Protein, the macronutrient that helps repair and rebuild damaged muscles, is undoubtedly the most important nutrient in an athlete's diet. Not only that, protein (in some form, be it whey, casein, or vegetable) helps keep bones, cartilage, and blood healthy.
So it's important to eat enough protein, but if you overeat, you won't be kidnapped any faster. In fact, this can slowly become fatal.
This comes from a recent study that found that a low-protein, especially vegan, diet was the key to reducing the risk of heart disease.
Researchers at Penn State College of Medicine found that Americans typically eat two and a half times more sulfur amino acids – a subcategory of amino acids found in protein-rich foods – than they need, and that the amino acids are linked to cardiovascular disease.
Sulfur amino acids include methionine and cysteine, both of which are required for growth. However, too many of them can increase the rate of heart disease, according to previous research.
"This study provides the first epidemiological evidence that excessive consumption of sulfur amino acids in food is related to chronic human disease," said John Richie, professor of public health sciences at Penn State College of Medicine, in a press release.
For the study published in The Lancet, researchers examined the blood count of more than 11,000 people and found that those who consumed less than 15 mg of sulfur amino acids per kilogram of body weight and day were less likely to develop heart disease than those who suffered from heart disease ate above the proposed amount.
Most people who fell below this limit ate mostly plant-based foods.
"People who eat lots of herbal products like fruits and vegetables will consume less sulfur amino acids," said Zhen Dong, lead author of the study and a graduate of Penn State College of Medicine, in a press release saying some of the positive health effects that people have be observed who eat vegan or plant-based. "
While the study doesn't suggest that you eliminate protein completely, telling bodybuilders to limit their protein intake is controversial.
The nutrition expert Dr. Gabrielle Lyons has previously criticized studies that link excess protein to diseases like cancer, and any old-school bodybuilder will tell you the secret of winning by pounding as many whey protein shakes as your body can handle.
However, the study's authors claim that the gains aren't worth the risk. "Here, we found a relationship between certain eating habits and a higher blood biomarker level that pose a risk of cardiometabolic disease," said Richie.