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Whey Protein: Does consuming it have any disadvantages
Whey Protein: Does consuming it have any disadvantages?

Whey Protein: Does consuming it have any disadvantages?

  • Reading time: 9 min.

Whey Protein is one of the most popular health supplements out there. Nowadays it's not just advanced strength athletes who faithfully drink protein shakes on a daily basis, but also many recreational athletes who also recognise the benefits of whey protein. With an active lifestyle, you need more protein, and a protein shake is an easy way to help you get this added protein. But does Whey Protein have any drawbacks? In this XXL Nutrition blog you can read all about the possible disadvantages and side effects of Whey Protein!

What is Whey Protein?

Before we look at any disadvantages that Whey Protein may have, let's talk a little more about this popular supplement, as you may be curious as to what Whey Protein is exactly. Whey, also known as whey protein, is a by-product created during the production of cheese. During this process, a liquid called whey is produced, which is then filtered, heated and dried to create protein powder, perfect for mixing with water or milk to drink any time of day to quickly get more proteins, as these are so important for muscle recovery! Because whey protein contains all 9 essential amino acids, it can also be called a complete protein. This is because you can only get these essential amino acids from food.

Does Whey Protein have any disadvantages?

Since Whey Protein is a popular fitness supplement, there has also been solid research on the effects of whey protein powder. Despite the many benefits of Whey, the use of Whey Protein can cause problems for a small group of people. Want to know about the possible side effects of Whey Protein? Below you can read about the most well-researched disadvantages.

Symptoms of having consumed too much protein

Some athletes may still have some doubts about how safe Whey Protein is. Nothing to worry about! Whey Protein is completely safe for most athletes and is an easy and convenient way to increase your protein intake. In doing so, however, it is important to follow the guidelines for your daily protein needs. Forgotten how to calculate this? In this blog you can read about how much protein you need per day.

Most potential health problems occur when your protein intake is too high. Symptoms of consuming too much protein include bloating, stomach cramps and diarrhoea[1]. Whey Protein is also not recommended for athletes who have existing health problems. In this blog we will take a closer look at some of the disadvantages of eating Whey Protein.

Too much whey is bad for pre-existing kidney or liver conditions

It is sometimes believed that consuming a protein shake can place a lot of strain on your liver and kidneys. For healthy people, however, we can firmly dismiss this. Whey Protein is not harmful to your liver and kidneys if they are healthy and functioning properly,

but it can exacerbate pre-existing health problems that affect these organs.. High levels of protein consumption can cause your kidneys to work harder and create more strain on them, but this is a normal reaction by your kidneys and does absolutely no harm to them in healthy athletes, as shown by this[2] and this study[3]. However, in people with existing kidney conditions, this "reaction" can cause more damage[4].

Do you have a normally functioning liver? Then you should have no problem consuming protein shakes, as there is no scientific evidence of liver damage caused by high levels of protein consumption in healthy people. However, for people with liver cirrhosis, high protein intake can be dangerous.

If you have this chronic liver condition, your liver no longer works properly and ammonia levels in your blood can become too high, ammonia being a by-product of the metabolism of protein [5]. These elevated levels of ammonia in the blood can lead to brain damage, as shown in this[6] and this study[7].

In short: for healthy athletes, there is no indication that Whey Protein (or other protein shakes) can damage the liver or kidneys. Do you have a pre-existing condition where the function of these organs is impaired? If so, always consult with a doctor before taking any protein supplements.

High protein intake may cause acne

Most of us have had acne at one time or another. Some people are more prone to it than others, but almost everyone has had spots at some point during their life. It mostly occurs during puberty due to changes in hormones, yet around 1 in 5 adults still sometimes suffer from some form of acne.

While there are a variety of causes behind this, Whey Protein seems to play a role in causing acne to flare up in athletes. This is because whey protein powder is a dairy product and, according to this study[8], dairy products affect insulin levels, which in turn can trigger the development of acne.

Other studies[9] have similarly shown that consuming Whey Protein can be a trigger for acne. You may have noticed this yourself after increasing your protein intake while bulking; the skin on your face and upper back will be the most affected areas, with spots and blemishes appearing more quickly. In this case it may be wise to try an alternative to whey protein, and a non-dairy protein powder can help with this.

Whey Protein is not suitable for vegans

This disadvantage of Whey Protein is not so much to do with its effect on your body, but with the suitability of the supplement itself. Whey is a dairy product, and therefore an animal-based protein, so vegans should not consume Whey Protein if they want to avoid all animal products.

Vegans have a higher protein requirement than athletes who eat animal-based products. This is due to the amino acid profile of plant-based protein sources, which is less 'complete', i.e. plant proteins contain fewer essential amino acids. This means a protein shake is often a good idea for vegan athletes in order to get enough daily protein. Fortunately there is now a wide range of plant-based protein shakes available on the market today, including at XXL Nutrition!

Would you like to follow a vegan diet but are worried about not getting enough protein? In this blog you will read how to get enough protein as a vegan.

Not suitable for those with a cow's milk allergy or lactose intolerance

Many people suffer from a food allergy, such as an allergy to cow's milk or lactose intolerance. Are you affected by this? Then a Whey Protein shake may not be best choice for you. Whey protein is a by-product of the cheese-making process made from cow's milk, which means it contains lactose. If you have a cow's milk allergy or are lactose intolerant, whey is best avoided. You may experience the following symptoms:

  • Abdominal Cramps
  • A bloated feeling
  • Headache
  • Fatigue
  • Flatulence and diarrhoea

In adults, a cow's milk allergy is not so common nowadays, but a lactose intolerance can be. Have you noticed any of these symptoms after using Whey Protein? If so, you should get tested for lactose intolerance by your GP. If you do have a lactose intolerance, you can use a protein powder that is not made with dairy, such as protein powder made from egg, rice, hemp, or pea protein.

Lactase solution for lactose intolerance

Thankfully for those suffering from either of the above, nowadays lactase enzymes are available in supplement form! This lactase enzyme improves the digestion of lactose in people who find digesting lactose difficult. Research[10] has shown that when tested, the amount of lactose in a participant's body was up to 50-60% lower than if they hadn't taken a lactase enzyme!

This is a real godsend for anyone who experiences discomfort after eating or drinking food products that contain lactose. You will no longer have to look for alternatives to your trusted whey shake, which often have a slightly inferior taste. You can also continue to eat your bowl of cottage cheese or skyr without any problems, just as long as you add some lactase enzyme! Please note that lactase only works if you have a lactose intolerance, not if you are allergic to cow's milk!

Curious about lactase? Read more about lactase as a solution to lactose intolerance in this blog!

Whey Isolate vs. Whey Protein

Another option you can try is using a Whey Isolate shake. Whey Isolate is more filtered than normal Whey Protein (concentrate), which makes this protein powder purer and therefore containing fewer sugars and fats. For example, XXL Nutrition's Whey Isolate contains only 0.8% lactose. As a result, this protein shake can be tolerated a lot better by strength athletes with a lactose intolerance.

Our Zero Lactose Protein is also a good alternative to protein shakes that contain lactose. As no less than three different protein sources are used in Zero Lactose Protein, it definitely has a balanced amino acid profile. The proteins used are extracted from eggs, soy and peas, which makes Zero Lactose Protein virtually carbohydrate- and fat-free. In terms of effectiveness of these proteins, they work in a similar way to whey proteins, so Zero Lactose Protein is also extremely suitable for breakfast and/or around your workout.

Whey Protein has few significant disadvantages

Were you worried that consuming Whey Protein would have a negative effect on your health? If so, I hope the information in this article has helped to put your mind at ease. Whey Protein doesn't pose any risk to your health, but it is important to respect the recommended daily protein intake. Also for those with a chronic liver or kidney condition, we recommend using whey protein only after approval by a doctor or specialist.

Whey Protein is not suitable for vegans and people who are lactose intolerant, but thankfully there are many alternatives available, such as Vegan Protein and lactose-free protein shakes, and you can also use lactase to stimulate your body's digestion of lactose.












Marvin Grouw
This blog is written by:
Marvin Grouw
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