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The Side Effects of Protein Drinks on the Kidneys

author image Sylvie Tremblay, MSc
Sylvie Tremblay holds a Master of Science in molecular and cellular biology and has years of experience as a cancer researcher and neuroscientist. Based in Ontario, Canada, Tremblay is an experienced journalist and blogger specializing in nutrition, fitness, lifestyle, health and biotechnology, as well as real estate, agriculture and clean tech.
The Side Effects of Protein Drinks on the Kidneys
A strawberry flavored protein shake in a glass on a table. Photo Credit: habovka/iStock/Getty Images

Protein drinks, consumed in moderation, can make up a part of a healthy and balanced diet. In addition to protein, the shakes typically provide a source of carbohydrates, vitamins and minerals to provide health and nutrition. However, consuming protein shakes regularly, especially as a meal replacement, may lead to negative side effects. Specifically, excessive protein consumption from protein shakes may have negative effects on your kidneys.

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Kidney Stones

One potential side effect of excess protein from overusing protein drinks is an increased risk of kidney stones. The stones develop from crystallization of compounds within the kidney, and they may block the tubules within the kidney, or even block the ureter -- the tube that carries urine from the kidneys to the bladder. While some kidney stones may be asymptomatic, stones in the ureter can prove both painful and harmful. The University of Maryland Medical Center explains that protein intake can play a role in kidney stone formation, and reducing protein intake can reduce your risk of kidney stones. By consuming protein shakes in moderation, you can help keep your protein intake within a normal range and avoid kidney stones.

Kidney Strain

Another side effect of protein shakes, if over-consumed, is kidney strain. The kidneys filter a number of chemicals, including proteins, to ensure that beneficial chemicals stay in your body while toxins and waste products get excreted in urine. Excessive protein consumption, which can occur with a diet rich in protein shakes, creates more work for the kidneys in filtering your blood, since the kidney cells must ensure greater levels of protein stay within the body. High protein consumption and kidney strain over time may lead to long-term, harmful side effects.

Diminished Kidney Functioning

A severe and long-term consequence of over-consuming protein shakes regularly is diminished kidney functioning. Over time, the increased strain of the kidneys can lead to a diminished efficiency in filtering the blood. The result may be a slight breakdown of the filtration units of the kidneys, allowing nutrients to leak into the urine. Patients with the beginnings of renal failure should seek immediate medical attention and avoid protein intake.

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