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Kidney Disease: Getting the Right Amount of Protein

Your body needs protein to build and repair muscles and bones and recover from injury. As the body uses protein, a waste product called blood urea nitrogen (BUN) is made. If your kidneys can’t filter waste from your blood well, the BUN level in your blood goes up. If the level gets too high, you can become sick. Because of this, you need to control the amount of protein you eat each day. Use this handout to help you.

Hand holding a deck of cards
One portion (3 to 4 ounces) of fish, chicken, or red meat is about the size of a deck of playing cards.

Measuring protein content

You may know how many grams of protein to eat, but most food portions are measured in ounces. Use the chart below to help see the protein content of some common foods.

Protein content measurements

Protein source

Amount in ounces

Amount in grams

Chicken breast

3 to 4 ounces

21 to 28 grams

Chicken thigh

2 to 2.5 ounces

14 to 18 grams


3 ounces

21 grams

Pork chop

2 to 2.5 ounces

14 to 18 grams

Roast beef

3 ounces

21 grams


3 to 4 ounces

21 to 28 grams


3 to 4 ounces

21 to 28 grams


1 egg

7 grams


1 ounce

7 grams

Most beans

4 ounces

7 to 10 grams


2 ounces

5 grams

Most nuts

2 ounces

5 to 8 grams

If you eat too much protein

Eating too much protein may cause:

  • Nausea or vomiting

  • Tiredness (fatigue)

  • Mental confusion

  • Increased potassium levels

  • Increased phosphorus levels

  • Increased time on hemodialysis

  • Risk of speeding the loss of kidney function

If you eat too little protein

Eating too little protein may cause:

  • Muscle loss and weakness

  • Tiredness

  • Weight loss

  • Slower wound healing

Talk with your healthcare provider

If you’re having trouble getting the right amount of protein, ask your provider to refer you to a dietitian. They can help you learn ways to stay on target.

Online Medical Reviewer: Raymond Kent Turley BSN MSN RN
Online Medical Reviewer: Rita Sather RN
Online Medical Reviewer: Walead Latif MD
Date Last Reviewed: 7/1/2022
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