Do I eat too much protein?

I’m way behind on podcast listening and just finished episode 349 (the protein episode from 2/3/22). I know that the question is always “am I getting enough?”, but after listening I’m starting to think that I’m getting too much. I’ve calculated it and I’m pushing up towards 3 g/kg (I weigh ~71kg), which is way higher than all of the recommended ranges mentioned in the podcast, and also substantially higher than the upper limits that @chad mentioned.

A little bit about me. I eat the same thing every day so knowing how much I’m getting isn’t an issue for me. 45 year old male, FTP of 331 watts (right around 4.6-4.7 w/kg). My weight is very stable, as is my body comp (right around 15%bf on my scale). In the past when I’ve made a concerted effort to add muscle both my weight AND my bf% have shot up fairly quickly, which is always surprising to me. The bf% number has always surprised me given how well I eat and how much I train, but honestly it’s stable so I don’t think about it too much.

My training and racing have been going well, and I eat a very ‘clean’ diet. I’m usually in the ‘if it ain’t broke…’ camp, so I’m hesitant to change my diet too much. However my protein numbers are so much higher than all of the recommended ranges I’m wondering if I’m doing myself a disservice and if I would see a boost by cutting back (probably just moving calories from protein to something else).

One last note: The largest source of protein in my diet is milk protein. I drink 7 cups of skim milk per day (a couple of which are mixed with whey protein for an after-workout p shake) and some yogurt. All that accounts for about 95g (1.33 g/kg) of protein.

Thanks for any thoughts you might have.

I’m no nutrition expert so I won’t make any assertions here, but “too much” is sort of a relative term and implies some sort of disadvantage or harm either as a direct result of consuming that much, or because you’re displacing other nutrients in your diet. So my starting point would be evaluating your diet as a whole, both in terms of whether you’re meeting your needs across the board and the quality of the protein sources you’re consuming. (Things like heavily processed meat might be more harmful, but that doesn’t sound like it’s the case here.)

I do think it’s probably natural to overshoot in cases of very high energy intake due to training load, especially if you’re smaller. FWIW I usually overshoot 2g/kg without thinking about it and I’m a lazy vegetarian, but then again 94g is pretty easy to hit when you’re eating 3500+ calories a day.

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Basically extra protein has to be processed somehow, and it puts extra stress on your kidneys with no benefits. Whether this is actually a problem in a healthy person without kidney disease is probably a can of worms best to look into yourself.

Am interested in hearing why you consume so much (skim :face_vomiting:) milk a day, might be too much of a good thing. If you’re already consuming tbat much protein there isnt really a need to be adding whey powder to multiple cups either :moneybag::moneybag::moneybag:

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If it’s too much or bad, don’t really know. But I think it would be good to get some context to the rest of your diet. On big training days it’s easy fo me to go to 2.5/3g and still hit like a 50/30/20% balance in carbs/fat/protein. So I guess that’s ok. If your protein intake is half of your total consumed calories that might be a bit unbalanced. Like I said, not sure if that’s a bad thing or if it actually hurts you.

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Sounds like it’s working for you. Interesting with your same-diet-every-day, mind sharing what you eat on a given day?

Without meaning to attack you, I’m not sure this statement can be supported clinically.

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There’s no such thing as too much protein, especially when you get older, protein is essential for maintaining an aging body, the older you get the more you need. If you are gaining weight reduce the other macros (carbs and fats). And really 1.3g/kg is just bare minimum for people with an active lifestyle, recommendation for strength training go up to 2g/kg and it is said endurance athletes need even more than that

Just to clarify, I’m getting approximately 1.3g/kg just from milk protein, and close to 3g/kg daily in total.

Okay that’s a lot but I’d still reduce my energy macros first and see how that works out, instead of reducing protein and then finding out you actually did need that much but now lost muscle

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Which part? That extra protein has to be processed somewhere or that it puts extra stress on your kidneys?
My next sentence is saying without saying that I don’t think the extra stress actually has any meaning to a healthy individual without kidney disease.

There certainly is … Google it.

Kidney stones?
Increased fat storage?
Constipation?
Dehydration?
Acid build up?
Liver and bone issues?
Increased fatigue?
Protein consumed at the expense of carbohydrates?
Etc.

^ I like to see some evidence that these are myths.

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I believe you may be correct about protein. I just came here to say that putting the burden of proof on those who question that for which you have provided no evidence whatsoever yourself is troublingly symptomatic of our times. :wink:

All said in good humor, in case that disclaimer is necessary. :slight_smile:

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Protein intake does not harm the kidneys in athletes without underlying renal disease.

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i don’t have much time but I can already say most kidney stones are caused by calcium oxalates (found in certain plants) not protein and bone density is positively correlated with protein intake (look on pubmed for especially osteopenia and whey intake)

and just from experience from adiet which is almost exlusively protein (with a bit of fat) I can say I am not dehaydrated nnor constipated nor fatigued

I weigh 77.5 kg and eat around 200g/protein, 600g/carbs, and 100g/fat a day - so your ratio isn’t hugely different from mine.

Hard to balance when you’re eating 4k+ calories a day :person_shrugging:

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Yeah. I get that, but I didnt make the original statement ‘no such thing as too much protein’ and I didn’t say the list wasnt a list of myths.

Thanks. Can’t read it all but it doesnt seem to actually say that.

That looks a well balanced endurance performance diet.

Must be hard work. Wish I could do that on a regular basis.

Talk to a registered dietitian if you’re concerned! They’ll be able to help you figure out if your diet should be altered to fit your unique needs. 3 g/kg is on the high side but likely not dangerous unless you have other health conditions (again, talk with a health professional). And this all depends on how many calories you are taking in overall! Higher calorie intakes = higher intakes of macronutrients.

Recommended daily allowances for each of the macronutrients are:

  • 45% - 65% of total calories from carbohydrate (at 4 cal/g)
  • 20% - 35% of total calories from fat (at 9 cal/g)
  • 10% - 35% of total calories from protein (at 4 cal/g)

You could certainly fit your current protein into these ranges (see a totally made-up scenario below, not a recommendation), but this would demand a reasonably high calorie intake and a lower carbohydrate intake. All individual, but a higher carb diet might be more optimal for your goals.

Macronutrient Recommended Range Grams Cals Percent G/Kg Kg BW
Protein 10%-30% 213 852 26% 3.00 71
Carbohydrate 45%-65% 375 1500 46% 5.28
Fat 20%-35% 100 900 28%
Total 3252

One think you might consider if you are looking for an easy switch to increase carbohydrate–trade out the post-workout whey protein supplement for a carbohydrate source (chocolate milk???). Sounds like you don’t have any trouble getting protein from real foods/beverage, so probably no need for a supplement.

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Thanks to all for the responses and discussion.

@EmilyS That’s a great suggestion about swapping out the extra whey protein. My post ride recovery shake is 30g whey protein and 10g Ghirardelli cocoa powder mixed in 12oz of skim milk (honestly, do people mix this stuff in water? Seems so weird.). I started that because P-shakes were all the rage and I figured it was an easy way to increase mine (this was like 15 years ago). So I’m already getting a few carbs from the cocoa powder. Swapping out the 100ish cals of whey powder for something else (something simple, like 25g of pretzels) might be the way to go (I also eat a homemade ‘bar’ after training, which is approx 60/20/20 C/F/P). After listening to the recent protein podcast I learned that we can only process so much at a time, so that p-shake with 37g of protein is likely not doing as much good as I thought. I’m also getting ~40g of protein with breakfast, might need to change that up a bit, or at least move around. I used to eat a lot of simple sugars, including OJ at breakfast, but a few years ago I decided that a cup of milk was healthier.

@IL.Grillo I hear you, but I just love skim milk. I was raised on it. I remember when I was a kid not wanting to spend the night at certain friends’ houses because I knew we would have ‘bad’ milk in the morning. I’m not fat-phobic (believe me, I understand the importance of healthy fats), but I just can’t stand even 1% milk.

@schmidt Yep, it is working for me. Like I mentioned, I’m 45 and way faster than I was 10 years ago (a big part of that is that I was doing tri then and now I’m focusing on the bike). But just because something is working doesn’t mean you can’t improve. The cliff notes version:

Breakfast: Oats, egg whites, fruit, and the aforementioned milk
Lunch: stir fried veggies mixed with either black beans or some meat (usually beans)
After final workout: P-shake and homemade bar (I used to spend too much money on clif bars so I made my own, significantly better, version)
Dinner: chicken breast with rice, veggies (usually broccoli and spinach) and some cheese, milk
Snack: bowl of cereal with 12oz milk, some nuts and pretzels
Snack: yogurt mixed with PB, granola, and oats
Snack: A bunch of fruit
Snack: Toast and PB and hunny (yes, that’s the correct spelling, ask Winnie the Pooh), string cheese
Dessert/treat: Homemade cookies, some high quality ice cream.

As @trpnhntr said, sometimes it’s hard to exactly hit 70/20/10 or thereabouts when you’re consuming a lot.

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Fairly minor comment, I’d consider swapping the whey powder for some other protein powder (pea, hemp, anything non dairy). Reason being your protein is very milk / dairy focused and swapping the powder is fairly easy and would give a bit of variation in the incomplete amino acids you’re getting.

Less of an issue given the meat you mentioned but it’d make it a bit easier for your body to synthesize complete amino acids. You’re getting those from the meat, anyhow, but it’d increase the total amount a bit.