A lot of people including myself eat diets rich in protein. There’s nothing wrong with eating protein, in fact, many physicians encourage it. The problems with high protein diets come in to play when that’s all you eat. Protein requirements increase with age, activity level, health and medical conditions. A healthy average person on a 2000 calorie diet should eat between 80-120g protein/day at max, that’s .8g/kg/day. However, like anything else in life, too much of one thing has it’s problems.
1. Poor variety, not enough nutrients
When you’re indulging in a high protein diet, you are not getting enough of the other nutrients your body needs. You end up depriving body of healthy fats which are important for our bodies to function as well as carbohydrates and fiber. A lot of time people skip out on these nutrients and you end up becoming deficient in vitamins and minerals. By not eating carbohydrates you end up missing out on cardio-protective and cancer-protective phytonutrients that are nourishing to your body and overall health.
2. Low fiber = constipation
On a high protein diet not only are you not getting other nutrients, but you are also getting less fiber which can lead to constipation. If you’ve ever dealt with constipation, then you know it can lead to other things. Fiber is your friend! Remember you want to get about 30-35g fiber/day. The best type of fiber is rich,green, plant based foods. Also,try adding chia seeds, flax seeds or plain old psyllium for extra fiber support; your bowels will thank you for it.
3. Long term kidney damage
Too much protein, over 180g/day or >2kg/day, can lead to kidney problems in the long run. You will start spilling protein in your urine and can end up with long term kidney damage which can lead to dialysis. Chronic kidney patients as well as patients with liver problems should actually limit their protein intake. So always discuss your change in diet with your medical provider as they know your medical history and you best!
4. Increased Risk of Kidney stones
People who are on high protein diets are more likely to have kidney stones. This is caused by increased urinary calcium excretion which eventually also eventually leads to osteoporosis. Another reason it’s good to eat just enough protein your body needs and not over do it. If you’ve ever experienced kidney stones, you’ll do everything to avoid it because it’s extremely painful and uncomfortable.
5. Not sustainable long term
Many people do high protein diets to lose weight but then gain it back when they start eating “normally” again. The problem is this diet is not sustainable long term, nor do you want medical problems because of your diet. Remember, everything in moderation. Also depending on the type of protein you eat, you can actually gain weight and increase your bad cholesterol (LDL) levels. High protein diets work best for fast short term weight lost, but maintenance is often harder to achieve. This type of diet leads to “yo yo dieting” and actually decreases your metabolism in the long run.
6. Increase Risk of Depression
Ever noticed why people on high protein diets are crabby, well that’s because they’re body is not releasing enough serotonin. Serotonin is a neuroreceptor that keeps us happy, and when it’s not circulating appropriately, then it can lead to depression. This is why people turn to carbohydrates and emotionally eat! Carbohydrates release serotonin, which does not occur when you’re on a strict protein diet. People on high protein diets are more likely to be irritable, and depressed.