Will Eating Too Much Protein Harm Your Health?

October 3, 2012 | Dr. Mike T. Nelson

Must See Nutrition Videos

Everyone looking to gain lean muscle and lose fat has probably heard that consuming protein is a key part of the process. (Learn more about post-game nutrition.) But can you eat too much protein? The simple answer is yes, but there is more to the story. Read on to find out how much protein is safe for athletes.

Common Misconceptions

The most common one is the concern about kidney function with a high-protein det. To understand this issue, you need to distinguish between "more work" and "damage." It's true that if you eat more protein, your kidneys have to do more work to break it down. However, this is not an entirely bad thing in healthy people, and it does not cause kidney damage.

Think of your kidneys as muscles. When you go to the gym and work out, your muscles get bigger and stronger by adapting to the stress you put on them. The kidneys are similar. If you look closely, you will see increased markers of more work being done, but no indications of damage. The kidneys work harder, but they soon adapt to the increased demand and go on their merry way without any complaints.

Protein and Kidney Damage Data

Dr. Lonnie Lowery has performed some great studies on this issue, since he got tired of hearing how higher protein intakes would cause your kidneys to explode out of your body and fly across the room (okay, maybe not). His most recent one was presented at the International Society of Sports Nutrition conference last year, which concluded: "A multi-year intake of ample protein among male Caucasian strength athletes does not affect common markers of renal (kidney) function." This was a multi-year study in strength athletes just like you. They were not looking at couch potatoes who ate more protein.

Are 400 Grams of Protein a Day Safe?

Of course, anything that can help you can also hurt you (including water). Thus, consumption of more than 1.5 grams of protein per pound of body weight is neither needed nor recommended.

When I teach nutrition, I give extra credit to anyone who can show me an actual peer-reviewed study of healthy people in which protein was considered bad for renal (kidney) health. After many classes, nobody has found anything, even though many nutrition textbooks will still tell you too much protein is not safe.

Summary

A higher intake of protein in healthy subjects has not been shown to be harmful to their kidneys. The kidneys may do work, but are able to adapt to the increased demand.

It's best to take around 1 gram of protein per pound and do not exceed 1.5 grams per pound. While there is no conclusive evidence that protein harms the body, anything taken in excess can have potentially damaging effects.

Get the scoop on protein through STACK's Protein Guide.

References

Glassock RJ. "Is the presence of microalbuminuria a relevant marker of kidney disease?" Curr Hypertens Rep. 2010 Oct;12(5):364-8.

Lonnie M Lowery, Allison Daugherty, Brian Miller, Sarah Dye and Loren Liming. "The effect of habitually large protein intake on renal function of strength athletes: an update." Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition, 2011, 8(Suppl 1):P33
doi:10.1186/1550-2783-8-S1-P33

Lorena Devia, Josh Huffman, James Mihevic, Anna Huszti and Lonnie Lowery. "Dietary protein, resistance training and health: a call for evidence." Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition, 2008, 5(Suppl 1):P23 doi:10.1186/1550-2783-5-S1-P23

Photo: commons.wikimedia.com

Topics: PROTEIN
Mike T. Nelson
- Mike T. Nelson has spent nearly two decades learning how the human body works, with a focus on conditioning to burn fat, improve flexibility, gain...
Mike T. Nelson
- Mike T. Nelson has spent nearly two decades learning how the human body works, with a focus on conditioning to burn fat, improve flexibility, gain...
Must See
NFL Wide Receiver Randall Cobb Outworks Everyone
Views: 28,293,194
Brandon Jennings: "Always Improve"
Views: 4,127,744
Why You Should Never Doubt Colin Kaepernick
Views: 20,402,997

Featured Videos

A Day in the Life of NBA D-League Star Seth Curry Views: 68,738
Kevin Love's Cone Hop Basketball Shooting Drill Views: 8,003
Eastbay Path to the Pros Episode 2: Laying the Groundwork Views: 131,367
Load More

Resources

STACK Fitness

Everything you need to be fitter than ever

STACK Conditioning

Sport-specific conditioning programs

Coaches and Trainers

Tips and advice for coaches and trainers

Magazine

Latest issues of STACK Magazine

STACK 4W

Women's sports workout, nutrition and lifestyle advice

Gamer

Gaming, entertainment and tech news

Basic Training

Military-style training for athletes

News

Find the latest news relevant to athletes

Most Popular Videos

Perfect Dwyane Wade's Signature Euro Step
Views: 1,308,758
What Ryan Hall Eats for Breakfast
Views: 795,255
STACK Fitness Weekly: How To Do a Muscle-Up
Views: 778,651
Greg Nixon's Hill Training Program
Views: 705,761
Roy Hibbert 540 lbs Deadlift
Views: 1,561,460

Load More
More Cool Stuff You'll Like

3 Reasons Why You Should Take a Fish Oil Supplement

Athletes and those who train on a consistent basis face the challenges of dealing with joint and muscle soreness, psychological stress, and recovering...

7 Fiber Supplements: More Than Just For Weight Loss

5 Rules You Must Know Before Taking a Fish Oil Supplement

7 Sketchy Marketing Phrases Used By Supplement Companies

The One Thing You Need to Do to Build Muscle

Blueberry Supplements: Better Than Actual Blueberries?

How to Select a Healthy Protein Bar

6 Supplements That Power Quality Workouts

This Just In: Boost Your Workout With Peppermint

ZMA: Is This Mysterious Supplement Right for You?

Why You Can't Ignore Pre- and Post-Workout Nutrition

Powder Hour: Is It Time to Add Protein Powder to Your Diet?

Workout Supplements: Do You Really Need Them?

EXOS Launches New Line of Supplements

Creatine Supplements: Benefits, Concerns, Types and Dosage

What's Missing From the Female Athlete's Diet, Part 2: Iron

The Powerful Health Benefits of Turmeric

The Positive Side Effects of Creatine (Besides Building Muscle)

Should You Be Taking BCAAs?

Why Creatine Is the Best Sports Supplement

4 Creatine Myths Exposed

Should I Take Creatine?

Demystifying Popular Smoothie Boosters

HGH Use Among Teens on the Rise, According to Survey

Soy vs. Whey Protein

The Best Time to Consume Creatine

Fuel for Thought: Gels, Bloks and Beans

The 6 Most Promising Weight-Loss Supplements

The 5 Essential Sports Supplements

Make Sure You're Getting Enough Calcium

Why You Need Vitamin D in Your Diet

The Best Post-Workout Supplements and Nutrition

Iodine: An Overlooked Essential Mineral for Female Athletes

3 Tips on Choosing the Best Post-Workout Creatine

4 Muscle-Building Supplements That Don't Work

Do Athletes Need Zinc Supplements?

The Truth About Muscle-Enhancing Supplements

Can Baking Soda Improve Your Training Gains?

7 Rules That Would End PED Use in Baseball Immediately

Ask the Experts: Is Caffeine Safe for Athletes?

Use Sodium Bicarbonate to Get More Out of Creatine

3 Supplements to Boost On-Ice Performance

DHEA Supplements: Should You Take Them?

L.A. Galaxy's Safe Supplementation for Soccer Players

2 Safe Pre-Workout Supplements

4 Best Supplements for Football Players