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Home Gastro Can Too Much Protein Cause Constipation? What You Need to Know

Can Too Much Protein Cause Constipation? What You Need to Know

can too much protein cause constipation

Protein is an essential macronutrient for any healthy diet. It supports your body in repairing and making new cells, maintaining muscle mass and bones, and aiding muscle growth.

As it has several critical jobs, many people turn to protein when strength training, building muscle, and altering body weight (weight loss or weight gain). Unfortunately, increased protein intake can adversely affect overall health, contributing to a few discomforts.

Does eating protein cause irregular bowel habits, and if so, how can you prevent constipation?

Can Too Much Protein Cause Constipation?

Eating too much protein can cause constipation and other digestive issues, such as abdominal pain, bloating, and diarrhea. Protein is more difficult for the body to digest, and on top of that, high-protein diets tend to limit the consumption of dietary fiber.

High-protein foods typically contain zero or low amounts of fiber. When you prioritize these foods in your diet, it’s natural to cut back on other food groups. The problem is that dietary fiber is vital for keeping a happy gut and maintaining consistent, healthy bowel movements.

So, upping your protein consumption will fuel an active lifestyle, but you can expect it to upset your gastrointestinal tract.

Can protein shakes cause constipation?

Protein shakes can cause constipation and digestive upset in some people. These gastrointestinal side effects may result from the type of protein powder you use to make your shake, including the ingredients it contains.

Many protein powders have very little fiber, which you need to ensure regular bowel function. It can help to choose a product with added fiber to mitigate constipation. 

Can protein shakes cause constipation


Protein shakes are more likely to cause diarrhea in people with lactose intolerance. This is because many protein powders contain lactose that the body is unable to break down.

Why Does Protein Make Me Constipated?

The primary reason why a protein-rich diet makes you constipated is due to the lack of fiber. Animal proteins with zero fiber often dominate this diet plan. You might also eat fewer carbs in favor of protein, again restricting your daily fiber intake.

There is also the risk of dehydration as your kidneys expel more water to remove the excess waste from breaking down proteins. Without enough water in your system, the large intestine soaks up the excess water from food waste, leaving your stools dry, hard, and difficult to pass.

Taking precautions when following high-protein diets is essential to eliminate constipation risk. It’s an unpleasant experience that may include other symptoms, such as chest pain, nausea, and vomiting.

You might need to alter your dietary habits to prevent constipation. For example, consuming a combination of animal and plant-based meals will ensure your body gets a range of vitamins and minerals for a healthy GI tract.

What Are the Signs of Too Much Protein?

You might notice some warning signs if your daily protein goal is too high. Alongside constipation, diarrhea is another common symptom associated with increased protein intake. Other digestive issues include indigestion and general digestive discomfort.

Further signs of too much protein include:

  • Dehydration
  • Headache
  • Fatigue
  • Nausea
  • Gaining weight
  • Bad breath
  • Kidney stones

Some other risks are linked to protein overconsumption. These include calcium loss, increased cancer risk, and heart disease.

How to Avoid Constipation on a High-Protein Diet? 4 Tips to Try

Sticking with a high-protein diet doesn’t mean you have to accept constipation. A few tips and tricks can counter digestive discomfort, regardless of your high protein consumption.

Here are 4 steps to keep things moving.

#1 Consume enough fiber

The greatest concern with a high-protein diet is that you eat less fiber. Eating animal proteins has multiple benefits for your health, but these proteins don’t contain this essential nutrient. You need to create a more balanced diet with a mixture of soluble and insoluble fiber.

Soluble fiber helps regulate digestion and blood sugar levels, while insoluble fiber softens and bulks the stool for smooth evacuation. It’s easy to get more fiber into your diet. You can get your daily servings from fruits, vegetables, and whole grains alongside your extra protein.

For example, you can add fresh fruit and veggies when you prepare your protein shake to balance your nutrient intake.

You can even choose foods containing both fiber and protein. Plant-based proteins, such as chia seeds, flax seeds, chickpeas, kidney beans, and lentils, are prime examples of foods with both nutrients. Include these in your diet alongside animal proteins, like red meat and poultry. 

#2 Drink more fluids

If you’re piling up on protein, you should simultaneously increase your water intake. Your kidneys must work harder to break down the extra protein, using water to flush out the additional waste. Therefore, increased protein intake can quickly lead to mild dehydration.

Drink more fluids

Drinking more water will help your body handle the extra protein in your diet. It doesn’t have to be plain water – you can add fresh ingredients to boost the flavor. For example, mint water is hydrating and packed with health benefits to support your digestive system.

You can keep a water bottle around as a reminder to drink throughout the day.

#3 Include leafy greens in your diet

Leafy green vegetables are extremely rich sources of dietary fiber. Be sure to include the likes of cabbage, lettuce, fenugreek, kale, and spinach in your meal plans to beat constipation. These potent veggies can work as natural laxatives because they add bulk and weight to your stool.

In addition, consuming green leafy vegetables may decrease the risk of colon cancer.

#4 Try laxatives

Laxatives are another way to treat and prevent constipation. They are typically a last resort – you can usually turn to them when other lifestyle changes, like more fiber and more fluids, don’t alleviate your symptoms.

Several types of laxatives are available, but always check with your doctor beforehand. You can also purchase dietary supplements with laxative properties for constipation relief.

Try laxatives


Why does protein make you poop?

High-protein foods may cause diarrhea as they are harder to digest. Too much daily protein can result in diarrhea, constipation, and other digestive problems. Proper protein consumption, neither too much nor too little, will help maintain healthy bowel movements.

Can protein powder cause constipation?

Yes, protein powder can trigger bouts of constipation, depending on what the product contains. Protein powders tend to be low in fiber and high in lactose, which may cause constipation and other digestive discomforts in some individuals.

How much protein per day is okay?

The recommended dietary allowance to prevent a deficiency in the average adult is 0.8g of protein per kilogram of body weight. However, active individuals need more protein to meet their needs. Consuming more than 2g of protein per kilogram of body weight is considered too much.

A Word From MD

Upping your protein intake with protein supplements and foods can help you hit particular body goals. Consuming more than the recommended allowance can help you lose weight, decrease body fat, and preserve fat-free mass, contributing to a leaner physique.

You can run into problems when you have too much, however. There is a risk of weight gain if you opt for processed food with excess calories to hit your protein goal. And it’s not uncommon to upset the GI tract when you alter your macronutrient intake to include more protein.

You mustn’t ignore ongoing constipation. While you might put it down to your diet, there are other causes that may require attention. Chronic constipation can become an emergency if you experience severe abdominal pain, vomiting, and blood in your stool.


We need to eat protein to stay fit and healthy. There is no harm in eating protein as part of a healthy diet, but overconsuming it might leave your gastrointestinal system in distress. The trick is not to let it rule your diet – you need nutrients from other foods to support overall health.

Aim to balance protein, fiber, and fluids for the best results with a protein-based diet.

Written by
Anahit Harutyunyan, MD

Anahit Harutyunyan is an MD in Anaesthesiology and Intensive Care. She also has a second specialty as a Medical specialist in Physiatry. Anahit has work experience in different clinics as ICU Doctor and Medical Doctor in Yerevan and Gyumri Ambulance Stations. She also worked in the therapeutic department during covid and has morning consultations in Nor Med private clinic.

can too much protein cause constipation

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