T Nation

Liver Issues & Protein Powders


Hey, I'm 22 years old and just had a blood test done for life insurance. Something is going on with my liver and my doc is saying I should not be on protein powder. Ideas? Any Ideas? Any thing anyone knows that can help eliminate free rads in the body...



That's odd. I'm reviewing the literature on protein safety for The Anabolic Index, and can't imagine how protein would affect your liver.

Of course I'm not suggesting that you go against your MD.


Protien doesnt effect your liver, it makes you dehydrated which has an adverse effect on your kidneys. Later down the line it could lead to kidney stones etc... What did the docter tell you, elevated enzymes in your liver?


Antioxidants eliminate free radicals.
Did he explain to you WHY he doesn't want you taking a protein supplement and that it is bad for your liver?


I know antioxidants do but is there a pill or anything that has a ton of them in it...

And the only reason he is saying that is because it is the only thing in my diet that i take that doesn't come from food. ONLY SUPPLEMENT, besides multi-vit. So he is concluding it is that. I don't drink, at all. So I did some research on my own and the free rads can cause the problem with my liver. So I need to know good sources of anti-ox.



Excess protein can be hard on the liver, especially if you have a faulty urea cycle. I'd have to look up data but I believe it has something to do with flushing the by-products, mostly ammonia. Best advice IMHO: drink a lot more water. Anti-oxidants like Vit C & E can't hurt. Digestive enzymes to help breakdown proteins more efficiently would also be a good idea.

Definitely listen to your doctor but don't be afraid to research this issue yourself and pass on what you learn. Doctors can't be experts in every field.


What, SPECIFICALLY, is "wrong" with your liver?

Are certain enzyme levels elevated?

I do not know if you realize this or not, but heavy weight training can elevate levels of certain liver enzymes. This is just a normal effect of training hard.

The only way I could imagine a protein POWDER causing your liver trouble would be if the protein powder you are using contains something else in it which your liver cannot effectively deal with. Again, this is if your liver is showing true markers of damage.

You mentioned no other supplements, but what about meds such as acetaminophen and others?

Another possibility would be due to some sort of inherent defect you have which is unrelated to protein powder but related to inability to metabolize certain compounds ( eg, copper in hemachromatosis.)

If protein itself were causing the problem, simply eliminating the powder isn't going to help. All that beef and chicken and fish I assume you eat would cause the problem too.

So again, to reiterate, there are far too many variables here to simply say "protein powder is bad for your liver." It would be wise to get off of the powder for now, however, in your process of eliminating possible causes.

In regards to your antioxidant question, this is easy: fruits and veggies. Vitamin C, Vitamin E, all sorts of polyphenols in fruits- eat a multitiude color of fruits and veggies. You can indeed buy antioxidant pills, and there is a plethora of them out there. Do a little searching and I'm sure you can find one that is to your liking.

But still, I'd be interested in hearing the specfics, if you know, of whats going on with your liver.

Good luck.


Hijack-The latest research I found states that increased water intake is not obligate with high protein diets, and there is no link with kidney stones in healthy people.


No other meds, and I'm at school at the moment. But when I get home and finish reading Contracts for tomorrow and finishing my oral arguement for the court I'll find the paper that said what was going on.

Thanks for the Ideas already.


I have a tear in my colon which effects Motility. It took me a while to figure out that it was also effecting my bilary system.

I started to notice that to much proteins were hard on my liver. Ie my liver was sluggish. I would often turn yellow If I ate to much protein, and look malaise.

What I found out was that I had to consume my protein powder with no less than equal amounts of carbohydrates to keep it from being metabolized. It was weird , but if I was in any point near glucogeneosis PP would make things worse.

My advice is try upping your carbs , It seemed to help my liver.


I take an ALA / CoQ10 / L-Carnitine combo supp that rocks. Another one worth checking out would be N-Acetyl Cystine.


Good antioxidants for the liver and free radical damage- Alpha lipoic acid, Milkthisle and L-carnitine are some of the best you can get as well as a good vit E and vit C.
Also Dandelion tea is a good idea.


Okay, sorry it took me so long to get back to you all... Here is what the paper says is wrong with my liver. Help.

The two things on your report were: Bilirubin, total 1.6mg/dl (it shouldn't be any higher than 1.5)and the other is AST which is 43U/L which shouldn't be higher than 40.



.1 and 3 elevation is of no concern, these limits represent (in most labs) the 97.5th percentile of what the normal range is. The lower number of the rage represents the 2.5th percentile. ''Normal'' healthy individuals can go slightly outside these ranges without being diseased, you just have to make a cutoff at some point so that we get a basic idea when some number are to be considered too high.

Generally liver enzimes go significantly higher than that when you have liver disease, like 2-3X or more.


My buddy had a similar problem. The issue
was not getting enough water, so he backed off
some of the protein powder and hit more chicken
breast. He's fine now.

You might want to see more than one doctor
for options.


Stop taking powder and see what happens.

I don't really even think the stuff is necessary.


Protein powderm is a needed for me. I'm in law school and can't spend to much time cooking and eating. Rushing around trying to get everything done, i need to slam a shake. I'll up my water and see what happens.


Just out of curiousity did you workout within 48 hours of your blood work. I had a kidney transplant and am currently taking protien powders with out any effects. If I workout and the nget blood taken within 48 hours of training my numbers are all higher. Just a suggestion and something to look into.
I hope that helps. JOHN


On the off chance that you do find it is your protein powder, try using a different/better quality protein powder (Metabolic Drive?). It may be some random chemical in the powder you're using that is causing the issue. It seems suspect that protein powder alone would cause a problem.