High Protein Diets and Kidney Stones

Although a high protein diet is generally safe for an otherwise healthy adult, that does not mean such a lifestyle is entirely risk free. One not-so-common possibility stemming from adherence to a high-protein diet is the formation of kidney stones. Kidney stones are an incredibly painful urinary disorder that sends millions of people to the emergency room yearly.

About Kidney Stones

Kidney stones are formations that occur when naturally occurring calcium crystals coagulate within the urinary tract. Although the body has chemicals present in urine which are intended to prevent these crystals from forming (allowing them to instead be secreted in minuscule form within one’s urine), occasionally the system does not work as intended, allowing the crystal formations to build up and resulting in kidney stones.

Kidney Stones and Protein

Because consumption of protein results in the body excreting additional calcium in your urine, many scientists have hypothesized that diets that are excessively high in protein can increase your risk of kidney stones. To avoid this additional risk, doctors generally recommend adherence to a moderate-protein diet.

Defining Moderate

The American Dietetics Association recommends daily protein requirements of 0.4 grams per pound of body weight for ordinary, sedentary people. However, your protein needs are altered by your general activity level. Endurance trainees are recommended to consume between 0.55 and 0.65 grams per pound of body weight, while weight trainees should be consuming between 0.65 and 0.8 grams per pound of body weight. So adjust your “moderate” protein intake based on your body’s needs.


Although doctors are fond of suggesting a link between higher protein intake and the possibility of developing kidney stones, that link might be more tenuous than you would think. If that was the case, than you would expect to see a higher occurrence of kidney stones among hardcore bodybuilders, as they are notorious for consuming massive amounts of protein. However, no study to date has identified bodybuilders as suffering from a statistically greater number of kidney stone incidents than non-bodybuilders.


Thus, higher protein diets might only result in the formation of kidney stones among individuals who are already genetically susceptible to the condition. However, the prudent route for those concerned with the possibility of kidney stones is moderation. Limit protein intake to the reasonable recommended amounts for your particular needs, and do not place undue worry on the possibility of kidney stones. If they occur in spite of your preventative measures, you can at least sleep soundly knowing you did nothing to invite the condition.

Although a high protein diet is generally safe for an otherwise healthy adult