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Is There Such a Thing as Too Much Protein?

by Mara Welty December 07, 2023 7 min read

 too much protein

Whether you’re trying to tune up your diet or meet a new fitness milestone,  a higher protein intake is commonly cited as one of the best ways to achieve your wellness goals. As one of the fundamental macronutrients (the others are fats and carbohydrates), protein is indeed essential to not just human health but all life on earth.

Knowing this, is really it possible to eat too much protein? As it turns out, it is.

Eating too much protein can lead to a cascade of health problems, from impaired kidney function to constant fatigue. Below, we’ll detail signs of consuming protein in excess and guide you through finding the ideal amount for your ambitions. 

What’s The Optimal Amount Of Protein?

There is no one-size-fits-all number to aim for when it comes to protein intake. Rather, a person’s ideal daily protein consumption can be calculated according to their body weight and health goals.

It’s recommended people get at least .36 grams of protein per pound of body weight to avoid health problems.

That said, you may need a higher protein intake under certain conditions, such as:

  • Expecting a baby – Women who are expecting should consume between 75 and 100 grams of protein per day to support maternal health and fetal development.
  • Building muscle mass– People who are exercising to augment muscle mass and strength may want to eat more protein. 

In such cases, you could refer to our guide on how to increase protein intake in a healthy manner. 

How Protein Supports Your Health

Protein is an essential macronutrient that underwrites a variety of basic physical functions. Some elemental ones include:

  • Metabolism– Research shows a protein deficit could adversely impact metabolic well-being. It’s thought that certain amino acids — the building blocks of protein — specifically contribute to maintaining an efficient metabolism, which is also critical for weight loss. 
  • Muscle growth and recovery– Protein makes up your muscle tissue. Whether you’re trying to gain muscle or preserve muscle mass, it’s crucial you eat enough protein to ensure your muscles stay strong and can self-repair. 
  • Immune health – Protein comprises antibodies, crucial actors in your immune system that help protect you from illness.

Protein is one of the building blocks of organic life, so these are just some of the vital functions it fulfills (others include fostering bone health, moderating appetite and keeping your blood pressure under control). 

But even when it comes to protein, it’s possible to have too much of a good thing.

Risks of Excessive Protein Intake

The health complications and risks resulting from too much protein are wide-ranging, spanning from mild to severe. The main risks of excess protein consumption include:

  • Causing digestive problems– Many “keto” or high-protein diets tend to limit carbohydrate consumption, which may also inadvertently limit fiber consumption. Because fiber is crucial for promoting efficient digestion, this can contribute to bowel changes like constipation or diarrhea. 
  • Burdening your kidneys – When your body digests protein, it breaks down the macronutrient into its core constituents: amino acids. When deconstructed, amino acids emit nitrogen as a byproduct. Excessive amounts of nitrogen can be taxing for your kidneys to dispel from your body. Though it’s rare to develop kidney damage from a high-protein diet, individuals diagnosed with kidney related issues could be at risk. 
  • Dehydration– If you’re on a high-protein diet, your kidneys have to work hard behind the scenes to process your food. Proper kidney function  requires sufficient moisture to function properly, and neglecting to up your hydration when you augment protein intake could put them under unnecessary stress. This is why dehydration is often cited as one possible sign of consuming more protein than your body can handle.
  • Impairing your bone health– Another side effect of eating too much protein and overtaxing the kidneys relates to bone health. Calcium is elemental to building and maintaining bone health, but a high-protein diet can contribute to excessive loss of calcium through urine. While you may not notice immediate symptoms, in some people, this may contribute to unhealthy bones and joints over time.

5 Signs You May Be Eating Too Much Protein

In rare cases, eating too much protein could result in protein poisoning. This occurs when you’re eating more than enough protein to the extent that you neglect other major nutrients that come with a balanced diet, including:

  • Fats
  • Carbohydrates
  • Essential vitamins and minerals

While it’s relatively rare to develop protein poisoning, it is possible. This may be particularly true if you’re laser-focused on completing fitness-related goals, like building muscle or weight loss.

Knowing subtler symptoms of too much protein may help you track your levels and make sensible dietary changes before excess protein consumption can cause real harm.

#1 You Frequently Experience Digestive Discomfort

It can be tricky to find the cause of dysfunctional digestion, as the system is highly complex and receives input from a variety of biological and lifestyle factors.

That said, excessive protein intake often shows up with any or more of the following symptoms:

  • Constipation
  • Diarrhea
  • Excessive gas
  • Bloating
  • Bowel irregularity
#2 You Feel Thirsty Often

As mentioned, staying adequately hydrated is crucial for supporting your kidneys (not to mention countless other systems of the body). 

Feeling thirsty often — without changing other dehydrating habits, like drinking caffeinated beverages — could be a sign your kidneys are working extra hard to process your food.

#3 Your Breath Smells Bad

If you’ve been looking into high-protein diets, you may have come across a popular approach called the keto diet. Keto diets are intended to put your body into a state of ketosis, which causes it to burn stored fat sources for energy (rather than its first-choice fuel: carbohydrates). 

While ketosis can help support fat loss, it can also lead to unpleasant side effects like:

  • Bad breath (often nicknamed “keto breath”)
  • A metallic taste in your mouth

The odor of keto breath can vary from person to person — some people describe it as smelling like acetone, while others say it carries a sweet or “fruity” flavor. Regardless, if you notice a sudden change in how your breath smells or your mouth tastes, it may be a good idea to reevaluate your protein intake.

#4 You’ve Gained Weight

When your body ingests more calories than it can use as fuel, it stores leftover energy as fat. Eating more protein than usual can often increase your calorie intake, which can cause the number on your scale to slide up.

#5 You Struggle With Energy Levels

Protein is lauded as an energy powerhouse, but your body needs multiple other macronutrients, vitamins and minerals to function optimally. When it doesn’t have these nutrients, you might experience symptoms like:

  • Weakness or dizziness
  • Physical fatigue
  • Lightheadedness
  • Difficulty focusing or completing mental tasks

If you feel you’re eating enough but are struggling with these feelings often, it could be a sign that protein is absorbing too much of your daily food intake. 

As a reminder, it’s recommended adults consume no more than 35% of their daily diet from protein sources to ensure they don’t ingest it in excess.

#6 Your Urine Looks Abnormal 

One symptom of excessive protein intake is urine that appears foamy or bubbly. This is usually a sign of proteinuria, which occurs when your kidneys are unable to process protein and clear it out through your urine.

If you notice foamy-looking urine, it’s important to seek medical care as soon as possible. This could be a sign that kidney damage has occurred, and you’ll need medical care to avert any serious health consequences.

Tips For Getting The Optimal Amount of Protein

So, how can you ensure you’re getting enough protein without going overboard? 

  • Switch up your protein sources – Many health experts emphasize that where you derive your protein may be just as important as how muchyou consume. For instance, diets high in red meat correlate with a variety of long-term health complications. 

If you’re focusing on optimizing your protein intake, it’s important to give equal attention to evaluating where your protein comes from. Swapping sources high in saturated fat (like steak) for leaner sources could help you avert far-reaching health crises down the line. You can also explore the different types of protein powder if you’re looking for alternatives to supplement your everyday diet.

  • Balance out your macros– Loading up on extra protein should never come at the expense of other essential nutrients. On a high-protein diet, the ideal ratio of macronutrients should be:
    • Protein – 40%
    • Fats – 30%
    • Carbohydrates – 30%
  • Make time for rest– Moreover, making time to rest is crucial for muscle recovery and repair, allowing them to build back stronger. For most people, muscle protein synthesis — a key process in muscle growth — lasts between 1 to 2 days after your most recent workout.

Remember, when you’re focused on fitness, it’s easy to get caught up in diet fads and trends that promise to help you reach your goals. But giving yourself the gift of rest isn’t just a mode of psychological self-care — doing so is as vital for your physical health as it is for your mental and emotional well-being.

Make Lean Protein Enjoyable with INVIGOR8

Learning what too much protein means for you is crucial for ensuring your overall health. The ideal amount of protein varies between individuals, underscoring the importance of balance in any diet — no matter what fitness milestones you’re trying to reach.

Fortunately, INVIGOR8’s All-in-One Superfood Shake was created to deliver lean protein in a delicious, convenient way so that you can manage your weight and total health more effectively. Whether you’re working on building strength or feeling your best, INVIGOR8 ensures you won’t sacrifice nutrition (or flavor) while meeting your protein needs.

For more support to facilitate your journey to total body well-being, shop INVIGOR8 Superfood Shakes, Collagen Peptides and more today.

 

Sources:

  1. Healthline. Are there risks associated with eating too much protein? 
  2. Harvard Health. How much protein do you need every day? 
  3. The Lancet. The impact of dietary protein intake on longevity and Metabolic Health.   
  4. Verywell Fit. Why protein is important for workout recovery 
  5. WebMD. Protein: Why your body needs it
  6. Healthline. 10 science-backed reasons to eat more protein
  7. Cleveland Clinic. Is it possible to eat too much protein? 
  8. Healthline. Protein poisoning: Definition and symptoms
  9. Healthline. What is Keto Breath, and how can you get rid of it?
  10. Healthline.Protein poisoning: Definition and symptoms
  11. NIH. Summary tables - dietary reference intakes for calcium and vitamin D
  12. Harvard Health. How much protein do you need every day? 
  13. Verywell Fit. How to figure out your daily macros 
  14. Healthline. Muscular hypertrophy: The science and steps for building muscle 

About the Author

 Mara Welty
Mara Welty

Mara Welty is a copywriter who specializes in health, wellness and CBD topics. With a background in journalism, she aims to deliver engaging, research-based content that builds trust and engages readers through informative storytelling.

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