Can you eat too much protein?
September 7, 2021

As an advocate of a high protein diet for weight loss I get asked can you eat too much protein a lot. It’s a welcome and valid question. I always encourage people to email me with questions before they jump into the Protein Priority Diet. When you feel secure in your choices, getting questions like can you eat too much protein answered is going to help you feel confident in your diet regimen.

Can you eat too much protein?

I googled “can you eat too much protein” and the answer was overwhelmingly YES! Page after page of warnings about excessive protein intake. So I googled “can you eat too much fat” and the answer was also overwhelmingly YES! Guess what happened when I googled “can you eat too many carbs”! YES!! That is not helpful.

The fact is that no studies have ever shown that, in a relatively healthy person without preexisting kidney disease, there doesn’t seem to be a toxic amount (LINK). Much like carbs and fat, the longer you eat too much of it, the more likely it is to cause health issues. But that isn’t surprising. Too much of anything is not good!

How much protein is too much?

How long is a piece of string? It depends! Just like your piece of string, your personal “too much” amount of protein depends on a number of factors including your height and your activity level. If you are doing triathlons regularly you’re going to need more protein. Like me, if you are allergic to exercise, you’ll need less.

When you have excess body fat, eating a higher proportion of calories from protein isn’t going to cause any issues because you have plenty of fat on your body to use. It’s almost impossible to get pure protein without some fat, so don’t think that you can eat pure protein for faster weight loss. It doesn’t work like that. Fat is not only calories, it also provides nutrition, vitamins and minerals that are essential for health. Low fat not no fat. 

Protein has many jobs

The problem with eating too little protein, like the RDA of 0.8g per kg of body weight, is that it’s just not enough for all the jobs that protein has. Whatever protein you eat will be divided up among a few processes. 

A portion of protein turns to glucose, no matter how much you eat. In a low carb diet, that is not a problem because glucose is low anyway.

 A portion of protein is used for gluconeogenesis.  GNG (gluconeogenesis) is always on, no matter how much glucose (carbs) you eat, GNG will still happen. Your body needs protein to do this. 

Another portion of protein goes towards actually digesting the protein you just ate.  Every time you eat protein, you can literally cleave off 20% to 30% of the calories because it takes the extra effort to digest protein. This is called the thermogenic effect of protein. Although not all sources agree on the exact numbers, everyone agrees that protein has a much higher thermic effect (20-30%) compared to carbs (5-10%) and fat (0-3%).

Why the RDA for protein is not enough

Because protein has all of these jobs and is divided up, the more you eat, the more “spare” protein your body has to do things like grow hair, keep lean muscle healthy and keep all the cells in your body as healthy as possible. If you don’t eat enough protein, your body will start to use your lean muscle for gluconeogenesis and as a consequence your metabolism will slow because you don’t have as much muscle to burn calories. 

You can see that protein is a vitally important macro, the most important for weight loss in my opinion. You need some dietary fat to make sure you are getting a well rounded nutritional profile including vitamins and minerals (some vitamins like D, E, A and K require fat to be absorbed by your body).


Protein is the key to weight loss

More protein burns more calories (thermic effect), is better at keeping you full. It also keeps your metabolism well balanced and keeping your body healthy. I am a huge protein fan. Although animal protein is superior nutritionally, you can do this on a vegetarian or vegan diet. As long as you are getting enough protein, you will lose weight. 

If you want to get in on the ground and kickstart your weight loss come and join us in Protein Priority Diet Members’ community. If you are not interested in joining us, that is ok, you can still do this by yourself. Make protein a priority in your diet, keep processed food low and eat whole food as much as possible.

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