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Does A High Protein Diet Cause Constipation?

By Amanda Reck / April 7, 2018

High protein diets have been shown in countless studies to be an effective nutrition strategy for controlling hunger and helping people lose more fat. But there are some adverse effects if you are not drinking enough water, or eating enough fiber with a high protein diet – constipation. Find out why and what steps to take if you are experiencing constipation from a high protein diet. We hope the other 4 questions and answers this week, which range from ideal set and rep ranges to if strength training can be considered cardio, help answer some of your concerns.

  1. Do high protein diets cause constipation?
  2. Will Intermittent Fasting help me reach my goals?
  3. Does a total body workout count as cardio?
  4. What should my set and rep goals be?
  5. How do I calculate my caloric needs on the BuiltLean Program?

Question #1 – Do high protein diets cause constipation?

Question: Hi, In regards to your article “Does a High Protein Diet Lead to Better Results”– I have a question, could too much protein lead to constipation? – Umair
Answer: Hi Umair,
Research has shown that a high protein diet (http://www.builtlean.com/2013/02/04/high-protein-diet/) can aid in weight loss, but it can also lead to constipation. There are a few explanations for this, and also ways to alleviate the issue. Protein is processed by the kidneys and liver, which use water in your body to remove unnecessary byproducts. A big increase in protein consumption could thereby cause dehydration since more water is being used to digest protein and remove wastes. Dehydration can lead to hard stools and constipation. High protein diets may also be accompanied by low carb/fiber intake. Fiber is what adds bulk to the stool and promotes regularity. Animal proteins contain little to no fiber, so you need to make sure you’re getting enough fiber from other sources.
If you’re experiencing constipation from a higher protein diet, ways to remedy the situation are to:
  1. Make sure you are drinking enough water. A common recommendation is to drink 2/3 of your body weight in ounces of water, assuming a normal amount of activity.
  2. Consume fiber. Great sources include beans, legumes, vegetables, fruits, and whole grains.
  3. Consider decreasing the amount of protein you are consuming

If you experience issues with constipation and don’t have a bowel movement for 2-3 days, you should speak with your health care provider.

Hope that helps!

– Kristin (Kristin, CPT, CHC)

Question #2 – Will Intermittent Fasting help me reach my goals?

Question: HI Mark, first of all thanks for sharing so much knowledge to those who care. Secondly, I was wondering if you can write an article on Intermittent Fasting? If you have already done so, would you mind sharing the link with me? I am really interested to know your thoughts on the subject. I read “Eat, Stop, Eat” by Brad Pillon and I also often read Martin Berkhan’s blog called LeanGains. Have you tried Intermittent Fasting? Thanks and keep up the good work. – Tommy
Answer: Hey Tommy, thanks a very frequently asked question. We do have an intermittent fasting article, which you can check out here – Does Intermittent Fasting Help You Lose Weight?. It’s written by Bill Lagakos, who is a PhD nutrition biochemistry researcher. The short answer is IF is certainly not superior to regular eating patterns, it’s really a behavioral thing. Remember calories in vs. out is what matters at the end of the day as well as your lifestyle, which helps improve hormonal balance (sleep etc.). What I’ve found from my experience is 3 square meals per day and a snack or two helps people create structure in their day, which makes controlling calories easier. We also have an article on How to Control Hunger you can check out. Good luck!

Marc (Marc Perry, CSCS, CPT)

Question #3 – Does a total body workout count as cardio?

Question: Would incorporating an upper body workout with a leg workout such as this one be considered cardio? – Mark
Answer: Strength training using large muscle groups can definitely be considered cardio as anything that increases your heart rate and keeps it high for a duration is technically considered “cardio.” With that said, here’s an interesting study which showed how people who did not see great results in VO2 max from endurance training saw positive VO2 max changes from resistance training.

John ( John Leyva, CSCS, CPT)

Question #4 – What should my set and rep goals be?

Question: In strength training, does it matter if I do two sets of 15 or three sets of 10? – Amanda
Answer: There are a lot of factors that come into consideration when determining sets, repetitions, and muscle gain. From some studies that I have reviewed about the number of sets, if a trained individual (someone who has been weight lifting for a period of time) wants to increase their strength, a high degree of effort, as well as an increased volume (2-3 sets) will result in the stimulus necessary to help with an increase in strength. Untrained individuals, (people who are just starting) will see an improvement with strength gains with just one set of a given exercise since it’s a completely unfamiliar stimulus.

When it comes to repetitions, a lower number of repetitions is favored over a larger number to prevent too much fatigue (muscular acidosis) which would prevent the muscle from working at it’s greatest potential. It’s best if you choose a range of repetitions to reach for, and set up your load so that you get to a high degree of effort (the muscles working start to slow down ) as you approach that repetition range. Hope this helps! For more detail, check out this article – High Reps vs. Low Reps and also How Fast Can You Build Muscle?

Kwesi (Kwesi Peters, CPT, Community Manager)

Question #5 – How do I calculate my caloric needs on the BuiltLean Program?

Question: My wife is interested in participating in the program, but was curious about developing the meal plan. Does your calculation work for women too or is there a reduction in calories that needs to be figured as well. Thanks!!! – Chris
Answer: Hey Chris,
Thanks for the question and super happy to hear you are interested in the program! Yes, there are meal plans and ideas for both men and women in the program. I also offer a calculation dependent on body weight for figuring out calorie intake, so it works for both men and women and is surprisingly accurate in my experience.
If you have any other questions, just let us know!


Marc (Marc Perry, CSCS, CPT)


  • Jay says:

    Marc- I hope you can verify something for me. i have read your article on split routine vs. full body but still need to verify your thought. I recently switched to a 3 day split, day 1-back, chest, tris-bis, day 2-legs, and day three shoulders. I saw where you said you liked this routine. However I also read where you advised that on 2 day splits you would throw in a full body day. does this also go for my 3 day split?

    • Marc Perry, CSCS, CPT says:

      @Jay - I would do the tris and bis on either the legs day or shoulder day. I think after legs would be ideal. I'm also surprised you are spending an entire workout on just shoulders, maybe that's a good day to do a light full body workout with an emphasis on shoulders. It's really up to you and what your fitness goals and aesthetic goals are.

  • Jay says:

    Ok i will tweak it to what you said. Thanks alot. Just to let you know I love the site. My job requires you to maintain physical fitness, and I tell people about your site, AND your program everytime I get a chance. I appreciate you and your team.

    • Marc Perry, CSCS, CPT says:

      Thanks Jay, much appreciated.