Australian bodybuilder Meegan Hefford died this summer because of complications resulting from her high-protein diet and a rare genetic condition, the Australian news website Perth Now reported.
Hefford was found unconscious in her apartment in June. She was rushed to the hospital, where doctors discovered she had an undiagnosed urea cycle disorder – a rare genetic condition that interferes with the body’s ability to break down protein. The condition is thought to occur in one out of 8,500 people. When she died, Hefford was in the final stages of preparing for a bodybuilding competition, according to Perth Now. She had recently increased her intake of protein-rich foods and was taking protein supplements including protein shakes.
In reality, most Americans already get plenty of protein from their diets – beans, eggs, fish, nuts, meat, and tofu are all rich in the stuff. Most of us actually get too much of it.
To figure out how much protein you need daily, Business Insider talked to Lisa Sasson, an associate professor of nutrition at New York University. Sasson said there’s a simple equation you can use to find out roughly how many grams of protein you should be eating every day.
All you have to do is convert your weight into kilograms (divide your weight in pounds by 2.2) and multiply that number by 0.8. If you don’t want to do the math, you can also use this handy tool from the US Department of Agriculture. (Simply fill in the fields in the gray box, select “protein” under the macronutrients category, and click “submit.”)
According to the formula, a 150-pound man needs about 55 grams of protein each day.
A typical day would probably put most of us over that amount. A breakfast of two eggs and toast, a turkey sandwich for lunch, and a dinner of cheese enchiladas and refried beans would provide roughly 70 grams of protein.
Surpassing your recommended intake every once in a while is perfectly OK, but when it happens consistently it may have negative consequences including weight gain and digestive issues.
A recent long-term study of more than 7,000 adults published in the Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that those who ate the most protein were significantly more likely to become overweight compared with the people who ate the least.
So if you’re considering a protein supplement, take a look at your daily diet first to make sure you’re not overdoing it.