If you were to travel back in time to 330 BC, you wouldn’t find much of the advancement in health and medicine you see today. During those days, Hippocrates, the father of modern medicine, prescribed Whey Protein (referred as ‘serum’) to his patients to treat illness and improve health. A few years later, doctors from other countries like Germany, Austria, and Switzerland followed the trend and used whey as a health tonic.
Back to this day, whey protein remains one of the finest supplements for improving health, losing weight, building muscle and what not. Unfortunately, during the course of these years, whey protein, what was once known to cure illness, is now looked upon as unsafe.
So, what went wrong? How did our generation end up in believing baseless myths about Whey Protein? Well, I believe, the real reason why some people still consider whey protein as risky is because of lack of sufficient knowledge and understanding about the use of Whey Protein. Don’t worry fellas, it’s never too late to forgo the false and learn the right. In this article, we will know what’s wrong and learn the real facts behind whey protein side effects and all of it backed up by science.
Whey Protein in a Nutshell
Whey Protein is a “complete” protein found in milk and milk products. It contains all the essential amino acids that one requires for optimal growth and function of the muscles in the body. On top of it, whey protein is one of the finest sources of BCAAs which are scientifically proven to promote muscle growth.
Whey protein is separated and collected as a by-product during the cheese making process. It is then passed through processes like microfiltration or ion-exchange to obtain the final whey protein product based on the content of protein per scoop.
Similar Article: How Whey Protein is Made
Possible Side-effects caused by excess use of Whey Protein
Before we shall begin seeing the next section on this article, here’s a thing that I insist you should bear in mind for your own good – Excess of everything is harmful. Be it an excess of wealth, an excess of happiness, an excess of confidence and even excess of protein can be dangerous. Later through the article, you will learn that protein when consumed as per requirement creates no harm to the body. Rather, it is the excess use of the protein that is the real culprit.
Now, let’s see all the possible side-effects that may occur out of consuming an excess of whey protein.
Possible Side-Effects on Skin caused by overdose of Whey Protein
Of all the side-effects that consuming too much of whey protein can cause, one that matters to almost all of its users is its effects on the skin. After all, most of us train to look good naked and with those pimples on your face, you will certainly feel like giving up on whey protein.
Insulin-like Growth Factor (IGF-1) is commonly known to enhance muscle growth. However, when the levels of IGF-1 increases beyond the safe level (happens when you consume too much of protein than required), it accelerates the growth of acne.
Besides this, IGF-1 also decreases the FoxO1, a transcription factor present in skin cells. By reducing this factor, IGF-1 gives a push to some of the many factors that can increase acne.
What has Whey Protein got to do with this anyway?
Well, here’s a study that had put Nineteen beginners on a ten week period of resistance exercise program. During the course of the study, one group were assigned 20g of a protein supplement containing 14g of whey protein and 6g of amino acids, while the other group was placed on placebo containing 20g of dextrose. Both the groups had to consume the assigned supplements exactly an hour before and after the exercise for 4 times a week.
At the end of the study, it was found that those on protein supplement had higher levels of IGF-1 compared to those on placebo.
Surprisingly, another study conducted on experienced bodybuilders to analyze the effects of dietary supplements on the anabolic hormones post exercise found completely opposite results. The study concluded that the use of supplements whether protein or carbohydrates had no effects on IGF-1.
There are, however, no formal studies that can establish a generalized relation between whey and acne.
The first thing you need to understand here is that not everyone is going to get an acne breakout from the use whey protein. Frankly saying, I have been using MFF Whey Protein 100 since the last couple of years, and you may not believe it, but I have never had a single pimple on my face.
Overusing whey protein is going to worsen your acne breakouts only if you have either oily skin or you happen to be insulin-resistant. On top of it, eating food products rich in sugar and simple carbs can aggravate your acne.
Precautions to minimize acne breakouts from Whey Protein
- If you are relying only on Whey Protein for your entire day’s protein intake, then you must change the plans immediately. Consuming excess of whey protein for a prolonged duration may lead to increase in IGF-1.
- Check whether or not your whey protein supplement contain added sugar and a lot of carbohydrates. It’s ideal to have a whey protein that contains no added sugar and sports fewer amounts of carbs. I suggest you go check out MyFitFuel’s MFF Whey Protein 80, a budget friendly whey protein which contains no added sugar and a negligible amount of carbs.
Possible Side-Effects on Hair Loss caused by overdose of Whey Protein
Alright, here’s the infamous hair loss side-effect caused by the use of Whey Protein.
According to Australian surgeon Dr. Jennifer Martinick, several adulterated whey protein shakes containing large amounts of inorganic growth hormone and creatine can end up doing what they shouldn’t – hair loss.
What these additives do is that they increase the testosterone levels in the bloodstream. These elevated levels of testosterone can be a matter of grave concern for the ones who have a family background of hair balding.
The relation between creatine and increased rate of balding in men with a family history of Male Pattern Baldness was established in this review by Rathnayake.
For people with male pattern balding, testosterone is broken down to produce a chemical known as Dihydrotestosterone (DHT) which then blocks the growth of new hair on the scalp. This means that hair loss that occurs through natural shedding process will no longer be replaced. There has been quite an evidence to support the fact that DHT plays a major role in promoting male pattern baldness.
Altogether, the use of whey protein may just be fine with most of the people except for those who have a family history of hair loss or male pattern balding.
Precautions to minimize hair loss from Whey Protein
- The foremost thing you need to learn here is that whey protein doesn’t cause hair loss. Instead, it is the use of adulterated whey protein products which may weaken your hair growth. Infact, many doctors are of the view that the use of adulterated whey protein supplements containing creatine is among the major reasons for hair loss. The best way to not to fall for adulterated products is by purchasing protein supplement from a genuine supplier that ensures total transparency just like MyFitFuel. With MFF’s new Authentication Feature, every customer can know whether or not their product is original and adulteration free.
- Needless to mention, never buy any protein supplement that has creatine added in it. Many brands and suppliers use creatine in their whey protein powder to show fake protein numbers during the test.
You will be glad to hear that none of the Whey Protein supplements from MyFitFuel contain added creatine.
Possible Side-Effects on Kidney caused by overdose of Whey Protein
In the human body, kidneys are responsible for many tasks such as filtration of blood, regulation of water and salts in the blood, getting rid of waste and maintaining pH level of the blood.
The statement about protein being bad for kidneys is derived from the idea that with an increase in protein consumption, the filtration load on the kidney also increases which may disturb normal kidney functioning. Now, let’s see how much truth this claim contains.
Published in American Diabetes Association’s May 2010 edition of Diabetes Care, here’s a study demonstrating the very fact that a high protein diet combined with resistance training improves body composition and weight loss in obese and overweight subjects with type 2 diabetes.
Under this study, all the participants were divided into four groups based on their diet plan. The first group was placed on a control diet with maximum calories coming from carbs, the second were given a high protein diet, the third were assigned to follow a control diet plus resistance training, and finally, the last group was placed on high protein diet with resistance training. At the end of the study, it was concluded that of all the groups, high protein + resistance training diet had observed a highest fat loss in its subjects.
Since the subjects in the study were diabetic patients, you would assume them to have suffered from kidney dysfunction after following a high protein diet, right? WRONG!
Researchers used urinary albumin method to test the GFR or filtration rate and surprisingly, there was no difference in this parameter between the control diet and high protein diet.
In a nutshell, the study proved that although overweight and obese diabetic patients are at the higher risk of kidney dysfunction, adding protein to their diet had no negative effects on their kidneys.
Similarly, here’s another study which demonstrated that a hike in the proportion of protein in the diet causes glomerular filtration rate (GFR), an important factor in determining the kidney health, and renal blood flow to increase with no apparent damage to the kidney.
In the long run, GFR appears to be higher with animal protein and whey protein compared to plant protein only. This may go on to suggest that high protein diets have higher GFR which may support good kidney health compared to low protein diets.
The use of high protein diet and its effect on kidney has been the subject of quite a handful of studies and scientific reviews, and most of them have found no conclusive evidence that can establish a link between whey and kidney damage.
Honestly, despite the widespread use of high protein diets, there isn’t enough comprehensive understanding of the complications caused by it. It is primarily because of the absence of generalized guidelines on high protein diets along with this human nature of relying solely on the short-term evidence and sparse data on the effects of such diets.
Precautions to minimize kidney damage from High Protein Diets
- According to Harvard Medical School’s Health Blog, a person who is prone to kidney stones should limit the use of protein to a safe margin. Such people should avoid excessive usage of high-protein diets. Although as I mentioned previously that there aren’t enough conclusive evidence to establish a link between high protein diets and renal dysfunction, it’s certainly a safe measure if you give up the excess and consume only what’s required.
- People that have been diagnosed with any sort of kidney problem or are undergoing any major kidney treatment should refrain from using an excess amount of protein.
- Apart from this, there are few more things that you can do like drinking 8-10 glasses of water every day, consuming more fibers (atleast 25 grams each day) and keeping junk food out of your diet.
Possible Side-Effects on Liver caused by overdose of Whey Protein
Why would someone even believe this? All this while, you have been tricked to believe that consuming whey protein can put a lot of pressure on your liver which then needs to work harder to amalgamate it into your body. As I quoted above, the truth is that it’s not just whey protein but protein of any sort when consumed in quantities above safe level may damage the liver.
The safe dosage of whey protein depends largely on your lifestyle and your activity level. For example, a person living a sedentary lifestyle may not require protein any more than 0.5 to 0.7g per pound of his body weight. On the contrary, bodybuilders and athletes lead a very active lifestyle, and hence they may need protein as high as 1 to 1.5g per pound of weight for better muscle growth and recovery.
Related Article: Daily Protein Requirement: How much Protein you need per Day?
Getting back to whey protein and liver, let me tell you that several studies have demonstrated that whey protein is indeed beneficial for liver health. Glutathione, an amino acid found in whey, plays a crucial role in protecting your body from the effects of free radicals and toxins.
Here’s a reference to the pilot study that was conducted back in 2009. In this study interaction of whey protein with non-alcoholic liver was assessed. The study showed that when 20 grams of whey protein was consumed over the span of 12 weeks alongside a standard diet, liver fat deposits reduced drastically along with improvements in glutathione levels.
However, you also need to consider the fact that although whey protein may help you treat your liver disease up to certain extent, it may not be able to entirely reverse the damage. If you are suffering from a liver disease, then you may want to consider taking whey protein just for its glutathione levels.
Precautions to minimize Liver damage from Whey Protein
1). If you are suffering from any major liver diseases or disorder, then you may want to avoid excessive intake of protein supplements. Make sure that your protein intake is well within the recommended amount.
2). Even if you use whey protein, make sure that you drink ample of water throughout the day.
Possible Side-Effects on Weight Gain caused by overdose of Whey Protein
Of course, athletes and bodybuilders have been using whey protein to bulk up since decades but is the weight gain a side effect of whey protein? Probably not.
Most of you guys would know it that weight gain occurs only when a person consumes more calories than what he spends throughout the day. And over the period of time calories add up and hence the weight gain.
Bodybuilders adopt a systematic way to use whey protein for their benefit. Let me put it this way – a typical scoop of whey protein contains roughly around 100-150 calories. Under ideal circumstances, for a person to gain 1 lbs of weight in less than 10 days, he may require an additional 300 calories each day. And if we do simple math, it is clearly visible that a couple of whey protein shakes a day can easily help you gain weight.
So, the thing is that weight gained through whey protein is not a side-effect rather it is one of its many advantages that can be availed only through well-mannered approach.
Precautions to Minimize Weight Gain from Whey Protein
1). If you are taking whey protein with milk till now, then do consider swapping milk with water. Taking whey with water will decrease the total calories from your protein shake by almost half.
Related Article: Whey Protein With Milk or Water
Possible Side-Effects on Gas/Bloating/Digestion caused by overdose of Whey Protein
If you were to say that whey protein causes stomach upset and bloating, then I wouldn’t disagree. If there’s any side-effect of whey protein that has little evidence to support itself, then it is this. Bloating or enlarged stomach is caused not only by the use of protein supplements but with mass gainers as well. But, hey, does everyone suffer from it? NO.
Bloating and stomach upset caused by whey are quite common only among those who are lactose-intolerant. Others may just do fine with whey protein intake.
As you know, whey protein is manufactured from milk, and so it does contain a certain amount of lactose in it. However, when we are talking about the overall content of the lactose present in a Whey Protein Supplement, Whey Protein Isolate contains the lowest amount of lactose (just a few grams) compared to other whey protein variants like Whey Protein Concentrate (WPC).
Now, certain individuals, who lack required lactase enzyme activity to process whey protein, undigested lactose passes from their stomach to intestines where it has to be fermented. As a result of this process, a lot of gas is formed along with bloating, flatulence and even stomach cramps. In addition to this, bloating and gas can even be an outcome of milk protein allergy.
Precautions to minimize gas/bloating/digestion problems from Whey Protein
1). To begin with, you can make minor adjustments to your diet and include more of fibre-rich foods like oats. Know that consuming fiber may help minimize constipation and improve digestion.
2). If you are lactose intolerant, try switching your whey protein concentrate supplement to whey isolate supplement which contains only a minimal proportion of lactose.
Other Popular Misconception about Whey Protein
Yes, there’s more to the list. Find out below some of the other lies that have been propagated without any proof backing up.
Misconception -1: Whey Protein might damage the heart and cause high blood pressure.
Without further ado, let’s get this straight – There’s no way whey protein is going to harm your heart and increase your blood pressure. Instead, there have been several scientific studies conducted on the effects of whey protein, and blood pressure and most of them have observed that whey protein is indeed highly effective in regulating blood pressure among adults.
Back in 2010, a study was published in the July edition of “Obesity” which stated that when Australian researchers studied the results of whey protein intake on blood pressure in obese individuals found out that whey protein was far better than glucose and casein protein in reducing the blood pressure.
If that isn’t enough to convince you, here’s another research conducted to analyze the effects of whey protein on blood pressure in overweight men and women. In this study, subjects were supplemented with 27g of whey protein isolate twice per day for a period of 12 weeks. It was later found out that subjects under the study reduced 4% of systolic blood pressure and had a good 14% improvement in their vascular function.
Misconception – 2: Whey Protein might have negative effect on Cholesterol and Diabetes
Honestly, the heading should have been other way round – Whey Protein benefits on Cholesterol and Diabetes. No, it is not just that I say, but there is enough evidence to support whey protein as a good measure to lower cholesterol and treat type-2 diabetes.
To cite a study published in 2005 in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, it was found out that when whey was added to meals like breakfast and lunch, there was a notable reduction in the blood sugar levels.
Similarly, another study of similar sorts observed that both whey isolate and whey hydrolysate protein were quite effective in causing a higher insulin response and thereby benefiting diabetic patients.
Apart from this, whey protein has also been proven to help reduce the bad cholesterol. Here’s the reference to one such study in which overweight individuals who took 54g of whey per day for 12 weeks, had a considerable reduction in LDL cholesterol levels.
Frankly speaking, if you blame whey protein for high blood pressure and increased cholesterol levels, then you are making a fool out of yourself. Let me tell you why. It is because you are neglecting the main culprits like your stressful schedule, poor food choices and lack of exercise that will lead to some of the aforementioned health issues.
Misconception – 3: Whey Protein might promote Impotence and Low Libido.
One of the biggest tragedies of this generation is that we all have believed in too many things which are based on anything but speculation. The relation between whey protein and impotence is one such widely propagated speculation based on no clear evidence.
Quite often you will see bodybuilding and fitness forums flooded with such questions like – Can taking whey protein cause low libido or ED? Or Does the use of whey cause impotence?
Well, the truth is that whey causes impotence is based on mere speculation. The real culprits for a low libido and ED are excessive consumption of junk food, anti-depressants, and soy products. Apart from this other psychological factors such as stress, anxiety, boredom, and dopamine addiction are some of the other reasons for a low libido. In addition to this, some of the underlying causes of impotence are smoking, hypertension, high cholesterol, diabetes, and atherosclerosis.
That’s not it. One of the many things that an average gym goer tends to neglect is to take due rest after the workouts. Training too hard but not getting ample rest will hike your cortisol (stress hormone) levels and reduces your testosterone output. Besides this, if you are working out too hard then you also need to have a solid nutritious diet plan. You can’t just go on eating chips and cookies all day long. Believe me, it is only going to worsen your problem.
See, I told you, whey protein has got nothing to do with impotence.
Misconception – 4: Whey Protein might be dangerous for women during pregnancy and nursing.
Many experts are of the view that it is necessary to consume atleast an extra of 25g of protein per day for women who are pregnant. Just think of it. How would it feel like eating one more piece of chicken breast or five more eggs or another big bowl of chickpeas? Sounds too tedious to me. On the other hand, just a single scoop of MyFitFuel’s 100% Whey Protein which serves a little over 25 grams of pure protein.
By and large, whey protein shakes are safe for women during pregnancy. However, there are few considerations to keep in mind while purchasing whey protein. For instance, you should make sure that your whey protein powder does not contain any artificial sweeteners like saccharin which may have a negative effect on baby’s health. Apart from this, you should also check whether or not you are lactose intolerant. Lactose intolerant people are advised to stay away from dairy products.
Lastly, you should always consult your doctor before taking any sort of protein supplement. Since it is about two lives, you better be sure of any decision you take.
Take Home Message
Altogether, whey protein is absolutely safe for most of the individuals. Infact, consuming whey protein on a regular basis may prove beneficial for health and fitness. Having said that, it is also crucial to note that excessive usage of whey protein and protein, in general, should be avoided at all costs.
Additionally, before you buy whey protein, always check for adulteration. The most obvious signs of an adulterated whey protein supplement are – “proprietary blend” as an ingredient, use of Xantham gum as thickener and inclusion of creatine as an ingredient.
Thankfully, all your MyFitFuel supplements are absolutely pure. No protein spiking, no fillers, and no thickeners. Everything you buy from us is precisely manufactured depending upon your fitness goals. That’s all folks. If there’s anything that concerns you about whey protein nutrition, ask us in the comment section below.
Want us to help you choose the right sports supplement for your fitness goals? Or you need someone to help you solve all your fitness queries? Don’t give it a second thought. Just send us an email, and we will be more than happy to guide you. Think about it; just an email can change the way you have been looking at fitness all the way through.