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Can Eating Too Much Protein Make a Person Gain Weight?

By Debra McKenzie

Your body uses dietary protein to maintain all cells, including muscle, hair, skin and organs. However, excess protein in the diet can lead to weight gain, just as consuming high levels of any of the macronutrients, including carbohydrate and fat. In addition to weight gain, excess protein consumption can also increase health risks.

Animal Protein

In addition to maintaining, building and repairing body cells, dietary protein takes longer to digest and increases satiety by prolonging your feeling of fullness. This makes a high-protein diet desirable if you want to lose weight. However, eating excess animal protein not only increases calorie consumption, it often leads to increased fat intake. Increased saturated fats, found mostly in animal proteins, can raise cholesterol levels. High cholesterol levels increase your risk for heart disease, according to the American Heart Association.

Protein Needs

The Institute of Medicine recommends consuming .8 grams per kilogram of body weight to protect muscle mass, which equals about 8 grams of protein for every 20 pounds of body weight. No evidence exists to confirm any health benefits from consuming greater amounts of protein. Balanced consumption of protein, carbohydrates and fat without increasing calorie limits will not cause weight gain. Consult your physician for your daily calorie requirements based on your age, height, weight, gender, activity level and health status.

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Protein Sources

The source of protein you consume may impact weight. Animal protein usually contains higher amounts of fat than plant proteins. Choose lean cuts of meat, poultry without skin, fish and low-fat dairy products to decrease fat and calorie intake. Other sources of protein include beans, nuts and whole grains. These foods have the added benefits of vitamins, minerals and healthy fiber.

Side Effects of Excessive Protein Intake

Your liver changes excess proteins into fats that go into your body's fat storage and increase your weight. Consuming high amounts of protein strains your liver and kidneys; they have to work harder to remove the by-products of protein metabolism. Your liver changes the nitrogen in excess protein into urea. Your kidneys have to work harder to form extra urine to remove the excess nitrogen. Formation of excess urine can cause dehydration, according to Professor David Byres, Florida State College. Excess protein consumption increases your risk of osteoporosis. Protein intake releases acids into your bloodstream. Calcium neutralizes these acids. Excessive amounts of protein can cause your body to meet its addition calcium needs by leeching calcium from your bones, according to Heidi Godman, executive editor of the Harvard Health Letter.

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