Risk And Side Effects Of High Protein Diet: Could Be Useful For Your Protein Intake

The potential benefits and side effects of a high-protein diet are also studied simultaneously. One such diet that caught the attention is a high-protein diet.

It can be in the form of the keto diet, paleo, or others with high amounts of this macronutrient. Although it is claimed that high protein diets may provide health benefits, there are also certain downgrades.

Excess focus on a macronutrient may lead to a deficiency of others or cause side effects. This article will focus on the side effects and risk factors to consider if you are planning to follow a high-protein diet. 


Side Effects Of High Protein Diet

  • Bad Breath

    No one wants a foul-smelling breath. It is certainly a big communication hurdle that tears apart self-confidence. A high protein diet may become a big no for you after knowing that it may lead to bad breath. 

    This effect has been noticed when a high protein diet is combined with low or no carbohydrate intake. Thus a process of ketosis is followed by the body to meet energy demands.

    A chemical is produced, as a result, which is fruity in smell and may be the cause behind bad breath. This problem may not be resolved by flossing or regular brushing. 

    To get rid of this smell, try increasing water intake as it may ward off the bad breath-causing bacteria and boost saliva production.

    Water intake may also assist in getting rid of extra protein. Brushing more often, eating enough carbohydrates, and chewing non-sugary mint gums may also help.

  • Weight Gain

    People tend to rely upon a high protein diet majorly for its weight loss benefits. But the approach may turn out faulty as excess protein consumption may lead to weight gain.

    When protein is used as a carbohydrate replacement in diets, this weight gain effect is observed as maximum. Excess amino acids are excreted by the body but excess protein is retained and stored as fat.

    Thus, it may stimulate weight gain. Also, if you lose weight when following a high-protein diet, the risk of gaining it back is prominent.

  • Dehydration

    Amino acids, the primary source of protein, also consist of a considerable amount of nitrogen.

    Thus, the kidney may use excess water to regulate high protein levels and flush out nitrogenous wastes from the body.

    This may lead to dehydration. The risk is even higher for a physically active person like a weightlifter, athlete, dancer, and so on.

  • Constipation

    As high protein diets focus only on one macronutrient, they may devoid the body of several other nutrients. Such diets might be low in fiber

    A lack of dietary fiber may restrict healthy bowel movements. So the possibility of constipation becomes fairly high.  Moreover, a high protein may also cause dehydration as mentioned above. 

    Due to less water availability, the waste can not be excreted which may cause constipation.

  • Diarrhea

    When loading up on proteins on a high-protein diet, may increase the risk of diarrhea

    Processed foods or those low in fiber are the main reasons behind the problem. The risk is even higher for lactose-intolerant people.

    Fish and meat may also add up to the risk. To prevent the side effect, limiting excess fat, protein and processed food consumption is the key. Also, drink enough water and consume fiber-rich foods. 

  • May Lead To Deficiencies

    For the body to function well, an adequate amount of all nutrients is required. Since a high protein diet focuses only on protein intake and sometimes even restricts other nutrients like carbs, it may make you prone to deficiencies.

    Such deficiencies come attached to the risk of malnutrition and serious health issues. In the long run, this approach may cause more harm than benefit.

  • May Cause Fatigue

    Carbohydrates are the initial energy source of the body. They can instantaneously meet the increased energy demands, especially during intense physical activity.

    Most protein-rich diets cut short on carbs which may lead to fatigue. It is always advised to limit prolonged intense workouts if you are consuming fewer carbs.

  • May Enhance Urination

    Another common side effect observed, of high protein intake, is the frequent urge to pee.

    As the kidneys work extra time trying to remove excess protein and nitrogen, urination or the urge to urinate may take over frequently.

  • May Affect Mental Health

    High protein diets that come with restricted carbohydrate intake may lead to anxiety and depression.  

    The possible explanation for this is that carbohydrates aid in releasing the happy hormone serotonin. It may keep your spirits and uplift your mood.

    Thus, the risk of anxiety and depression may be reduced. A lack of carbs may have the opposite effect. Although enough evidence is not available to back up this claim.

  • Bloating

    A protein-rich diet may help you attain the goal of a slim belly but tiny mistakes may also make you feel or look bloated. The stomach discomfort may persuade you to unbutton your pants to feel free.

    This might be caused when you forget to include enough fiber-rich foods along with protein. So, bowel movement might be restricted leading to constipation and bloating.

  • Brain Fog

    A lack of carbohydrates caused by high-protein diets may deprive the body of energy. If these demands are not met, the brain may lack focus, leading to brain fog.

  • Other Mild Side Effects

    A high protein intake may also lead to nausea, irritability, headache, reduced hunger, gastrointestinal discomfort, and exhaustion.

Risks Associated With High Protein Diet

  • May Increase Risk Of Cancer

    Protein directly may not increase the risk of cancer but a few protein sources are linked to this deadly disease. Red meat is consumed widely for its protein richness but an increased risk of cancer is its downside. 

    The reason might be the fats present in the meat or the N- nitroso compounds produced. It is better to opt for plant-based protein sources or other animal sources rather than red meat to lower the risk of cancer.

  • May Affect Heart Health

    Proteins may prove to be great for the heart. But if an excess is coming from high-fat dairy or red meat, it may deteriorate heart health. 

    These foods contain saturated fat and cholesterol which may disrupt the healthy functioning of the heart. Besides, it may cause several heart problems. To stay away from the risk, avoid red meat and overconsumption of high-fat dairy.

  • May Affect Kidney Health

    A high-protein diet may not affect the kidneys of a healthy adult. However, the ones suffering from kidney problems or who had some in the past may suffer. 

    The excessive nitrogen that comes along with protein-rich foods such as Amino acids burdens the kidneys. They are loaded up with more work to excrete the waste. Thus, it may target the kidneys of those having pre-existing kidney issues. 

  • May Reduce Bone Health

    Calcium is vital for keeping up with optimal bone health. A high-protein diet may deprive the body of calcium by causing calcium loss. 

    Thus, such diets may lead to deteriorated bone health in the form of bone mineralization weak bones, and osteoporosis. 


Protein is a macronutrient required by the body for varied purposes. So, a high protein dieting style evolved keeping in mind the utility and benefits of protein.

However, such an approach may also act as a hindrance to overall health. Mild to severe side effects like headache, diarrhea nausea, bad breath, and weight gain might be observed.

It may also increase the risk of heart, brain, and kidney problems. It is best to consume all macronutrients in adequate amounts along with protein to enjoy the benefits, minimizing the side effects.