Side Effects of Whey: 6 Reasons To Avoid Drinking Too Much Whey Protein

Whey protein is an extremely popular protein supplement used by active people around the world.

It’s received a ton of praise, and is a staple for any individual taking their fitness seriously - and for good reason. It’s a very effective, inexpensive, complete protein.

However, is there too much of a good thing when it comes to whey?

Review: What is Whey Protein Made From?

Whey is the liquid remaining after milk has been curdled and strained. It is a byproduct of the manufacture of cheese or casein and has several commercial uses [source]

Whey protein is a protein product that’s been further isolated from whey, usually sold as a powder supplement.

Benefits of Whey Protein

If you have a high daily protein requirement, or just generally have hard time consuming all the protein you need throughout a day - whey protein can be a godsend. In one quick shake you can consume 20-50g of protein.

It’s also an extremely lean protein, with a high protein to calorie ratio. If you’re trying to lose weight while maintaining your muscle mass, whey protein is among the best choices. In a standard whey protein powder scoop, you can get around 25g of protein for only 120 calories. As a comparison, to get 25g of protein from a steak (another high-protein source) would mean consuming about 270 calories.

Unlike most plant-based sources, whey protein is a complete protein, meaning that it provides all the essential amino acids that our bodies need to survive, but can’t produce on their own. Whey protein also has a high level of leucine, isoleucine and valine - the three branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs) ideal for muscle growth and repair.

Finally, It’s fast-acting. Whey protein powders can be digested within 1-2 hours. This is especially important when you’re trying to replenish your muscles after a workout. Consuming whey protein within a 1 hour window before or after working out has proven to increase muscle mass.

Potential Side-Effects of Whey?


1.  Digestive issues

There is a small subset of people who have a hard time digesting whey protein, citing bloating, diarrhea, gas, and stomach cramps. This is however most likely related to lactose-intolerance, since whey is derived from cow’s milk sources. Symptoms can be reduced or eliminated by choosing more isolated forms of whey protein.


2.  Allergies to dairy

Even more rare is a dairy allergy. Around 0.6% of people are suspected to have a dairy allergy, skewing significantly to children under 4 years old.

Common symptoms of an allergic reaction to whey include: trouble breathing, rashes, hives, and swelling of the lips, eyes, tongue, and throat. If you think you might have a dairy allergy, you should choose plant-based alternatives instead, such as pea protein.


3.  Added Sugar

It’s important to check the nutrition label and ingredients on your whey protein supplements. To enhance the flavour, many companies will add sugar or other simple carbohydrates to the ingredients. While some carbohydrates such as dextrose and maltodextrin may have a purpose in post-workout shakes, simple sugar can add unnecessary calories to the shake and work against your goals - especially if you’re trying to lose fat.


4.  Added Metals 


Because whey protein powders are classified as a supplement, they’re not regulated by the FDA, and rely on manufactures to ensure their safety and effectiveness. 

A group called the Clean Label Project released a report about toxins in protein powders. Researchers screened 134 products for 130 types of toxins and found that many protein powders contained heavy metals (lead, arsenic, cadmium, and mercury), BPA (which is used to make plastic), pesticides, or other contaminants with links to cancer and other health conditions. Some toxins were present in significant quantities. One product contained 25 times the allowed limit of BPA.

While this is likely not malicious, the lack of regulations has allowed supplement manufacturers to release dangerous products with no oversight on behalf of the consumer.

Check the results at the Clean Label Project's website to make sure the powder you’re using is safe.


5.   Whey protein fatigue

If you’re relying on whey to meet your protein needs daily, you might be one of many people with whey protein fatigue. It can be unpleasant to drink a lot of protein shakes daily. For this we recommend adding alternative high-protein foods, such as our own Proteina as a flavourful and effective alternative.


6.   Parkinson’s disease

Whey protein can decrease the effectiveness of the drug used to treat Parkinson’s disease, called Levodopa. If you’re on this drug, consult your physician before taking whey protein.

Myths about whey protein

There are quite a few myths and misconceptions about whey protein. I wanted to dispel the most common ones

  1. Constipation

Assuming no allergy or lactose-intolerance, there is no evidence that whey protein causes constipation. However, if someone was to use whey as a replacement for foods that contain fibre, that would be the likely culprit. 

Make sure you’re getting 25-30g of fibre everyday to prevent this from happening.

  1. Kidney damage

ASSUMING you have no existing kidney problems, there is no evidence that whey protein, or generally high intakes of protein would cause kidney issues. In fact, a german study from 1995 has shown evidence that a diet higher in protein may actually improve kidney functioning.

  1. Osteoporosis

It has been said that too much protein may increase risk of calcium loss, encouraging osteoporosis. When amino acids are released following protein digestion, the body uses calcium to neutralize these acids, leached from our bones. According to a study from 2015, this is not true

In Summary

Assuming you don’t have a dairy allergy, lactose-intolerance, kidney issues, or Parkinson’s, whey protein powder is a proven, effective and convenient supplement to help hit your daily protein requirements. 

However, you must check to make sure the whey product you choose is free of added sugar, and has been tested to be free of harmful metals and BPA.

If you’re tired of drinking whey protein, Proteina High-Protein cheese is an excellent, low-calorie alternative to meet your protein requirements, deliciously.