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Is Whey Protein Bad for You? Things You Need to Think About

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Gym rats and athletes are often seen using whey protein in their smoothies, meals, and even taking the powder on its own. Whey protein is used by many to increase muscle mass burn fat faster.

Still, many studies are still weighing its benefits and the effects that come with taking whey protein.

In this article we will explore some of the questions regarding whey protein that one needs to consider.

Table of Contents

Can Whey Protein Cause Diarrhea?

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There are numerous videos and skits in social media about pre-workout concoctions containing whey protein that send them running to the toilet after five squats.

True enough, most of the side effects of whey protein concern the digestive system. Why so?

Well, as most whey protein is a by-product of dairy products, it contains lactose. Most of those who report about feeling bloated, experienced stomach cramps, and diarrhea are lactose intolerant.

Added with the movements during exercise that contract the abdomen, whey protein derived from dairy could definitely work against you.

If you find it difficult to digest lactose, then whey protein isolate is the way to go. It has a lesser amount of fat and lactose than the common whey protein concentrate.

For those who are lactose intolerant, another way to curb getting diarrhea while still getting your much needed protein is to purchase non-dairy protein powder sourced from plants like soy, rice, hemp, and even eggs. 

Can Protein Shakes Cause Gout?

A lot of people who experience gout are concerned about whey protein being a triggering factor for a painful episode of swollen joints.

Now it’s important to note that gout is caused by too much uric acid which causes urate crystals to accumulate in the joints, particularly in the lower extremities. 

In order to better understand the possibility of protein shakes causing gout, it is vital to know where uric acid comes from. 

A by-product of blood, uric acid is caused by our bodies breaking down the chemical purine which is often found in protein and sugar-rich foods like red meat, liver, seafood, and even in alcoholic drinks like beer.

Normally, our bodies can handle breaking down regular levels of purine and uric acid typically dissolves in the blood and comes out as urine. 

Protein-rich food causing gout is not true for whey protein as long as it is taken in normal amounts. According to Dietician Mary Fran Sowers of the University of Michigan School of Public Health, there is not a strong causation of protein shakes and gout but they still advise watching your body’s protein load. 

Whey protein usually comes from cow’s milk, which contains small amounts of purine. If you make your pre or post workout shakes with whey protein, ensure that later during the day you avoid consuming more high-protein foods mentioned earlier. 

Can Too Much Protein Make You Break Out?

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Let’s face food–in this case, protein. Our diet replenishes us on the inside but it also manifests outside (AKA the skin).

Whether protein causes acne is tough to confirm especially considering the fact that our diet and environment including our genetics all affect our skin. 

People who use whey protein are often concerned about their skin after breaking out. Too much protein does not cause skin flare ups and their effects are mostly internal.

According to Mayo Clinic, high protein diets carry with it saturated fat from meats and simultaneously intaking protein supplements whether in powder or pill forms can definitely lead to an imbalance resulting in adverse effects; but breaking out? No.

According to Insider, assistant professor at Yale School of Medicine Dermatologist Dr. Kathleen C. Suozzi reached them saying that there’s no one way to pinpoint if too much (whey) protein definitely and directly causes acne breakouts.

Does Whey Protein Cause Constipation?

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For lactose intolerant folks, yes it can. Around 30% of lactose intolerance can show in the form of constpation.

Indigestion of lactose slows gut movement, making the stools harder to pass.

While it’s true that protein does wonders for building muscle, it’s important to keep in mind that other nutrients should be in your plate as well.

Don’t prioritize your protein intake and neglect fiber. Fruits and vegetables high in fiber should be incorporated in your diet to combat the effect of constipation. 

Cliché as it may sound but going natural with whole foods like eggs, lean meat, and tofu should be your first priority in upping your proteins. Keeping everything balanced on your plate goes a long way.

Can Whey Protein Cause Kidney Damage?

The kidney’s job is to filter our blood and the fat, nutrients. When in a high-protein diet, the kidneys have to work a bit harder and filter more blood than it usually does.

‘But what if it’s too much?’ Kidney damage is not associated with whey protein alone, or a high-protein diet. If you have relatively healthy kidneys, a high-protein diet is not a cause for your body’s natural filters to fail.

Consequently, if you already have kidney issues, be wary of your proteins as studies reveal that those with existing kidney problems and diseases are not good paired with a high-protein diet.

People who only have one kidney, be extra careful in your protein load.

If I Stop Taking Whey Protein Will I Lose Muscle?

You won’t lose your gains when you stop taking whey protein.

Whey protein is just a booster for you to reach your desired protein intake. If you feel like you don’t meet your wanted protein goal by eating protein-rich foods alone.

If you plan on pausing on whey protein due to dietary issues like lactose intolerance, then eat more of whole, unprocessed foods packed with protein to make up for the absence of a protein supplement. 

Fish, chicken, meat, eggs, and many more are great and natural sources of protein that fills you up while you build muscle. They make you feel fuller and they don’t go through processing, not to mention some of these options are cheaper.

Protein plus exercise builds muscle, so don’t forget to also keep your body moving to maintain muscle.

Conclusion: Is Whey Protein the Best Option?

For your muscle-building journey and even just trying to build a balanced diet, protein is definitely a must have on your plate. You can source them from natural meats and plants but you also have the option of adding whey protein to supplement your desired load.

Most whey protein undergoes a lot of procedures such as separating it from the cheese curd, refining it, and spray drying to powder form. There are classifications of whey protein like the concentrate, the isolate, and hydrolysate. 

If you’re vegan, you surely want to opt for animal-friendly sources of protein powders. Plants can be an excellent choice for protein powders too; they’re free of lactose as well.

Common sources include brown rice, soy beans, pea, and even hemp. Take note also that the nutrients included with each source of protein aside from the protein itself vary depending on what plant it was sourced from.

One best way to find out which one is right for you, whether whey protein or plant protein powders is to try one from both sources and see which upsets your stomach, gives you allergies, constipates you, etc. It’s not a one-size-fits-all thing so trial and error in picking out protein supplements is key for a fulfilling fitness journey.

So, is whey protein really the best option? It’s a great option but maybe not the best since it has its own share of cons.

Prioritize getting all-natural protein first and balance it with carbs, fat, and fiber. That’s how you surely up your gains while also not putting much stress on your digestive system and your body as a whole.

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