Is Too Much Protein Unhealthy and Bad for Your Kidneys?

October 7, 2007

I am sure many people have heard that too much protein is tough on your body and bad for your kidneys. I don’t recommend excessive protein, mainly because I don’t believe in focusing on gaining excessive muscle mass. I know there are a lot of people who do want to gain mass and they eat a very large amount of protein as a strategy to pack on muscle quickly. I was curious to see how harsh this type of diet is on the body.

Protein Powder
(All of you young’ins are lucky! Protein powder in the 80’s and early 90’s tasted terrible!)

A Surprising Find About High Protein Intake!

I really thought that I was going to find that excessive protein was really hard on the body! What I found was surprising to say the least. A study at University of Connecticut called “Dietary Protein Intake and Renal Function” , shows that there isn’t any concern for people with healthy kidneys. This paper references recent studies of high-protein diets for both weight loss and athletes, which have found no negative impact on kidney function. There is no evidence that supports the idea that high protein intake is a cause of kidney damage or dysfunction.

Excessive Protein Intake is Only Bad for People With Pre-Existing Kidney Problems

The paper states this…”Although excessive protein intake remains a health concern in individuals with pre-existing renal disease, the literature lacks a significant research demonstrating a link between protein intake and the initiation or progression of renal disease in healthy individuals.” So if you have healthy kidneys, high protein diets won’t be a problem for you health-wise.

High Protein and Low Carbs Are a Great Combination for Bad Breath!

If you eat a well balanced diet with both carbs and protein, then this won’t apply to you…but if you eat high protein while keeping the carbs extremely low, then some nasty things do happen. First of all, you are very likely to have bad breath…really bad from what I understand. One study I read explained it very well…”When fatty acids are the primary source of energy and carbohydrate is severely restricted, part of the fat particle cannot be metabolized and builds up in the fluids outside the cells. These particles are converted to ketones (an “emergency” energy source), and unused ketones are excreted in the urine and expired air, resulting in acetone-smelling breath.Due to the lack of fiber found in carbs, this type of dieting causes constipation as well!

So Really No Worries if You Eat a Decent Amount of Protein in Your Diet

Even though I recommend a more moderate amount of protein if you want to stay slim…it is nice to know that on days when you splurge, you are not hurting your kidneys. Bodybuilders who read this can feel a little better about their diet, knowing that it isn’t harmful to their kidneys (if they reach this page in my blog…bodybuilders can’t stand my site for the most part…LOL).

Camel Breath

One Request…Please Make Sure You Eat Some Carbs With Your Protein! You Don’t Want Some “Funky Smelling” Camel Breath!

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Rusty Moore

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{ 30 comments… read them below or add one }

Magnate October 7, 2007 at 11:22 am

Protein farts are far worse than the breath. :P

admin October 7, 2007 at 11:53 am

Magnate,

I was going to address that, but I wasn’t sure about what type of photo I was going to put up…LOL!

Rusty

ted October 16, 2007 at 2:33 pm

rusty great site. I have been ready this site regulary since i found it. I have lost about 10 punds with my nutrtionist on a 5 meal high protein diet ive been on and keep getting cutter and more ripped every week. The problem is i hate the food and i just wanna eat normal. I just wanna have cereal when i wake up have a sandwhich for lunch and for dinner pasta or chicken. It sucks not to eat what i want. I read your articles and you make sence i was just wondering if i could get some help here cause then high protein diets just give me constant headaches and i read your articles about warrior and 3 meals. i was wondering what are some good choices to eat for breakfeast, lunch, dinner without protein shakes you recommened. people say you need protein to get ripped but when i was a model two years ago i never really focused on that stuff i just made healthy choices. I wanna get that body back so i can start working again i need to get 7lbs off but if you could help and give any words that be great

admin October 16, 2007 at 4:07 pm

Ted,

Yeah…really no need to get obsessed with protein. I just do the shakes out of convenience.

You certainly can have cereal for breakfast.

For lunch, you may want to avoid sandwiches until you reach your goal. You can eat sandwices to maintain, but the flour in the bread may slow down the fat loss a bit. I would recommend something like Teriyaki chicken with salad and vegetables until then. You can just ask the restaurant to hold the rice and add more vegetables.

For dinner, eat a healty balanced meal like “mom” recommended. Chicken, potatoes, green beans etc…

Rusty

PS: A quick breakfast that I like vanila yogurt and an apple…then hit Starbucks for an “Iced Americano”.

rAY fISCH January 27, 2008 at 7:05 pm

made them already to lowerr protein in diet having kidney problem
Thank you

rAY fISCH January 27, 2008 at 7:09 pm

protein @100 in blood test, how lower and what best to not use protein in diet where possible
Thankyou Ray.

benjie March 15, 2008 at 12:40 pm

hey rusty what do u consider to be an appropriate amount of protein in a diet? I weight about 150 lbs and 5’10 and as you may remember from my previous posts I am trying to just cut body fat and a few lbs. My arms and shoulders are really big and ripped and muscular, but just dont look right on the rest of my frame. I would like to slender up my arms and shoulders just a tad. I have a 25 gram protein shake and apple for breakfast and then again for lunch then have a really big dinner consisting of around 800-1000 calories and typically has about 60-80 grams of protein in it after my nightly workout. Is up to 135 grams of protein a day for a 150 lbs guy looking to mass down a little bit a little too much protein? Or am I in the right vacinity? My daily calorie intake for the last 2 weeks has been around 1400 and every meal I eat is extremely healthy with tons of fruits, vegetables, protein, and good fats. Sorry for all the questions and thanks in advance for your reply Rusty!

admin March 16, 2008 at 3:50 am

benjie,

You sound like you are on the right track for sure. You could back off on the protein a bit and it wouldn’t hurt. See how your body responds, first to this plan…it actually looks solid. I eat a little bit less protein in proportion to my lean body weight, but you may do really well with this amount. Everything you have outlined looks like it will work.

Rusty

Peter October 16, 2008 at 11:02 pm

Usually this is due to low HCL levels. Stomach acid levels are so low that it is unable to fully break down the protein.

Dave October 26, 2008 at 1:04 pm

“So if you have healthy kidneys, high protein diets won’t be a problem for you health-wise.”

To make this statement based on your “research” is woefully reckless.

First, the University of Connecticut study only studied proteins derived from animals (NOT whey or soy, which are very popular sources of supplemental protein).

Second, they defined the diet as 1.5 g/kg/day which is significantly less than the 1g/lb/day espoused by modern bodybuilders.

Third, a lack of evidence is not proof of safety. It simply means more research is needed, as the researchers noted in their paper.

Frankly, I find your lack of critical thinking offensive at best, criminal at worst.

admin October 26, 2008 at 4:08 pm

Dave,

First of all this isn’t my research. Second…I’m not telling people to go crazy and eat tons of protein. Just letting people know that it isn’t automatically a bad deal for them to eat a larger than normal amount of protein.

So my lack of critical thinking is criminal? You need to relax a bit.

Rusty

Nicole December 2, 2008 at 2:11 pm

“Due to the lack of fiber found in carbs, this type of dieting causes constipation as well!” ?

I lead a low carb lifestyle, and I get more fiber from eating all of the vegetables I do than any carbs i ate before. And you only get bad breath like that if you are eating close to 0 carbs a day, or while doing the induction phases of atkins, etc.

Wayne February 3, 2009 at 5:22 am

Rusty,

Having a tall, lean frame I have always been told to take a Whey Protein supplement within 20 minutes after a workout. Should I bother with this is or is “eating correctly” sufficient to build the body mass that you suggest?

Wayne February 3, 2009 at 5:29 am

Sorry Rusty, I forgot to mention that the protein supplement wasnt taken as a meal replacement, it was taken 20 minutes after workout regardless of whether or not I had eaten. Im not by any means wanting a 80′ BB look, I just want to gain a bit on my otherwise tall, skinny frame.

Great site by the way!

Shauna October 23, 2009 at 9:25 am

Rusty,

i have been on a diet for about 3 months now and havent lost anything, i was wondering if you could give me some tips on what to eat?

Thanks
Shauna

Extreme Muscle Building January 11, 2010 at 3:33 pm

Thanks for the protein facts , there is always that question is to much protein not good for you and you did a good job answering it.

Robert C. Morreale February 2, 2010 at 9:00 am

vegetables are carbs!

Tee March 10, 2010 at 2:32 am

Im trying to gain weight a friend suggested soy protein I am female and 110lbs and 5’7 just wanna gain about 15lbs and some curves and heard protein was good for this. Bought some from GNC plan to drink twice a day in morning before work and then at night after my workout. Is this ok or harmful?

martin December 11, 2010 at 6:26 pm

can i take nitric oxide like gasparis no xplode if i anly have one kidney

Keegan February 7, 2011 at 9:57 pm

I’m 16 and play football I work out a lot and have a 14% body fat level I was wonder what would be a good healthy high calorie diet with lots of protein

jimmey March 25, 2011 at 10:07 am

Like the article. Good to know. I am always looking for studies and research findings on health and food related issues. One thing I would like to remark about protein powder and health problems is that, if I’m correct, the paper doesn’t concern whey protein but protein in general. Since whey protein is commonly taken by bodybuilders and other athletes they can’t draw conclusions of your article and the paper. Whey protein is a highly concentrated derivative and I do think that excessive intake of that stuff is unhealthy and may damage kidneys.

rusty wallington June 30, 2011 at 1:41 pm

wow this is a great blog! i love your theme, did you have to pay for it? or was it free?

Laura Beam August 18, 2011 at 1:07 pm

Hey Rusty,
This is a great site, very informative. It’s nice to just be able to ask some questions and get informal information instead of statistics and a bunch of mumbo jumbo from Dr’s, using Dr lingo (that NO one but other Dr’s can understand). I like to get information in plain English, where I can understand it. I’ve been on a restrictive diet for the past 3 months, due to Candida issues (which means yeast). Back in Oct of 2010, I took some took some antibiotics, then less than a month after that, I came down with Strep throat, so got some more antibiotics, and lo and behold not even less than a month from then had some UTI issues. Went to the Dr, and had a urine test, but found no bacteria (they did NOT test for yeast at this time). So “guess what?” yeah, they gave me antibiotics again, even though there was no evidence of bacteria. Well, of course it got worse. So finally I started putting two and two together, and realized the UTI, was from yeast overgrowth from all the antibiotics. Now, I’m having all kinds of issues, bladder and womanly infections, major congestion, skin break outs due to food sensitivities, insomnia, and feeling majorly fatigued, along with foggy thinking, it was awful. So I started seeing a holistic DR, to see if he can help me irradicate this Candida overgrowth. I am taking some supplements to help get my gastroinestinal flora back to a healthy balance, and some supplements to kill off the Candida, but mostly I’m on a “no sugar” no refined carb diet. For the first month all I ate was vegetables and meat, in phase two, I can add fruit that is low on the glycemic index and I can have sweet potatoes (YAY….I love them) and just wild rice (since it’s a grass and not a grain). I’m still having no grains, and I eat the fruit in moderation, I may eat the rice once a week to once a month (really not that often). So I eat a lot of protein, probably more than my 125 lb body needs. But if I didn’t, I’d be hungry. I do have quite an appetite, and when I had to get rid of eating sugar and high carbs…..I thought I was going to die. But now after not eating all that crap for three months, I never want to go back to the way I was eating before. At least this way I know I’ll never get diabetes…LOL. But sometimes, just eating vegetables and some fruit just doesn’t fill me up, so when I want a snack now (of course I can’t go grab a bag of chips), so I eat slices of turkey, especially if it’s at night, I don’t want to even eat fruit too late in the day, so when I get hungry I go for the white turkey breast, and I’ll have a big ole chunk of it. That is why I’m very glad to hear that eating too much protein won’t hurt your kidneys. But I still kind of get concerned, because I am battling the yeast, I still have bouts of the bladder infection, so I always start thinking is it my kidneys and because I’m eating a high protein diet? I was relieved after reading your blogs. I will still keep a watch on it though. So in your opinion, what is the most amount of protein I can eat in a day (in ounces) and still not worry about kidney issues. I’m 5’8 and weigh 125 to 126. I’ve got small bones for a tall girl, I wear a size 4. I know people hear that weight and when they see how tall I am, they get concerned I’m underweight, I assure you, I am not. I’m at the weight my body natrually goes to when I eat perfectly right, and no junk. I weighed this when I was 16, and now I’m 44. I do work out, and since I’m over 40 I do resistance training to keep my bones and muscles healthy. And of course working out just makes me crave more protein….it’s like a vicious cycle. So just let me know what you think, what’s the most protein I can do in a day and probably cause no harm? Thanks Rusty

KC September 5, 2011 at 2:35 am

How are you doing with your curves and weight. I believe the key is to take a good real food organice whole food product, whether it be powder or nutritional product. I would eat right and work out and let your body be natural.

joanne October 20, 2011 at 4:56 pm

I am a nurse and know that a high protein diet does cause kidney disease. Especially the protein shakes that the younger generation are taking to build body mass/ muscle. Also these diets which cut out carbs in favour of protein and friut and veg only.. Government guide lines state that your diet should be made up mainly of complex low GI carbs, vegetables and a small amount of the rest of the food groups. This should be Coupled with exercise 5 times a week of about 1/2hr. The heart rate should raise and you should be breathless to the point that you could still talk. If can also take the fit option, for example the stairs instead of the lift then this is all you need to maintain a healthy weight and fitness level. If you want to lose weight , then just move more and eat less. The government healthy plate diagram is there to see on google. This will show how many calories and the exact amounts of food that should be consumed daily…Don`t do faddy diets! They ruin your metabolism and the minute you stop them you pile your weight back on and more..Any extremes of any of the food groups is detrimental to your overall health and particularly as mentioned at the beginning about protein. You may acheive a temporary favourable body image, but it is not a healthy lifestyle. Achieve a healthy evidenced based life style and will never diet again. No food is a sin, it`s the amount of it you eat that is the sin. A little bit of what you fancy doesn`t do you any harm.

Marsha December 25, 2011 at 6:48 pm

I have been on the “Pink Method” diet for 2 weeks and drink their protein shake every morning and mostly eat protein and veggies during the day. You are supposed to drink half your weight in ounces of water. ie = 200 lbs – 100 ozs of water. I have NOT being doing this. I drink very little water (maybe 32 ozs a day) and I noticed right off the bat that my back (later figured out it was kidney) was killing me. The more weight I lost the more it hurt. I have figured it is one or both of two things. 1) My body doesn’t respond to high protein diets or 2) it is hurting because I haven’t drank enough water. My question is: If I drink lots of water, will that make my backache go away or do I need to see a Dr. as I might have a kidney infection and need an antiobiotic to make the pain go away.

Richard February 20, 2012 at 1:16 pm

@Dave

Whey protein is animal protein ;)

Mark February 26, 2012 at 11:10 am

Just wanted to know what people think about the Dukan diet :)

Josh Squires March 7, 2012 at 7:11 am

Great article! I’d always heard that this was bad for you. Interesting to not only hear that it is not, but that you provided solid, clinical evidence to support it. Great work!

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