Athletes and exercisers have utilised high-protein diets for centuries. The objective of this review is to examine the evidence for the efficacy and potential dangers of high-protein diets. One important factor to consider is the definition of a ‘high-protein diet’. There are several ways to consider protein content of a diet. The composition of the diet can be determined as the absolute amount of the protein (or other nutrient of interest), the % of total energy (calories) as protein and the amount of protein ingested per kg of body weight. Many athletes consume very high amounts of protein. High-protein diets most often are associated with muscle hypertrophy and strength, but now also are advocated for weight loss and recovery from intense exercise or injuries. Prolonged intake of a large amount of protein has been associated with potential dangers, such as bone mineral loss and kidney damage. In otherwise healthy individuals, there is little evidence that high protein intake is dangerous. However, kidney damage may be an issue for individuals with already existing kidney dysfunction. Increased protein intake necessarily means that overall energy intake must increase or consumption of either carbohydrate or fat must decrease. In conclusion, high protein intake may be appropriate for some athletes, but there are potential negative consequences that must be carefully considered before adopting such a diet. In particular, care must be taken to ensure that there is sufficient intake of other nutrients to support the training load.
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