High Protein Diets Do NOT = Kidney Damage

If you’re eating a high-protein diet, you’ve probably encountered this statement:

“That’s too much protein. Aren’t you worried about your kidneys?”

If you’re not, and perhaps considering switching to one, this unfortunate misconception may be exactly what’s preventing you from embracing it.

The problem is, the research that’s commonly referenced to support this claim looks extremely legitimate at first glance:

The Nurses’ Health Study followed approximately 1600 female participants for 11 years and found that eating a high-protein diet caused kidney dysfunction.

Until you dig a little deeper, and realize it’s FAR from that!

As what many fail to acknowledge is that the kidney damage was only experienced in those with a pre-existing renal condition. Which is like saying:

“Someone with a busted shoulder can compromise shoulder function by lifting weights.”


“A guy with a broken foot could compromise his recovery by jumping up and down.”

Other than this one misleading study, all other research on high protein diets and kidney damage shows no association when performed on healthy subjects. Even with protein intake as high as 2.8g per kg of bodyweight!

This is because of the kidneys main functions is to process the waste products from the food we eat – including protein. Meaning, eating a high protein diet can increase the filtration work from the kidneys (hyperfiltration), but this is a:

“Perfectly normal adaptive mechanism well within the functional limits of a healthy kidney.” Martin et al. 2005, Nutrition & Metabolism

Like the rest of our body, we’re training the kidneys to handle more, which is not detrimental in the least bit. As even those in the Nurse’s Health Study (and similar studies) with healthy kidneys did not experience altered functionality – with many not even entering a state of hyperfiltration.

Moreover, there’s ample evidence that high protein consumption and a corresponding state of hyperfiltration produces a more favorable adaptation from the kidneys; as over time there’s less protein found in the urine.  Which not only suggests greater absorption and synthesis, but more of the muscle maintenance and growth that comes with that.

In fact, recent research has found no benefit to lowering protein intake for those with kidney disease, and recommended 1.4g/kg of bodyweight for maintaining proper nitrogen balance — the equivalent of 127g/day for a 200lb man!

The sad part being, that many of you reading (without kidney disease) aren’t even coming close to that intake.  And this is putting you at a far greater risk:

“It is clear that protein restriction does not prevent decline in renal function with age, and, in fact, is the major cause of that decline. A better way to prevent the decline would be to increase protein intake.” Institute of Medicine

Not only because you’re following the government guidelines to restrict meat, and nutrition nonsense to restrict protein, but because you’re replacing these foods with sugar and starches.  The REAL cause of kidney damage.

Stay Lean (and Eat Meat)!
Coach Mike


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