Doctors are warning bodybuilders and protein-shakers to be careful with their supplements after an Australian bodybuilder died from, essentially, too much protein in her body. Meegan Hefford was 25 and preparing for a bodybuilding competition when she started feeling fatigued and ‘weird’ according to reports. The young mother of two was found unconscious in her apartment and then died in hospital two days later. Tests show that she was suffering from a genetic disorder that prevented her body from properly processing the additional protein supplements she was taking.
Hefford had urea cycle disorder (UCD), which is a rare but dangerous condition that prevents the body from clearing broken-down protein byproducts out of the blood. Since Hefford was taking protein supplements to build muscle for her upcoming bodybuilding competition, her body had way more protein than she could deal with in her system. A healthy body can process excess protein, but someone with a condition like Hefford’s or an unhealthy liver can run into trouble.
Doctors are growing concerned (and have been for years) about the trend of using protein supplements after a workout to boost muscle growth. While in most cases, it’s not harmful, it’s probably also completely unnecessary.
‘We get enough protein in our diet, generally,’ Dr. Chris Woollam told CTV, ‘When [people] are into higher level weight training programs, they do burn more protein than we would on average, but it’s not that much more.’
While the risk of the average person having UCD like Hefford is pretty small (one in 8,000), it seems protein supplements might just turn into an unnecessary cost for most people. Dr. Angelina Yee, who is a former bodybuilder herself, says that overall diet is the most important component when it comes to being fit. You’re going to excrete the protein you don’t need anyway, so taking scoopfuls of it in your smoothie isn’t going to help you much.
So careful how much faith you put in protein supplements. They might not be doing anything. And depending on your body, they might be harming you.