Is Eating Too Much Protein Causing Your Pain?

When you're trying to reduce pain, the types and amounts of food you eat can make a difference.

Could eating too much protein from animal sources be increasing the inflammation and pain in your body?If you eat a typical American diet that includes high-protein foods like meat, poultry, fish, eggs, and dairy products at every meal, chances are you get plenty of protein, and probably more than you need. Despite what fitness pros and the makers of protein supplements may imply, most people don’t need a whole lot of extra protein in their diets. What most people really need is more exercise!

The make-up of your diet can make a significant difference in your pain level from day to day. For instance, adding more fiber and fluids to your diet can help alleviate constipation that increases back pain. Cutting back on fatty and sugary foods can help you lose the excess weight that’s making your arthritis even more unbearable. Cutting back on sugary foods and beverages can also help reduce inflammation that exacerbates the pain associated with a many different medical conditions.

Without even thinking about amounts, or even specific types of foods, you can probably tell when you’re eating too much sugar, too much fat, or too much fiber. Your body, or more specifically, your gastrointestinal tract, responds almost immediately. You’re likely to get a stomachache from too much sugar or low-fiber carbs like white bread and pasta. If you eat too much grease or fat, you’ll end up with indigestion. And if you eat too much fiber, especially if your body isn’t used to it, you may suffer from gas, bloating, and abdominal pain.

What's So Bad About Protein?

Other than fullness, your body may not give off any immediate signals that you’ve eaten too much protein. Long-term, however, too much protein, especially from animal sources, can increase inflammation in your body and wreak havoc with your health. So, how much is enough, and how much is too much?

The average recommended daily amount of protein for sedentary women is 46 g and, for sedentary men, 56 g, according to the National Academies of Science, the organization that determines adequate intake for all nutrients. But you may need a little more or a little less, depending on how much you weigh. If you do not do strenuous exercise, and you’re not pregnant, the formula for figuring out the exact amount of protein you need for your weight is as follows:

                        0.8 g protein per kg of body weight

To determine your body weight in kg, divide your weight in pounds by 2.2. Then multiply that result times 0.8. For instance, if you weigh 150 pounds: 150 divided by 2.2 = 68 kg, so: 0.8 g protein x 68 = 54 g protein.

At 150 pounds, your protein allowance for the day is 54 g. Beyond that amount, you’re starting to eat a high-protein diet.

Don't Get All Your Protein From Red Meat

Although bodybuilders and athletes require 1.2 to 2.0 g protein per kg of body weight to support their muscle mass, that’s a very high protein diet that isn’t appropriate for the average person, even the average person who exercises regularly.

When you make protein choices, quality counts as much as quantity. Leans meats, poultry, fish, egg whites and low-fat diary products contain high quality protein. For your overall health, consider substituting plant sources of proteins such as legumes (dried beans, split peas, and lentils), whole grains, nuts, and seeds in place of some of the meat you eat every day.

Eat Less BeefGetting more protein from plant sources (i.e. legumes and low-fat dairy) can reduce inflammation in the body and result in less pain.

How Much Protein Do You Consume in a Day?

This list compares the average amount of protein in recommended serving sizes of different types of foods and can help you determine how much you’re consuming each day and whether you need to add or cut back on your total amount:

Protein Source Amount of Protein (in grams)
Chicken (without skin), 3 oz. 28
Beef,* 3 oz. 26
Lamb, 3 oz. 23
Egg (one large) 6
Salmon/Fresh Tuna, 3 oz. 22
Shrimp, 3 oz. 20
Pinto Beans, ½ cup cooked 11
Lentils/Edamame, ½ cup cooked 9
Black Beans/Kidney Beans, ½ cup cooked 8
Whole Wheat Berries/Kamut, ½ cup cooked 6
Soy Nuts (Roasted Soybeans) 1 oz. 12
Pumpkin Seeds, 1 oz. 9
Peanuts 1 oz./Peanut Butter, 1 Tbsp 7
Almonds, 1 oz. 6
Flax Seeds/Sunflower Seeds, 1 oz. 6
Walnuts/Cashews, 4 oz. 4
Yogurt, Greek plain, nonfat, 6 oz. 18
Yogurt, regular, plain, nonfat, 8 oz. 11
Skim Milk, 1 cup 8

*Studies have shown that red meats and processed meats, though high in good quality protein, may contribute to inflammation.

Updated on: 11/15/17
Continue Reading:
9 Ways to Reduce Inflammation and Pain Through Diet