Author: Raj Chandler • Fact checked by: Tara D. Thies • Sept. 29, 2020
As the “building block” of muscle, protein is an important macronutrient that everyone needs to consume enough of each day. It’s not only important for muscle – protein is also vital for the health of your skin, hair and nails.
Protein is also ubiquitous in the supplement industry. You can find it in all types of powders, bars, and gels that line the shelves of nearly every neighborhood supermarket. People who aren’t able to meet their daily protein goals through food alone can find all kinds of supplements to help them get enough protein each day.
But like any good thing, there may come a time where you have too much protein. This is the point at which you've maximized the body’s ability to use protein for important processes such as muscle synthesis, bone repair, and preventing the degradation of existing muscle mass.
Having too much protein every day for a long period can cause a number of different issues with digestion, kidneys and the vascular system. These risks are compounded by the dangers of eating many foods associated with protein, such as red meats.
The general consensus based on published health data is to consume no more than two grams of protein per kilogram of body weight each day. This article will help set a daily protein intake goal, understand why you shouldn’t have too many grams of protein each day and explain some of the risk factors that people who eat too much protein may face.
As mentioned, protein is necessary for people of all ages and fitness levels. It’s comprised of long chains of amino acids that help you feel full, protect your bones as you age, and help you build muscle mass that can improve strength.
The amount of protein that each person consumes per day will differ depending on their age, gender and fitness goals.
Generally speaking, healthy adults should aim to eat a minimum of 0.8 grams of protein per kilogram of bodyweight, or 0.35 grams of protein per pound. Elite athletes, bodybuilders, and others looking to build muscle can benefit from consuming anywhere from 1.5 to 2 grams of protein per kilogram of bodyweight, depending on their fitness and health goals.
Discovering how much protein you should eat each day will require some trial and error. Besides your body weight, you also want to think about your daily habits and preferences. Based on existing research, experts believe that healthy adults can safely tolerate up to 2 grams of protein per kilogram of bodyweight. Many people consume more than this amount each day, but sustained protein intake above this level has not been researched extensively to understand the long term effects. As long as you don’t consume more than 2 grams of protein per kg of bodyweight, you’ll be within a safe daily threshold.
Someone who is having too much protein each day is likely eating a diet that puts them in a caloric surplus, when the amount of daily calories they consume is higher than what they burn. This could lead to unintentional weight gain. While there are safe ways to gain weight, if that is your primary goal, putting it on too quickly could lead to unhealthy body fat levels. Even if you consume protein from low-fat sources, having excessive amounts each day could cause your body to keep it in fat stores for energy.
Some studies have connected high-protein diets with a higher risk of gaining weight. However, a lot of the risk is dependent on the sources of protein you eat and the rest of your diet and fitness routine. Your daily activity levels also play a role in whether or not you gain weight.
Weight gain is only one potential problem associated with consuming too much protein each day. There are several other serious health risks to consider.
Consuming too much protein has also been linked to kidney issues, although most studies suggest that this risk is highest in those with pre-existing renal conditions. According to Harvard Medical School, people who consume diets very high in protein are also at a greater risk of kidney stones.
A recent study also suggested that the specific type and quality of the protein in your diet may have an impact on kidney health. It went on to state that diets high in animal protein may put you at a higher risk of kidney disease than plant proteins. For this reason, it may be better to get your protein from plant-based sources such as nuts and beans.
Bone density loss. Multiple scientific articles have connected excessively high protein intake with a loss of calcium and other minerals in the bones.
Heart disease. Many who consume a traditional high-protein diet eat a lot of animal meat, which is more associated with heart disease than plant-based protein: especially red meat. A 2011 study connected higher levels of red meat consumption with an increased risk of heart failure.
Dehydration. A study of endurance athletes correlated high-protein diets with a higher frequency of dehydration. Chronic dehydration can cause a number of serious issues including fatigue and excess hunger.
Constipation/Diarrhea: If you’re getting a ton of protein in your diet, chances are you’re replacing other foods with these protein-rich sources. Some of the foods you may be eating less of include fruits, vegetables and whole grains, our primary sources of fiber in the diet. Without enough fiber, people can experience issues like constipation and diarrhea.
It should also be noted that certain forms of protein have a higher risk profile than others. For example, eating high levels of processed meats is associated with a number of serious health conditions including cancer.
The best way to be sure that your daily protein consumption is healthy is to get in touch with a professional, such as a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist . These experts are well-versed in all things nutrition and can help you to determine appropriate calorie, macronutrient, and overall dietary goals and strategies to achieve your health and fitness objectives.
Also think about your daily habits and routine. For some people, it makes more sense to consume more protein in the morning. Others may prefer to have a high-protein meal later in the day after work or school. Creating a meal plan – even if it is informal and flexible – may help you better track the amount of dietary protein you're consuming.
Finally, consider using supplements such as protein powder derived from whey and other healthy protein sources. Whey protein powder products make it easy to portion out exact amounts of protein, giving you a higher degree of control over the number of grams you eat each day.
Protein is an important nutrient for everyone. In recent years, many diets such as paleo and keto have emphasized high levels of lean protein while minimizing carbs. There is nothing wrong with consuming a high amount of protein each day, as long as you don’t have more than 2 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight per day for an extended period.
The official recommended dietary allowance (RDA) for protein is 0.8 grams per Most people will want to stay within the range of 0.8 to 1.8 grams of protein per kilogram of bodyweight. It's also important to meet your protein needs through healthy eating. Too much red meat and animal protein can lead to serious negative side effects such as heart disease, vascular issues and other health problems.
By planning out your meals, incorporating healthy supplements like protein powder, and trying to get most of your dietary protein intake from lean meats and plant-based sources, you can get all of the nutrients you need without putting yourself at risk of serious health problems, weight gain or other dangers associated with excessively higher intakes of protein.
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