Can too much protein be dangerous?

by | Sep 28, 2020 | Macronutrients, Nutrition, NUTRITIONAL GUIDE | 0 comments

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Proteins are the building blocks of our organism, which maintain our structure throughout the body.

They are made up of about 100 amino acids linked together. Some of these amino acids are said to be indispensable because they must be provided by the diet. Our body can reproduce the rest of the amino acids by using other molecules and restructuring them.

Proteins make up many indispensable elements such as antibodies (immune system), collagen (a component of skin and bones), hormones, enzymes, muscle tissue and much more!

Proteins are found in most of the foods we eat, including meats, eggs, dairy products, but also cereals, legumes, and many others.

We must consume protein every day but some people consume large quantities of it, especially to obtain more muscle mass. Is this practice dangerous?


Most health organizations around the world set a minimum rate of:

0.8g of protein per kg of body weight per day, so for a man weighing 70kg (154lbs), this represents 56g of protein per day.

For a rather active person, who plays sports, who has a weight loss goal and wants to minimize his loss of muscle mass, studies set rates between:

1.2g to 1.8g . So 84g to 126g per day for a 70kg (154lbs) man.

For very active people, who wish to maximize their muscle mass gains, rates can be set between:

1.6 to 2.2g. So 112g to 154g per day for a 70kg (154lbs) man.

Some studies even suggest that an intake of up to 3g per kg could improve performance without danger to health, which still represents 210g per day for a 70kg (154lbs) man.

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It is often said that proteins are harmful to the kidneys because they must be filtered out of the urine to remove residues.

No studies to date have shown that high protein consumption is toxic to the kidneys EXCEPT in people with kidney failure. In fact, in people with kidney failure, the higher the consumption, the greater the risk of their kidneys deteriorating.

And that’s how the idea spread that proteins had a deleterious effect on the kidneys for EVERYONE.

Be careful, you must however avoid excesses as well as excessive protein intake from one day to the next. Small regular intakes should be preferred. The more protein-rich the diet, the larger the kidneys become (increase in glomerular filtration rate) The various scientific observations over the short and long term show that the kidneys do adapt, but without dangerous consequences. Conversely, if one eats less protein, the size decreases slightly. It’s a bit similar to muscles, when you train them with a sport activity, they adapt.

It is therefore a normal biological and physiological reaction, not a sign of kidney weakness.

It is nevertheless necessary to take care not to exceed 3g per kilo of weight and per day (210g for a person of 70 kg or 154lbs) especially in an untrained person, because a very high protein intake can have an acidifying role on the body and cause various pathologies if the diet is not adapted.

Take care of your kidneys because kidney damage is irreversible. It is therefore important to increase water intake if protein intake is increased.

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Although it is not mandatory to have a high consumption of protein, it is necessary to consume a minimum of it every day to preserve your body!

With a lack of protein, the body cannot maintain its various structures and above all renew the cells in an optimal way to replace the dead ones. Most secretions and synthesis are slowed down when there is a protein deficiency.

Here are some side effects:

➔ Loss of muscle mass, fat gain

➔ Joint weakness

➔ Lack of muscle tone

➔ Immune system weakened by lack of immunoglobulin

➔ Digestion problem due to lack of enzymes

➔ Increased risk of infection

➔ Bone fragility

➔ Hair loss due to lack of keratin

➔ Sleep disorders due to lack of melatonin

➔ Undernutrition, hypoalbuminemia (transport protein essential for the body)

It is therefore necessary to consume a minimum amount of protein on a daily basis to maintain a “safe” threshold for your body.

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Here is a list of protein-rich foods, from animal or vegetable sources, that you can include in your diet:

  • Animal origin

– chicken/turkey escalope
– minced steak 5% or 15% fat
– low salt white ham (nitrite-free)
– salmon, hake, cod, etc…
– canned sardines / herring / mackerel
– canned tuna
– organic eggs
– cottage cheese 0% or 3% fat
– raw or fresh cow, goat or sheep milk (avoid UHT milk)

  • Plant origin

– amaranth
– quinoa
– seitan
– soya (tofu, tempeh, edamame)
– lentils
– beans (red, black, white)
– chickpeas
– hemp
– small and large spelt
– buckwheat
– teff
– sourdough breads (with spelt, barley, rye, buckwheat, etc.)
– oats
– wild rice
– oil seeds (almonds, walnuts/macadamia/cajou/brisil, etc.)


The main factor of renal insufficiency would actually be arterial hypertension linked to too high intakes of table salt (acidifying) as well as a too low consumption of fruits and vegetables (basifying and potassium-rich effects).

Therefore, if a high protein intake is not associated with sufficient plant intakes, there is a strong chance of developing an acidic soil in the body and thus promoting muscle wasting and demineralization of the skeleton.

What to do:

➔ Control your salt intake (be careful not to remove it)
➔ Include enough vegetables in your diet
➔ Do not suddenly increase your protein intake overnight.
➔ Increase water supplies if necessary
➔ Avoid highly processed and industrial products
➔ Give preference to raw, locally produced and organic food if possible
➔ Fractionate intakes into small meals especially in cases of intakes greater than 1.5g/kg per day


Article written by Yann Harstein, dietician at Foodvisor


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