Are You Having Too Much Protein

Lauren James is an Accredited Practising Dietitian & Nutritionist and Advanced Sports Dietitian. She works at a number of clinics, the closest being Hawthorne. If you think you need some guidance to get your nutrition on track, whether your goals are for performance or for weight loss, Lauren has considerable experience in both, having worked with the Brisbane Broncos for a number of years managing their nutrition, along with a number of other sporting teams and athletes. She also works daily with people trying manage their weight. She can show you how to lose weight in a healthy way, and encourage you to go about it in a way that is sustainable.

If you would like to access her expertise, click here to enquire further.

Lauren James is an Accredited Practising Dietitian and Nutritionist and Advanced Sports Dietitian

Many of the diets trending at the moment recommend an intake of protein rich foods such as meat, fish & seafood, chicken & poultry, dairy products, eggs, tofu & tempeh, legumes & beans, nuts and seeds.  From Paleo to vegan, from Atkins to Dukan and CSIRO to flexitarian, how much is too much?

Protein is a nutrient our body requires for good health, functioning and recovery.   A protein molecule is made up of amino acids, which have a plethora of actions within the body including being the building blocks of hair follicles, skin cells, muscle tissue and blood cells.  Whether you are a couch potato, someone who just likes to keep active (or maybe not likes, but commits to keeping active!) or whether you are a weekend warrior or even an elite athlete; protein containing foods are required daily for optimal health.  But how much is enough?  And can you have too much?

For the general public, doing low to moderate intensity exercise such as walking, you require 0.75 to 1.0 gram of protein per kilo of body weight per day.   So, for a 60kg female this would be 45 to 60 grams of protein per day.  In food terms, this would be a serve of dairy at breakfast, a serving of ham on a sandwich at lunch and a small piece of meat or chicken at dinner.  Those of higher weight would require more protein than those with a small frame as more nutrients are required to supply a greater mass of tissue.

For a moderate exerciser who might do 40-60 minutes of exercise on at least 3 days per week, with some of this exercise including resistance training, it is recommended that you have 1.2-1.6 grams of protein per kilo of body weight.  For an 80kg male, this would be 96 – 128g per day.  This would be the equivalent of 2 eggs at breakfast, a latte, a snack of a tub of yoghurt and a small handful of nuts, meat or chicken on a sandwich at lunch and a serve of meat, chicken or fish at dinner.

For those preferring endurance activity such as running or cycling at least 3 days per week, it is recommended you consume 1.2 to 1.7g per kilo of body weight.   This may surprise some people that endurance activity requires about the same amount of protein as a more strength based trainer.  The muscle recovery is quite similar from both types of training.

Adolescents who are growing rapidly may require up to 2.0 grams per kilo.  Those who are recovering from a serious illness or treatment regime such as those currently undergoing cancer treatment may require higher levels of protein.   People with kidney conditions may require a lower protein intake.  Interestingly, females require 15% less protein than males.  This is due to males having a ’ higher level of muscle mass.

The table below outlines the food portions to achieve 10g protein:

Type of Protein Source 

Small eggs




Beef, lamb or pork


Fish or seafood

Wholemeal bread

Cooked pasta or rice

Lentils or beans, legumes

Baked beans

Tofu or soy meat

Soy milk

Nuts & seeds

Protein powder

Protein bar

Amount required to provide 10g protein


250mL/1 cup

40g/ 2 slices

200g/1 tub

35g cooked weight

40g cooked weight

50g cooked weight

4 slices

2 cups

1 cup

1.5 cups




Varies, approx. 1 tblsp

1 small or ½ large

You can see it is very easy to achieve the required amount of protein per day, even if you are a consistent exerciser. So what happens to the any additional protein you may eat? Any unused food, whether it is from protein, carbs or fat will be stored in the fat cells for later use as a fuel. So more is not better in this case!

There is a risk of some people not consuming adequate protein, particularly those following a vegetarian or vegan diet. This is likely due to not consuming large enough serves of beans or tofu, eggs & dairy. This may lead to inadequate recovery, sore muscles and difficulty gaining strength & musclefatigue.

Striking the right balance in your protein intake may be difficult as protein rich foods are often very satiating and you may find eating additional protein helps manage your appetite. This needs to be weighed up against your individual requirements to ensure the additional protein foods you are consuming are not contributing to an increase in storage of fuel in the fat cells. If you are unsure about your protein requirements, an Accredited Practising Dietitian is the expert in this field.

Lauren James

Eat Smart Nutrition Consultants

Accredited Practising Dietitian & Nutritionist and Advanced Sports Dietitan.

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