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Whey Protein Powder Side Effects
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Whey Protein Powder Side Effects

The use of whey protein powder is growing more prominent amongst today’s population. It is commonly used as a health supplement since it can provide a variety of benefits. For those who perform resistance training or are keen on building muscle, it is an ideal source of protein since it is quickly absorbed. However, people seldom look into the side effects of whey protein powder. In fact, it is essential to monitor the amount of protein you are ingesting through your diet. Additional amounts of protein, even in small mounts, can lead to side effects that often go undetected until it is too late.

Side Effects of Whey Protein Powder

1. Lactose intolerance. Because whey protein powder is derived from milk and retains some of its lactose, lactose intolerance becomes an issue for certain individuals. Recall that lactose intolerance is exhibited in people who do not have the enzyme to digest lactose. Symptoms of lactose intolerance include abdominal discomfort, nausea, diarrhea, and flatulence (gas build up). The onset of these symptoms can range from 30-60 minutes after ingestion. To avoid this problem, lactose intolerant individuals should choose whey protein isolate rather than concentrate. Whey protein isolate is practically lactose free.

2. Kidney damage. Whey protein powder consumed in large quantities can lead to kidney damage. Although there isn’t any concern for the short term consumption of high quantities of whey protein in people with healthy kidneys, there appears to be a risk of damage related to long term consumption. Such kidney damage could manifest as kidney stones or an impaired ability to excrete wastes.

This is why scientists encourage people to limit their daily consumption of whey protein to 0.8 g/kg of body weight. This means that if you weigh 70 kg, then you only need to be consuming 0.8 g/kg x 70 kg = 56 g daily. However, elevated protein intake may be required for athletes and for those who are more active.

3. Formation of ketone bodies. Also known as ketosis, the formation of high amounts of ketone bodies in the blood takes place when the liver’s glycogen stores are depleted. This usually happens if the person is on a special diet like the ketogenic diet which is high in protein and low in carbohydrates. In a diet like this, the body is forced to burn fats or even protein since the liver’s carbohydrate stores are empty. Due to low carbs, the liver will convert fat into ketone bodies which may ultimately lead to the development of bad breath, gout, kidney failure, and organ failure.

4. Osteoporosis. Excessive intake of whey protein powder has been shown to cause the loss of large amounts of calcium through the urine, which over a long period of time, may be lead to osteoporosis.

5. Heavy metal contamination. In 2010, Consumer Labs published a report on whey protein contamination showing that 3 of the 15 protein powders that they tested had unacceptable levels of impurities with heavy metals including lead, mercury, arsenic, and cadmium.

Always be sure to keep an eye out for whey protein powder side effects before you start carelessly supplementing. The more important side effects are usually due to long term ingestion, so be cautious and monitor yourself for the first sign of any potential symptoms. If you choose to supplement with whey protein powder, choose a product that doesn’t have artificial sweeteners and has insignificant contamination.


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