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12+ Potential Cons to Following a High Protein Diet

12+ Potential Cons to Following a 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. 

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.