Can Too Much Protein Be Bad For You? - Crozer-Keystone Health System - PA

Published on August 21, 2015

Can Too Much Protein Be Bad For You?

Consuming protein is an important part of a balanced diet.

If you’re eating too much protein, you may be
consuming more calories and fat than you need.

Consuming protein is an important part of a balanced diet. Our bodies need protein to build and repair cells. Eating a high-protein breakfast can help you put unhealthy snacking urges at bay. And there have been studies that show consuming a diet higher in protein, especially from fish, may lower the risk of stroke.

However, more protein isn’t necessarily a good thing.

The fact is that most Americans are getting more than enough protein every day and possibly too much from sources like meat, poultry and eggs.

The average man needs roughly 56 grams of protein a day and the average woman typically needs about 46 grams per day. It’s not difficult to consume this amount of protein if you eat two to three servings of protein rich foods per day – a 3-ounce piece of meat contains about 21 grams of protein, an 8-ounce piece of meat could have more than 50 grams, an 8-ounce container of yogurt contains about 11 grams of protein, one cup of milk has 8 grams of protein, and one cup of dry beans has about 16 grams of protein.

However, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, men ages 20 and older get an average of 98.9 grams of protein per day and women ages 20 and up get about 68 grams a day.

Although protein is important to your diet, consuming extra protein won’t help you build more muscle or make you stronger. And if you’re eating too much protein, you are probably consuming more calories and fat than your body needs.

In some cases, more protein can actually be problematic to your health.

Some studies have shown that ever popular high-protein diets, such as the Dukan and Atkins diets, may increase your risk of kidney stones and other renal diseases.

Your kidneys’ job is to filter out waste products made when your body digests protein. Some of the research has suggested that diets higher in protein are putting a greater strain on kidneys.

When someone is on a high-protein diet, they may urinate more calcium than normal – this has been linked to a higher risk of osteoporosis and kidney stones.

While doing their job, one of the waste products produced by the kidneys is blood urea nitrogen – doctors check the level of this to evaluate their patients’ kidney function and to measure how hydrated the person is.

One study found that as a person’s protein consumption increased, their hydration decreased. This is likely due to the fact that they body has to use more water to flush out the additional nitrogen in the system.

To make sure you’re not consuming too much protein, check the portion size. Protein servings of meat, poultry or fish should be about the size and thickness of the palm of your hand, which is about 3 ounces. And if you eat meat, you shouldn’t consume more than two palm-sized servings of meat per day.

When making up your plate, protein should only take up one-third of your plate no matter what form of protein it is. And rather than consuming one large portion of protein once each day, you can try eating smaller amounts of protein at each meal throughout the day to spread out your intake.

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