12+ Potential Cons to Following a High Protein Diet

Key points of the article: High protein diets offer weight loss benefits, but potential cons include headaches, exhaustion, constipation, bad breath, weight gain, high cholesterol, and kidney stones. Ensure balance and variety in protein sources for overall health.

cons of high protein diet

There are many advantages to a high-protein diet, like weight loss, muscle-building, and other health benefits. Whether you are banting, doing keto, or just consuming a lot of protein, there are positive and negative effects. Understanding the potential cons of following a high-protein diet is essential. 

Some potential cons to a high protein diet include headaches, exhaustion, constipation, bad breath, weight gain, high cholesterol, and kidney stones. It can be unsafe for those with chronic diseases and cause nutritional deficiencies if the high-protein diet being followed is restrictive. 

Following a well-rounded, balanced diet is essential to maintain good health. High protein diets are famous, especially among people who work out a lot or are trying to lose weight. It works wonders if you follow it correctly, but that doesn’t come without challenges. 

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What Are The Disadvantages Of A High Protein Diet? 

Like anything in life, there are good and bad. Something that gives you an advantage in one aspect might be a disadvantage in another. The same goes for high-protein diets. People who follow that lifestyle tend to have excellent results. But they also go through the challenges that come with it, especially if they don’t keep their diet balanced. 

The potential disadvantages of a high-protein diet are lifestyle challenges and health risks. It is also essential to remember that only some protein is good. Animal protein sources like fatty red meats, processed meats, and shellfish are not the healthiest. Foods like eggs, lentils, salmon, etc., are better protein sources. But anything in excess can be harmful, and portion control is necessary. 

Twelve potential cons of a high protein diet are discussed in the following points: 

Restrictive Diet 

When considering following a high-protein diet, you may have to cut out or reduce many other food groups like carbohydrates. You will need to consume fewer fruits, bread, grains, and fiber foods. Your diet can feel highly restricted, and finding alternatives can be challenging and expensive. 

Expensive For The Budget 

grocery store budget

Many protein sources can be pricey. Red meats, protein shakes, seafood, etc., can add up, especially if you eat them a lot. Even lean cuts of beef which are a healthier option, will cost more. High-protein diets require protein at every meal. It also needs snacks to be high in protein. This can be incredibly heavy on the budget. 

Trying to keep up with purchasing different protein sources so you get variety and basing every meal and snack around protein as the primary food group will eventually lead to high grocery budgets. It often leads to failure to keep up with the diet or a lack of other food groups because the budget needs more room for various foods. 

Requires More Preparation 

Following a high-protein diet requires more preparation than other diets. Meat, chicken, seafood, and lentils require more and longer cooking. Eggs are easy to prepare, yogurt only requires you to get a spoon, and no one can live off protein shakes alone. Most other protein-based foods will need some time and effort. 

This is a potential con for someone who doesn’t have the time, doesn’t enjoy cooking, or is on a low budget and can’t purchase high-protein foods. It also requires more meal planning and figuring out what to serve with each protein-heavy meal to get a balanced diet. Many people tend to give up at some point because it can get pretty daunting. 

Exhaustion And Irritability 

High protein diets mean a lack of other food groups, specifically carbs. A lack of carbs reduces energy because the body gets its energy from carbohydrates. Following a high-protein diet can leave you feeling tired and lethargic. 

Carbohydrates also help the body release serotonin (the feel-good) hormone. A lack of carbs or consuming too little because a high protein diet restricts it can lead to depression, anxiety, and high-stress levels. It can leave you feeling like you’ve lost the zest for life, and your brain can’t properly function because you’re tired and in a funk. 

Frequent Urination 

High protein diets mean there is an excess of protein in the body. The kidneys can’t process that excess protein and break it down efficiently. The waste from the protein builds up and leads to frequently needing to pee. There is an increased uric acid production when too much protein is consumed. 

This is also why you may find that your urine is a darker yellow with a pungent smell. You will need to flush out with water and follow a balanced diet, or it could lead to kidney stones. 


Being on a high protein diet means you don’t get enough of other food groups like carbohydrates and reduces fiber intake. Lack of fiber reduces the digestive system’s roughage, leading to bloating, gas, nausea, and constipation

You might notice that your stool is darker or your tummy is not working as regularly as it usually does. It may also be that your stomach does work, but it is difficult and painful. These are all signs of constipation, which means that your digestive system is struggling with excess protein. 


Constipation is only one part of indigestion issues in a high-protein diet and is often the most evident symptom. Other issues like diarrhea, nausea, bloating, excessive gas, smelly gas, and cramping are also potential side effects of a high-protein diet. Protein is tough on the body because it must work hard to break protein down and digest it

The body struggles with the breaking down process when there is too much protein from high-protein diets. This often leads to these digestive problems, which can cause bigger issues if it is not taken care of. A sufficient amount of fiber is crucial with a high protein diet to avoid bowel problems. 


Excess protein in a diet can often lead to headaches. While evidence for this cause is still ongoing, too much protein can lead to dehydration. Dehydration is associated with headaches. There is also a possibility that the sweeteners in certain protein powders cause headaches. 

Milk consumed in protein shakes could also lead to headaches because of lactose intolerance. Headaches directly associated with high protein diets are debatable, mainly due to dehydration. But if you notice headaches after consuming a lot of protein, it is a related disadvantage. 

Bad Breath 

A con of following a high protein diet that not many people realize is bad breath. The body breaks down amino acids and produces ammonia. But when there is an excess, the body struggles to break them down efficiently. It results in excess amino acids. 

This is part of the body’s metabolism and gets eliminated through urinating and exhaling. Ammonia causes a strong odor when it combines with anaerobic bacteria in the mouth. Your mouth may even have a foul taste. 

Weight Gain 

High protein diets are often associated with weight loss because protein keeps you full for longer and reduces cravings. But if a high protein diet is not managed well and there is a lack of other food groups, it can cause weight gain

Similarly, a high-protein diet without sufficient physical activity can also lead to weight gain. When there is too much protein in the body, it gets stored as fat. Over time, a lack of exercise or an unbalanced diet can lead to gaining weight instead of losing or maintaining it.  

High Cholesterol 

High protein diets can cause high cholesterol levels because of the saturated trans fats in protein foods. This is more common with animal proteins like red, processed, and fatty meats. Bad LDL gets raised with trans fats, while good HDL gets lowered. 

High cholesterol levels can lead to heart attacks, strokes, high blood pressure, and other detrimental health risks.  

Kidney Stones 

Protein is hard on the kidneys. Waste builds up in the blood from protein. An excess of protein can lead to the kidneys being unable to remove the extra waste. It can cause kidney stones. This is only a potential cause, and people with preexisting kidney problems are more likely to be affected. 

Frequently Asked Questions

What Are The Pros Of A High Protein Diet? 

The pros of a high-protein diet are: 

  • High-calorie burning and weight loss. 
  • Building and maintenance of muscle mass. 
  • Keeps you full for longer. 

What Are The Symptoms Of Too Much Protein? 

Signs of too much protein are: 

  • Headaches 
  • Constipation 
  • Darkened or smelly stool 
  • Dark yellow urine, often with a potent smell 
  • Bad breath 
  • Bloating 
  • Dehydration 
  • Exhaustion  

Who Should Avoid High Protein Diets? 

People with kidney disease and high cholesterol should avoid high-protein diets. Not all protein is bad, and people with these conditions can still consume healthy protein options in moderation. Fatty proteins should be avoided, and portion control is essential.

Next Steps

High protein diets have many advantages, but an excess of protein in the body can cause potential health risks like cancer, high cholesterol, dehydration, etc. This is specifically from the saturated fat protein types. Portion control and alternatives to high-fat animal protein sources are recommended. 

More FAQs

What are the disadvantages of a high protein diet?

The disadvantages of a high protein diet include an elevated risk of various health issues, such as cancer, as indicated by studies. Consuming excessive amounts of red meat-based protein has been associated with an increased likelihood of developing colorectal, breast, and prostate cancer.

Does a high protein diet cause bloating?

A high protein diet can cause bloating if you do not adjust your caloric intake from other sources accordingly. It is important to consider your daily calorie needs and make sure you are accommodating more protein within your normal caloric intake, rather than consuming it in addition to your regular intake.

Does high protein affect weight loss?

High protein does have an impact on weight loss. It affects both the intake and expenditure of calories. This means that high-protein diets can lead to weight loss, even without intentionally reducing calorie intake, portion sizes, or fat and carbohydrate consumption. Numerous studies have shown this to be the case.

Is a high protein diet hard on kidneys?

A high protein diet may potentially exert stress on the kidneys by causing intraglomerular hypertension, leading to kidney hyperfiltration, glomerular injury, and proteinuria. There is a possibility that prolonged consumption of high protein may contribute to the development of chronic kidney disease (CKD).

What do high-protein foods do for your body?

High-protein foods provide various benefits to the body. They are composed of amino acids, which are essential for muscle and bone development, hormone and enzyme production, and can even serve as an energy source.

How much protein should I eat in a day?

The amount of protein needed in a day varies depending on individual factors. On average, most adults require approximately 0.75g of protein per kilo of body weight daily. For women, this equates to around 45g, while men typically need about 55g. To meet this requirement, aim for two servings of meat, fish, nuts, or tofu each day. A helpful guideline is that a protein portion should be roughly the size of your palm.

Do protein shakes have side effects?

Protein shakes can have side effects when consumed in excess, leading to various allergic reactions and negative outcomes. Overconsumption may result in indigestion, heightened bowel movements, bloating, flatulence, diarrhea, cramps, mood swings, and even weight gain.

What are the pros and cons of a high protein diet?

A high protein diet has both advantages and disadvantages. On the positive side, this type of diet can reduce hunger, increase muscle mass and strength, and boost metabolism. However, there are also drawbacks to consider, such as potential weight gain and an imbalance in nutritional intake. It is important to be mindful of not consuming excessive amounts of protein-rich foods.

Is high-protein good if you want to lose weight?

High-protein is beneficial for weight loss as it not only aids in shedding pounds but also assists in maintaining the achieved weight loss in the long run. In fact, consuming a high-protein diet can lead to weight reduction without the need for calorie counting, portion control, or carbohydrate restriction. Additionally, incorporating a moderate increase in protein intake can help prevent weight regain.

Does high-protein cause fat loss?

High-protein intake leads to fat loss during intentional calorie restriction, as demonstrated in a 12-month study involving 130 overweight individuals. The group consuming a high-protein diet lost 53% more body fat compared to the normal-protein group, despite both groups consuming the same number of calories (30).

Is having a high-protein diet supposed?

Having a high-protein diet is beneficial for several reasons. Firstly, protein plays a crucial role in repairing muscle damage caused by exercise. Additionally, protein contributes to brain development, hormone regulation, and various bodily functions. Moreover, consuming protein can help increase satiety, allowing you to feel more satisfied while consuming fewer calories.

Are high-protein diets bad for longevity?

High-protein diets may have negative effects on longevity, as adults aged 50 to 65 who consumed a high amount of protein experienced a 75% increase in overall mortality and were four times more likely to die from cancer over the next 18 years compared to those who consumed a low amount of protein.

How much protein do I need for a 2500 calorie diet?

The amount of protein needed for a 2500 calorie diet is 250 grams, along with 250 grams of carbs and 55 grams of fat.

What are the signs of too much protein?

The signs of excessive protein intake include dehydration, liver issues, weight gain, constipation, kidney damage, bad breath, and an increased risk of heart diseases. Additionally, here are the top five moisturizers recommended for acne-prone skin.

What happens if protein is very high?

If protein levels are very high, it can be associated with various medical conditions and problems, including dehydration, chronic inflammation, inflammatory disorders, and viral infections like hepatitis B, hepatitis C, or HIV/AIDS.

Does protein turn into fat if you don’t workout?

Protein does not turn into fat if you don’t workout, but consuming excess protein without exercise can lead to its storage as fat.

Can too much protein cause acne?

Excess protein does not typically cause acne. Generally, diet has minimal impact on acne development. However, it is worth noting that hormones present in animal protein may potentially contribute to acne symptoms.

What happens to protein if you don’t exercise?

The protein consumed without exercising can be stored as fat instead of being utilized for muscle development. This occurs because the body does not need the extra protein for muscle growth when physical activity is lacking, resulting in its storage as fat.

Who should avoid high protein?

Who should avoid high protein?High protein diets should be avoided by individuals with decreased kidney function as high dietary protein can accelerate the decline of kidney function in this population. The kidneys are responsible for filtering and removing waste products of protein metabolism from the body (19).

Can a high-protein diet be harmful?

A high-protein diet can potentially be harmful due to the restriction of carbohydrates, which may lead to inadequate nutrient and fiber intake. This can result in undesirable effects like unpleasant breath, headaches, and constipation. Additionally, certain high-protein diets permit the consumption of saturated fat-rich foods such as red meats and processed meats, which could potentially elevate the risk of developing heart disease.

Why shouldn’t you eat a lot of protein?

You should not eat a lot of protein because consuming excessive amounts can lead to an acidic environment, resulting in frequent urination. Additionally, prolonged increased acid production may negatively impact the bones and liver, as stated in a 2019 review in Nefrología.

Is 200g of protein too much?

A 200 grams protein intake is typically recommended for elite athletes and bodybuilders aiming to build lean muscle, as most individuals do not require this amount of protein in their daily diets. The average person typically needs only 0.8 g of protein per kilogram of body weight.

Can too much protein cause weight gain?

Too much protein can potentially lead to weight gain, as some studies suggest. There is debate about the safety and long-term effectiveness of high-protein diets. A recent study discovered that individuals who consume over 20% protein in their diet, especially from animal sources, are more prone to gaining weight compared to those with a lower protein intake of around 10%.

What happens when you start a high protein diet?

When you start a high protein diet, your metabolism is significantly boosted and the number of calories you burn increases. This can result in burning an additional 80-100 calories per day (22, 23, 24). In fact, certain studies indicate that you may even burn more calories.

Why is protein hard on kidneys?

Protein can be hard on kidneys because an excessive intake of protein can lead to the accumulation of waste in the blood, making it challenging for the kidneys to eliminate the surplus waste effectively.

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