.

Individuals with specific dietary needs, such as vegans, should pay extra attention to obtaining sufficient proteins from plant-based sources like tofu, tempeh, quinoa, and beans. Preventing protein deficiency is essential for long-term health and well-being.

The danger of excess proteins: Kidney overload

It is important to understand that while proteins are essential for the body, excessive intake can be harmful. Here is more information about the danger of too much protein and the potential overload of the kidneys:

Kidney overload:
Excess proteins can overload the kidneys, leading to fatigue, dehydration, and an increased need for water. Prolonged overload can even cause kidney damage, increasing the risk of kidney diseases, high blood pressure, and other health problems, especially in people with existing kidney issues. It is crucial to find the right balance in protein intake to prevent long-term kidney damage.

Recommended daily protein intake:
It is vital to respect the recommended daily amount (RDA) of proteins, which varies depending on various factors such as age, gender, weight, and activity level. For most adults, the recommended amount ranges between 50-70 grams of proteins per day, but it can vary. Athletes and individuals who regularly engage in intense physical activities may need more proteins due to their higher activity levels and muscle recovery needs.

The amount of extra proteins a sports person needs varies depending on the type of sport, the duration and intensity of training, body weight, and the ultimate goal of the training (such as muscle building or endurance). There is no one-size-fits-all rule, but there are guidelines that can help determine the additional protein intake for athletes.

A common rule of thumb for strength athletes is consuming about 1.2 to 2.0 grams of proteins per kilogram of body weight per day. This means that a strength athlete weighing, for example, 70 kilograms should consume between 84 and 140 grams of proteins daily.

For endurance athletes, such as marathon runners or cyclists, a slightly lower protein intake is usually recommended, ranging from 1.2 to 1.4 grams of proteins per kilogram of body weight per day.

It is important to note that these recommendations are variable, and individual factors such as body composition, training intensity and frequency, also play a role in determining the right amount of proteins.

Therefore, it is essential to be aware that a proper balance in protein intake is important for optimal health.

Proteins: How to add them to your daily diet?

Are you looking for ways to add more proteins to your daily diet? Then you’re in the right place! Proteins are essential building blocks for our bodies, and incorporating protein-rich foods into your diet can offer numerous benefits. Here, we share some handy tips and healthy options to ensure you get enough proteins.

Eggs: A powerful protein source

Eggs are one of the most nutritious foods out there. They are packed with proteins, vitamins, and minerals. An average egg contains about 6 grams of protein. Eating eggs can help supplement a protein deficiency in your diet. They are versatile and can be boiled, fried, poached, or even added to salads.

Plant-based protein sources: variety for balanced nutrition

Bulgur is not the only nutritious grain rich in proteins. There are several healthy grains that have a high protein content along with fiber, vitamins, and minerals. Think of farro, oats, brown rice, spelt, and barley. These whole grains are excellent choices to enrich your diet with proteins. Other fantastic plant-based protein sources include:

  • Quinoa: Quinoa contains all nine essential amino acids, making it a complete protein source. It is also rich in fiber, magnesium, and iron.

  • Lentils and chickpeas: These legumes are not only rich in proteins but also in fiber. They are versatile and can be added to soups, stews, or salads.

  • Amaranth, buckwheat, and teff: These gluten-free grains are rich in proteins, fiber, and micronutrients. They make a great alternative for people with gluten intolerance.

Animal protein sources: Opt for lean and healthy

  • Meat and poultry: Chicken, turkey, beef, and pork are all excellent sources of proteins.

  • Fish: Especially fatty fish like salmon and tuna provide not only proteins but also healthy fats.

  • Dairy products: Milk, cheese, yogurt, and cottage cheese are rich in proteins. Opt for plant-based milk alternatives like almond milk and soy milk if needed.

Protein supplements: For extra convenience and variety

As a supplement to your daily diet, protein supplements can be handy:

Conclusion: A healthy lifestyle starts with balanced nutrition

Proteins are crucial for our bodies, and it is essential to consume them in the right amounts. By opting for a varied and balanced diet, including diverse protein sources, you ensure a balanced protein intake.

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