The Protein Shake Debate: Can They Really Lead to Kidney Stones?

Posted by Alerna Kidney Health on

  • Protein shakes are widely used for convenient protein intake, catering to fitness enthusiasts and busy lifestyles, with options like whey, casein, and plant-based proteins.
  • Kidney stones form due to various factors, including genetics, diet, and hydration levels. The direct link between protein shakes and kidney stones is complex.
  • Excessive protein intake, including from shakes, can strain the kidneys. While protein itself isn't a direct cause of kidney stones, maintaining moderation and hydration is essential.
  • Research on high-protein diets and kidney function has yielded inconclusive results. Some studies hint at a possible connection, emphasizing the need for more comprehensive research.
  • Tailor protein intake to factors like activity level and goals. Consult a healthcare professional for personalized recommendations, considering both protein shakes and whole food sources.

In today's health-conscious world, the quest for optimal well-being often leads us to explore various dietary options to enhance our fitness journey. Protein shakes have gained immense popularity as convenient and efficient sources of protein intake, whether as a pre-workout drink or post-workout drink, especially among fitness enthusiasts and those seeking to maintain a healthy lifestyle.

However, as with any dietary trend, it's essential to address potential concerns, and one question that arises is whether protein shakes can contribute to the formation of kidney stones.

This article delves into the protein shake debate, explores the relationship between protein shakes and kidney stones, and provides informative insights to make an educated decision.

Woman making a protein shake.

Why Are Protein Shakes So Popular?

Protein shakes have become a staple for individuals striving to meet their daily protein requirements conveniently and efficiently. These shakes offer a quick and accessible way to replenish protein levels after workouts, support muscle recovery, and even serve as meal replacements in busy lives.1 They come in various forms, including whey, casein, plant-based (such as pea or soy protein), and may include other ingredients like milk, catering to different dietary preferences and restrictions.

Different Types of Protein Powders

Before we address the potential link between protein shakes and kidney stones, it's crucial to understand the variety of protein powder options available. Each type of protein powder has unique characteristics that may influence how it interacts with the body. For example:

  • Whey protein: Rapidly absorbed, making it an excellent choice for post-workout recovery.
  • Casein protein: Slowly digested, providing sustained protein release.
  • Plant-based protein: Catering to those following vegetarian or vegan lifestyles, such as pea or soy protein.


Note that these protein powders often have additional sugar and flavoring to enhance its taste. Some people mix it with other ingredients like fruits and other supplements like creatine powder.

How Kidney Stones Are Formed

Kidney stones are small, solid deposits that form in the kidneys and can cause discomfort and pain when they pass through the urinary tract. They are typically composed of minerals and salts that crystallize and clump together. Several factors contribute to their formation, including genetics, diet, hydration levels, and underlying medical conditions.

Can Protein Powder Shakes Cause Kidney Stones?

The concern over protein shakes and kidney stones arises from the notion that excessive protein intake might strain the kidneys and lead to stone formation. However, the relationship between protein shakes and kidney stones is more complex than a simple cause-and-effect scenario.

Can Protein Alone Cause Kidney Stones?

It's important to clarify that protein itself is not a direct cause of kidney stones. In fact, protein is an essential nutrient vital for various bodily functions, including tissue repair, immune system support, and hormone production.2 However, excessive consumption of certain types of protein, combined with inadequate hydration, can contribute to an environment conducive to stone formation.

Who are at risk of kidney stones?

Who Are At Risk?

Understanding who is at risk for kidney stones is crucial in evaluating the potential impact of protein shakes on kidney health. Individuals with the following characteristics may be more susceptible to stone formation:

  • History of kidney stones: If you have experienced kidney stones in the past, you might be at a higher risk of developing them again.
  • Medical conditions: Conditions like hypercalciuria (excessive calcium in the urine) can increase the risk of stone formation.
  • Family history: A genetic predisposition to kidney stones can elevate your risk.
  • Inadequate fluid intake: Not drinking enough water can contribute to the formation of kidney stones.
  • High-sodium diet: Excessive sodium consumption can increase the risk of stone development.
  • Sedentary lifestyle: Lack of physical activity might influence kidney stone formation.

How Excessive Protein Might Impact Kidneys

Excessive protein intake can potentially strain the kidneys over time. When the body metabolizes protein, waste products are generated, and the kidneys are responsible for filtering and eliminating these waste products. While a moderate increase in protein intake is generally well-tolerated by healthy kidneys, consistently consuming excessive amounts might increase the workload on the kidneys, potentially affecting their function over time.3

What Studies Say About Protein Shakes and Kidney Stones

The relationship between protein intake, including that protein shakes, and the risk of kidney stones has been a topic of scientific inquiry. Researchers have conducted various studies to understand whether there is a direct link between protein consumption and the formation of kidney stones.

A review published in the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition analyzed existing research to shed light on the potential connection between high-protein diets and kidney function.4 The review concluded that limited evidence suggests a possible link between high-protein diets and kidney dysfunction, particularly in healthy individuals without pre-existing kidney conditions.

One study published by the American Society for Nutrition investigated the impact of dietary protein sources on kidney stone formation.5 The study found that animal protein intake, rather than plant-based protein intake, was associated with an increased risk of developing kidney stones. This suggests that the source of protein might play a role in influencing kidney stone formation.

It's important to note that while ongoing research explores the potential effects of protein intake on kidney health, moderation and hydration remain crucial factors. Ensuring adequate fluid intake is essential for preventing kidney stone formation, regardless of protein source.

Woman drinking a protein shake in the gym.

What is the Recommended Protein Shake Intake?

When consuming protein shakes, striking the right balance is vital. The recommended protein intake can vary significantly based on individual factors such as age, gender, activity level, and overall health goals.6

Factors Influencing Protein Needs

  1. Activity Level: The more physically active you are, your protein requirements might increase. Athletes and those engaging in regular, intense workouts often need more protein to support muscle recovery and growth.
  2. Goals: Are you looking to build muscle mass, maintain your current physique, or lose weight? Your goals play a significant role in determining the amount of protein you should be consuming.
  3. Age: Protein needs can vary with age. Children and adolescents who are still growing might need more protein, and older adults might require additional protein for muscle maintenance.

General Guidelines

While individual protein needs differ, some general guidelines can help you gauge an appropriate protein intake:

  1. RDA Recommendations: The Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) for protein is around 0.8 grams per kilogram of body weight for sedentary adults. However, those with higher activity levels or specific goals might require more.7
  2. Activity-Driven Intake: Active individuals, particularly those engaged in strength training or endurance activities, might benefit from a higher protein intake. A range of 1.2 to 2.0 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight is often suggested for athletes.

When to Consult a Medical Professional?

If you have concerns about kidney health, especially if you're prone to kidney stones or have pre-existing kidney conditions, it's advisable to consult a medical professional before making significant changes to your diet. They can provide tailored advice based on your medical history and help you make informed decisions about protein shake consumption.

Woman drinking protein shake.


In the ongoing protein shake debate, the verdict on their direct association with kidney stones needs to be more conclusive. While protein shakes can be a convenient way to meet protein needs, consuming them in moderation and considering other dietary protein sources is essential. Staying hydrated, maintaining a balanced diet, and seeking guidance from healthcare professionals can all contribute to kidney health.

Remember, there's no one-size-fits-all answer when it comes to dietary choices. By staying informed and making mindful decisions, you can enjoy the benefits of protein shakes while prioritizing your kidney health in your journey toward overall well-being.

Protein Shakes and Kidney Stones: FAQs

How much protein is safe to consume if I have kidney stones?

The safe amount of protein consumption varies depending on individual factors such as your overall health, kidney function, and activity level. It's recommended to consult a healthcare professional or registered dietitian who can assess your specific situation and provide personalized recommendations for protein intake that align with your kidney stone history.

Is protein powder linked to kidney stone formation?

The link between protein powder and kidney stone formation is still being studied. Current evidence suggests that it's not solely protein powder but rather the overall protein intake and other factors that contribute to kidney stone risk. Moderation, staying well-hydrated, and incorporating a balanced diet are essential to minimize potential risks.

Can whey protein lead to the development of kidney stones?

Whey protein is a popular choice for its rapid absorption and muscle recovery benefits. While whey protein is a source of protein, it is not directly linked to kidney stone formation. However, individuals with a history of kidney stones should approach their protein intake mindfully and consider consulting a healthcare professional for personalized advice.

Is there a risk of kidney stones associated with collagen intake?

Collagen supplements have gained popularity for their potential benefits for skin, joints, and gut health. As of now, there is no significant evidence to suggest a direct link between collagen intake and kidney stone formation. Nevertheless, it's important to ensure a balanced intake of nutrients and stay hydrated.

Is it safe for me to continue eating meat?

Eating meat is not inherently linked to kidney stone formation. However, diets high in animal protein have been associated with a potential increase in the risk of kidney stones. If you consume meat, it's advisable to maintain a balanced diet, stay hydrated, and consider incorporating other protein sources as well.

What steps can I take to prevent kidney stones?

Preventing kidney stones involves adopting healthy habits:

  • Hydration: Drink plenty of water throughout the day to keep your urine diluted and reduce the risk of stone formation.
  • Balanced Diet: Consume a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean protein sources. Avoid excessive salt and processed foods.
  • Moderate Protein Intake: Ensure your protein intake is within recommended limits and consider diversifying your protein sources.
  • Consult Professionals: If you have a history of kidney stones or concerns about your diet, consult a healthcare professional or registered dietitian for personalized guidance.

Medical Disclaimer:

The information provided in this article is for educational and informational purposes only and should not be considered a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Please consult with your healthcare provider before starting any new dietary supplement, especially if you are pregnant, nursing, have a medical condition, or are taking other medications. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read in this article.


  1. Ewan Ha, Michael B. Zemel, Functional properties of whey, whey components, and essential amino acids: mechanisms underlying health benefits for active people (review), The Journal of Nutritional Biochemistry, Volume 14, Issue 5, 2003, Pages 251-258, ISSN 0955-2863,
  2. LaPelusa A, Kaushik R. Physiology, Proteins. [Updated 2022 Nov 14]. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2023 Jan-. Available from:
  3. The hidden dangers of protein powders. (2022, August 15). Harvard Health.
  4. Aragon, A.A., Schoenfeld, B.J., Wildman, R. et al. International society of sports nutrition position stand: diets and body composition. J Int Soc Sports Nutr 14, 16 (2017).
  5. Asoudeh, F., Talebi, S., Jayedi, A., Marx, W., Najafi, M. T., & Mohammadi, H. (2022). Associations of Total Protein or Animal Protein Intake and Animal Protein Sources with Risk of Kidney Stones: A Systematic Review and Dose-Response Meta-Analysis. Advances in nutrition (Bethesda, Md.)13(3), 821–832.
  6. Cintineo HP, Arent MA, Antonio J, Arent SM. Effects of Protein Supplementation on Performance and Recovery in Resistance and Endurance Training. Front Nutr. 2018 Sep 11;5:83. doi: 10.3389/fnut.2018.00083. PMID: 30255023; PMCID: PMC6142015.
  7. How much protein do you need every day?. (2023, June 22). Harvard Health.
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