Imagine if your bodybuilding regimen led to your not being able to exercise at all. That can happen if you develop gout. Gout is a form of arthritis caused by the buildup of hard, painful crystals of uric acid in the muscles, joints and tendons of the legs and feet. The crystals lead to inflammation, stiffness and tenderness. Attacks can be sudden (most commonly at night, in the big toes) and last for hours or weeks. The pain can be severe and can do lasting damages to the joints. Aspirin only makes it worse. People diagnosed with gout may wind up on maintenance drugs -- or low-meat, no-beer diets -- for the rest of their lives.
Why do people develop gout? There are a variety of causes, but many are related to diet. One of the chief culprits is excess protein, because uric acid is produced when we metabolize protein. (As if that risk weren't enough, synthetic diuretics -- favored by bodybuilders to shed water weight before competitions -- can also be a cause.) If you need any proof of gout's relation to excess, look no further than its most famous sufferer: King Henry VIII.
The joints and muscles aren't the only things affected by too much protein. Your kidneys and liver -- the organs that help your body deal with toxins and waste -- have to work overtime to handle all the amino acids you can't use. Over time, that can cause kidney problems and lasting damage, such as kidney stones. Even some protein supplement vendors advise customers not to go overboard.
As noted before, what constitutes "too much protein" depends on your body and your activity level. Men typically need more protein than women do. Athletes need more than sedentary people do. To avoid side effects, just plan your protein consumption carefully. Your doctor can help.
OK -- side effects, schmide effects. People who have put up with nausea, hunger pangs and headaches really just want to know one thing: Will this stuff help me lose weight? Read on.