Health effects of consuming too much protein by bodybuilders

In the magazines for bodybuilders it's recommended to consume even 4.5 g of protein per 1 kg of body mass. Therefore, many young men consume whey protein and chicken all day long, as “protein is the most important for the structure of muscle mass”. I have also known some enthusiasts who added 5 g of amino acids to each meal as an “anti-catabolic protection”. Unfortunately, excessive supply of proteins usually causes contrary effects – and the muscle mass gains are minute (slow). If you don't provide large amount of energy (carbohydrates and fat), excessive amount of protein will be wasted (including the energetic aims).

At the beginning it's worth explaining that, according to Irena Celejowa, for weight lifters, wrestlers and biathlonists it's acceptable to consume 2.4 – 3.0 g of protein per 1 kg of body mass (during training and competition in the Olympic class sports people). According to common data, e.g. the Consensus in Lausanne, the average demand for protein in sports ranges between 1.4 – 1.9 g per 1 kg of body mass. Other studies suggest the necessity of supplying from 1.2 – 1.7 g of protein in order to sustain muscle mass in a bodybuilder. For comparison, an inactive person should consume 0.8 g of protein per 1 kg of body mass. As you can notice, the difference and ambiguity in this matter is significant. However, the amount of 2.2 – 2.5 g of protein and over per 1 kg of body mass is questionable – even for a bodybuilder.

This topic has been described here: How much protein for a bodybuilder?

And now, let's focus on the bad side of excessive amount of protein

8 ellite Korean bodybuilders at the age of 18 to 25 took part in the study. They consumed enormous amount of protein: 4.3 +/- 1.2 g/ one kilogram of body mass a day. The total supply of calories was also impressive: 5,621.7 +/- 1,354.7 kcal. The level of creatine and potassium was measured in serum, and the amount of nitrogen and creatine was measured in urine. Additionally, the amount of excreted calcium and phosphorus was checked. The volunteers worked out more than 4 x a week, 1.5 hours per session.

  • The volunteers supplied 293.8 +/- 137.0 of proteins a day from diet, additionally 112.2 +/- 70.3 from protein nutritions.

  • The total amount of the consumed proteins every day (diet + nutritions) in grams: 406.0 +/- 101.1 g (4.3 +/- 1.2 g),

  • 34% of energy came from carbohydrates (and 95% was covered by diet!),

  • 30% from proteins (28% of which from nutritions, 72% from diet),

  • 36% from fats (93% from diet, 7% from supplements/nutritions).

What did the scientists find in bodybuilders?

  1. Excessive amount of protein in diet may cause metabolic acidosis (but it did not occur in this case),

  2. Acidosis – is connected with the increased secretion of calcium and phosphates in urine,

  3. The loss of calcium and phosphates may contribute to the damage of bones and disturb the processes of “imputing” proteins in muscles,

  4. Wagner showed that people who received 2.0 g of protein / kg of body mass in diet excreted twice as much calcium as the low-protein group (0.5 g of protein / kg of body mass)

  5. The bodybuilders consumed ridiculously large amount of calcium – 2,177.6 +/- 1,588.5 mg, including 1,494.4 +/- 1,820.0 mg from supplements. The norm for an adult man is 1,200 mg. Excessive amount of this macro element is toxic – it may cause kidney stones, the absorption of iron and zinc is blocked, the work of the heart and breathing are disturbed! (Ciborowska, Rudnicka) Additionally, there may occur depression, disorientation, slow irregular heart activity, increased thirst, nausea, vomiting, etc. (M. Friedrich)

  6. Also the supply of phosphorus was enormous: 3,268.6 +/- 1,023.3 mg (the norm is only 700 mg!)

  7. Large amount of potassium (5,952.8 +/- 2,135.9 mg) turned out to be a positive anabolic trigger and a “buffer” against the secretion of nitrogen with urine (ammonia → urea → secretion through the kidneys). Additionally it was stated that potassium may directly and indirectly improve the absorption of calcium, as well as be the protection against the metabolic acidosis,

  8. The amount of the secreted calcium in physically active people is lower than in the inactive ones.

Conclusions?

  • If you decide to supply too much protein, you will cause the overload of kidneys and liver, and there is the possibility of complications, like metabolic acidosis,

  • the scientists suggest providing proper amount of potassium and calcium with significant supply of protein in order to decrease side effects,

  • as you can notice, the professionals used small amount of carbohydrate nutritions, 95% of that nutrient came from diet!

  • Many studies did not show any advantages of supplying excessive amount of protein, e.g. “there was no difference between the amount of protein which was made within the bodies of sports people from the high-protein group (2.4 g per 1 kg of body mass), and the group with moderate amount of protein (1.41 g per 1 kg of body mass) [J Appl Physiol 1985],

  • larger amount of protein may be most useful during body fat reduction, during the phase of building mass it is questionable.

Sources: Metabolic responses to high protein diet in Korean elite bodybuilders with high-intensity resistance exercise http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3142197/ 2. „Dietetyka – żywienie zdrowego i chorego człowieka” H. Ciborowska, A. Rudnicka, 3. „Składniki mineralne w żywieniu ludzi i zwierząt” M. Friedrich 4. Potassium administration reduces and potassium deprivation increases urinary calcium excretion in healthy adults [corrected]. Lemann J Jr, Pleuss JA, Gray RW, Hoffmann RG Kidney Int. 1991 May; 39(5):973-83. 5. J Appl Physiol (1985). 1992 Nov;73(5):1986-95. Evaluation of protein requirements for trained strength athletes.