One of the unfortunate aspects of the affluent society is that most of us have been conditioned to believe that if one of something is good, then two of it must be better. We alluded to this syndrome in our last entry as it relates to our material/financial world.
We also, however, see an extension of this mentality in the world of nutrition, propagated by various experts and supplement manufacturers. The implication generally goes something like this: if protein helps you build muscle, then simply jack up your daily protein intake and you will gain even more muscle. Or, if calcium helps build and maintain strong bones, then pop a few calcium tabs everyday and your bones will be even stronger. And while this wishful philosophy might help sell more supplements, or books that advocate high-protein diets, the body simply doesn’t work that way, and here’s why:
Your body knows the exact amount of a given nutrient it needs for optimum health. If you consistently fall short of that amount, it can obviously be a problem because your body can become deficient in that nutrient and all kinds of other imbalances can occur. At the same time, if you consistently exceed the particular amount of a nutrient that your body needs, that can be a problem, as well. At the very least, the excess calories (as they apply to macronutrients like protein, carbs or fat) can be stored as fat. Or, at worst, the excess can create overly acidic conditions in the blood, even more saturated fat and cholesterol in the bloodstream (which is the case with animal products), or any number of whacked out vitamin or mineral imbalances (if you load up on some random nutrient that exceeds what your body can comfortably assimilate).
To illustrate the futility of this “more is better” concept, consider this example. We all know that unrefined, high-fiber carbohydrates are the body’s preferred fuel of choice. So let’s say that you’ve fallen into an effective eating regimen where you are experiencing even-keeled levels of energy throughout the day. You’ve stumbled upon that magic range of total carbs where your body seems to function best and you feel good and have plenty of energy. Now, let’s say that you start going out of your way to increase your carb count by 100 grams per day. Will you have more energy? No. Will you feel better? No. Instead, you will likely start storing those extra carbs as fat (because your body simply has no use for them), and you will probably have less energy as your body exerts more effort trying to digest this overage. And again, this will apply to virtually any nutrient where we’re getting an overabundance.
One of the main reasons for this entry is to set up a follow-up blog that I’ll be doing in a day or two about juices, juicing and the complex world of antioxidants. But in the meantime, ask yourself if you might be getting too much of a good thing in your daily regimen these days. Are you pounding multiple protein shakes every day, in addition to other plentiful protein sources in your food? Are you forcing yourself to drink massive amounts of water, even when you don’t want it? Are you taking large, isolated amounts of some miscellaneous vitamin or mineral, just because you heard that it did this or that for you?
Obviously, I’m not saying that protein shakes or isolated supps are a bad thing across the board. I’m just pointing out that it’s possible to take in too much of certain nutrients if we’re not careful.
More in a day or so…