Worried that consuming a high protein diet is bad for your bones? You probably have no reason to be worried. Most athletes, especially those who have experienced a stress fracture, know the importance of having healthy bones, so that they can stay in the game. What we eat or don’t eat influences our bone strength.
While protein is often pushed on athletes to help build and maintain muscle, the “acid-ash hypothesis” suggests that high protein foods should be avoided. This is because protein-containing foods like meat, poultry, cheese, fish and eggs provide acid precursors. An excessively acidic diet can cause bone demineralization, which results in calcium excretion, and may lead to osteoporosis. Because of this, it’s been suggested that a high protein diet is detrimental for bone health.
Despite the above hypothesis, there is no evidence to support a high protein intake can cause harm to bones. Research looking at high protein intake both acutely and chronically in athletes has not shown any adverse effect on bone mineral density. In fact, not consuming enough protein is bad for bone health since roughly half of bone volume is compromised of protein.
Outside of protein, there are many other nutritional factors that are important for bone health. Adequate intake of calories, calcium, vitamin D, magnesium, vitamin K, and potassium all help build and maintain strong bones. On the other hand, consuming too much caffeine or alcohol is detrimental for bone health.
Don’t limit protein intake because of fears that your bone health will be affected. Protein is important for the recovery of damaged muscle after a hard workout. Focus on consuming a varied diet with foods from all food groups to ensure adequate calorie and protein intake while meeting your micronutrient requirements.
Tomorrow I will be sending out my February nutrition newsletter. This month, I will be highlighting what you need to know about post-workout snack and meals to enhance recovery. To receive this newsletter, go to megankuikmanRD.ca, scroll to the bottom of the page and enter your e-mail.