Whey protein is generally regarded as a safe supplement when used appropriately, but you’ll still want to take steps to make sure that you aren’t getting carried away with it.
1. You Could Gain Fat
If you’re using whey protein to build lean muscle you probably don’t want to gain weight in the form of fat. But many times whey protein will come with added sugars, and therefore added carbohydrates, and some can contain added fat as well.
There’s also the possibility of eating too much while taking whey protein, as it provides added calories and carbohydrates in liquid form, and may not be enough to satisfy you as a meal replacement. If you find that you still eat the same amount of food in addition to drinking whey protein shakes, you may not get the results you seek. Some whey protein is designed as a “gainer,” used by bodybuilders to bulk up their muscles. These will contain extra carbohydrates designed to help those with slim physiques build bigger muscles. Be sure to read the label of the whey protein that you are purchasing to see what it’s meant to be used as.
How to avoid this side effect: Look at the whey protein you’re considering and see how it ranks in terms of calories, carbohydrates, and fat. If you are using it as a meal replacement, make sure you don’t eat a meal in addition to taking the shake. If you simply want the protein, opt for a supplement that is more strictly protein, like egg white protein powder.
2. You Could Form Kidney Stones
Whether or not a high consumption of excessive amounts of protein causes kidney stones is an often debated. While there is no conclusive evidence that it causes them, whey protein doesn’t seem to help prevent them, and can worsen the condition if it’s already present.
One way to make sure that you don’t get kidney stones from using whey protein is to get enough fiber in your diet. Adequate amounts of fiber and water will help your body maintain itself and prevent the buildup of deposits that can lead to a kidney stone.
Those that are already at risk for getting kidney stones are the ones most likely to be affected by drinking whey protein shakes.
How to avoid this side effect: Use a balanced whey protein supplement that isn’t just straight protein. Eat a balanced diet in addition to taking whey protein, one that gets the right portions of carbohydrates and healthy fats to avoid becoming lopsided in the protein department. Limit your consumption of protein to within the limits of your specific requirements.
3. You Could Have Digestive Trouble
Because it is sourced from dairy, whey protein contains lactose, which could end up giving you digestive problems if you are sensitive to it. You don’t have to be lactose intolerant to feel the effects from lactose, and most adults are sensitive to lactose to some degree.
If you notice a sensitivity, try going with a whey protein concentrate, which is processed in a way that removes most of the lactose, leaving behind just the protein you’re after.
It’s easy to tell if you’ll have trouble with whey protein, because you’ll likely have already showed signs from other dairy products like milk, cheese, and ice cream.
How to avoid this side effect: If you find that you don’t digest whey protein very well, you can switch to other forms of protein powders. These include Rice Protein, Hemp Protein, and Soy Protein, all of which are lactose free.
4. You Could Develop Gout
It’s not likely that you’d get gout from drinking protein shakes unless you were already showing signs of it, and unless you consume far more than is recommended. But it is something to be aware of if you have a family history of gout.
Along with the protein in whey protein, there is also a large amount of amino acids. If your body can’t process these effectively they’ll build up in your system and cause problems with your liver and other organs designed to filter these substances and put them to use.
You may want to go with a protein powder that has a less concentrated amount of protein so that you will be able to stay within your healthy range of protein for the day.
How to avoid this side effect: If you are at risk for developing gout you should watch your protein intake and that includes your consumption of protein powders like whey protein. Talk with your doctor to see what your specific protein requirements are.
Want to get more protein naturally? Check out our list of the 15 Foods Highest in Protein