I hear this question daily and it's worse than hearing "won't lifting make me bulky?", from women.
Who perpetuated this myth? Regardless, it's time to get it straight.
Yes, eating a lot of protein will make you bulky IF you are ALSO eating a lot of fat and a lot of carbohydrates (read: eating a lot of calories overall). Eating high fat and high carb will also make you bulky if you eat in excess. Essentially what makes anyone "bulky" is consuming excess calories.
In fact, eating too much healthy, vegan, paleo, organic, grass-fed, fairy-raised, and/ or superfoods could make you "bulky".
No, high protein will not make you bulky when it is part of a low calorie (and therefore low carb and low to moderate fat diet), whole-food-centric way of eating. Moreover, a low calorie, high protein diet is the key to driving away body fat, and exposing the muscle that we all work hard for.
Protein is a special macronutrient. To be fair, they are all special; protein, carbs, and fat all have vital biological roles. However, for fat loss and muscle maintenance, which is a no easy feat, protein rules. Did you read that? Once more:
Now, if you need some scientific jargon to convince you let me give you some. Research shows that protein has the following beneficial metabolic impacts:
1. Improves satiety by increasing the output of "I feel full" hormones
2. Decreases the amount of ghrelin, the "feed me, I'm hungry" hormone
3. Increases the thermal effect of food (aka "burns calories" to digest it)
4. Stabilizes the blood sugar.
So, if you're looking to lose fat and get a peak at the muscles that are camping out just waiting to be noticed, eat more protein as a part of a lower calorie diet. Getting the low calorie to high protein ratio right makes the magic happen. Just this change alone, even without rigorous exercise can lead to fat loss.
In closing, I give this clear warning: DO NOT (women especially) restrict your calories and think you can eat carbs and fat all day. A low calorie, low protein, low fat, higher carb diet could make you lose weight. But, weight is not fat. Weight is fat and muscle, and trust me, once you lose your muscle you stop working smart. Once you lose your muscle you make it easier for your body to gain fat.
Weight loss that is muscle loss means a slower metabolism and more of a chance that you will gain back the weight you worked so hard to lose.