The Real Side Effects of Consuming Too Much Protein

With all of the protein shakes, protein bars, and protein powders on the market today it’s clear that America has a protein addiction. But why? Could it be our desire to find “health” through supplement shortcuts fueled by marketing hype?

In 2015, the protein market (protein bars, shakes and drinks) was worth $16 billion dollars. Euromonitor international predicts by 2020 the protein market will cruise past $20 billion.

So why is everyone buying into the protein craze? It’s certainly not because Americans are protein deficient. In fact, most Americans consume more protein than their body requires.

Marketers have convinced us that if we are working out, we should be consuming more protein. Every gym carries protein powders and shakes, and sometimes run commercials on the gym televisions about how protein powders are essential for training. Trainers also often push protein powders on clients, and sometimes even make a commission on it.

The truth is, most athletes get the recommended amount of protein through food alone, without the use of supplements. Even for elite athletes, the only benefit of consuming protein through supplements instead of food is convenience.

While athletes’ protein needs are higher than that of non-athletes, the only athletes who need an increased protein intake are body-builders and football players- athletes who are trying to put on lot of bulk and muscle.

Protein is essential for muscle growth because it’s made up of amino acids. Amino acids are the building blocks for muscle tissue and therefore help with muscle
recovery and growth.

list of food containing healthy proteinThe Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, Dietitians of Canada and the American College of Sports Medicine recommend 1.2 to 2.0 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight per day for athletes, depending on training. Most non-athletes need only about 0.7 grams of protein per kilogram to maintain muscle mass.

That means if you are a non-athlete engaged in regular exercise and weigh approximately 150lbs, your recommended protein intake is between 81.6 to 136 grams of protein daily. That sounds like a lot of protein, but it’s really not. For example, 8oz of low-fat Greek yogurt contains 25 grams of protein, 2.5oz of chicken breast contains 19 grams, 1 egg contains 6 grams, and 1 scoop of protein powder contains approx. 27 grams.

I met a gym trainer once who bragged about having 2 daily protein shakes, and a pound of ground turkey every night for dinner. 1 pound of ground turkey contains approximately 122 grams of protein. That means this trainer, who wasn’t trying to become body builder size, was consuming more than his daily-recommended amount of protein, and doing it in one sitting. By adding the 2-daily protein shakes (25g of protein each, assuming he’s not mixing the protein with milk), he’s consuming 172g of protein daily- and that’s before factoring in breakfast, lunch or any snacks.

Consuming too much protein can have very real consequences on your health. Overconsumption of protein can lead to weight gain, loss of calcium in the body leading to weakened bones, and overworked kidneys. These issues can lead to even larger health risks, like kidney disease, type 2 diabetes and even osteoporosis.

This does not mean that protein shakes, powders and bars are unsafe they just need to be used in moderation.

Protein intake should be spaced out throughout the day and after workouts. Research has shown that timing of protein intake plays an important role. Consuming an appropriate amount high-quality protein within two hours after exercise can enhance muscle repair and growth.



The Dietary Supplement Heath and Education Act (DSHEA) enacted by Congress in 1994 shifted the determination of the effectiveness and safety of dietary supplements from the FDA to the manufacturers. Contrary to public perception, a dietary supplement does not need to be shown to be safe or effective before it is marketed to the public.  As a result, the FDA has felt hamstrung in its ability to protect the public from potentially hazardous or useless supplements.


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