Does The Paleo Diet Contain Too Much Protein?

Plate of Meat

Plate of Meat - Too Much Protein?


As most folks now know, the Paleo diet is an approach that focuses on taking cue from the the foods that our ancestors used to eat. Processed foods that our our bodies just haven’t adapted to consuming are avoided.

Particularly, the Paleo diet advocates consuming lean meats, seafood, fruits, greens and other vegetables, nuts, seeds, and healthy fats. In contrast, it recommends avoiding dairy, grains, legumes, processed meals and sugars, starches in large quantities, and alcohol.

From a logical standpoint, the diet is sensible, however some folks fear that the Paleo diet can result in an excessive intake of protein.


What are the dangers related to consuming too much protein?

In reality, there appears to be 2 concerns with high protein consumption: protein poisoning (rabbit starvation) and protein toxicity.


Protein poisoning

Cases of protein poisoning are rare and are thought to result from an absence of fat in the diet, coupled with high protein intake. It’s not just the high amount of protein that causes protein poisoning, it’s the complete lack of fat.

It is important to note that switching from a relatively low-protein diet to a diet high in protein without giving their liver enough time to upregulate hepatic enzymes can result in the bloodstream carrying excessive amino acids, ammonia, and/or urea; this can be fatal.

The big take away here is that your body needs time to adjust to a large increase in protein in the diet. If you’re coming from a diet with a low amount of protein, it would make sense to increase dietary protein slowly and with moderation.


Protein toxicity

Protein toxicity is generally only a concern in folks with impaired renal function, be it due to a preexisting condition or simply from age. In this case the kidneys are unable to rid the body of toxic nitrogenous wastes that come from protein metabolism.

If you have kidney disease or have otherwise lost kidney function, it is extremely important to be mindful of protein intake levels.

Any dietary changes, especially those involving protein, should be discussed with your physician.


Now, will either of these be a problem with the Paleo diet? The reality is that they shouldn’t be (unless you have kidney issues, as noted above).

If you’re following a typical Paleo diet, then it’s extremely unlikely that you’ll get to a stage where protein intake is so out of whack that your health will suffer. Generally speaking, an individual following Paleo diet will see a protein intake of roughly 30-35% of overall calorie needs, with more athletic individuals sometimes consuming more. This should be well within the safe range for most individuals.

Of course, if you have any concerns, check with your doctor.

Do you eat a lot of protein on the Paleo diet? Let us know in the comments below.

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