Will Too Much Protein Hurt You?

Will Too Much Protein Hurt You?

Is eating too much protein harming you?

You may have heard that eating too much protein can lead to negative health effects like osteoporosis or kidney damage, but is it true? This article will take a deep dive into the actual effect protein has on the body and whether or not eating too much protein will harm you.

First let’s talk about how much protein is too much protein. The basic recommendation for protein intake is 0.36 grams of protein per pound of body weight daily (Wolfe, Robert R, et al, 2017). This amount is the minimum amount of protein required for survival, not necessarily the amount you should eat every day.

While an extremely high protein intake may be unhealthy, eating anywhere from 0.36 grams to 2 grams per body weight is fine. It's also highly unlikely that you'll ever be able to consume too much protein because of how filling it is.

Let's dive into a few common myths surrounding protein.

Does too much protein cause osteoporosis?

The short answer is no. Protein intake can lead to an increased amount of acid in your body.  Many people believe that the body will then take calcium from the bones in order to neutralize the excess acid, thereby weakening your bones. Studies that were conducted over a longer period of time (9 weeks) demonstrated that substituting carbohydrates with meat did not affect calcium excretion at all (Dawson-Hughes, Bess, et al 2004). In fact, participants experienced an increase in bone health due to the increased production of certain hormones that strengthen bones and muscles (Dawson-Hughes, Bess, et al 2004; Dietary Protein and Bone Health: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis 2009). It is safe to say that eating more protein will not cause you to develop osteoporosis, but may actually improve your bone density and lower your risk of bone fractures (Rapuri, Prema, et al, 2003).

Does too much protein harm your kidneys?

It is a common belief that the more protein you eat the harder your kidneys will have to work. While your kidneys do work slightly harder to process protein verses processing simple carbohydrates, overall this isn’t anything to worry about for someone with healthy kidneys. Your kidneys naturally filter about 48 gallons of blood every day! Adding more protein to your diet will not harm your kidneys unless you have kidney disease or other preexisting kidney conditions. If you have healthy kidneys, no worries! Actually, eating more protein may even decrease your risk of kidney failure by decreasing your blood pressure and protecting you from diabetes (Gannon, M. C., and F. Q. Nuttall, 2004).

What is your goal?

How much protein you eat is dependent on your goals. If you want to build lean muscle, burn fat, and increase strength, eating more protein will benefit you.

As an active lifestyle individual, a good rule of thumb is to shoot for .8 - 1 gram of protein per pound of bodyweight which is likely more than you're used to.

This should help you build and maintain lean muscle, help burn fat, and help you crush sugar cravings.

If you do end up eating more protein than your body needs don’t worry, the excess protein will be broken down and used for energy.  

A few other benefits of a diet with plenty of protein are…

  1. More muscle mass- More protein = more muscle and protection against muscle loss (Pasiakos, Stefan M., et al, 2013)
  2. Increased Energy – When you eat more protein you actually have more energy! (Nair, K. S., et al, 2013)
  3. Keeps you full – Protein unlike simple carbohydrates will help you curb cravings and stay full for longer which can help you lose weight and avoid unhealthy food temptations! (Paddon-Jones, Douglas, et al, 2008)
  4. Lowers your risk for obesity – When you eat less sugar aka. simple carbs and more protein you will reap the benefits of more energy and sustained weight loss! (Gulati, Seema, et al,2017)

Overall increasing your protein intake to a reasonably high amount will benefit your body! If you want to feel full longer, have more energy, and be stronger, leaner, and more muscular opt for a diet high in protein.

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Dawson-Hughes, Bess, et al. “Effect of Dietary Protein Supplements on Calcium Excretion in Healthy Older Men and Women.” The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism, vol. 89, no. 3, 2004, pp. 1169–1173., doi:10.1210/jc.2003-031466.
“Dietary Protein and Bone Health: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis.” SciVee, 2009, doi:10.4016/14512.15.
Gannon, M. C., and F. Q. Nuttall. “Effect of a High-Protein, Low-Carbohydrate Diet on Blood Glucose Control in People with Type 2 Diabetes.” Diabetes, vol. 53, no. 9, 2004, pp. 2375–2382., doi:10.2337/diabetes.53.9.2375.
Gulati, Seema, et al. “Effect of High-Protein Meal Replacement on Weight and Cardiometabolic Profile in Overweight/Obese Asian Indians in North India.” British Journal of Nutrition, vol. 117, no. 11, 2017, pp. 1531–1540., doi:10.1017/s0007114517001295.
Nair, K. S., et al. “Thermic Response to Isoenergetic Protein, Carbohydrate or Fat Meals in Lean and Obese Subjects.” Clinical Science, vol. 65, no. 3, 1983, pp. 307–312., doi:10.1042/cs0650307.
Paddon-Jones, Douglas, et al. “Protein, Weight Management, and Satiety.” The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, vol. 87, no. 5, 2008, doi:10.1093/ajcn/87.5.1558s.
Pasiakos, Stefan M., et al. “Effects of High‐Protein Diets on Fat‐Free Mass and Muscle Protein Synthesis Following Weight Loss: A Randomized Controlled Trial.” The FASEB Journal, vol. 27, no. 9, 2013, pp. 3837–3847., doi:10.1096/fj.13-230227.
Rapuri, Prema B, et al. “Protein Intake: Effects on Bone Mineral Density and the Rate of Bone Loss in Elderly Women.” The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, vol. 77, no. 6, 2003, pp. 1517–1525., doi:10.1093/ajcn/77.6.1517.
Wolfe, Robert R, et al. “Optimizing Protein Intake in Adults: Interpretation and Application of the Recommended Dietary Allowance Compared with the Acceptable Macronutrient Distribution Range.” Advances in Nutrition: An International Review Journal, vol. 8, no. 2, 2017, pp. 266–275., doi:10.3945/an.116.013821.