Fact checked by Nick Blackmer
High protein diets can help with weight management, wound healing, and building muscle.
You shouldn’t eat too much protein. Eating more protein than recommended won’t have health benefits and could actually cause side effects.
If you eat more than 2 grams per kilogram of body weight per day, you might start experiencing symptoms ranging from GI discomfort and dehydration to kidney disease.
Protein is an amino-acid-packed nutrient that you need for muscle, bone, and immune system health. While upping your protein intake can be beneficial in some cases, it isn’t helpful at other times and can even lead to side effects and health problems.
“More isn’t always better when it comes to supporting muscle health,” Colleen Rauchut Tewksbury, PhD, RDN, a national spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, told Verywell. “Instead, you should focus on how much, how often. Research suggests that more than that does not have much benefit and could even lead to overconsumption.”
The recommended daily intake of protein varies depending on your overall health and how much physical activity you do in a day. The current Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) is 46 grams for women and 56 grams of protein for men.
The RDA varies depending on your fitness and health goals—for example, you may need more protein as you age to offset losing muscle mass or if you want to build more muscle in the gym—but the daily limit should not exceed 2 grams per kilogram of body weight per day. If you tip over this limit chronically, you’re likely to experience digestive, renal, or vascular problems. While a healthy body typically won’t have a problem metabolizing extra protein, people with certain underlying chronic conditions may experience dangerous health consequences from eating excessive protein.
How do you know you’re eating too much protein? Here’s how to identify the signs.
Stinky breath can be a sign that you’re in ketosis—when your body burns fat instead of glucose as its main energy source. Ketosis is associated with a high-protein diet, including the Keto diet.
Acetone is a byproduct of fat breaking down in the body. Its particles are small, so it’s easily exhaled. Acetone can make your breath smell fruity or like nail polish. Some research suggests that in healthy people, “keto breath” can be an indicator of fat loss if they’re on a low-carb diet like Keto.
If you start eating more protein, you’ll probably start urinating more often because your kidneys are working harder to metabolize the excess nutrient. All that urinating can lead to dehydration, so it’s important to drink lots of water if you are on a high-protein diet.
Eating more protein than your body can handle can lead to weight gain in a few ways that aren’t related to putting on muscle.
More protein usually means more calories, and the protein source you choose may be packed with saturated fat. Additionally, your body converts excess protein into sugar that gets stored as fat. Over time, these factors can contribute to weight gain.
Gastrointestinal symptoms are pretty common if you’re eating more protein. A diet high in protein (especially animal protein) and low in fiber can lead to constipation, nausea, diarrhea, and stomach pain.
Certain sources of protein, like meat, can take more work for your body to break down. Some people also tend to have a hard time digesting whole nuts, especially if they don’t chew them well.
You might be more likely to notice GI side effects if you’re relying heavily on protein supplements, shakes, powders, and bars if they contain ingredients like sugar alcohols.
Protein can have positive and negative effects on your cardiovascular system depending on the types of protein you eat.
Plant-based protein like legumes, nuts, seeds, fish and seafood can benefit your heart health, while animal-based protein like red meat, processed meat and foods can increase your risk of heart disease.
Kidney and Liver Trouble
If you have kidney or liver disease, the process of breaking down excess protein can be too much work. Eating too much protein if you have kidney disease can even contribute to renal (kidney) failure.
Another issue is ammonia, a byproduct of metabolizing protein that is excreted in urine. If you have poor kidney or liver function, ammonia can reach toxic levels and cause dangerous side effects in your body.
When Should You Actually Increase Your Protein Intake?
You may want to consider increasing your protein intake if:
You are trying to build muscle.
You are supporting healing wounds.
You are an older adult trying to maintain muscle mass.
You are a high-intensity exerciser.
For most people, there are no health benefits to consuming more than the RDA of protein per day. And protein isn’t the only nutrient you should be prioritizing.
“A normal functioning body can get rid of excess protein consumed in the diet, but when you focus on only protein, you may be missing essential fiber and carbohydrates.” Leah Groppo, RD, a clinical dietitian with Stanford Health, told Verywell. “We should focus more on what our plate looks like instead of focusing on a number.”
What This Means For You
There’s no benefit, and can be side effects, to eating more protein than your body needs and can actually use. Staying within the recommended daily amount of protein will be enough to support your health goals and avoid the potentially serious consequences of eating too much protein.
Read Next: 20 Healthy High-Protein Snacks
Read the original article on Verywell Health.