How a High Protein Diet Affects the Body
Keto Diet

Rabbit Starvation: How a High Protein Diet Affects the Body

During fat loss, you need to control fat, and some coaches also advocate controlling sugar intake as well to stop sugar from turning into fat and hoarding it. However, some people have extreme thoughts: can we put both fat and sugar intake to the minimum and only consume a high protein diet every day, so that we can limit calorie intake and maintain muscle?

This very little sugar + very little fat + very high protein diet is likely to cause “rabbit starvation”, causing great harm to health.

What is Rabbit Starvation?

Rabbit starvation, also known as protein toxicity, is a rare form of acute malnutrition that is thought to be caused by an extreme lack of fat in the diet. Excessive protein intake is believed to be the culprit for this problem.

When a person eats the correct proportion of meat and fat – for example, only dry meatloaf – such a diet is considered “completely nutritious” and can sustain the body for months to years without developing disease. However, stimulation by other stressors may worsen symptoms or bring onset earlier.

The only way to relieve symptoms, including diarrhea, headache, fatigue, low blood pressure, slowed heart rate, vague discomfort, and hunger, is to increase fat intake.

What Happens When You Eat Only Protein?

We all know that carbohydrates are formed from carbon, hydrogen, and oxygen and that fats are also formed from these 3 components. However, to form protein, the body must add nitrogen and other nutrients to these 3 components to do so.

The process of converting amino acids into glucose by the liver is complex and requires a lot of ATP (energy molecules) and a lot of energy, which converts the harmful protein by-products (ammonia) into urea, which is then flushed out of the body by the kidneys.

Why Does Eating a High Protein Diet Make You Hungry?

By eating a high-protein diet, your body can only provide about 1,000 calories per day, which means that no matter how much protein you eat, your liver can only produce 250 grams of glucose from the protein. Therefore, you will feel hungry, dizzy, and uncomfortable, and eating more will not help.

Your liver will be too stressed to convert much ammonia into urea (not enough ATP), so ammonia will re-enter your bloodstream and start to disrupt your nervous system. Studies have shown that excessive intake of nitrogen can lead to hyperammonemia (a build-up of ammonia in the blood) in a short period, which is toxic to the brain and causes dizziness.

What’s more, a lean meat-only diet can lead to nausea in as little as 3 days, hunger and ketosis symptoms in a week to 10 days, severe weakness after 12 days, and possible death within a few weeks. A high-fat, moderate-protein diet, on the other hand, is not a problem.

Dangers of a High-Protein Diet

The Dangers of a High-Protein Diet

Regarding protein, two extremes appear, some older people, eat too little meat and too little protein. Some young people, are over-supplement with protein and eat lean meat, resulting in too much protein intake. Too much protein, if not used effectively by the body, can put a metabolic burden on the bones, kidneys, and liver.

1. Dysregulation of bone and calcium homeostasis

A diet high in protein produces large amounts of acid in body fluids, increasing the excretory burden on the kidneys. At the same time, active bone resorption through bone can lead to excessive calcium loss, and the acid load can directly inhibit renal calcium reabsorption, leading to hypercalciuria and excessive bone loss.

In the study, it was found that as protein intake increased, glomerular filtration rate increased and renal tubular reabsorption fraction decreased; total renal acid, ammonium, and sulfate excretion increased more than 1-fold, while urinary sodium decreased by 38%.

In another study, six healthy men participated in a 20-day metabolic study in which all subjects received a 47-gram protein diet during the first 10 days and a 142-gram protein diet during the second 10-day period in all subjects. The study found that urinary calcium increased by a factor of 1, while calcium balance became negative.

2. Kidney Dysfunction

A study on the effect of protein overload on the propensity to form stones found that consumption of a high-protein diet for 6 weeks placed a significant acid load on the kidneys and increased the risk of stone formation (decreased urinary citrate levels, decreased urinary saturation, and increased undissociated uric acid).

Protein leverage theory

The protein leverage theory states that the body monitors protein consumption to ensure that we are consuming enough protein, specifically, that our appetite disappears as our protein needs are met.

Another key regulator in the brain is GCN2 (general control non-inhibitory 2), which very directly monitors amino acid balance we also have receptors in our mouths that detect amino acids, so the brain can monitor our protein intake, compare it to our needs and adjust our appetite accordingly.


Many people have gone low-carb and are still too afraid of fat to eat, so they start a low-carb, high-protein, low-fat diet. Eating this way does help you lose weight, and the weight loss is quite good. It is okay to do it for the short term, but it is not recommended for the long term.

A high-protein diet will not give you the general feeling of satiety that a ketogenic diet gives. It is less satiating, you get hungry easily, get anxious easily, depressed, moody, feel tired, thirsty, have diarrhea, possible dizziness, extreme cravings for carbohydrates, fat, and salt, low blood pressure, and slow heart rate.