Is a High-Protein Diet Bad for Your Health?


Can too much protein be a bad thing? I’m sure your mother has told you this before, but too much of anything can be negative. Even too much water, broccoli, and sleep can all be bad if you take them to extremes. So considering this, too much protein is definitely a bad thing.

Is a high protein diet really all that bad for us? Anybody who wants to gain muscle, lose fat or achieve a killer physique knows that protein is essential for doing so. Proteins are comprised of amino acids and amino acids are the building blocks of muscles, so rather you’re trying to build or maintain muscle mass, protein is of incredible importance. Anybody who is trying to gain muscle or lose fat typically consumes about one gram of protein per pound of body weight and also sticks to the staples as well: chicken, tuna, fish, steak, eggs and milk are all great examples.

Many people believe that a high protein diet can be bad for their health – is there any truth to this? I can’t tell you how many times I’ve gotten asked this question. Many people all believe that high protein diets are harmful for your health, since they lead to kidney and liver damage, dehydration, metabolic issues, calcium deficiencies and even gout. Here’s the truth about high protein diets…

There are only 3 macronutrients to choose from when it comes to eating a healthy diet: carbohydrates, proteins, and fat. Protein is the most abundant compound in your body, next to water, and is essential for carrying out proper bodily functioning. Muscle mass in itself is protein. Anytime you lift weights and the demand for protein outweighs your consumption of it, the body will start looking for other forms of protein. So what does it do? It will break down your hard-earned muscle mass! This is why consuming a diet low in protein is not smart if you’re trying to gain muscle mass.

Not only is it important to consume enough protein to carry out regular bodily functioning, but it’s also important for rebuilding broken down muscle tissue. This is the primary reason why bodybuilders need to consume more protein than your typical average Joe. Although there is absolutely no evidence to suggest that consuming a high protein diet can be negative for your health, there is evidence to suggest that consuming a diet higher in protein can be beneficial for your health.

Some research done by the University of Brussels set out to prove just that. Researchers took a look at 48 weightlifters and athletes who consumed 2 grams of protein per kilogram of bodyweight – nearly two times the recommended daily protein consumption for the average Joe. The researchers took a close look at their diets, regularly monitoring blood, urine, creatine levels, calcium balance and kidney & liver function. The researchers also kept a close eye on the test subjects kidney function before and after working out. It’s well known that kidney function can temporarily slow down during exercise, so the researchers set out to see if a diet higher in protein could cause an additional slowdown in kidney function. The results?

  • There were no toxic effects of the high protein diet and there was no excessive accumulation of urea found.
  • The high protein diet had no effect on kidney function, due to the fact that albumin clearance rates were normal.
  • There was no impact on kidney function before or after exercise
  • There was absolutely no effect on calcium levels. There was actually more calcium absorbed on the high protein diet.

The conclusion? “Consuming a high protein diet, in the range of 170 to 243% of the RDA (Recommended Daily Allowance for protein) induce no toxicity, calcium loss, decrease in kidney function or dehydration.”

Some of the athletes were actually consuming about 2.8 grams of protein per pound of body weight each day and there was no difference found between them and the test subjects who were consuming a lower amount each day.

Although some more research will need to be done to further conclude these findings, we can infer from this single study that consuming a high protein diet results in no adverse health effects.

Is too much protein really a bad thing?

Like I said, too much of anything is a bad thing. But nonetheless, consuming a diet high in protein is incredibly important for building and maintaining muscle mass, so I really don’t see anything negative coming from eating a diet high in protein each day.

Having said this, is it really necessary to consume more than one gram of protein per pound of body weight to gain muscle mass or lose fat? Not necessarily.

There is actually some research to suggest that consuming a high protein diet can have a positive effect on your cholesterol levels, reduce your appetite, improve protein synthesis and thermognesis for fat loss.

“Do regular high protein diets have potential health risks on kidney function in athletes? [Int J Sport Nutr Exerc Metab. 2000] – PubMed – NCBI.” Accessed March 19, 2013.

This was an article written by Drew Stegman. For more information check out his site:


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