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## Dietitians Dish: Too much protein can lead to health problems

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Stephanie Markman

Most people believe the more protein the better.

But be careful. There are major disadvantages to overconsuming protein that most people may not be aware of, such as overburdening your kidneys.

On the other hand, there are populations, like the elderly, who may not realize they need more protein as they age to help slow down the loss of lean body mass.

First off, let's define how much protein a person needs. For healthy adults, 0.8 grams/kilogram is sufficient. The elderly, 65 years or older, need 1.0 grams/kilogram.

To find the grams of protein the average person needs in a day to maintain their muscle mass without excess consumption, you can use these factors and your current weight.

Take your weight in pounds and divide it by 2.2 to find your weight in kilograms.

Multiply your weight in kilograms by 0.8 or 1.0, depending on your age. This will give you the amount of protein you need in one day. For example, a middle-aged adult who weighs 150 pounds needs 55 grams of protein in a day. To break it down: 150 pounds divided by 2.2 pounds/kilogram equals 68.2 kilograms multiplied by 0.8 grams protein/kilogram equals 55 grams of protein.

Each year from the age of 20 to 80, we lose 1 percent of our bone density mass, but this can be slowed down by adequate protein intake and resistance exercise.

Remember the more protein you eat, the more water you must drink to help prevent dehydration.

Believe it or not, most Americans get too much protein in a day or too much protein at one meal.

The average person can only absorb 30 grams of protein at one sitting. Anything above that will be stored as fat.

Now, what does 30 grams actually look like? One ounce of meat has 7 grams of protein, so only 4.3 ounces of your 16-ounce steak can be used by the body to build muscle, while the other 12 ounces will be stored as fat.

For a visual, a piece of meat the size of a deck of cards is about 3 ounces of protein. One egg, one ounce of cheese or a cup of milk also equals about 7 grams of protein.

The key to utilizing all of the protein you eat toward building muscle mass is to consume protein consistently throughout the day. Typically, Americans save most of their meat consumption for their evening meal and tend to have lower protein breakfasts and lunches.

Remember that anything over 30 grams of protein (4 ounces of meat) will be stored as fat. Therefore, you must divide your protein intake evenly throughout the day to utilize your body's ability to build muscle.

However, you cannot maintain and build muscle mass by eating protein alone. It must be combined with exercise that puts some type of strain on your muscles.

For your safety, talk to your health care provider about engaging in new exercise programs before starting.

If you want to focus on building muscle mass, the best time to eat most proteins is 60-90 minutes before your workout. However, if it is whey protein - which is found in dairy and most protein supplements - you should consume this up to 60 minutes after you workout.

Protein is an essential part of survival and a healthy diet - just be sure you aren't consuming too much and unknowingly harming your health.

Stephanie Markman is a registered and licensed dietitian at DeTar Healthcare Systems. Send questions or comments to dietitians@vicad.com.

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