Many of us worry we’re not drinking enough water, exercising enough or getting enough vitamins but sometimes we can overdo it. Natasha Holt asks the experts how to know when you’ve gone too far.
“Salad leaves are an excellent low-calorie food. That said, you can’t get by on the green stuff alone,” says Sophie Medlin, dietitian and director atcitydietitians.co.uk.
“Salad cannot provide us with all the nutrients we need to live healthily, such as protein, carbohydrates and healthy fats. Too much can also disrupt digestion and, in extreme cases, make it harder to absorb other important nutrients such as iron.
“Make sure you’re keeping your salads balanced by adding things like avocado, olive oil or nuts and seeds and some protein such as chicken, fish, eggs or tofu.
“If salad is making up more than 50 per cent of your diet it’s time to rethink.”
The idea that we need to be drinking eight glasses of water a day has led to many of us thinking you can’t get enough.
But drinking too much, known as water intoxication, can be fatal.
“Too much can lead to a reduction of electrolytes such as sodium and potassium in our blood stream,” says Sophie.
“We see this quite often in people exercising excessively or who have problems absorbing nutrients – also in people who restrict their diet too much or have certain medical conditions.
More than 2.5 litres a day is too much for most.”
Getting enough sleep can feel like hunting for the Holy Grail but surprisingly you can have too much. “Oversleeping can also be a risk to our health,” says natural health expert Dr Tim Bond (dragonflycbd.com).
Research shows people who sleep for nine to 11 hours a day are 21 per cent more likely to become diabetic, 38 per cent more likely to suffer from coronary heart disease and have an increased risk of death.
Dr Bond says: “The ‘right’ amount of sleep will vary from person to person but seven to nine hours should suffice. Excessive sleep often goes hand in glove with poor lifestyle choices like overeating and a lack of exercise.”
“Despite its health halo, excess protein will be used to provide energy and is stored as fat if we eat too much,” says dietitian Sophie.
“Protein contains exactly the same number of calories per gram as carbohydrate (4kcals/g) so we can easily eat too much. It needs to be balanced in our diet, like all the other nutrients.
Most people need 0.75g of protein per kilogram of their body weight a day.
If you’re an athlete or trying to build muscle you can maybe get away with 1.7g per kilogram of body weight but anything above that will be used as energy or stored as fat.
“For some people, eating too much protein without the right balance of other nutrients can lead to kidney stones.”
Exercise is key to a healthy lifestyle but if you overdo it you risk injuring yourself. “For the average person, the recommended guidelines are three hours of moderate to intense exercise per week,” says Luke Gray, fitness expert and founder of online health studio feelnoo.com.
“For most people any more than this is too much and increases risk of injury. The key is to allow your body to recover after intense exercise.”
If you don’t, it can lead to the body not having enough energy left to support all the physiological functions needed for optimum health. This most often affects athletes and can lead to chronic muscle fatigue.”
In rare cases, too much exercise can result in rhabdomyolysis, where damaged muscle fibres enter the bloodstream. If left untreated this can result in serious heart problems and occasionally kidney failure.
While vitamins B and C are water-soluble, which means the body will flush out any excess when you pee, others, including vitamins A, D, E and K, can be stored, so it is possible to have too much.
Dr Carrie Ruxton, dietitian at the Health and Food Supplements Information Service (hsis.org), says: “Pregnant women shouldn’t eat liver or take a vitamin A supplement as it can be harmful to their unborn child. Anything over 1,500mg from food and supplements is too much and may affect bones, making them more likely to fracture when you’re older.
“Taking over 1,000mg of vitamin C a day could lead to diarrhoea and wind while very high doses of D can cause vomiting, with excessive intake over a long time causing calcium to build up in the body (hypercalcaemia). This can weaken bones and damage the kidneys and heart.
“The upper limit for D is 100 micrograms per day, but since many Brits are deficient, intakes tend to be too low, not too high.”
We all know how vitally important it is to wear sunscreen to prevent burning and skin cancer – but wearing it all day, every day, on any exposed skin is actually too much as it stops our bodies absorbing vital vitamin D.
Dr Ross Perry, Medical Director of Cosmedics skin clinics (cosmedics.co.uk), says: “You do not need to be wearing SPF all the time.
“To get your recommended amount of vitamin D, then exposure to the sun on the arms and the legs for up to 20 minutes three or four times a week will help generate enough without the use of SPF.
“However, you should always protect the face by wearing factor 30 and above.”