The next time someone tells you protein is bad for you, let them read this

Protein supplements safe for health
Lot's of people freak out if you mention you're using a protein supplement but the truth is, not only can they be safe but they can also improve your health.

“Protein will destroy your liver”! “Protein will make your kidneys explode”. “Protein will give you cancer, bad eyesight, herpes, mad cow disease”... You name it, protein probably causes it... at least that’s what so many armchair experts like to say.


Most people learn how “dangerous” protein is shortly after they get into the world of diet and fitness. It goes a little something like this:

  • you decide to start eating well and going to the gym
  • you really enjoy the results you get and want to get even better results
  • you decide to take a protein supplement
  • you mention it to a friend who then procedes to tell you that protein is bad for you because he read it somewhere/ heard it from a guy/ saw it on the internet/ other bull$#!t source



Protein is NOT bad for you

I’m sick of all the wannabe experts blabbing about things they know absolutely nothing about. If you don’t actually know anything about a subject other than what you heard from some guy then you’re probably better off not commenting at all.


The Scientific Evidence is on Protein's Side

I am a scientist (you can check my credentials if you need to) so that means I make it my job to research topics I need to know about. I have read research paper after research paper documenting the effects of protein on health so I’m here to set the record straight for all the idiots who like to pretend they know something about nutrition. I’m going to do it the only way I know how; with scientific evidence (just like I do in all my articles) so feel free to check the references at the bottom.


NOTE: Everything I say here is within the context of a healthy, well balanced diet!


Read it and weep, suckers!


Protein has LOADS of Benefits

1. Protein increases metabolic rate and improves fat loss.

This is mostly because of the higher Thermic Effect of Food (the energy needed to metabolize a food) of protein {1,2} that can increase basal metabolic rate and even sleeping metabolic rate when compared to lower protein diets with the same amount of calories {3}.


2. Protein helps your muscles grow

Eating enough daily protein is one of the most important things you can do to increase muscle size and strength {4-6} and it helps you keep muscle while you’re trying to diet {7}. If you need to know why having strong muscles is important for your health, read this.


3. Protein stops you feeling hungry

Protein is far better at keeping you feeling full than either carbs or fats {1} and high protein diets (30% of calories) help you to reduce the total amount of food you eat and help you lose weight {8}. If you want more tips on avoiding hunger, check this out.


The Evidence for Protein’s Safety

  • Protein will not destroy your kidneys. It’s usually the first claim people make when trying to demonize protein but the truth is this is a myth. The only way protein can damage your kidneys is if you already suffer from kidney disease or failure {9}... what a surprise.


  • Even ridiculously high protein diets (3.4g of protein per kg of bodyweight) have been proven to have no negative effects on your liver or kidneys {7,10} (good luck trying to eat that much protein, by the way).


  • Higher protein diets can actually improve a whole host of health markers {11,12} (possibly due to weight-loss effects) including:
    • Blood pressure
    • LDL-cholesterol
    • HDL-cholesterol
    • Glucose
    • Insulin
    • Free fatty acids
    • C-reactive protein


  • Higher protein diets (when part of a diet with enough fruit and vegetables) are even beneficial for bone health and osteoporosis prevention too {13} even though some people will have you believe protein leaches calcium from your bones.


healthy bones skeleton protein supplements healthy diet osteoporosis
Yup, a higher protein diet with plenty of fruit and veg can actually make your bones stronger (especially when combined with strength training)

Protein Powders or "Real" Food

Another point that many people use against protein powders specifically is that they are "processed and unnatural" and that "protein from real sources is much better for you". This is not the case.  Yes, whole-food sources of protein (cheese, meat, eggs, nuts, beans etc) come packaged with additional vitamins and minerals but they also come with additional calories too (just how many you can find out here).


Protein powders are made simply by isolating the protein from the rest of the substances in a whole food (whey protein from milk, pea protein from peas etc), and your body can't tell the difference between protein from a powder or from whole foods.


Yes, you should have plenty of wholefood sources of protein in your diet but sometimes getting more is not that easy and that's where protein supplements like powders come in: they're cheap, convenient and low in calories which makes getting extra protein, much easier.


My Promise as a Scientist

I may sound very cocky in this article but I’m doing it to make a point. The vast majority of scientific evidence tells us that protein is both safe and beneficial to our health. However, if new evidence comes to light I am willing to change my stance, because that is how science works. Most of those armchair idiots out there won’t ever change their opinion because opinion doesn’t need evidence.


Who’s side would you rather be on?


Eat well, folks.



  1. Westerterp-Plantenga MS, Nieuwenhuizen a, Tomé D, Soenen S, Westerterp KR. Dietary protein, weight loss, and weight maintenance. Annu Rev Nutr. 2009;29:21–41.  
  2. Tappy L. Thermic effect of food and sympathetic nervous system activity in humans. Reproduction, nutrition, development. 1996. p. 391–7.
  3. Lejeune MPGM, Westerterp KR, Adam TCM, Luscombe-Marsh ND, Westerterp-Plantenga MS. Ghrelin and glucagon-like peptide 1 concentrations, 24-h satiety, and energy and substrate metabolism during a high-protein diet and measured in a respiration chamber. Am J Clin Nutr. 2006;83(1):89–94.
  4. Phillips SM, Van Loon LJC. Dietary protein for athletes: From requirements to optimum adaptation. J Sports Sci. 2011;29 (sup1):S29–38.
  5. Cermak NM, Res PT, De Groot LCPGM, Saris WHM, Van Loon LJC. Protein supplementation augments the adaptive response of skeletal muscle to resistance-type exercise training: A meta-analysis. Am J Clin Nutr. 2012;96(6):1454–64.
  6. Schoenfeld BJ, Aragon AA, Krieger JW. The effect of protein timing on muscle strength and hypertrophy: a meta-analysis. J Int Soc Sports Nutr. 2013;10(1):53.
  7. Antonio J, Ellerbroek A, Silver T, et al. A high protein diet (3.4 g/kg/d) combined with a heavy resistance training program improves body composition in healthy trained men and women – a follow-up investigation. J Int Soc Sports Nutr. 2015;12:39.
  8. Weigle DS, Breen PA, Matthys CC, Callahan HS, Meeuws KE, Burden VR, et al. A high-protein diet induces sustained reductions in appetite, ad libitum caloric intake, and body weight despite compensatory changes in diurnal plasma leptin and ghrelin concentrations. Am J Clin Nutr. 2005;82(1):41–8.
  9. Levey AS, Greene T, Beck GJ, Caggiula AW, Kusek JW, Hunsicker LG, et al. Dietary Protein Restriction and the Progression of Chronic Renal Disease: What Have All of the Results of the MDRD Study Shown? J Am Soc Nephrol . 1999;10(11):2426–39.
  10. Antonio J, Ellerbroek A, Silver T, Vargas L, Peacock C. The effects of a high protein diet on indices of health and body composition – a crossover trial in resistance-trained men. J Int Soc Sports Nutr . 2016;1–7.
  11. Engberink M, Geleijnse J, Bakker S, Larsen T, Handjieva-Darlesnka T, Kafatos a, et al. Effect of a high-protein diet on maintenance of blood pressure levels achieved after initial weight loss: the DiOGenes randomized study. J Hum Hypertens . 2014; 58–63.
  12. Noakes M, Keogh JB, Foster PR, Clifton PM. Effect of an energy-restricted, high-protein, low-fat diet relative to a conventional high-carbohydrate, low-fat diet on weight loss, body composition, nutritional status, and markers of cardiovascular health in obese women. Am J Clin Nutr. 2005;81(6), 1298-1306.
  13. Cao JJ, Nielsen FH. Acid diet (high-meat protein) effects on calcium metabolism and bone health. Curr Opin Clin Nutr Metab Care. 2010;13(6):698    

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