Is Eating Too Much Protein Going to Harm My Kidneys?

Dear Mark,

I am studying to become a nurse and am taking my first nutrition class at a local college. As one of our assignments we had to record everything we ate for an entire week. After looking at my results my teacher was dumbfounded. To make a long story short, my teacher told me that I should only be eating 38 grams of protein each day, and that any more than that could harm my kidneys. I’ve been Primal for 2 years and am healthier than ever. I am 5′ 2″ and and a very lean 105 pounds. Should I be concerned?


Well, Renee, I’m sorry to break it to you, but all those subjective health markers – like being “healthier than ever,” a “very lean 105 pounds,” and satisfied enough to be “Primal for 2 years” – mean absolutely nothing because you are destroying your kidneys by exceeding your daily allotment of six ounces of animal protein. In fact, it’s highly likely that feeling good and maintaining a trim, lean figure are byproducts of impending kidney failure. The human body, you see, is a cruel practical joker dead set on destroying itself (hence the daily internal manufacturing of that poison known as cholesterol); it’s only trying to keep you pacified with regards to your health long enough for outright kidney failure to commence.  You should be extremely concerned. I only hope this message reaches you in time.

Seriously, though – the notion that eating more than 0.3g protein per pound of bodyweight (which appears to be how your teacher came to her conclusion) will definitively harm human kidney function leaves me dumbfounded. I’m reminded of the time I had to take Buddha in for a quick checkup at an unfamiliar vet and the woman examining him mentioned that I’d probably want to switch him to a low-protein diet or risk certain renal failure. Because, you know, the kidneys of dogs, close relative of the carnivorous wolf, are unable to process all that meat and protein. It’s ridiculous on its face, and rather than waste a lot of space debunking what Dr. Eades calls one of the “Vampire Myths” (it just won’t die; get it?), I’ll just link to a few papers that have already done so.

There’s this one from the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition, a massive review of the evidence in favor of and in opposition to the AHA’s weasel warnings about “high protein diets,” namely, that people who engage in such risky behaviors as limiting carbs and increasing protein “are [at] risk for … potential cardiac, renal, bone, and liver abnormalities overall.” Long story short: there’s far more evidence in opposition to the claim than evidence in favor of it. The AHA recommendations are at best incorrect and at worst deliberately misleading, and the sum of the actual evidence points to protein as being protective against heart disease, osteoporosis, kidney disease, and liver problems – all things protein is supposed to initiate or worsen.

Another review, this time focusing strictly on whether or not protein intake can precipitate kidney disease in healthy people, is even better. I mean, that’s the important thing, isn’t it? If we want to exonerate or condemn protein, we must study its effects on healthy kidneys. We have to see if it creates problems rather than potentially worsens them. And, according to the exhaustive analysis of Martin et al, there exists no evidence that protein intake negatively influences renal health in otherwise healthy, active individuals. There is some evidence that already impaired renal function might worsen with increased protein, but the experts, as is their wont, can’t resist applying the same recommendations to everyone, regardless of renal health. The result is a nutrition teacher sowing misinformation across the student body in an introductory course, i.e. one that is intended to establish foundational knowledge that the students will carry on through life as a cornerstone of their thinking.

Simply put, healthy kidneys can handle plenty of protein; heck, they are meant to handle protein. One of their primary functions is to process the metabolic waste that results from protein metabolism. Yeah, protein “works” the kidneys, but that’s what they’re there for! Strength training works the muscles. You might even say it strains them. But is that a problem? Compromised kidneys in patients with renal disease (either full-blown or still in development) may not be able to handle as much protein as healthy kidneys, but even that’s up in the air – and protein is not the cause of the problem.

So what causes kidney disease, if not too many deck of cards-sized pieces of deadly animal protein in the diet?

The top two conditions responsible for chronic kidney disease (CKD) are, respectively, diabetes (45% of CKD cases) and hypertension, or high blood pressure.”Even” the Wikipedia entry on renal failure fails to mention “excess protein in the diet” as a cause (even potentially) of CKD. If you have CKD, chances are fairly high that you’re either diabetic, hypertensive, or both.

You know what’s even better? High-protein diets, when compared to the high-carb diet commonly recommended, improve glucose tolerance and blood sugar control in type 2 diabetics without changing kidney function. And, since type 2 diabetes often leads to CKD and is characterized partly by poor glucose tolerance and blood sugar control, you might even say that eating more protein is actually protective against renal failure.

As for hypertension, the latest systematic review concludes that more protein in the diet seems to correlate with lower, or at least normalized, blood pressure in humans. That doesn’t necessarily mean anything definitive, but it’s certainly interesting, and it doesn’t support the standard position.

Of course! Anyway, unless it’ll compromise your grade in the class, I’d speak up about it. Engage your teacher, for without disagreement, especially when warranted, there can be no progress. At the very least, defend your stance, perhaps wielding the aforementioned papers, and by all means: don’t feel the need to limit yourself to 38 grams of protein per day! While that may be adequate – that is, you’ll live – you definitely have room for more.

You need protein for a number of reasons:

It’s required for good skeletal health; contrary to what many vegetarians will scream, animal protein doesn’t leach calcium from the bones, leading to osteoporosis. In fact, inadequate protein intake is a huge risk for the debilitating bone disease.

It provides amino acids, which play multiple roles in the human body. They act as building blocks for most bodily structures, including hair, organs, skin, and muscles. Using amino acids, we build new tissue and repair damaged tissue. Lifting weights “damages” muscle tissue; we repair the damage with amino acids. Amino acids also act as precursors to hormones and neurotransmitters, like serotonin (the amino acid tryptophan) and dopamine (the amino acid tyrosine).

It’s good for quality of life, especially in the later years where folks are more susceptible to skeletal muscle wasting. You try keeping up with your grandkids while experiencing severe systemic muscle atrophy!

It’s good for satiety. Younger and older men eating 1g protein per kg of bodyweight had greater satiation than similarly aged men eating either 0.75g/kg or 0.5g/kg, and they reported a superior ability to stick to an eating plan.

(Animal protein is best, of course. A recent study found that due to reduced bioavailability of plant protein, vegetarians should probably increase their total protein intake to make up for the deficiency.)

Most people don’t need a ton of protein. If asked, I say I eat roughly 1 gram per pound of bodyweight, but it’s not something I’m militant about and I’m no longer hitting the weights like I used to. I just eat to satiety. Since it’s a satiating macronutrient, I find there’s a natural, relatively organic limit to how much pure protein I even want. Lean chicken breasts? I’m lucky if I can get through a whole one. A nice juicy grass-fed ribeye festooned with fat? I’m licking the plate.

Other people will need more protein. Highly active athletes, Crossfitters, powerlifters, folks trying to gain mass and strength, folks trying to lose a bunch of weight – they all can benefit from an increased protein intake, either by increasing satiety (thus improving diet adherence) or providing amino acids for muscle recovery and repair. One gram or protein per pound of lean body mass is a good average number to shoot for over a range of a few days.

Renee, if you’re feeling good with your current level (how much protein are you eating, by the way?), you’re performing well, you’re lean (and you apparently are), and you’re healthy (free of diabetes and hypertension), I don’t see any reason to curtail your protein intake. And certainly not because it’s going to destroy your kidneys. There is some contention that protein restriction (or protein cycling) can extend lifespan, but as I said in the fasting post, I’d rather have a fantastic quality of life (which for me means plenty of lean mass, plenty of physical activity, and plenty of meat on my plate) than live a few extra, protein-restricted years.

I hope this proves helpful for your situation – though I’d hesitate to even classify it as a real “situation.” I wouldn’t worry.

How about everyone else? How much protein do you typically eat in a day? What’s your activity level like? Ever had any kidney problems?

About the Author

Mark Sisson is the founder of Mark’s Daily Apple, godfather to the Primal food and lifestyle movement, and the New York Times bestselling author of The Keto Reset Diet. His latest book is Keto for Life, where he discusses how he combines the keto diet with a Primal lifestyle for optimal health and longevity. Mark is the author of numerous other books as well, including The Primal Blueprint, which was credited with turbocharging the growth of the primal/paleo movement back in 2009. After spending three decades researching and educating folks on why food is the key component to achieving and maintaining optimal wellness, Mark launched Primal Kitchen, a real-food company that creates Primal/paleo, keto, and Whole30-friendly kitchen staples.

If you'd like to add an avatar to all of your comments click here!

233 thoughts on “Is Eating Too Much Protein Going to Harm My Kidneys?”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

  1. “There is some contention that protein restriction (or protein cycling) can extend lifespan”

    This myth is based upon mice studies where protein consumption was restricted and the mice lived longer. But these studies were faulty as they used casein as the protein.

    Casein is very inflammatory to both mice and men so if you restrict consumption of casein you will live longer.

    These studies have nothing to do with meat eaters. In fact humans with the most muscle are the longest lived. And you can’t build or maintain muscle without plenty of protein.

    1. This reminds me of a quote from a guest that was on The Paleo Solution podcast. “Strong people are hard to kill.”

        1. It was actually John Welbourn. He was on a week or two before Matt Lalonde.

        2. It’s a Mark Rippetoe quote: “Strong people are harder to kill than weak people, and more useful in general.”

    2. I still don´t get how mice nutrition can compare to human nutrition??.

      Mice can thrive in lots of cereals, (in fact here in Venezuela I have seen the large Rice crops infested by mice and rats).
      We humans instead thrive in lot of meat and fat.
      So always that I read about a mice studie, I take the conclusions with sticks.

      1. Hello, my sister is going for her PHD and she is currently doing lab research for brain cancer in children. They work with a lot of rats and mice, and I remember I asked that same question to my sister. Why mice and rats? She told me that the genetics and DNA of mice and rats are the closest to humans, so close, that we can learn a lot about human health just by studying them. The percentage differentiates only slightly in DNA. It’s pretty remarkable.

    3. I am vegan. When attempting to gain muscle, I do the following:
      50% calories from protein/30% from complex carbs/20% from healthy fats. I have found sources of protein from vegan ingredients. Some are readily available if combined correctly, some I get through my nutrition drink, Shakeology It is written about on Healthitude, under the nutrition tab if anyone is curious.
      Spirulina Chlorella (macro-algae)- High-quality complete protein that is more dense and more digestible than any animal-derived protein.
      Sacha inchi (Plukenetia volubilis) meal – With an average of 48 to 49 percent omega-3s, Sacha Inchi is an excellent vegetarian source of fatty acids, contains high amounts of protein and can assist the body’s formation of nerve tissues, eye tissues and cell membranes. It may also help maintain healthy cholesterol levels and help regulate blood pressure and support normal function of the immune system.

      1. HAHAHAHAHA, that’s great, Vegans putting on muscle! for a minute I took this seriously. I off to ruin the planet and eat something dead now. Wild Salmon tonight. I’m gonna chuckle every time I think of this, thanks.

        1. Haha I will laugh right with you! I enjoyed a meatloaf salad for much, hamburger salad for dinner and will be enjoying a ground turkey salad for lunch tomorrow.

          Eggs and 2 grass fed hot dogs for breakfast tomorrow… yea I love my protein! I am gaining LOTS of muscle while at it 🙂

          Oh, and I FEEL AMAZING!

        2. You are a nut! LOL! You cracked me up too! I would show you a picture, but it’s on Facebook with Tony Horton… who also does not eat meat or dairy, BTW, he is one HOT old guy!!!

        3. There are plenty of vegans who have muscle. There are even vegan body builders – you can simply google that. Honestly this reaction is just as ignorant as those who scoff at no grains. “No grains?” they laugh, “I eat hundreds of grams of carbs a day and run marathons!” Sound familiar?

          Whether or not it’s optimum is a debate worth having, but it’s fairly easy to check your ignorance on whether or not it’s possible.

        4. Kaylen, couldn’t comment to your comment for some reason, BUT THANK YOU!!!!! You are NOW MY FAVORITE!!!

        5. Judging by many “primal pics” I’ve seen, all i can think of is “people in glass houses…”

          Seriously – Are you going to call Mike Mahler a pussy?

        6. Take it easy vegans, lets just back it down a notch. Your aggression is most likely due to the depression that is associated with your diets. Lets discuss this rationally over some nice greasy meat, shall we?

          For the record, I didn’t call anyone a pussy, I love my cats, carnivores that they are.

          As a matter of fact, since you bring it up, I love Vegans too; I eat them almost every day. I have one defrosting now, some nice venison, killed and butchered myself. mmmmm vegan, the other red meat!

        7. I bench over 315 and dont eat meat or dairy or fish either. I t-Bar row with 5-45 lb plates. I do this all on less than 100g of veg protein daily. So much for all this bullshit paleo crap.

        8. Why not eat humans sentenced to the death sentence, its no more disgusting then any other living being. At least those humans deserve. Why not get those inmates to sign up for medical trials to get a ‘get out of jail’ early card instead of using innocent mice, rats, and other animals that don’t deserve. Humans want the knowledge, and they want it to be accurate, so get it straight from the source – humans – just pick those who deserve it because they murdered innocent people/animals. Oh wait, that’s every scientist and non-vegan alive – that’s YOU! Yes, you could be a humans next tasty dish! Imagine that!!! I would vote for it! At least for the inmates on death sentence to be force fed, fattened up, and then hung upside down and pushed through a razor machine and their heads sliced off – make them take the chickens place. if you really KNEW how it was done, you’d have a hard time ever eating meat again, unless you’re a cold-hearted killer. Which you’ve likely been raised to be. World needs to wake up already and evolve. Next time you eat a burger imagine its human. Next chicken or turkey, is human… why the hell not? Its equally repulsive. If it isn’t, you’ve been brain-washed.

      2. Hey, thanks for the recommendation of nutrients here. There aren’t a lot of good stores near me, so knowing what to look for online is super convenient for me.

        1. You are very welcome, Silvia! I have sev. sources if you want to friend me on FB. It seems that most people on this site don’t get that they can injest protein from sources other than a ton of meat, and are very rude about it. Therefore, I will be blocking the site soon. I am glad I saw your comment before blocking. Just let me know who you are if you want to come friend me, please. You can search me by my e-mail here.

        2. All hilarious…I recently chose to switch my cats to a grain-free food b/c they were both losing weight on the mass-market crap. They are both doing much better; the skinnier one is filling out nicely after several months of getting all bony (his bloodwork was fine so he’s not sick). Google Mittsnpaws Miromax–that’s my guy!
          Point being that all creatures great and small need to be eating their evolutionary diets, not scrounging for substitutes (bet all of those supplements are expensive). We omnis are not designed to live only on plants–most bears are omnis, too, cats are not.

      3. Why are you vegan? Is it about feeling bad for the animals? If so then why stay away from eggs? Just doesn’t make sense to me. However thanks for the sacha inchi tip, looked that stuff up and damn. Spirulina I already knew about, honestly I think that stuff may one day be a miracle food for our species (soylent green anyone?), but sacha inchi was new to me. Very impressed with the fat and protein it’s packing. Already ordered some, if the taste is good I’m going to see if I can get the local coops to stock it.

        1. You are VERY welcome. It’s so great to meet someone who has an open mind and will actually do some research. I am vegan because it is damn near impossible to find meat or meat products that aren’t pumped full of antibiotics and crap I don’t want or need in my body. I am really careful about the fruits/veggies and grains I consume too. Also, I am a freak about cheese, and could eat a whole loaf, so just saying no works better for me than my lack of will-power for that one food. 🙂

      4. “Spirulina Chlorella (macro-algae)- High-quality complete protein that is more dense and more digestible than any animal-derived protein.”

        Umm actually seaweed is hard to digest. I myself get no bloating and gas from meat, but chlorella and sprirulina give me the worst gas and bloating.
        If you’ve ever heard of the Specific Carbohydrate Diet or the GAPS diet, any seaweed isn’t recommended because of this.

        1. It’s all in the preparation. First you feed it to a pig, when the pig gets to about 200# scald & scrape the pig. Then roast the pig over an open fire. Consumed this way there will be no bloating.

        2. Seaweed is large algae. Large algae (seaweeds) have more fiber and carbohydrates, and less protein, than the microscopic algae. There is a big difference.

        3. Hahah Dave, nice one 😉

          Karla, sorry I didn’t realise spirulina and chlorella aren’t seaweed. Still, they aren’t recommended because they’re hard to digest. Whereas meat is easy to digest. This just proves the point that meat is a healing food and spirulina/chlorella aren’t. How can you feed a sick person something they can’t digest?

          A product called Seagreens is recommended on GAPS AFTER there are no digestive problems.

          If we were chucked out in the wild, I don’t think we would head straight to the very bottom of the ocean to seek out microscopic algae. Just sayin’.

        4. I took an algae class in college (phycology), where, in one lab session, we evaluated what was being sold as “spirulina” and “chlorella” under the microscope, neither appeared to be even remotely close to the actual algae. I don’t know what they’re selling, but what we looked at was NOT that. I’d be leary of it for simply that reason.

          I do eat nori, though (which is a red macro alga, if anyone is interested… yes, alga. “algae” is plural), but mostly for the trace minerals… and flavor 🙂

      5. I applaud your vegan lifestyle choice. I have not eaten red meat since January of 1982. I am not a vegan as I do eat some fish and cheese during the colder months of the year. During the warmer months however, a vegan diet will help one survive the high heat and humidity which are made even more unbearable by consuming animal protein and sodium laden foods.

        As for the comment about “strong people are hard to kill,” one can conclude that human strength can be measured in different ways. A body that is free of toxins and disease, a mind that is sharp and clear is just as critical to survival as physical strength, in fact, probably more so.

        As a constitutionalist libertarian, I would never advocate the use of government to enforce any type of dietary or lifestyle mandates. A human being has the inherent right to treat their body as a temple or a pool hall, whichever they prefer. If their nutritional intent is to point a loaded gun at their stomach and pull the trigger, that is their business and no one else’s. Just as long as they do not burden the taxpayer with the choice they have made when the medical bills begin piling up.

        1. Thank you SO MUCH! It is very nice to hear from someone who is so intelligent!!! If you would like to be Facebook friends, please grab my e-mail and search me on Facebook. Please say something that will let me know who you are, so I don’t ignore your request.

          I completely agree with all that you’ve said. (I am 98% vegan, in reality. If someone accidentally puts cheese on something I am eating, and I don’t notice right away, I am not anal about it). The only issue I have with the “loaded gun” comment you said, is when they point it at their children too.

          BTW, obesity costs the U.S. $300 million a year.

          It seems that most people on this site don’t get that they can injest protein from sources other than a ton of meat, and are very rude about it. Therefore, I will be blocking the site soon. I am glad I saw your comment before blocking.

        2. Jeffers, I was with you until the end! The problem is that when we make our choices and they make us sick we then burden the other tax payers… There’s no formal education on nutrition so people can learn the pros and cons of different lifestyle choices so most people are simply stabbing in the dark and hoping to stick a mango… or q pig and pray for the best:0).

      6. Karla, I’d suggest you peddle your wares someplace else. This site does not buy into “Shakeology” and its hocus-pocus claims.

        Oh, and BTW, Tony Horton is not a vegan. Check your BB newsletters. His personal chef is, but she feeds him whitefish, and chicken breasts. You may want to also read a bit more biology about protein and how plant based proteins are not as you think they are. Good luck with your bone density.

        1. Daniel, Wow. Why are you so angry? I suggested two ingredients that are in Shakeology. If people want to check out the product, of course they can. But if you go back to the conversations, you will see that I only suggested the two plant based ingredients that are extremely high in protein.

          Last time I chatted with Tony in Portland, he told me he went totally vegan. I don’t need to check newsletters. I know the man.

          I suggest you meditate a bit. There is no reason to be so angry and offensive.

        2. Dude, I gave info. That is all. I didn’t tell people to buy ANYTHING. I did point them to research I did on that nutrition drink, and if that offends you, I apologize. I research everything, and try to help people weed through info that I think is beneficial. I have already helped someone find an ingredient they didn’t know about. She went and found Sacha Inchi. (BTW, not from me, as you seem to indicate is my only point for posting here.) Who have you helped today?

          Mark has a good article. He doesn’t deserve someone who comments rudely, thus turning people away from his information. You need to check how you interact with people and jump to conclusions. There are MANY people in this world who care about others and want to share information. You don’t know me. I am a Girl Scout Leader, volunteer support two schools and an orphanage in Nepal and India, volunteer in my community at the High schools and United Way. I am also a professional actress and stunt person in addition to a full time job. I am probably old enough to be your Mom. Respecting other’s opinions may not be something you have learned yet. It is my sincere wish that you DO meditate and/or pray.

          If anyone on here feels I am just trying to peddle my wares, I must have stated my comment wrong. I will message Mark and ask him to remove it.

        3. “This site does not buy into “Shakeology” and its hocus-pocus claims.”

          You do realize this site does promote and sell protein powder (primal fuel) and the person who runs this site has said that he was involved in making the Shakeology formula….right?

          Just putting the facts out there.

      7. Wow, that’s great. You’re a Vegan (why? A billion dollars says because you were TOLD to be), and you have found a way, through great effort, coordination, research, and chemistry, to concoct a manner of eating that mimics eating meat without eating meat. AND YOU’RE BRAGGING, instead of seeing the fantastic stupidity of the very idea.

        Go to a psychologist. Your “need” to be Vegan (i.e. have all the focus on you and your food-distress while others are trying to have a perfectly normal meal) in full denial of science and history, is nothing new or unique or enlightened. It is an eating disorder, and like all eating disorders, is a means to compensate for some validation that you failed to receive in some area of your life where you desperately needed it. Now you use your “Veganism” to punish yourself and everyone for it three times a day.

        Denial ain’t just a river in Europe. Are you suggesting that mankind evolved over millions of years, long before things broccoli and green beans EVEN EXISTED, by eating Sacha Inchi? You couldn’t be deeper in denial. Man evolved for millions of years eating THE REAL MEAT. The fact that you are attempting to sell anything else as fact is the plain evidence of your denial. You are eating chemical substitute food, manufactured in a laboratory (from “natural ingredients” of course, it says so on the plastic bag it comes in) and lecturing us on your superiour health habits. Denial! Go seek the therapy you desperately need and stop wasting everyone’s time with your delusions.

        1. I answered the question as to why I am vegan. I lectured no one. I gave options and applauded the authors effort to educate people on why a high protein diet is not going to hurt most people.

          Calm down.

        2. Karla wrote, “BTW, obesity costs the U.S. $300 million a year.”

          Really? Lets see, the US population is roughly 300 million so obesity is only costing us $1 per person. Why, we can use all the leftover health care funds to buy every human on the planet vegan shakes for life. The earth has been saved and all ends well!

          Maybe some basic math and numerology is needed here.

        3. Denial is actually in Africa–look it up.
          Never thougth of veganism as an eating disorder but interesting point.
          However, there IS an eating disorder called Orthorexia; the obsession w/ eating “correctly”; a form of OCD. It breeds the kind of fanticism.about food that I see most commonly in vegans, utterly terrified that their might be a dab of egg or cheese in their food or who won’t eat off of bone china dishes. I believe we Primals are mellower than that; noting very little of the screaming I see elsewhere. Obsession is bad, period.

      8. The fact that you, as a vegan are getting so many hits from those who would label your personal choice as foolish or worse, only reinforces the notion that you are on to something. Keep upsetting the apple cart (pardon the pun).

        For those who believe that food has no effect on human behavior, perhaps they should read and reread the hostile, petulant retorts to your non-threatening post by the sanctimonious meatheads.

        Food, regardless of one’s own dietary choices, is more than what is on the end of one’s fork.

        1. Hey! I hope you’re not referencing all people who eat meat as being “sanctimonious meatheads”.

          Yeah, some of us are rude and pushy, but it’s also a two-way street. I do get tired of being told what a terrible person I am for enjoying meat, dairy and eggs, especially while I’m simultaneously having a vegan diet being shoved down my throat in a cafeteria (please note; the alternative is drenched in grease to the point where it is oily cardboard).

          Sorry if people yell at you for your choice in diet, but people yell at us, too. I’ve had meals where I’ve had to stare someone down because they were just so rude about making comments on my meal. I’m not shoving meat on their plates, so I don’t understand what the big deal is.

        1. FWIW, harsh messages along the lines of these probably aren’t very PB, either. From my (admittedly limited) experience with more original cultures, primarily in West Africa, people in a tribal or more communal settings are much more careful not to bicker, and even let actions that to westerners would be quite unpardonable slide by in the name of keeping peace bwetween interdependent individuals.

          When you don’t have social security, health insurance plans etc you are pretty much completely dependent on your tribe/extended family unit, and alienating yourself from it through needless hostility would be the equivalent of suicide. Imagine a lone hunter-gatherer – his chances of survival would have been pretty slim juts about anoywhere.

          No-one commenting here needs this “tribe” for their survival, of course, but I would argue that just like with the other aspects of our PB, the need for a more peaceful co-existence is most likely genetically pre-programmed, and going against it will hurt us just like eating a diet unnatural to our species (e.g, vegan, grain-based etc) will.

          It’s not just about the measurables (carb and protein ratios etc) but also (and perhaps even more so?) about the immesurables; kindness and a sense of communal support vs hostility, being a bit more chill or all tense, angry and defensive.

          Peace :^)

      9. Thank you Karla. Great info. I just received my first ever order of spirulina and I can’t wait to add it to my fruit and veggie juice blends. This is the first I’ve heard of Sacha Inchi and after doing a quick google I’m looking for a good organic place to order it and I can’t wait to try it as well. Part of what I love about this site is that so many people like you contribute great ideas and options for people to better their health.
        Part of what I bothers me is that people respond with immediate disbelief and mockery to anything foreign to them. As much crap as everyone who goes primal gets from people following CW I would think that any disagreement they have with you or anyone else would at the very least be met with a respectful disagreement. I’ve been primal for a year and a half and have never felt better. Along the way I have found that incorporating many of the superfoods and raw foods from the vegetarian/vegan diet has only enhanced my primal lifestyle and my overall health and happiness.
        So again I say thank you for your contributions. Please keep it up.


        1. Thank you Ben. I asked Mark to remove my remark, though, so please let people know about this. I am too disheartened by all the negativity and am blocking the site now. I tried once, but it is still sending me messages. If you want to get some sources (and I don’t even know if it includes Sacha Inchi), I found a free e-book called secret sources on If it isn’t still there, and you want to be FB friends, I think you can search me on Facebook, and I will e-mail you the downloaded PDF. Please tell me who you are so I don’t ignore the FB request.

          I apologize that I have to block the site and remove the comment. The rude messages are filling my in-box and it is too much.

          Keep up the GREAT WORK! You can do ANYTHING YOU PUT YOUR MIND TO! 🙂

      10. If one chooses to consume meat, at least have the good sense to purchase a high quality product which is minimally or unprocessed and produced without the use of antibiotics, hormones or harmful preservatives. A free range option is also best. It is important to make a distinction between this type of meat and faux meat such as commercial hot dogs, cold cuts and the like.

        When a choice must be made, some nutritionists consider that eating meat may be the lessor evil than consuming dairy products such as milk, butter, ice cream and cheese, due to possible adulteration, radiation and casein content.

      11. Shakeolgy contains milk based ingredients according to the nutrition lablel website:
        “Contains milk-based ingredients”. So, not a vegan product.

        1. Karla complains that folks don’t have an open mind, and then threatens repeatedly to block this site. I am sure no tears will be shed if the threat is ever carried out.

      12. I think if it works for you, that is great. Unfortunately, when I was vegetarian, spirulina chlorella did not help me at all, nor did any other vegan source of protein (either caused bad side effects or were not absorbed properly). I suspect many others find the same thing. Only animal proteins, even eggs, seem to keep me feeling healthy. I do hope you fare better on such a diet than I did. Several years later, I am still undoing the damage I did to myself in the name of being “compassionate”. Best of luck to you.

      13. Karla, what a debate you sparked. I am exceptionally healthy and fit. Isn’t that what Mark is advocating? I just don’t happen to eat meat! But I thought we were searching for health, not dogma. I don’t do much FB (fairly new) but I’d like to friend you, or you could friend me. I think I need more to go on than “Karla”. How does that work? Can you friend Delores from Juneau? That should narrow it down quite a bit!

      14. “…some I get through my nutrition drink, Shakeology It is written about on Healthitude, under the nutrition tab if anyone is curious.”

        This isn’t peddling?

        1. Interesting…Karla comes here, posts some stuff about being Vegan, and then blocks the site because she doesn’t like the attention she’s getting. Why come to this site and post Vegan information? Just hang out on the vegan sites and commend one another on how great life is without meat. If you’ve read anything about primal and or paleo, you know meat is a huge part of it. Don’t come to a site that advocates eating a lot of meat and get upset when we don’t see your vegan lifestyle as good.

          I also find it interesting that she says she doesn’t eat meat because it is impossible to find meat that isn’t filled with chemicals, hormones, etc. At the same time, she is eating some crap I wouldn’t know where to buy if it was the last thing to eat. You’re telling me it is easier to find some algae or seaweed than it is to find free range or organic meats? Every few months, our local grocery stores add a few more organic and/or free range meat products. I have no idea where the hell to buy algae.

      15. omg! i lov meat 2!yum!steak… chicken…& lets not leave out those poor unsuspecting unhatched baby chickens that turn into my 8 egg omletes 7 days per week…. aaahhhhh…i leg pressed ….680lbs. for reps last nite after i killed it on the stairmaster for a 1/2 hr. warm up?!!! um ….ya… pass me a plant 2 snack on…MEATRULESMORE4MEIFUDONTWANTNONE!!!!!!

        1. Leg presses are nigh on worthless. Would Grok have done anything remotely like a leg press? I think not. Do some squats and get back to us.

      16. I didn’t buy any shakes from your site, but I found a source for antibiotic-free meat through an Adsense Ad on your site.

        Thank you.

    4. can someone please help me !am lactose intolerant which mean no protein powder for me i have try them all and they cause problem. will a essential amino supplement be beneficial??

      1. You can find protein powder made from split peas that is very good. No milk products in it, which also greatly reduces (eliminates?) the cholesterol content. I get mine in vanilla from vitacost.

    5. Thank you for all this info. Seriously the most interesting and the easiest nutrition info to read and understand out there. I basically have to do exactly the same assignment and this has helped me heaps. Really keen to look through all the studies you linked as well. I eat over 500% of the RDI of protein for ‘healthy adults in new zealand’. Have no kidney issues at all, eat 100% primal because my body hates me otherwise, I CrossFit, I’m lean, have tons of energy and I feel.. awesomeness. Thanks Mark!

  2. I would like to point out two things:

    1) Americans, even those not following a primal diet, do often overestimate the protein that they “need”. That said, as long as you’re drinking plenty of water and have healthy kidneys, there’s no real upper limit.

    2) If you DO have existing kidney problems, there’s a very real need to restrict protein intake. I have Polycystic Kidney Disease and my nephrologist recommends I limit myself to about 1g per kg of total body weight. Some days I’m under that, some days I’m over, but I try to hit that target as an average.

    1. Chritine, be careful how much water is plenty. The “experts” recommend 8 glasses of water a day, but this recommendation was established on a fact taken out of context.

      It comes from a study that says you need about 8 glasses of water a day to maintain hydration, but most of this is acquired through food.

      Indeed, I usually only drink about one glass a day and I’m fine. Never thirsty, unless I’m super active. Mildly active, not so much.

      Anyway, drinking too much water is actually harmful.

      Mark has article on here somewhere I’m sure.

      1. To follow up, let you thirst guide you, not the recommendations of plenty of water.

        1. I do drink alot of water myself, between one and two litres per day, I seem to need that much water.

      2. The recommendation for eight glasses of water a day includes ‘invisible’ water which is all food. I’m a urorenal nurse by training by the way and have been ‘Primal’ for 2 years and completely healthy on it. lots of protein, plenty of fluids!

  3. Thank you for this! I recently tried to go primal and introduced the aspects in an order that didn’t work for me, therefor leaving me very hungry. Now that I know an average to shoot for (for me making it so that I essentially flip my meat intake with my carb intake) I think I may be much less hungry this next go around

  4. I don’t regularly pay much attention to how many grams of protein I consume in a day, but I tend to eat a good deal of meat. The last time I added things up I was getting around 1g/lb-body-weight/day. It would sometimes end up being even more than that. I strength train about once a week using a HIT-type routine. I’m fairly young at 27, but for what it’s worth, my kidneys still work fine.

    I find the notion of 38g protein/day laughable. I’m fairly confident I would wither away with a diet like that.

  5. Renee was too charitable to remark about her nutrition instructor’s weight and/or body fat percentage, but I am guessing that Renee is far leaner than the instructor. My rule of thumb: All things being equal, don’t take nutritional advice from people who are fatter than you are, especially if they are skinny-fat, the very worst kind of fat to be.

      1. Skinny-Fat:

        When it comes to evaluating your health, the number on the scale is no longer a reliable source. Health experts have noticed a growing trend of people who appear skinny on the outside, yet have a disproportionate percentage of body fat to lean body tissue on the inside. This is known as skinny fat. Skinny fats are most often people who maintain a strict diet, but fail to exercise. In order to truly be skinny you must do both.

        1. Ah, I understand. Muscle is definitely king. The more the better. It doesn’t come for free though.

        2. Endurance athletes on a 20 hour a week training regime of chronic cardio eating high carb vegetarian diets are skinny fat … I know!

        3. I love this word skinny fat. You nailed it right on. Many people look skinny but actually have a high body fat percentage due to NO MUSCLE!!

          Eat animals, lift weights and problem solved…

    1. I think the comment “don’t take nutritional advice from people who are fatter than you” misses the mark. (although I get what you mean by skinny fat). I am fatter than my neighbor. I eat healthy and go for long walks, do a lot of lifting, exercise, etc. My neighbor is thin as a board, she smokes and has had two heart attacks.
      Good advice is good advice. I’d not be likely to take it from someone who was chowing down on twinkies and candy bars, but I don’t think size is a reflection of knowledge. What if a 250 pound person has lost 75 pounds. Are they not entitled to talk lifestyle or health?

    2. This reminds me of a quote I heard recently … I think from a chick-flick or sit-com I was barely paying attention to. Anyway, the chick said: “I don’t take advice from anyone I wouldn’t want switch places with.” Good point.

  6. Thanks for this topic – I am in week 2 of being primal, and I noticed how much protein I have been eating – this article put my mind at ease. I do not have kidney problems, so I should be fine…

  7. Renee my wife is also studying to be a nurse and when we first started looking into the primal blueprint she would go on and on about how it contradicted what her professors were teaching. Although, that was kind of the point, it only took 30 days being primal for her to realize her professors were wrong and the primal blueprint was correct. I agree with Aaron P that I would wither away with just 38 grams a day.

  8. So 1 gram per pound? So that is less than half a pound per day. Wow. I think I am eating half a pound PER MEAL. So 3x what Mark suggests. 15x what this teacher is suggesting. I’m doomed! Kidding. I’m going to go eat a 16 oz steak. Later.

    1. That’s 1g of actual protein, not meat. Red meat is about 17-20g per 100g.

      Mark, great post as usual. I actually loved the sarcasm-ray you unleashed on the first paragraph — had be guffawing at work, fortunately the guys here are used to me doing that.

    1. Nobody seems confused to me.

      Probably helps that he explained what he was really saying immediately after, eh?

    2. Most people who have read the blog before could tell that Mark was kidding around with what he said. I mean, he was basically preaching CW in the first paragraph and he almost never does that seriously.

    3. PRO TIP: If a paragraph seems whacked out and extreme, and the next paragraph begins with the word, “seriously”, it’s a pretty sure bet that the previous paragraph was sarcasm.

  9. Ha! I am a critical care nurse, and let me tell you one thing: people in healthcare have absolutely no clue about nutrition. i get funny looks and comments EVERYDAY about how i eat and the food i bring to work and always get the same question, ‘if you dont eat bread or rice then where do you get your carbs from?’ and this is from people who have science based degrees! these people who are also questioning my diet are the ones that are overweight, sedentary and always eating lean cuisines and other prepackaged meals that are essentially void of any real nutrition and loaded with high glycemic carbohydrates. you will be in the minority here, but regarding what they teach you in nursing school, it’s best to just learn what they teach you for the exams just to pass and NOT apply it to your everyday eating habits.

    1. I get the same questions about carbs all the time! People don’t realize how many carbs are in fruits and veggies.

      1. My friend who is becomng a trainer studying nutrition too, is more upset at my refusal of grains, as she truly believes I need the fiber and roughage, and it is noted when she cooks lunch for me that she tries to sneak in more fruit and grains into our meal lol.
        My nephrologist does not flinch at my protein intake, even as I used to be prone to kidney infections, but that was mostly due to too much sugars from various sources. Now they are rare and usually because I am not intaking enough water to keep them flushed. No set amount just little extra than just feeling thirsty amount.

        1. Feel free to point out to your friend, then, that you can get the same amount or fiber (or more) from 100 calories of many veggies or fruit as you would get from 100 calories of grains.

          For example, 100 calories of strawberries have the same fiber as 100 calories of oatmeal — and are more filling, to boot.

          Run a search for “Let’s talk numbers” in the “Harder. Better. Faster. Stronger” blog — there are lots of similar comparisons of the nutritional qualities of veggies, fruits, vs. grains. There’s just no contest.

  10. I eat about 2LBs of meat per day (or a mixed 1LB meat and 1LB cottage cheese)
    and seriously doubt it is harmful (and yes, I have regular BM’s).

  11. This is another example of the “sick-care” industry knowing nothing about creating health. It is extremely important for people to understand the difference between “sick-care” and “health care” and then choose wisely based on their goals and objectives.

    1. Sick care is right—horrible lifestyle choices and then dump cleaning up the mess on healthcare workers. Registered Respiratory Therapist here; had patients complain about me to administration at my last job b/c I took exception to their continuing to smoke (now out of the game; got REALLY sick of all the time and energy I spent being an addiction counselor). Bet there are damn few Primal smokers; bet that there are plenty of vegans who are to help them stay skinny so they can brag about their better-than-any-other lifestyle.

  12. Before primal, I used to periodically (frequently, actually) get nasty cravings and lose my self-control and PIG OUT on carbs, eating to a point of extreme physical discomfort. Since going primal, I NEVER eat large amounts at once, and I ALWAYS feel great after a meal. I am no longer tempted to eat more than what I consider to be a reasonable serving of protein–a large chicken leg, a thick, hefty steak, a lovely, long wild salmon filet, a 3-egg omlette. Of course, my version of a reasonable serving is WAY MORE than CW dictates. But, I sincerely believe that my built-in, natural satiety signals are now working perfectly, as the obviously DID NOT before. On a healthy, primal diet I think that a good way to gauge the proper amount of protein is by APPETITE.

    1. I totally agree! Eating primally corrects cravings and re-creates true appetite. It is amazing to eat only to fullness. On an emotional level too – no more guilt trip over the carb-based binging!

    2. Yes, our culture has taught us to eat with the (thinking) mind and not the stomach. Just as our bodies are designed to regulate our internal homeostasis without us needing to understand, analyze and micro-manage it, they are designed to regulate our dietary needs and desires (thirst, hunger, type of food etc). Just because this system can get a bit disregulated after a long time of living in a less than natural way doesn’t mean it isn’t still there for us to tap into.

  13. I’ve been eating roughly a pound and a half of meat most days and have never felt better. Never been leaner, either. Not sure where this vilification of animal protein comes from, but it certainly is a recurring theme in virtually everyone I talk to.

    And as an earlier commenter pointed out, those who argue with me are always struggling with weight issues.

  14. I love the primal lifestyle but cutting out carbs leaves me feeling panicky & anxious. I have read a lot about my issue and the conclusion I have come up with is that my brain stops making serotonin due to the low carbohydrate levels. Can anyone help me with this issue? It seems to be a problem for a lot of people from what I have read.

    1. Check out the odds and ends forum using search box for 5-HTP. Serotonin precursors are amino acids not carbohydrates.

      1. I know what she’s talking about. Supposedly, serotonin production requires the presence of insulin. That may or may not be true. I’m a bit confused, if it IS true, why increasing insulin levels by eating protein wouldn’t work as well as increasing them by eating carbohydrate, and you wouldn’t have elevated blood sugar to go along with it.

        Anyway I’ve heard an interesting argument that most of us actually have *too much* serotonin floating around, because we’re not getting enough sleep in a dark enough environment to turn the excess into melatonin. I have no idea if that’s true but I’d love to see that idea explored if it hasn’t been already. The notion that depression is caused by insufficient serotonin is already kind of under fire in certain quarters because SSRIs increase available serotonin the moment they hit the bloodstream–so how come so many depressives don’t see good results for at least the first two weeks?

        1. Drawing this completely out of the “unsorted well” that is my brain: my guess would be that the brain of a depressive has down-regulated the *receptors* for serotonin — and it takes a couple weeks to rebuild them and actually accept the (new SSRI-managed) serotonin levels. Just like our gut flora and fauna have to change over to account for a low-carb lifestyle and much-reduced carb intake, the brain cells have to change over to account for a higher level of serotonin.

        2. Dana, I wanted to let you know that you are by far my favorite poster. Always great facts, insights and questions. Thanks.

    2. I would second this! I do well eating primal for a week or two (though I do have carb withdrawal for the first couple of days). Then I lose my appetite for the food.

      I do have reactive hypoglycemia, hyperthyroid & adrenal fatigue – Dr. Diana Schwarzbein cautions that overly restricting carbs & increasing protein in such cases causes increases in cortisol which adds to the damage.

      I’d like to find out if that’s true – and if it is, surely there must be a primal approach for healing these problems!

      1. I highly doubt that what this doctor cautions is true. My mom has hypoglycemia and severe adrenal fatigue. Lately she has focused her efforts on improving her diet, and the big changes she’s made were to put an upper limit on her carb intake (100g) and a lower limit on her protein intake (100g), as well as increasing her fat intake. When she made this change, made sure to have lots of protein and fat for breakfast and lunch (with a more carb-heavy dinner), she said it was the first time in a long time she actually felt good all day and had energy.

        The idea that restricting carbs would cause increases in cortisol seems odd to me, as I was under the impression that excess carbohydrate intake stresses the body and causes the release of cortisol. By restricting carbs you’d be reducing the stress put on your body.

        I don’t know what’s the case for you, but in my mom’s case, she has trouble digesting proteins. This is actually a result of getting insufficient protein over a long period of time, since digestive enzymes are created from proteins. She takes digestive enzyme supplements to help her with digestion, but it is essential in her case to get as much protein as her body can handle, so that it can recover the damage done to it and replenish the depleted resources.

        Again, I don’t know the specifics of your situation, so I can’t really say what would be best for you, but it only makes sense to me that if you’re in poor health, for whatever reason, the best dietary approach is one that is generally healthy. Having adrenal fatigue or the associated hormonal problems doesn’t suddenly make excess carbs not stressful to your body or reduce your protein requirements. On the contrary, you’re likely in greater need of the raw materials to repair your adrenals and replenish your hormonal reserves–and that’s fat and protein.

        If you have trouble with appetite, I would just look for different types of foods that can fit within the primal blueprint so that you have some variety. Or even change the order in which foods you eat during a meal, if some are more appetite suppressing than others. Primal eating seems to be pretty sustainable for most, so I think you’ve just gotta find which foods work for you.

      2. I had all of these problems as well. My reactive hypoglycemia cleared up simply by going cold turkey off the carbs. It was hard for the first couple of days but soon my body adapted and after a couple of weeks I had no hypoglycemic symptoms! I just went almost 6 hours without eating and I had no problems! Before I had to eat every 2 or 3 hours or I felt like I was going to faint.
        I took a very effective herbal remedy for hypothyroid and my thyroid was normal within a month! Here’s the link to the Herbalist I saw:

        This is the formula that worked for me:

        There is absolutely no information on the website about what this formula does because the herbalist is based in Ontario, Canada where they are basically trying to outlaw herbal remedies. I know this herbalist very well. He is a friend of the family and helped my mother conquer MS.
        Hope this information helps!
        Your hypoglycemia will disappear when you stop eating the carbs!!!

      3. After eating primal for 3 weeks, my reactive hypoglycemia WENT AWAY… and it was something that I needed to keep honey packets and other sources of carbs around constantly to keep from “falling out” (as my parents call it).

        Cortisol would be more prevalent where there are wild blood sugar swings. Those BS variations can contribute to adrenal fatigue… control your blood sugar, everything else should go away (or improve greatly at the very least).

    3. I take 200mg of L-Theanine per day and that seems to help me. It helps produces seratonin in the brain.

    4. Thanks, Kim, for raising this issue. It’s real. I stopped eating grains and starchy vegetables about a year ago and I feel better now, at 39, then I ever have in my life. But I have had the same experience as you. If I eat very low carb for a week or more, under 30 grams per day, I start to have strong anxiety feelings.

      (I’ve read that the cause is low glucose. The brain needs glucose; if there’s not enough in the diet, the body will make it, but it takes adrenaline to do so, causing anxiety as a bi-product. I have no idea if this is true, by the way.)

      Anyway, there is a simple solution. Increase your carb intake until the feeling passes. Have a “cheat day” or simply eat more veggies or nuts. It works for me. I hope it works for you!

    5. Kim, eating pelnty of saturated fat and taking a magnesium supplement helps some people with mood and anxiety problems. Also, check out a book called “The Mood Cure.”

      1. I cheat with dark chocolate… 70% or better. Hageland has a 71% Costa Rican chocolate you can find the bar at most Walmarts (and no where else from my current search) for like $2. I’ve lost like 50 pounds in 9 months by eating primally and indulging in my Costa Rica chocolate when I need. The antioxidants are a big perk. 😀

        1. I’m going to look for that Costa Rican chocolate. What does it look like? Is it in a bar form?

          I’ve noticed that I always feel Very satiated and calm after eating a meal with lots of meat. If I’m feeling depleted (often) and eat some liver cooked with bacon I feel like a new person. My husband thinks I’m nuts but I really think you guys are onto something and am going to look further into what’s going on here.

          Thank you for providing this informative site.

  15. I eat a lot of protein (about 90g most days) and have never had any kidney problems.

    But I also cycle it out about once a week by skipping a meal and making at least the next one a low protein affair. The more I read about autophagy (your body’s mechanism for cleaning out damaged proteins by consuming them), the more I see the importance of this type of variation.

  16. I have found my sweet spot to be around .8 to 1 gram of protein per pound. I think its silly to think that a protein intake that keeps be looking and feeling healthy would be over taxing my kidneys.

  17. Look up glutamine in Wikipedia. It is the amino acid involved in converting excess nitrogen and hydrogen to ammonia. In short, it is a buffering agent. Guess which foods are the best sources of glutamine. No, go on, guess.

    So not only does animal protein buffer its own increased acidity in the system, it has a calcium-sparing effect because the glutamine packaged along with the animal protein does the buffering in the kidney so the calcium doesn’t have to!

    You could do similar with wheat protein if you really wanted to destroy your GI tract, but… why bother?

  18. Kim,

    I read a short article the other day about the serotonin dip that happens around 4 o’clock in most people – women more than men – and that carbohydrates (about 30 grams) raise it back up, not protein. The article wasn’t specific about what kind of carbohydrate had this effect but I’ve found that a veggie snack and a little moving around always makes me feel better.

  19. Yikes! I am more afraid of kidney disease than cancer. My doctor has told me I have low kidney function. Further testing showed the only damage was from 15 years of blood pressure meds! The meds have been halved and I am hoping to get off them entirely and trying to use Primal/Paleo to do it. (Stopped my reflux meds after six days….) Don’t think I eat excessive protein, plus I eat lots of veggies, plus 2-3 fruit servings. At this point I am not too worried.

  20. I’ve just calculated my protein intake and it’s around 80g per meal (and I eat 2-3 times a day, depending on my appetite).

    That’s more that 2g per lb (last time I weighed myself – scales broke yonks ago) I was around 112 (I’m 5′ 4″).

    British meat’s very lean and I seem to need a lot to satiate me (which I find rather odd…)

    Does this mean I’m going to die of kidney failure, then… ;o)

    1. Start buttering your meat! (Or use coconut oil.) Very lean meat gives you lots of protein but not much fat (duh: tautology), so you’re needing more of it to get enough fat. When I have a dry porkchop, or steak, I butter each piece with a wee dab of butter — makes it SO delicious, and healthier!

  21. The way I look at it, even if my increased protein intake was detrimental to my kidneys, it should be mitigated by the fact that I’m not drinking soda and I don’t take painkillers or other kidney-killing pharmaceuticals, unlike the majority of SAD dieters.

    All while regaining my high school track/football weight, looking pretty darn good naked, and running laps around all of the out of shape parents at the neighborhood sledding hill. Feel free to keep churning out the nonsensical “research,” carb addicts.

    1. Yes, good point! Eating primally gives your system a break on many levels that could otherwise lead to kidney problems. This encouragement is why I have you guys around! I was actually just getting worried about the protein/kidneys issue. No more!

  22. Well. I just don’t understand why we should overeat protein. Of course we should eat the protein that we can use for constructing (or reconstructing) ourselves. But that is not much as much as some people think. The problem with high protein diets is that all the rest of the protein you eat is converted into glucose or fat. It would of course be better for everyone, the individual and the earth, if we ate the glucose from a dried apricot instead of a beef that is really inefficiently converted to energy anyway.
    And I’m probably just not informed enough, but I think there are too few posts/articles about how much protein you need when you try to combine amino acids as “smart” as possible.
    As I understand it, grams don’t mean anything unless you also consider the weakest link of the amino acids. And how the protein is cooked/heated.
    It’s always the weakest link (or maybe least occuring amino acid) that limits what the body can do with the rest of the amino acids.
    Hypothetically: If your specific bodycell’s DNA says that you need equal amounts of all amino acids to construct or reconstruct it but your food only supplies you with half the amount of one amino acid (say methionine, which by the way often seem to be the limiting one) compared to all the rest, the body can’t use the extra half of the rest of the amino acids.
    E.g.; if you eat 100 grams of a protein source that supplies you with 20 grams of protein, the theory about the limiting says that the limiting amino acid in this particular food may limit the bodys use of the proteins to, say, 10 grams. But if you supply the body with one (1) extra gram of the limiting amino acid, maybe you can use all of the 20 grams that the food contained in the first place. This would then mean that if you eat 100 grams of the protein source plus 1 gram of supplement of the scarcest amino acid (a total of 21 grams of protein), your body would get as much useful protein as if you ate 200 grams of the protein source (a total of 40 grams of protein), but no amino acid supplement.
    And when the organisations, like the UN or FDA, give you recommendations, they now that most people have no clue about this and that they get most of their protein from inferior sources, such as rice, ant that the recommendations have to take into account all of the limiting amino acid stuff. They need to include a safety margin in the recommendations.
    And on top of this we have the heating which alters/destroys many proteins. And the creatine. Heating makes the naturally occuring creatine in meat react with the protein and creates the heterocyclic amines that the people at the Cancer Institute (american) are so concerned about. And my logic tells me that if two substances react with each other to turn into a new form, they can not at the same time stay, unaltered, in their original form. If people would eat raw beef instead of BBQd they would probably need a lot less supplements in the form of extra creatine and extra protein. Especially if they would also consider the theory about the weakest link.

    1. While it’s true that cooking and other preparation/preservation methods can denature proteins, amino acids themselves are not destroyed in these processes. They remain intact. The concern about the “limiting” amino acids is really only valid when protein sources are “incomplete” – and most, if not all animal sources of proteins are complete, that is, they contain all the amino acids in amounts that don’t aren’t limiting their utility. Protein combining becomes important when incomplete sources of protein are the primary sources – grains and legumes, for example. If those are primary sources, then protein combining (i.e., rice and beans) is important, and should be paid due attention, because the limiting amino acids impact the way your body uses/excretes the amino acids you’re taking in, just as you say. Since the WHO/UN deal with typically undernourished populations who rely primarily on incomplete sources of protein, it’s not remarkable that they have to emphasize diversity of non-animal protein sources. The USDA, well, that’s another matter…

  23. This is why I refuse to go get a Nutrition degree. I graduate in May with my Accounting degree but have always has a huge passion for nutrition and exercise. I want a Nutrition degree so I can be a Nutritionist/Dietician but in a PALEO/CAVEMAN way…Not the FDA Bulls*** way.
    I have been doing SEALFit/CrossFit and been doing Paleo since May 2010 and I feel THE BEST I have ever felt.
    Is there any kind of Paleo Degree out there?!! 🙂

    1. Our nutritionist was the one that recommended the Primal diet…. she said more and more nutritionists believe that grains are unneccessary and that many health problems stem from overconsumption of carbs and sugar.

      I think there may not be a Paleo degree but there is definitely Paleo “Koolaid” for nutritionists…..

    2. I went into nursing and came out with a bachelor’s degree in it. Unfortunately after graduating I found that I didn’t want to care for sick people that continue to live their sick lifestyles that made them ill in the first place.

      Then I thought perhaps attaining a nutrition degree would be better. I’ve since discovered that the universities are teaching old, horribly detrimental information that will continue to lead people down the wrong path of health. So I agree with you. Is there a Paleo Degree out there? lol

  24. It’s hugely unfortunate that someone in a position of “authority” in the medical field is so off-base – incorrectly transferring information about SICK kidneys to the healthy population.

    It would be similarly incorrect to recommend drastically reduced exercise to HEALTHY people, because the POLIO population has to be very careful about exercise and can’t handle much.

    Talk about not being able to see the forest for the trees…

  25. I’m finishing my last semester of nursing school right now- and I am SO glad to be done with all of the nutrition melarche. I have to regurgitate the right answers on my tests, knowing in my mind that the information is incorrect. When you’re actually out in practice, you can contribute to research that proves the opposite is true!

  26. I just don’t listen to the so called ‘experts’ anymore. When people give me advice I just smile, nod and put everything they said where it belongs…in the garbage. I no longer try to tell them the benefits of Primal because these people are so brain-washed it’s not worth my time to discuss nutrition with them. They will come around (or not) when their time comes. I simply focus on me now!

    It’s exactly the same when they try to discourage me from doing Crossfit. I just don’t listen.

  27. Imagine if it were true that high protein diets were in fact the devil — supplement companies would be hunting you down Mark 🙂

  28. My step fathers doctor told him that he has to limit his protein intake because he’s had kidney stones in the past. Apparently protein can aggravate this and cause them to come back. Any truth to this? I’ve been trying to get my parents to go primal, without much success, and that is one of the main reasons that he won’t. Any info will help. Thanks and Grock on!

    1. I’m not an expert by any means, but I find that my protein is ending up well within the recommended ranges of even a SAD.. I think people get kidney stones from eating a TON of protein, like an amount you would have to try hard to eat (or if you were having a lot of like protein shakes, etc)..

      1. I’ll take my chances with the kidney stones, from what I understand they hurt like hell but I like being strong, fast and attractive.

    2. When I had a kidney stone, it was caused by drinking soda every day (up to 4 sodas a day) for a year or two. I have eliminated all soda from my diet. I have been eating a lot of protein and so far no kidney problems.

  29. OK, so what about someone with only one kidney? Any need to count protein?

    1. If you have only one kidney you might want to consult doctors about what to eat.

  30. Well, considering there is about 450 grams is a pound and I tend to eat about 1 to 2 pounds of meat in the average day that puts me between 450-900 grams of protein per day. At 200 pounds that is more than 2X-4X more grams than my body weight each day.

    And this is a relevant thing to discuss, because my first Paleo cookbook was not Marks, but one called the Garden of Eating (which is fantastic FYI). The GoE suggest eating about 70% vegetables and fruits, but at my size I found this ridiculous as I had to eat so much darn food to get enough calories not to fade away (I’m at about 8% body fat). So I went to about 50/50 meats to produce and that seems to satiate me and made this diet sustainable.

    So at least for a man of my size and energy usage, mass amounts of protein are necessary and if this is indeed how people ate in the wild; it is also natural.

    1. Hmm, I think your math in the first paragraph is a little off. Take chicken breast, for instance, at roughly 140grams of protein per pound. If you ate 2lbs of chicken breast (and that’s a lot of chicken breast in a day!), you’re still at 280grams of protein, WAY below the 450-900 grams you estimated. Granted, 280grams in a day is still a lot of protein.

      1. Uhhh, yea, I just typed in pounds to grams in google and it was 1 pounds = 453.something grams. However, I guess that meat isn’t 100% protein :P, so my bad.

  31. I myself have often wondered if the root cause of kidney stones was too much intake of protein. Overall I think that as long as you drink lots of water and exercise regularly, you should be just fine.

  32. I posted this on FB and sure enough someone brought up the one kidney scenario. She said her husband had one kidney and had to avoid the following: protein shakes, too much protein will harm it, and so does ice tea (tea leaves are bad), chocolate and dark cola.

  33. Mark, you say that animal protein does not lead to calcium loss?

    Loren Cordain states in his Paleo Diet book, the 2002 version, that acid foods do lead to calcium loss through your pee. A dark yellow pee shows signs of calcium loss. I think this is what he said… If you balance it with alkalizing foods such as fruits, veggies then you will be fine.

    So, what about people who eat very low carb? Should they be concerned about calcium loss or not?

    1. Hey PT, check out Dana’s comment above, the one that starts with “Look up glutamine in Wikipedia”. Maybe that’ll help.

  34. Glad to hear this information. At my recent doc visit, she made it clear I was well on my way to dialysis. I don’t really understand the numbers, but they are above the reference range:

    Urine creatinine 144 mg/dL
    Urine ALB/CRE 38 ZZ/ ref. 0-29
    Microalbumin urine 54 mg/L ref. 0-23

    I have borderline diabetes. My blood sugar level is dropping but still too high. ~120

    Can anyone interpret this? Am I almost ready for dialysis?

    1. Hedonist:

      The site below has a GFR calculator to determine what stage CKD you’re at. Your GFR is basically the percentage of function you have left. Like everything else in life, people progress at different rates. Dialysis doesn’t usually start until you’re under 15%. Make your doctor tell you this stuff. I HATE it when doctors keep patients in the dark so as not to worry them or whatever lame excuse.

      Always remember that you are your own advocate. Learn everything you can because the more you know, the better you’ll fair. Dialysis can sometimes be a brutal experience if you don’t know enough to stand up for yourself.

      Look into short daily home hemodialysis and noctural home hemodialysis. These treatments give you a better quality of life because the more dialysis you can get, the better. Kidneys work 24/7 not 4 hours/3 times a week like conventional in-center dialysis.

      There are chat groups on Yahoo Groups for dialysis patients, home dialysis paitents, transplant patiets, and for specific causes of kidney failure like PDK and IgAN. These people share their experiences and offer advice. Not medical advice, rather “this is what worked for me” advice. Definitely worth checking out.

      Take care of yourself!

  35. I have CKD and am currently on dialysis. My renal failure was cause by the flu. I had weaken kidneys as a child due to reflux and being sick for 1 month due to dehydration from the flu was enough to cause failure in my early 20s. One renal doctor for suggested a low protein diet and increased by carbs. It left me tired all the time. Once i started back on moderate protein intake 1 to 1.5g of protein per kg of weight. I feel better and have gain muscle mass and strength which is hard when your on dialysis. I’ve also started kettlebell training and core training. I’m hoping to get a transplant soon within the next year, so my body will be ready. I’m off all hypertension medication when your kidneys fail high blood pressure results. As long as I eat well and exercise I have no issues.

  36. Renee,

    I am a nurse as well as a patient at the renal clinic ( I have 65-70% of normal kidney function) and my nephrologist is more than OK with this lifestyle. I had checked, double checked and then asked again a third time just to be sure. I would say ‘you realize I will be eating a load of protein’ and he would respond ‘what’s wrong with that’…your instructor sounds like she is one of the brainwashed crowd that believe in the food pyramid (or rainbow as is now being done here in Canada).

    If you are really concerned go to your family doctor for some blood work.

    1. I Delimaris (2013) Adverse effects associated with protein intake above the Recommended Dietary Allowance for adults ISRN Nutrition, vol. 2013, Article ID 126929, 6 pages, 2013. doi:10.5402/2013/126929

  37. Perfect timing Mark! I am going back to school for my nutrition degree and in one of my three nutrition classes this semester, we have to read this ONE paper about kidney disease and protein intake, how bad animal protein basically is for your kidneys. I was thinking, Mark has got to have something on this. You did not disappoint. Thanks for all of the great help!

  38. What about the relationship between protein intake and gout? Has anyone seen any discussions on possible connections between gout and the type of high protein / high fat diet typical of paleo?

    1. Hi Dan, for the last 8 months I have eaten only Fatty Meat and H20. I suffered from gout and cured myself with a baking soda + H20 mixture after the drugs the doc gave me didn’t work. I have been gout free for over 7 years. I was concerned about gout when I started Zero Carb, but so far so good. I thought I would share. Battle On!!!



      1. Thanks for the feedback on your experience, Dave. I am quite new to paleo, but not new to paying attention to the revolution in various ways of thinking about diet. And it seems like diet / human health is an area in which the more we learn, the less we seem to know with certainty. Nice to have your anecdotal feedback on this point.



      2. So tell me what you did with the baking soda water. I’m very interested.

  39. Great post! I’ve perused your site off and on, but this piece definitely makes me wanna stick around! Renal function and protein intake is something that the meat critics love to present, but here again you have more info that illustrates that this is NOT an issue. It’s nice to see someone who follows sensible advice and actually does their research! Thanks!

  40. Slightly off topic, but I had to have a little laugh at Marks experience with his vet recommending a lower protein diet for his dog. As a Vet Nurse myself I totally agree with Mark. Dogs need meat!
    Most of the commercial dog foods available (even the premium ones sold at vet clinics) are predominantly grain based. Along with myself, my dog now follows a predominantly primal lifestyle. In New Zealand Possums are a pest and a serious threat to our native forests. They are also a fantastic lean, high protein meat source. I trap, skin, and remove the claws before feeding the whole carcass to my dog. She couldn’t be happier with her natural diet. And her teeth are great, as she actually has to chew her food. Im sure she is much healthier than alot of the dogs on a biscuit only diet that I see at the clinic.

    1. I have three farm cats. Their usual diet is rodents and birds in the garden and greenhouse. I supplement this with a daily portion of dry cat food. I always make certain the first ingredient listed on the cat food label is real meat. Very little cereal product. It’s more expensive but they don’t eat so much because of all of the available “livestock”. If I offer them a chiefly cereal based food, they pass on it.

    2. Do you think that it would be okay to feed my dogs rabbits? We don’t have possums around here. Also is it alright for them to chew up those bones? And, it would seem I’d have to worm them after eating that raw meat, right. Do you have any recommendations on the types of worming to do/use? thanks

  41. I avoid eating too much protein by focusing on eating a high fat diet! I get around 80% of my calories from fat. My one concern with a high protein diet is that excess protein is basically turned into sugar. So I eat fatty meat and high fat dairy products. No skinless chicken breasts or cottage cheese for me! Yuck! I wouldn’t want to eat that anyways!

    1. “My one concern with a high protein diet is that excess protein is basically turned into sugar.”

      A myth. People should actually read biochemistry textbooks and/or search pubmed/medline. Excess aminoacids (if gluconeogenesis is not required and hepatic glycogen stores are full) are broken down into various oxoacids which in turn can directly enter the crebs cycle and be oxidized.

    2. Robin,

      I agree with AS about the excess-protein-to-sugar misinformation. However, I completely agree with your comment on emphasizing a higher level of fat intake.

      It is a little bit amusing how so many jump on the high-protein bandwagon and try to outdo each other about how much they consume. Yet, like Mark shared in the article, who doesn’t agree that a greasy fat piece of meat is more satisfying that an extra lean cut?

      I expect that there can be some negative effect on the body from eating too much lean meat or isolated protein without the inclusion of a high level of fat to go with it. I am afraid that I won’t do the research for you today (especially since many of you already know this), but the body has a high need for fats for many, many of its functions and maintenance of organs; to assimilate other nutrients; and to provide pure energy.

      From observing other meat eaters, they seem to go after the organs and fat before the muscle. I bet Grok did too.

      There are cultures that thrive on diets of mostly fat consumption (Eskimos?), but are there any who live as well on lean meat? Last I measured it, my diet was, of course, low carb, but my protein percentage was less than half that of the fats. My fat:protein:carb ratio was something like 65:25:10. And despite only a medium level of exercise at forty-years-old, my weight has been a stable 155-lbs for years, my muscle tone is great, and I sleep better now and have more energy than before going Primal.

      To put it more simply, nutrient (micro- and macro-) context is important. Don’t get caught up in the details, just eat your food in the form it was created by nature.


      1. Good point Tony.

        All theses studies on excessive protein consumption weakening the bones, kidneys etc. etc. could be due to the fact that our society has a fear of fat and fat is what is needed to ensure damage isn’t done.

  42. This raises a question about where one gets recognized credentials in nutrition that is not all based on CW mythology assumed by the general public to be fact. There needs to be some sort of diploma or certificate that will allow you to work in the health and nutrition field without having to spout CW misconceptions.

  43. about fifteen years ago, at age 50, I’d been out of commission from a serious inkury for seven years or so.. finally able to get a diagnosis and restorative surgery. Meanwhile I’d been shown Barry Sears’ book on his zone system of eating… it made perfect sense from a molecular cell buichemistry standpoint… so tried it. Six months after the surgery I was able to ride a hundred miles in a day on my road bike. Fourteen months after, a two hundred mile day. I’d lost 40 pounds, slept like a rock, had energy I’d not had for years. I wore the same size clothes I did in high school, when I was lean and fit. Basically, 40% of calories from carbs, 30 from fat, 30 from protein. That puts me at about 110-125 grammes protein per day, I was at 155-160 lbs and 6’1. I could out sprint and out distance nearly anyone, even those less than half my age. Made em mad, too…. which made it all the more fun.
    One very important aspect of diet is the quality of food taken in… and I see a number of folks here are mindful of that. These days I get almost all my carbs from fresh fruits and vegetables, two or three pounds per day. Protein is still about the same… but from high quality foods, mostly meats, fish, eggs, dairy. I suppose I get some from the plant-based part… but not much. Used to go hypoglycemic at times, not any more. Balance the three macronitrient categories with EVERY meal… it works. Recent bloodwork came back completely unremarkable.

  44. I’m also a college like Renee and studying in a health major. I also constantly hear this nonsense about not eating a ton of red meat to avoid chronic diseases. It just makes no sense to me at all. I’ve been living primal for about 6 months now and feel better than ever!

    P.S. Mark, I noticed your dog and my cat share the same name, Buddha. =)

    1. I’m Head of Nursing here in Manchester Metropolitan University and a urorenal trained nurse. One of my staff is a nurse nutritionalist and won’t let me near the lecture theatre in case I say the wrong things about the evils of grains! LoL. He’s organised a national conference for nurse nutritionalists but won’t let me addreess them to challenge their beliefs! So frustrated! We have a double nutritional problem in UK – the young/middle aged who are becoming obese and the elderly who are malnourished. There are case studys of folk who go into hospital healthy and come out malnourished even! I’ve been Primal for two years by conviction and thoroughly advocate it. Renne, tell your teacher to try some research for once!

  45. The China Study:

    The project became an investigation…as to why so many Filipino children were being diagnosed with liver cancer, predominately an adult disease. The primary goal of the project was to ensure that the children were getting as much protein as possible.

    “In this project, however, I uncovered a dark secret. Children who ate the highest protein diets were the ones most likely to get liver cancer…” He began to review other reports from around the world that reflected the findings of his research in the Philippines.

    Although it was “heretical to say that protein wasn’t healthy,” he started an in-depth study into the role of nutrition, especially protein, in the cause of cancer.

    Dr. Colin Campbell is the Jacob Gould Schurman Professor Emeritus of Nutritional Biochemistry at Cornell University and Project Director of the China-Oxford-Cornell Diet and Health Project. The study was the culmination of a 20-year partnership of Cornell University, Oxford University and the Chinese Academy of Preventive Medicine…a survey of diseases and lifestyle factors in rural China and Taiwan. More commonly known as the China Study, “this project eventually produced more than 8000 statistically significant associations between various dietary factors and disease.”

    The findings? “People who ate the most animal-based foods got the most chronic disease … People who ate the most plant-based foods were the healthiest and tended to avoid chronic disease. These results could not be ignored,” said Dr. Campbell.

    In The China Study, Dr. Campbell details the connection between nutrition and heart disease, diabetes, and cancer, and also its ability to reduce or reverse the risk or effects of these deadly illnesses. The China Study also examines the source of nutritional confusion produced by powerful lobbies, government entities, and irresponsible scientists.

  46. We must take care of our health not in the physical but in what you eat as we do. Findrxonline on the Web site mentions that it is necessary to follow a regime enabling us to maintain good health without excess weight or obesity.

  47. Fantastic! Mark, your sarcasm is a finely-tuned tool of fun-ness!

    Question for readers: I am a female, 26 years old and a size 4, 130lbs, fairly active (through Primal fitness and also my self-employed work as a housekeeper). Primal eating for about a year now. Plateaued and have a goal to lose 5-10 lbs in the next 6 weeks or so. Went back through the weight-loss chapter in the Primal Blueprint and used the tool on to measure Body Fat. Wanted an estimate of my lean body mass to calculate an average of protein to eat per day. The Body fat calculator put me at nearly 32%! Is there any way that is possible? The calculation was based on inch measurements around waist and wrist and thigh. This is the calculator that Mark recommends using in The Primal Blueprint but the percentage seems outrageous to me.

    1. By the way, according to the calculator a Body Fat Percentage over 30 is considered ‘obese’.

    2. Abigail, if you punch in lots of different numbers you will find that calculator will always turn back a bf% close to 30%. For women, at least, that particular calculator is a piece of junk. 🙂

      If you want to know your bf%, contact the exercise science department at your local university/college. Most offer bf testing for nominal fees.

  48. Hah! For a minute there you really had me confused, Mark! I was thinking, “Wait, what site am I reading again?”

  49. i’ve pretty much been on a primal diet without even knowing what that was. for years i had gut issues. by the time i was able to go to a clinic that would get to the bottom of my problem, i had leaky gut bad, candidiasis, whipworm with symptoms that convinced me i was dying of cancer. i could barely eat without pain, bloating, gas (the 9 yards). my muscles ached and burned, i woke up daily with a hangover, had dizziness, and often was unable to rise from bed even to drink water or use the toilet. along setting up a regimen of detox and nutritional supplements, the doctor had the nutritionist alter my diet. high protein (with an added yellow pea protein shake called gut enhancement) super low carbs (no fruits other than berries, no grains, no legumes, no starchy veggies), no casein & no albumin (i developed a sensitivity). in a few months, i dropped nearly 40 lbs and had so much energy, i had to take up kickboxing to burn it up. and i was 51 yrs old & hadn’t worked out in who knows when, because i had been sick for so long. that was going on 3 yrs ago. now, with some experimentation with my diet, i’ve come to realize that i cannot process grains for long before i get messed up. also, i don’t do well on too many fruits. potatoes are out. i like sweet potatoes but i can’t eat them often. it’s mostly free-range/grass fed animal meats and bone broths, greens, squashes, eggs, very occasional raw goats milk or yogurt, berries, gut enhancement, coconut water/oil/meat, and home-made kombucha. if i deviate off this type of diet for long (i.e. adding gluten-free grains &/or corn tortillas & too many sweet potatoes or any potatoes), i end up with problems again. my body’s forcing me to eat the way nature designed it. i’m wondering if grains in our diet are a hold over from the days of mass slavery from the ancient civilizations.

    1. Your story is amazing to me. Could you email me some of your recipes/ideas for meals. I’d like to introduce this to my 4 sons. One of them is into weight training and nutrition. Another has become vegetarian much to my chagrin. A third one has started eating so much junk he’s edged into a size 38″ waistline pant and has high blood pressure. (He’s only 24 yrs old) And lastly the youngest one (18 yrs) has lost weight due to moving out of my house but subsists on what ever junk he and his roommates scrounge up.

      I appreciate your help. I’m ancient at 52 yrs. and feel like I’m much older. Overweight, tired and tired of being this way.

  50. Where have all the primal-eating hotties come from? I live in California and all we have are Vegan PITAs (that’s “pain in the …” not the greek bread) with pasty skin and thinning hair. As a result I have to pretty much travel out of state to both get some pork sausage, and see an attractive, healthy woman. Have any of you hotties ever thought about moving to California? San Jose has great year round weather…

  51. There’s two references to daily protein in take: 1g per lb and 1g per kg. Which is it?

    1. 1g per lb. is for highly active people or atheletes that are training. 1g per kg was mentioned for the average person.

  52. When trying to gain muscle mass, I always go with a little more protein than bodyweight (i.e. if I’m 200lbs I’ll eat over 200g of protein).

    Most of this protein comes in the form of animal meat. I have only been primal blueprint for a couple months now but for the last 12 years I have always had this amount of protein, and I see no problem with it.

  53. Going back to the depression/Paleo discussion, I tried Paleo and was doing well off the meds, using 5-HTP suppliments.I felt better than ever! Then a major family medical crisis, and extreme stress led to panic attacks and adrenal exhaustion and a speedy return to the prozac and CW carbs to boost the natural serotonin. I am female, 53, and looking for a practitioner that will be paleo friendly and get me off the meds. I am in the LA area. Any suggestions??

  54. I started reading this website in September of 2009 when I started to go Primal. Back then, it seemed like a safe haven away from the typical internet trolling of comments. There was actually an attempt to be civil and educate rather than humiliate newcomers. However, now I’m pretty terrified to comment on anything any more. It seems like people (pro-Primal and con) have become just as nasty here as they are on other websites. I think the pro-Primal people are trying to preemptively attack the anti-Primal trolls and it makes for a very defensive, ridiculing atmosphere. Just wanted you to know, Mark, that without some type of judicious comment moderation, I will probably stop reading your site.

  55. Mark, Anybody,

    I’m donating a kidney to my sister this June. Does anyone have any information on protein consumption for a person with ONE GOOD KIDNEY? I’ve been Primal since January 1st 2010. The only New Year’s resolution I’ve ever kept!

    1. Chris, you deserve an ovation! None of my relatives stepped up, but I was fortunate to receive a cadaveric kidney two years ago this May. I wish I knew the answer to your question.

      I went primal this January and am operating under the assumption that if doing so improves my general health, my new kidney will be in a better environment – less polluted, less stressed by excess weight, etc.

      At the same time I started reading MDA there was a discussion thread on the Yahoo IgA Nephropathy Group about a couple of recent studies that concluded a celiac diet (wheat free) could stop or slow the progression of IgAN(the disease that put me on dialysis). Combine that with MDA and I was an instant grain-free convert!

      A biopsy last May showed that the IgAN was present in the new kidney (not unexpectedly), though not active (thankfully). At that time I asked if I should restrict my protein intake and was told not to. That said, he probably didn’t mean go eat a whole cow either, and I do try to focus more on the veggies. I’ve not discussed primal eating with my doctor, figuring either I’d get a dose of CW or he’d approve it, and I was going to try it either way. I have labs drawn monthly and this last set came back with slightly better numbers for kidney function. I’ll collect a few more months’ worth of labs, draw my own conclusion, and then present it to the doctor as a fiat accompli.

      Something else of note is that some of the immunosuppressents can elevate a transplant recipient’s blood sugar, even to the extent of becoming diabetic. After one month primal my fasting glucose level dropped from a slightly high 103 to 93. Here’s hoping it goes lower next labs.

      If anyone’s interested, there are also Yahoo Groups for dialysis patients and transplant patients to get together and discuss their personal experiences, which is sometimes more helpful, or at least comforting, than what your doctor might say. Not that anybody is dispensing medical advice, more like “this is what worked for me” advice.

      One bit of advice for you and your sister – get up and start walking as soon as you possibly can post-surgery (like, the same day you wake up) because the surgeon will inflate your belly cavity with gas in order to work, resulting in vicious gas pains later.

      Best of luck to you and your sister Chris!

  56. Thanks Mark,
    Just today I had a client ask me about renal failure due to too much protein. I spent the day researching and forwarded her all the info along with your article. I have a BS in Food Science and Nutrition, have been a personal trainer for 25 years, and was just accepted at Duke University’s School of Integrative Medicine. I am a 51 year old female with 4 kids and a bodyfat of 11%. It amazes me that the general public is so brainwashed that I have to spend my days researching and educating them when I just wish they could trust me and do what I tell them to do. Look at me and then look at the people who are telling them otherwise. The proof is in the primal pudding!

  57. Isn’t 38 grams a day about an ounce and a half? How could that much protein per day do any damage?

  58. I don’t think so. But if that is true so that could be very scared for me. Because I have eat foods which are provide much protein.

  59. Great article! I own a CrossFit affiliate in GA and try to get all of my clients no a Paleo/Primal diet. A friend who is not a client of mine read an article I posted on our website about fat intake and heart disease. This article solidified her adherence to the Atkins diet, which she had been losing weight on for a while. A few weeks ago, however, she had to have her gallbladder removed and her doctor told her it was her low-carb, high-protein diet that destroyed her gallbladder. Does anyone know where this came from/if it’s true? Please point me to where I can find information on this in the medical literature! Thanks.

  60. Since there seems to be a number of health professionals who are commenting on this site, I’d be curious to know what symptoms of kidney problems might be. I seem always to be thirsty or dehydrated (even though I drink 3-6+ liters of water/day) & I do tend to consume a lot of aspirin due to ongoing headaches and muscle tension. I’m starting to worry that the two may be related. The doctor that I saw today was not very helpful. I’d appreciate any ideas or suggestions.

  61. Mark from your previous response to “”Renee — To make a long story short, my teacher told me that I should only be eating 38 grams of protein each day, and that any more than that could harm my kidneys.””, — I read you and understand/believe that meat is good for you and a limited (???) amount will probably to certainly not hurt healthy kidneys. What, if any, is the limit for one MASSIVE meal of meat? For example I have been on the Atkins diet before (20 lbs lost) and hear/read that one/dieters can eat ALL of the “no = none = zero carbohydrates” such as plain cooked beef meat one wants. Hence, after days of hard work on travel with no common home food, I did eat (not proud of this Lion behavior) 2/two HUGE/MASSIVE > 1″ OR MORE thick layers/SLABS (rare & solid – tiny fat if any) of prime rib at one meal. — Perhaps unrelatedly, 2 days after my return home and constant long hours of work at home, I (“in slow motion then suddenly/boom”)came down with a VERY near fatal bladder, urinary tract, and maybe kidney(?) infection that required emergency intubation and two weeks of hospitalization to cure. Diagnosis was complicated by emergency treatments to save my life as well as 3 powerful antibiotics and so — I was told by Drs that I probably “”developed sepsis”” — from this initial bladder>kidney>infection>heart failure, etc.. I am 74 obeise, slightly elevated
    BP, normal pulse, 274 lb active male but am somewhat sugur intolerant – but not dietetic yet = average of 120 “plasma calculation” blood sugur for years. Obviously now I am carefully reducing my weight and eating smaller portions of meat. Could there be/have-been a link to HUGE PORTION of prime rib & my bladder infection = probably by e-coli (suspected culprit)?? — And the answer for maximum limit on meat intake at one time is_______? Thanks for whatever answers or comments that you can provide. Colin

  62. I’m also very lean, about 5 ft and about 105-110lbs.

    I don’t count my protein. I just eat real food, eggs, fatty cuts of meat, green leafy vegetables (spinach, broccoli, cauliflower, etc). If I need to eat more, I eat more food: meat, eggs, veggies. It’s that simple.

    If I had to estimate, it’s about 1.5 grams or ~ 150 gr protein every day. According to fit day: 2088 cals, i feel like i need to eat more though

  63. Phenomenal article – thank you, as a national natural NPC figure competitor, I’m eating each day for my competitive goals year round & I’m as healthy as can be naturally headed to 40, yet the amount of protein my husband and I consume is significantly higher than the average person, and yet our health is significantly better than most as well from the inside to the outside. It’s upsetting to me that protein intake is so demonized and grossly misunderstand. Our coaching clients are always shocked at the protein & fat intake we give them for weight loss in meal plans. I absolutely love your work, Mark. Great stuff. Thank you. What’s misunderstood about protein is you can take in higher amounts safely, it’s what sources of it you take in and what you counterbalance that intake with nutritionally with other macros to ensure great health that is key to effectiveness.

  64. Thanks for the informative article.Few studies have claimed that too much pressure pressurizes the kidney too much and in long run, may damage it. A recent study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine revealed that too much of protein does not harm women with normal kidney function, though it may have a negative impact on women suffering from reduced kidney function.

  65. Along with the study Albert points to in the above comment, Renee may be interested in this one from the Journal of the American College of Nutrition: Dietary Protein: An Essential Nutrient for Bone Health (

    I’ve been researching the topic for my own blog… a higher protein diet has been found to increase bone mineral content in animals, and to increase IGF-1 growth factor (which promotes bone growth) in men and women.

    Interstingly, in men, a hormone released from bone cells promotes testosterone production and is associated with testosterone levels, sperm count and reproductive success.

    The same effect of osteocalcin on women’s estrogen/fertility levels has not been found yet, but interesting stuff!

  66. Kidney failure is a frequent effect of taking medical drugs. They euphemistically call it “side effect”, while in fact it is the basic effects, related to what drugs are. These are synthetic chemicals that kidneys have to remove from the blood, and in fact a percent of them gets into urine, polluting rivers.

  67. I started drink protien shacks about a month ago everyday, and beefed up my 5k run to 5 times a week, I had developed shin splints and had to get new shoes and stop running for 3 days I woke up the 2nd day and It was like a bomb when off in my stomach, i started loosing weight like crazy, I thought I had food poison or tape worm. I got a feavor and starting to gorge food 4 one day. I laid down and slept 4 awhile, while googling everything, i came up with 2 much protien burning fat so fast, I would eat and fell real hungry and my stomach would hurt burning my food instantly. I feel back 2 normal now and going 2 do it again.

  68. I just wanted to thank Mark for the post. I have been primal for about 100 days and like Renee feel better than ever! More important MDA has provided for such great content and answered almost everything I have a question about, like this one about too much protein being hard on kidneys, there is an answer for it right here. My wife is 7 weeks pregnant and she asked the mid wife today about our primal lifestyle. She’s pretty well stuck with it since I’m not leaving my homeostatic, high energy lovin,, no mood swinging and cross country traveling without eating any crap in the airport from one coast to the next while I fast and feel fine, since I am the cook in the kitchen. Any how, I digress, the point is that the mid wife said that the high protein, low carb diet could be hard on the kidneys in general not necessarily on the baby, but I had to check MDA before I allowed my wife to convince me that I needed to start using bulgur wheat or some other form of “better for you” gimmicks.

    Since finding my inner grok I’d like to add that I am no longer allergic to avacados – which historically I loved, but hated the itching in the back of my throat after eating & my wifes Asthma and use of an inhaler from 3-5 times a day has been reduced to once every other day if that.

    I don’t want to leave out the daily deuce, which having since starting the diet I no longer hate to have. I know the MDA crowd can handle this so I’m dropping the deuce so to speak!

    Seriously, it’s perfect almost every time. I would solely suggest based on my experience that any IBS could easy be traced back to gluten/wheat intake. Perhaps there’s more posts more appropriate to drop this, I just haven’t looked for it.

    I also find myself so impassioned to talk more about the overall MDA subject once I get started. So much that it’s probably annoying – oh well!

    Grok on!

  69. I had severe kidney reflux as a kid, and chronic kidney infections, I know what pain in the kidney feels like. I have been eating paleo for a few months (not perfectly, I have to admit) and since yesterday I’ve been experiencing pain in one kidney. I have zero symptoms of an infection, though I will be seeing the doctor to make sure. In the past few days I have been eating even more protein than I had been previously. Is there ever a point where a person would consume too much protein? Or could I take in a million grams a day (I know, I know) and experience no ill effect?

  70. I just figured out that I only need 65-93 grams of protein which I figured is only 2 1/2- 3 oz per day. Here I was thinking I was not getting enough protein but 3 oz of meat throughout a whole day is not much at all. I have to refigure my proteins so I can have faster results! So far, I am liking this way of eating and really enjoy your Quick & Easy cookbook esp grated cauliflower! Thank you!

  71. That first paragraph had me laughing out loud. Thanks Mark! 😀

  72. Hi Mark

    I read this post with interest having caught a programme in the UK on BBC2 last night Horizon-about fasting.

    It suggested that research was showing that calorie restriction had an impact on increasing life span but that it also impacted on the growth hormone IGF-1 which was attributed to age-related diseases such as cancer and diabetes. High levels of IGF-1 could indicate that a person stood a higher chance of contracting these age-related diseases and that limiting protein intake was also crucial in this. As a relative newbie to the Paleo way of living I struggle to maintain my protein intake to anything lower than 70g a day. I exercise 5-6 days a week running, weights, HIT training and walking or dancing. 🙂 I’m 113lb so on evidential basis i should be consuming a lot less than this in order to maintain a healthy lifestyle. However i think i’d struggle hugely to lessen my protein intake and maintain saiety but i’m concerned about the impact my current levels might have on my long-term health.

    What’s your take on this research? I’d love to know.


  73. My trainer and I were talking about this today. I used to be all about the protein when I was training for contests but that all stopped because of two genetic diseases: Ehlers Danlos and Polycystic Kidney Disease. I have been struggling for almost two decades with this. What are your thoughts since I have a genetic kidney disease (and I have had some problems in the last decade with stones, infection) and a connective tissue disease where my tendons and ligaments tear and rupture easily. I’m torn about animal protein. There is so much conflicting info and it goes against kidney diet guidelines. but I’m all about breaking the rules if it makes sense! Thanks for your thoughts!

  74. Are you capable of manual me for your website owner or even the man who looks after your site, I would like to know if it might be possible to be described as a guests poster.

  75. Well, I am actually concerned that my protein intake may have been affecting my kidneys. No, I am not obese, my BP is perfect etc, perfect health except…
    – two of my teeth have broken off by themselves (no tooth decay), just “weak”
    – I get muscle cramps (more like fasciculations)
    – I eat animal and vegetarian protein, mostly eggs and fish, some nuts also lots of veggies and a small amount of fruit
    – no gluten – only the odd 1/2 wholemeal pitta bread as a “treat”

    My last set of blood tests showed some strange values relating to kidney function, such as low phosphatase and high phosphate (plus a sex hormone binding glubulin (SHBG) level which is 3 times as high as it should be: high SHBG is a problem often reported by bodybuilders).
    I then looked up phosphate food sources only to find out virtually everything I eat (except vegetables) are high in phosphorus. Most high protein foods are high in phosphorus, so I can see why they would think that high protein diets may harm the kidneys.

    Body-builders have been eating high protein diets for decades, but then I know of several who died at 40 (though some other factor may be to blame here, such as steroid use). However, I have never seen any statistics on this. I wonder why?

    I know paleo is not about packaged foods, but there is undoubtably a protein-based industry out there, using the lure of the benefits of protein to sell their rather artificial wares.

    I am now not sure what to do about my strange blood results and I worry that my teeth and bones are at risk. Doctor has been unable to help.

    Has anyone had any issues with their kidneys? While this article addresses “protein and healthy kidneys”, can anyone be totally sure their kidneys are 100% healthy? My kidneys have always been healthy, I have no known condition, though approaching 50 and female. According to traditional Chinese medicine, women around my age tend to be low in “kidney energy”, if that kind of thing makes sense to you.

    Please read with an open mind. I read everyone’s comment (and the main article: thank you for it and for the many useful references) and respect everyone else’s opinion.

    Health and vitality to you all.

  76. Just came across this post–yes I know it is old. However, just wanted to throw it out that I have been Paleo (a few cheats here and there) for over a year. I have more than tripled my protein intake from what it was a short two years ago. I have recently due to age and family history had a complete physical with a colonoscopy and mammogram. Every single test came back with ideal results. I am soon to be 45 and feel I have not been this healthy since I was a kid. And I have become a bacon lover.(always uncured though) Cheers! 😉

  77. It really worries me that so many of your readers think a high protein diet is beneficial. In all seriousness, you can laugh at vegans and think big muscle bound men are “hard to kill” but you cannot change science. Hundreds of studies, which are all available for you on Pubmed, confirm that high protein diets raise your IGF levels which drive cancer. And certainly you have got to know by now that protein excess is the main cause of heart disease. Only a “caveman” would deny these truths. But good luck with your few good years. By the time you all reach 60 you’ll be dropping like flies. Hope you have good insurance. Cancer drugs are expensive.

  78. I Delimaris (2013) Adverse effects associated with protein intake above the Recommended Dietary Allowance for adults ISRN Nutrition, vol. 2013, Article ID 126929, 6 pages, 2013. doi:10.5402/2013/126929

  79. Mark,
    Thank you for this article! I am concerned about my kidney health because I donated my left kidney to my sister-in-law on 11/13/13. I have been paleo since the beginning of March.

    My creatinine level on 12/3/13 was 1.23 and on 4/29/14 it was 1.41.

    When I go to my 6 month post-donation checkup, the doctors are not going to be happy with my lifestyle choice or the fact that my creatinine has gone up. Should I limit my protein?


  80. Very good info. Lucky me I recently found your website by accident (stumbleupon).
    I have saved as a favorite for later!

  81. Here is an interesting article ; Ioannis Delimaris, “Adverse Effects Associated with Protein Intake above the Recommended Dietary Allowance for Adults,” ISRN Nutrition, vol. 2013, Article ID 126929, 6 pages, 2013. doi:10.5402/2013/126929 @

  82. I think the admin of this web page is truly working hard in support of his web page, as here every material is quality based stuff.

  83. For those looking for pasture-based organic meat (lol…not Karla, but maybe some of you), but don’t like the hassle of procuring it, here’s what I use:

    Just choose your state. I like not having to go to the farm, or to a drop off location. Some places don’t deliver, but the farm I use, in Tennessee, packs plenty of ice packs into a boxed cooler, and ship to anyplace within a 2 day radius. My meat arrives solidly frozen, and is soooo tasty! Thanks, Mark Sisson, for finally motivating me to spend the perhaps $2/day extra (for just me), over supermarket Frankenmeat. It was the only really important thing I wasn’t doing, as far as eating healthily, and primally. Over $150, and the shipping is even free. I wish I’d done it years ago.

    That’s for my beef. I found another farm, 27 miles away, also in Tn, for pork, milk, and eggs. They want $10 shipping, or free, over $100. But since they butcher in my town almost every week, one or the other of the owners will drop my smaller (usually around $60) order off at my house for free. So if you look around that site, almost all people can find producers that suit their needs.

    I’m 5’9″, and in 7/11 I weighed 187. Following Mark Sisson’s “diet for health”, as I think of it, as opposed to a reducing diet, in 1/13 I weighed 137. With minimal exercise (walking, pushups, toe raises, and knee bends), I gained a little muscle, go about 145, and am never hungry. The better diet, itself, may have added some of that new muscle. In 2 months I’ll be 65, and I feel better than I have in at least 25 years.

    Thank you Mark!

  84. I have been on Paleo diet for 10 years and have learned that I have stage 3 kidney disease (59 eGFR) – a major shock. Turns out for at least the past 14 years my test results have shown elevated eGFR – that has been very slowly been getting better. 52 eGFR 14 years ago to 59 today. I am 60 years old, am an endurance athlete (45 miles per week including on HITT workout and one trail run around 2-3 hours).
    Seems covid-19 has delayed my actual visit with a nephrologist to discuss this.. but I am very startled at learning one can not improve kidney health – only slow down the progression. I don’t have any of the chronic conditions like HBP or Diabetes but do suffer from mental health issues including a persistent messed up gut and maintenance insomnia.. What can I do to help my kidneys while I wait to meet with a Dr?

  85. Hi Mark, Im 53 and have Polycystic kidney disease, my EGFR is 14 , can I take sacha inchi oil supplements ? Am not undergoing dialysis yet.