You see, digestion of protein is a complex process that requires a lot of water. Protein metabolism in the body requires the kidneys to filter and flush nitrogen waste from protein into the urine. If you are eating a high protein diet and are not consuming additional water to account for protein metabolism, your body is dehydrated which can lead to hard, impacted stool - yikes!
What is considered a high-protein diet? Here's a simple flowchart to figure out - be sure to use your own body weight:
If you are building muscle mass or on a calorie-reduced eating plan, this could be an estimate of a good protein target for you. If you do not consider yourself an athlete, but exercise for health benefits, this might be more protein than what your body needs. If you are above a healthy body weight for your frame or live a sedentary lifestyle, this would likely be considered 'protein overload'.
I eat a high protein diet, so what do I do?
Tip #2. Include plant-based protein. Instead of focusing only on meat, dairy, and whey protein supplements, consider including quality sources of plant-based protein, such as whole grains, legumes, beans, nuts, and seeds. In a previous post, I explain that milk protein can particularly be constipating. Some of my personal favorite meatless protein sources include: quinoa, gluten-free oats, lentils, chickpeas, blanched almonds, and sunflower seeds. By substituting some of your animal-based protein with plant sources, you will naturally boost your fiber intake, which is crucial for a healthy gut microbiome for proper digestion!
Tip #3. Is it necessary? If you are eating a high-protein diet to build muscle mass, remember that protein alone does not form muscle, but a well-structured resistance training program combined with balanced nutrition and adequate rest does.
Tip #4. Drink up! Because protein requires a great deal of water to metabolize, make sure you are drinking at least half of your body weight in fluid ounces. Use the handy illustration below to figure out if you are close to meeting your hydration needs:
If you exercise, you will likely need to factor in additional water beyond this formula to account for your water loss from sweat and respiration. Bottom line, if your urine is the color of dilute lemonade, you are probably meeting your overall hydration needs. However, if your urine resembles concentrated apple juice or a deep-colored lemonade, you probably aren't meeting your water needs, and dehydration could be playing a factor with your IBS symptoms!