Most of us know that eating more protein is good for our health and the key to weight loss, but is there such a thing as TOO MUCH protein? Not only too much for our digestive health, but too much for our bodies to utilize for building muscle. Can protein make you fat if eaten in high quantities? Below, we’ll take a closer look at the question to give you an honest, clear answer:
The Insulinogenic Properties of Protein
When you eat protein-rich foods, you cause your body to store nutrients. Protein is insulinogenic, meaning it stimulates an insulin response in your body. That insulin response causes your body to go into storage mode, primarily storing amino acids that can be used to produce the ATP energy your muscles need. Your body is incapable of both burning and storing energy at the same time, and protein tends to shift it from energy-burning to energy-storing.
The Protein-to-Fat Change
Like with carbs, your body is designed to turn excess protein into fats, which it then stores. Those excess calories of protein will be turned into fat. However, the good news is that the threshold for “excess” is much higher with protein than with carbs or fats. You can eat a lot of protein before your body starts turning it into fat, as protein is primarily used as the energy source for your muscles. Your muscles can store a lot of energy before they are all full up, and most of us rarely eat enough protein in a single sitting to pass that threshold when we get into “too much” protein—the threshold that triggers the body to change proteins into fat. One study found that even eating five times the daily protein allowance didn’t increase body fat.
The Danger of Protein
Where high protein intake gets dangerous for weight loss is in its high fat content. All animal proteins have fat—beef, pork, dairy, fish, and poultry—and that fat contains more than twice the calories of the protein. That means that eating a serving of steak or chicken breast doesn’t just give you a hefty dose of protein, but it also provides more fat than you realize. While your body does need fat to function (just like protein), there is such a thing as too much fat. Eating high-fat proteins can lead to excess calorie storage, which in turn raises your body fat. While your body has a harder time turning dietary fats into stored fats, it is a problem that will happen if you eat a lot of high-fat protein.
The Bottom Line
In the end, everyone will agree that protein is excellent for your health and will play a vital role in your fitness. Protein is what powers your muscles and gives you the energy required to grow stronger. Without that ATP energy produced as a result of dietary protein, your muscles wouldn’t be able to contract properly and would fail during exercise. But be wary of eating too much! While your body has a very high threshold for consuming protein, that doesn’t mean it’s not going to do you harm if you over-consume. All those extra calories will still be turned into fat, or will cause the extra calories in the other food you eat to be turned into fat. Too much protein can impact your digestive system and lead to gastrointestinal issues. Basically, like with every other food on the planet, the most important thing is to consume protein in moderation. More protein = good. Too much protein = not so good!