Consuming Too Much Protein Is Not Healthy!

Protein is one of today’s diet darlings. According to new research from Mintel, introductions of foods and drinks making a high protein claim are almost three times higher in the US than anywhere else in the world, accounting for 19% of global new product launches in 2012. (1)

But I am here to tell you that consuming too much protein in the diet is not only unnecessary, it is dangerous! This includes isolated plant protein.  Today you will learn why consuming too much isolated plant protein can lead to serious health issues.

Since I am going to concentrate on isolated plant proteins (shakes, bars, etc.), let’s refresh some of the things you already know about animal protein.

In the past, we have established that:

  • animal protein is not superior to plant protein, and, therefore, is not necessary;
  • no intentional food complementing (food combining) is necessary when it comes to obtaining plant protein (2), and
  • we should not need to supplement with plant-based protein shakes/bars, even if we are avid athletes

While animal protein is acid forming, cancer promoting and contributes to cardiovascular problems, among other issues (make sure to revisit Vegan Protein articles), consuming too much of any protein (animal or isolated plant protein) can lead to the buildup of toxic ketones, substances made when the body uses its own fat cells for fuel in the absence of sufficient carbohydrates.

Consuming Too Much Protein Isn’t Healthy!


Preferred Energy Source

Carbohydrate is the preferred energy source of the body. Our bodies are designed to function primarily off it. We should consume at least 75-80% of our calories from carbohydrate sources.

Protein is used for building muscle, and is not an efficient source of fuel. As such, our bodies cannot store much protein. Even World Health Organization recommends protein intake to stay under 10%. There was a time when their recommendation was for 2.5% of our diet to come from protein sources, and only (relatively) recently they increased their recommendations to range from 5-8%.

If we consume too much protein and not enough carbohydrates, which is used as the main source of energy for the body, the body will try to convert it to a carbohydrate-like substance that can be used for energy. 

Toxic Exchange | Kidneys

One of the unique elements of protein is nitrogen. When body is forced to break down proteins to convert them to carbohydrate-like substance, too much nitrogen is released. With too much protein consumption, there is too much nitrogen in the body. When nitrogen is released during the breakdown process, it throws off byproducts: ammonia, uric acid and urea, which are toxic to our bodies in high amounts.

The organs that are stuck processing these waste byproducts are our kidneys. This process puts a strain on the kidneys, which have to work hard to expel nitrogen through urine. This is one of the reasons why people on high protein, low-carb diets eventually have kidney problems. Unfortunately individuals consuming such diets do not generally know that they induced kidney problems until there is serious loss of function.  For example, diabetics who eat a high protein diet of any type, who live long enough to have kidney problems, will need dialyses, and some will require kidney transplants. Eating low-protein diets will reduce the excess levels of nitrogen and can also help prevent kidney disease. 

By consuming too much protein, even plant protein, we blow out our kidneys. While we do not get the same cancer promoting effect from plant protein as we would with animal protein, we do get a negative effect from eating too much plant protein.  If you are a healthy whole food plant eater who does not supplement with protein supplements, you have nothing to worry about–you cannot consume too much protein.

Other High Protein Induced Health Issues

So, we now established that consuming too much protein can lead to kidney disease.  However, excess protein intake has also been linked to other health issues.

Too much protein can also contribute to severe liver problems, like hepatic encephalopathy, which reduces the liver’s ability to transform the ammonia released as a byproduct of protein digestion into a harmless substance. When the kidneys and liver can’t function smoothly, that contributes to even more toxicity in the body, and ultimately more sickness. (5)

Excess protein intake also leads to osteoporosis, calcium stones in the urinary tract, and some cancers (case with animal protein).

Diets rich in animal protein cause people to excrete more calcium than normal through their kidneys and increase the risk of osteoporosis. Countries with lower-protein diets have lower rates of osteoporosis and hip fractures.

Increased calcium excretion increases risk for kidney stones. Researchers in England found that when people added about 5 ounces of fish (about 34 grams of protein) to a normal diet, the risk of forming urinary tract stones increased by as much as 250 percent. (3)

Even the American Heart Association recommends against high-protein, low-carbohydrate diets, because they often contain high-fat foods, which can lead to deficiencies in some nutrients, fiber, minerals and vitamins and make individuals more prone to developing cardiovascular health issues. (4)

Don’t Athletes Need to Supplement?

We have been effectively convinced that athletes, and especially body builders, must supplement with protein in order to grow their big muscles.  But how much of it is true? Not much!

When it comes to athletes, there is an error of attribution. While athletes need more protein, it is only a small amount. What athletes have a need for is more calories. Where the athletes get the calories is almost inconsequential from a calorie standpoint. If you make up the calories deficit, the athlete performs better.  You can see this with high school athletes—they think it is the protein shakes and the Gatorade that makes them perform better. It’s not! It’s making up the calorie deficit that’s helping them play better, last longer, and get stronger.

If you take an athlete, who prior to doing some aggressive training was eating 2500 calories a day and now needs 3500 calories a day, and increase her caloric intake by eating more meals and more calories—the dietary pattern remains the same, but there will be more protein,  and there will also be more carbohydrates. Everything will increase, but proportionate to one another the macronutrients will stay the same.

Athletes need glycogen. Glycogen is the main energy substrate during exercise intensity above 70% of maximal oxygen uptake and fatigue develops when the glycogen stores are depleted in the active muscles. Where do we get glycogen? Glycogen is the storage form of carbohydrates! (6)

After exercise, the rate of glycogen synthesis is increased to replete glycogen stores. So carbohydrates are involved in promoting a good weight lifting, strength training, and other types of physical activities.

No Need to Count

While people on SAD (Standard American Diet) might have reasons to try to figure out where their nutrients come from, those who consume a whole food plant based diet do not have similar concerns. You want to ensure you get enough protein in your diet? Consume a variety of plant foods, including grains, vegetables, legumes (peas, beans, and lentils), and fruits. As long as you are eating a variety of plant foods in sufficient quantity to maintain your weight, the body gets plenty of protein! 

You can follow a simple principle, set out by the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, when it comes to daily meal planning.


Still not sure where vegan protein comes from? All plants have complete proteins in them in varied amounts! But here are some healthy protein sources (in grams):

  • Black beans, boiled (1 cup) 15.2
  • Broccoli (1 cup) 4.6
  • Bulgur, cooked (1 cup) 5.6
  • Chickpeas, boiled (1 cup) 14.5
  • Lentils, boiled (1 cup) 17.9
  • Quinoa, cooked (1 cup) 11.0
  • Spinach, boiled (1 cup) 5.4
  • Tofu, firm (1/2 cup) 19.9
  • Whole-wheat bread (one slice) 2.7


Now that you know you can and should save the money you would spend on protein supplements, vegan or otherwise, let me know if you have questions or thoughts on this topic. Leave a comment under this post.


Was this article eye opening? Please share it with others, and let’s make this world a healthier place together.


  2. Craig WJ, Mangels AR. Position of the American Dietetic Association: vegetarian diets. J Am Diet Assoc. 2009;109:1266-1282.

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  • Emily Hamilton Campbell

    I’ve suffered from kidney stones for six years now. I’ve switched over to a plant based diet but still have a smoothie every morning that has pea protein in it. I’m worried that consuming even that amount will be too much protein for me. Any advice on this would be helpful. Should I stop eating my smoothies or is pea protein ok? Some things to know: I’m currently nursing and the protein powdered says it has 16g of protein. My last kidney stone was in December 2015. I switched to a plant based diet on March 1, 2016.

    • Emily, is there a reason you are supplementing with protein? If you eat a whole foods, plant based diet, then you should get all the protein you need whether expecting, nursing or neither. If you ask me, I recommend to stop supplementing and getting your protein like the rest of us–from plant foods. I nursed my baby for 2.5 years and never had a problem, and never supplemented with anything, except for taking a daily B12 (make sure to take it–more on that here

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  • COGSx86

    Awesome article, being some what of a vegan, and a guy who works out lots, (6’4, 210 lbs). I have a lot of protein shakes to make the protein deficiency I apparently have. According to most articles I need 200-250 grams of protein a day. But guess what ? just had some blood work done and the only thing that came was high protein in my urine. I mentioned my diet to the my doctor and he said no that shouldn’t affect it. But I was (until now) eating a lot of vega protein (powders). To get my 200+ grams of protein a day. Also found intense workouts can affect this, so I’m sure it’s a combination. Intense workouts put a lot strain on the body, which I love, so time to recalibrate my diet a bit and my workouts. But the real question is, how much protein do I need ? You mentioned 5-8% of daily diet ? Diet being roughly 2500-3000 calories a day all I need is 125 grams ? Have read studies from men’s health that say men with better gains have grams of protein to body weight (200 lbs with 200grams protein) compared to the half protein to body weight. Any suggestion would be greatly appreciated!


    • Awesome question. And here is my suggestion, which I am sure will work great, if you let it :). Do not even think about protein–workout and eat enough calories coming from whole foods. When you do, you will get enough protein, because the more calories you eat, the more plant protein you will consume. Also, remember that protein is not the only thing that we need to build muscle. We need other nutrients too.

      The studies that you are looking at are based on SAD (standard American diet, or the likes of it). They consider animal protein. Animal protein is only half as digestible as plant protein (I think that T Colin Campbell talks about that in the China Study), and is much harder to assimilate. So, if you used that as your guide, you would cut their recommendation by at least 50%, which means that you will get all the protein you need by just consuming enough calories for your weight and activity level. Does this make sense?

      So, if you follow this suggestion, you can save the $$$ you spent on protein shakes and spend it on great quality organic foods to get what you need, in right proportions, and have better lab work next time.

      I would also recommend watching this interview with Dr. Pam Popper–there is a portion when she talks about protein:

      • COGSx86

        Thank you for the feed back, I also bought your recipe book, can’t wait to try some of this stuff.


        • Looking forward to hearing about your progress.

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  • Betseyb

    I am 46. I am 5’8 and weigh 56.8 kg. I am vegan. I do moderate exercise 3 times a week and weight about 1-2 times a week. The trainer I work with at the gym says that I need 80g protein (and I need lots of soy). Based on your article and online calculators I think it should be less, max 45g per week, (which i can get following a varied plant based diet.) Who is right? Also, can you get too much plant based protein (excluding isolated plant protein)?

    • Betsey, if you eat WHOLE plant foods (not extracts) you will NOT overconsume protein. There is just no way. So, you are safe there. So, if you work out more, you will eat more calories, and with that, by default, you will consume more protein. Nothing to worry about.

      I know that there are some sites, especially fitness sites, that oversell protein needs. They are wrong. There is an error of contribution. If they stop supplementing and simply eat more healthy calories, they will get everything that they need to grow muscle.

      It is that simple.

      If your trainer is telling you to stuff yourself with isolates…she is wrong! It is NOT healthy. As a trainer I can tell you that for sure!

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  • whizzDebbie Green

    Very interesting article. I seem to battle to get any specific answer (from any person promoting people to go with out animal protein) of how much protein does a person (even just on a average) need to consume per day to maintain there bodies to flourish and be strong. I am trying to establish what has been scientifically proven to be a specific amount, so that the body not only survives but actually thrive. Because even people in poor countries eat Legumes and grains (just because that is all there is for them) but they are by no means healthy. I may sound a bit of a sceptic but truth be told I have been contemplating becoming vegetarian because of all the antibiotics and hormones that is pump into meat.Yet have not done so because (although all these reasons seem so compelling) I find that the answers are very broad and non specific. Also we have been on the path of getting pregnant for a while now and a few month’s ago spoke to a Naturpath (and a acupuncturist confirm this)and she very specifically said to me that it is far tougher for vegetarians to become pregnant .There are very essential amino acids, that is needed for good sperm and egg production, that are hard to get enough of (on a daily basis) to create healthy sperm and eggs for conception. So my question was if it is harder to conceive as a vegetarian then is it really as healthy as what I thought it is to be vegetarian. Even if you are able to eat a broad enough spectrim of plant proteins from what I have investigated you need to eat large amounts of vegetables and fruits (daily) to get sufficient amount protein in (and I have based that “sufficient amount” on the values that are provided by the government of 0.8 grams per body mass which is on the lower end not even the extreme suggestion- because I haven’t found any one promoting plant based eating say what IS a “sufficient amount” or even make a average suggestion). The other point that is being eluded is the importance of getting all 22 essential amino acids in every day and that plants don’t have all the essential amino acids in them. Once again they need to be mixed up to get them so what are those mixes and the again amounts of each? I know in general people eat way to much protein and that needs to be changed but finding out that to little protein could be part of the cause of not getting pregnant yet has been a good eye opener even to my pro plant based and eating raw stand that I have. Maybe you can enlighten me diffrently

    • Debbie, it seems that you might have found an answer to “how much” in one of these articles:, and

      The reason people who live in third world countries might not be healthy, sometimes, is not because they are eating legumes and grains, but rather because they lack nutrition–there is too little to go around. Societies that do not lack foods and eat a plant based diet thrive. While those eating a primarily meat based fare (like the Inuits) diet young and have terrible health issues.

      It’s ok to be skeptical and ask questions, I did the same. I read and researched until I was sure that it was the only way to live optimally and save our lives.

      So, if you are looking for specific numbers, click through to the articles I just linked and you will find them there. Do remember also, that science is also influenced by funding. For example just a couple of decades ago WHO (world health organization) suggested only 2.5% of our diet come from protein sources, now they increased their number up to 8% for some populations. What you can rely on is human history, which clearly shows that for the most part, while most societies were not vegan, they primarily lived (and thrived) on plant-based foods, using meat as an occasional treat. I personally come from a country where people ate less animal foods overall and were much healthier before the introduction of a Western Diet.

      As for vegetarian pregnancy being tougher, sorry, but I cannot help but laugh at that. Ask them to show you studies, just like you asked me about protein now. Do not take “they said, so it must be right” as a confirmation. Healthy pregnancies are determined by healthy bodies. Certainly some vegans can be junk food eaters and are not better off than those eating SAD (standard american diet), but those who eat the way we do, have no problems conceiving or carrying healthy babies. I personally could not pregnant until after changing my diet and B12 therapy. So, plant-based diet allowed me to be a Mom. I could easily argue with your ND and acupuncturist on the validity and the science of their statements.

      If you read the other articles I linked to, you will see just how easy it is to have all amino acids (I will not regurgitate that information here for the same of my time). You will also learn that plants, in fact, do have all essential amino acids, and, hopefully, your concerns and fears can be put to rest.

      BTW, I recently have helped two wonderful ladies to fine tune their diet to what I teach here, and after years of infertility they were able to conceive. One only a month into my program and another needed about 4 months to allow her body to heal and repair and now they are expectant moms and could not be happier. So, do not believe the “little protein” myth–it cannot be substantiated.

      If you have more heart pressing questions on your quest to health, you should enroll in my body by plants program and let me help you experience health from a plant-based angle. I can assure you that you won’t be disappointed. You can also schedule a personalized consultation. (

      Wishing you all the best!

  • Vanessa

    Thank you for summarizing all of the information regarding the myths of high protein intake. Coming from a heavy background in research, I am wondering if you have some references for the section on your “Toxic Exchange: Kidneys” section. Thank you.

    • I can totally understand. When I have some time over the next few days, I will add them in for you.

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  • Emily

    Thanks so much for posting. My husband is a tradesman and trains in grappling three nights a week. Since adopting a plant based diet he has more energy and is STRONGER, even though his exercise has not changed. People say he is lying and needs more protein – go figure.

    • Emily, that is just another proof that we simply need more calories, and our bodies do the math of what they need, and then get it from the foods we consume.

    • Kas

      Praying my hubby gets on board since he is one of “those” protein guys that SWEARS that he needs two protein shakes and three chicken breasts a day to get the protein intake he needs. Oh geez. lol

      I love how you have written this all out. It’s understandable and full of facts and EXAMPLES which is great.

      • kas

        Can you imagine? That is CRAZY expensive too! Even cheapo chicken at $2/lb adds up when you eat that much! blech

  • Stephanie Mimms

    This is some great information thanks so much for sharing! I have PCOS and was told years ago I had insulin resistance, though I am trying to take necessary steps in healing that primarily naturally. What would be your recommended protein/fat/carb intake for this issue? I read for you that you don’t limit your carbs and in this entry you mentioned around 70%+ percentage from carb sources… Are complex carbs going to hinder my weight loss and be bad for my blood sugar? I’ve also always wondered if bananas are safe (if I have one a day that is .. ). Thanks for your thoughts!

    • Stephanie, here is what I found with ladies who do my program and have PCOS–processes (refined) sugars are bad news for them, not complex carbs. Some are gluten sensitive, while some are not.
      Bananas should be a completely safe food.

      I always recommend to supplement with B12, as that will help your body heal too.

      The development of PCOS results from chronic poor diet and lifestyle choices in most. Diets comprised of dairy and other animal foods, high fat and low fiber, combined with lack of physical activity, lead to weight gain and elevated hormone levels (in most).

      The good news is that PCOS is resolvable by adopting a whole foods plant based diet and adding exercise. Within a few months, as diet improves, weight is lost and physical activity is increased, hormone levels start to normalize and the body should begin to function properly.

      • Stephanie Mimms

        Thanks so much for your response! Yeah, I have taken on the habit of exercise and weight training throughout the week and have lost a ton if weight so far over the year and a half. I also take maca with dim and femaprin to help heal me from the inside, as well as high plant based supplements with a ton of vegetables and super foods. I do consume eggs and coconut oil and greek yogurt and from time to time I will have organic chicken breast and cheese. But when I do consume these things, I make sure they are not treated with any additional hormones. I’m hoping the steps I’m taking are bettering my health. I could never stop eating eggs…but I find I don’t eat as much meat as i used to and I certainly don’t miss it…what percentage of our diet should come from healthy fats?

        • Stephanie, if you want to get better faster, dump all oils, including coconut–they are NOT healing. They actually suppress immune function. Dairy will mess with your hormones, more than you know, so I highly recommend cutting it out. Whether it is treated with additional hormones or not makes little difference, since it is full of hormones, and it also a known carcinogen.

          With eggs, jut like with meat, make sure you do it no more than twice a week and in smaller portions.

          Healthy fats? Depends what you define as a healthy fat. Generally, no more than 15%, but do take a minute to read about what healthy fats should be.

      • Rachel

        PCOS does not result from a chronic poor diet and lifestyle. I know you said in most, but that simply is not true. I think you should read up on it before making such a comment.