INSTAGRAM, Snapchat and even Facebook are full of photos and selfies of half-naked, ripped, muscle guys, now high summer is well and truly upon us.
The pressure on the rest of us mere mortals to achieve that perfect ‘Instabody’ is immense and something which can often make us go to extremes to get it.
Steroids are one of the obvious ways to get instant results, but for those of us who prefer a more natural approach, a high protein, low carb dietary regime is our weapon of choice.
So, are you one of those guys who carries a protein shake around you wherever you go during the day?
Well you may be suffering from ‘protorexia’, a term coined to describe an unhealthy fixation with protein-heavy foods and supplements, such as protein shakes and chicken.
When eaten as part of a balanced diet, protein allows our body to grow and repair itself. But is there a risk of becoming obsessed with protein to the extent that behaviour becomes symptomatic of an eating disorder?
The term has been linked to orthorexia – a condition defined as an “unhealthy obsession with healthy eating”, which has yet to be formally recognised as an eating disorder.
According to eating disorders charity Beat, much like ‘orthorexia’, protorexia is not a recognised eating disorder and we should be careful how we are using the term.
Speaking to The Huffington Post UK, a spokesperson from Beat said placing severe restrictions on diet “is obviously not healthy and may be an indication of an eating disorder”.
Studies suggest body-conscious individuals often begin consuming high levels of protein believing those with ripped torsos must be “healthy”, without realising the internal impact this may cause.
But how can you recognise if your gym buddy is using protein shakes to simply improve their workout or if they’re part of a more serious, underlying issue?
“Secretiveness around or preoccupation with food, becoming withdrawn, mood swings, low self-esteem, tiredness, and distorted perceptions of weight are some of the signs that someone might be developing some form of eating disorder,” the spokesperson said.
A British Diabetic spokesperson also told the Huffpost, that, by focusing on consuming a lot of one nutrient, such as protein, you are likely to be restricting other food groups such as carbohydrates.
“This may lead to you missing out on other important parts of a diet, such as fibre,” she said.
“Fibre is found in fruit, vegetables and wholegrains and is really important for a healthy digestive system.”
She explained that protein may fill someone up so much that they are “unable to eat enough of the other things we need in our diet”.
“Animal protein, often, contains saturated fat, so if people are increasing their protein intake using animal protein it may be detrimental to heart health, by increasing their intake of saturated fat,” she said.
“There are risks of having an unbalanced diet including vitamin and mineral deficiencies and in the long term increasing the risk of developing chronic conditions.”
Most of us get enough protein by eating a well-balanced diet and varying the foods we eat every day, so there is no need to worry too much about getting enough.
Including two to three protein rich foods such as lentils, nuts, beans, meat or fish everyday is what the government recommends for good health.