I was asked the other day if having a high protein diet can cause kidney damage or even kidney stones.
I think this is an important question because so many people are on high protein diets. Or, they put a lot of emphasis on getting protein with all their meals.
This is especially true for people who are working out and wanting to gain muscle or even when dieting to lose fat.
Plus, so many people are also drinking more protein shakes using one of the most popular supplements on the planet and the most popular protein powder – which uses whey protein.
So today I’m going to talk about:
- Clinical evidence regarding protein intake and how it affects kidney function
- If high protein is linked to kidney stones
- I’ll also reveal my personal experience with high protein diets – including people I personally know who were on kidney dialysis and how two of them died
- And how much protein you need and the best type of protein to eat, including powders
Can Protein Cause Kidney Damage?
The kidneys are remarkable organs that filter waste compounds, excess nutrients, and liquids out of the bloodstream, producing urine.
About 20% of the blood your heart pumps through your body goes to the kidneys… which is about 48 gallons (180 liters) of the blood being filtered through the kidneys every single day.
So, they are working a lot.
And unlike the liver, your kidneys don’t have regenerative properties. So, you better take good care of them.
Eating a high-protein meal can raise the pressure inside the kidneys and cause them to filter more blood than usual, which means more stress.1, 2, and doing this 5-7x daily with a high protein diet that many workout people are following, puts constant stress on the kidneys all day long.
However, a detailed review of 74 short-term studies on protein’s effects on the kidneys concluded that there is no reason to restrict protein intake in healthy people.3
Unfortunately, there is evidence that a high-protein diet can be harmful, especially for people with kidney disease and cause further damage.4, 5
SUMMARY: Based on the short-term studies, if you are a healthy person and don’t have kidney disease, then you can enjoy a higher protein diet.
NOTE: Please keep in mind that all of these studies were not long-term, with people who ate high protein diets for months and years at a time, as many of us do. And I personally have in the past.
Additionally, there’s more to this situation and I want to share some personal stories with you in a minute.
Including myself eating a very high protein diet and multiple people in my life having kidney damage and two people that actually died from kidney failure.
However, let’s first talk about kidney stones.
Does A High Protein Diet Cause Kidney Stones
The answer is yes based on clinical studies stating that diets heavy on foods that are high in protein, especially if combined with low carbohydrates, can increase the risk of kidney stones and reduce the body’s ability to absorb calcium after just six weeks.6
I’ll be doing a more detailed article in the near future about kidney stones, what causes them, and how to prevent them from happening.
Needless to say, if you have had kidney stones or have a family history or similar, make sure you lower your protein intake, especially from animal sources.
So far what we’ve learned is that:
- Short-term studies show that in healthy people, high protein diets don’t negatively affect your kidneys
- If you’re concerned about kidney stones, then yes – higher protein diets do make this situation worse
Now, in part two I’ll reveal:
- My personal story with high protein diets, including kidney damage and death.
- How much protein you should eat, which will allow you to still gain muscle and lose fat, without harming your kidneys
- The best and safest protein sources