As most people are now aware of, the paleo diet refers to a diet that focuses on the types of foods that our ancestors used to eat. It shies away from processed, more modern foods that our bodies simply have not adapted to consuming. Specifically, the paleo diet advocates consuming fruits, vegetables, lean meats, seafood, nuts, seeds and healthy fats. By contrast, it suggests that you should avoid grains, dairy, legumes, processed foods and sugars, starches and alcohol. From a logical viewpoint, the diet makes sense, but some people worry that that the paleo diet can lead to an overconsumption of protein.
First of all, what would be so bad about not eating the right amount of protein? Well, there are two sides to the issue. You could either not eat enough protein, or eat too much. When on the paleo diet, not eating enough protein simply is not going to happen. However, it may be possible to eat too much protein. So what are the dangers associated with excessive protein intake?
The risk is two-fold. When we consume an excessive amount of protein, our bodies have to process it. Protein needs to be broken down by the body to produce energy. The kidneys act to remove nitrogen in a process that creates ammonia. Your liver subsequently takes over and works to expel the ammonia, which it considers a toxic. With too much protein, the kidneys and the liver can be put under tremendous pressure to work efficiently enough to remove all this ammonia.
The flip-side to this is the fact that if you are consuming too much protein, you are probably consuming less fat and fewer carbs as a direct result. Fats and carbs are also needed to help your body complete this process. Without them, you can experience an issue known as “protein toxicity”, where the excessive amounts of protein are, in effect, poisoning you.
Now, is this an issue with the paleo diet? The truth is that it shouldn’t be. If you are following a standard paleo diet, then it is highly unlikely that you will reach a stage whereby your protein intake is so imbalanced that your body will suffer. Generally, the body can deal with a protein percentage of roughly 30-35% of your total calorific intake. The more active the person, the more protein that they can process. Ultimately, how much protein you eat should be dependent on your as an individual, but if you are following a protein-rich paleo diet, you should be careful and acutely aware of the dangers of protein toxicity.