Are You a ‘Protorexic?’ You May Need to Change Your Protein Consumption7 months ago | Nutrition
By Joy Stephenson-Laws, JD, Founder
Protein is one of the six groups of nutrients we need to stay healthy. (The other nutrient groups are water, carbohydrates, fats, vitamins and minerals).
And high-protein, low-carb diets tend to be popular because they are satiating (think big, fat juicy steak) to help you lose unwanted pounds fast.
“A low-carb diet can help you lose weight because it turns on fat-burning processes, known as ‘dietary ketosis.’ These ketones are also thought to have an appetite suppressant effect,” according to one source.
But for those who are perhaps a bit too ‘pro-protein,’ there is actually a term for it in the world of dieting lingo: protorexic.
It has been suggested that the term ‘protorexia’ was coined to “describe an unhealthy fixation with protein-heavy foods and supplements, such as protein shakes and chicken,” according to one source.
“According to the numerous news outlets and bloggers writing on the subject, those suffering also tend to cut out foods they deem ‘unhealthy,’ such as carbs, in a bid to lose weight or build muscle.”
People who follow this extreme way of eating may also be called ‘carb-phobic.’
We previously discussed the tragic story of a young female fitness competitor who really overdid it on the protein and died due to having urea cycle disorder, a genetic condition that makes it difficult for a person to metabolize the waste products of protein.
This particular story may be an extreme situation, but many Americans eat more protein than they really need.
“The recommended intake for a healthy adult is 46 grams of protein a day for women and 56 grams for men. And while protein malnutrition is a problem for millions of people around the globe, for the average adult in developed countries, we are eating far more protein than we actually need,” according to this report.
“Most American adults eat about 100 grams of protein per day, or roughly twice the recommended amount. Even on a vegan diet people can easily get 60 to 80 grams of protein throughout the day from foods like beans, legumes, nuts, broccoli and whole grains.”
The overemphasis of a single nutrient like protein may be unhealthy. The key lies in balancing the nutrients. You have to have the right amount of protein, carbohydrates, water, minerals, vitamins and fats in order to properly nourish your body.
And a recent study provided some evidence that high-protein diets may be unhealthy. A research team in South Australia used worms and fruit flies to examine how diet impacted the speed of protein synthesis (process in which cells build proteins).
“The results clearly showed that speeding up protein synthesis would produce more errors and this is related to shorter lifespans,” according to a report discussing the study.
The speeding up of protein synthesis may occur due to ‘overnutrition.’
Basically, the researchers suggested that if you supply the body with more protein than it needs (this is an example of overnutrition), then the speed of protein synthesis will speed up which can be detrimental to your health.
"Our team demonstrated that increased nutrient levels speed up protein synthesis within cells. The faster this process occurs the more errors are made...It's similar to everyday activities like driving – the faster you go, the more likely you are to make a mistake,” said one of the lead researchers of the study.
The resulting build-up of these faulty proteins within the cells negatively affects health and shortens lifespan.
This particular study focused on protein, but when you consider all of our discussions about the importance of maintaining nutrient balance in the body, it may be a good idea to avoid overconsumption of any nutrient. Many nutritional imbalances may compromise our health - for example it is a well known fact that having too much potassium may be deadly.
And carbs are not the enemy!
Sure, simple carbohydrates from processed junk foods like donuts, cake, candy and white breads, pastas and crackers add no value to your health. But complex carbohydrates such as sweet potatoes, whole grains and fruit are nutrient-dense and provide the body with much needed energy, especially during workouts.
Many people who drastically cut carbs from their diet report feeling lethargic and cranky. And let’s face it, diets that are very restrictive are usually not sustainable. If you are depriving your body, you may lose weight but those unwanted pounds will likely return and, as you can see from the recent study, may cause a shorter lifespan. Definitely not worth it!
Proportions. Proportions. Proportions!
You don’t need to be a bodybuilder or on a restrictive diet in order to overdo it on the protein. So many of us eat more protein than we need simply because we are not conscious of portion size.
For example, a serving of steak should really be about the size of a deck of cards or the palm of your hand. If you are a meat eater, you also do not need to eat meat at every meal or every day for that matter. Or maybe you only need two eggs at breakfast instead of three. Load up your plate with plenty of leafy greens, and speak with a competent healthcare professional about what foods and way of dieting are personally best for you.
Finally, to make sure that you are not falling into the category of overnutrition or nutrient deficiency, take a comprehensive nutrient test so that you can determine if you have any deficiencies or imbalances. If you do, a competent healthcare professional can help you make the necessary dietary changes and/or recommend quality supplements.
(To learn more about how much protein you need as well as protein options, both animal and plant-based, read here).
Enjoy your healthy life!
The pH professional health care team includes recognized experts from a variety of health care and related disciplines, including physicians, attorneys, nutritionists, nurses and certified fitness instructors. This team also includes the members of the pH Medical Advisory Board, which constantly monitors all pH programs, products and services. To learn more about the pH Medical Advisory Board, click here.