What Are the Side Effects of Protein Powder?

Your Questions
Your Questions

I get plenty of questions in various comments throughout the website, but I also get comments and questions via the Project Swole Contact Form.

Generally I address those questions through e-mail, but often I do not have the time to reply to each and every question personally.

From now on I want to take a more proactive approach to answering Your Health Questions by posting them separately in the blog. This way we can be sure that everyone benefits from the Q & A.

Russel wrote:

“I’m 19 and am just starting to try to build some muscle. I was wondering what happens when you consume too much protein and your liver or kidneys can’t handle it, what are the side effects?”


First of all, there really are no side effects to using protein powder, as long as you use it intelligently. There’s no reason to eat more than 40 grams of protein in a meal. There’s also no reason to live on protein supplements. Real food will keep you healthy.

Need protein powder?


Check out Shakeology – it’s not just your average protein shake!

  • Whole-food ingredients curbs cravings and burn stored fat
  • Over 20 phytonutrients and antioxidants
  • Reduces risk of high blood pressure, heart disease, and stroke
  • Probiotics to assist digestion and nutrient absorption
  • Tastes awesome mixed with plain cold water!!

Click here to order or learn more about Shakeology.

If you are looking for a pure protein powder, check out Optimum Nutrition. Optimum Nutrition protein powder comes in about 20 different flavors, and is available in 1 lb, 2 lb, 5 lb, and 10 lb containers.

Click here to order or learn more about Optimum Nutrition.

Protein powder is just a ‘supplement’ to your normal whole food diet. Optimum Nutrition Protein Powder is definitely the best product to choose to ‘supplement’ your diet with extra protein.

That said, I want to examine this questions from the following three angles:

  • regarding the digestion of lactose
  • regarding the digestion of excess protein and developing kidney stones
  • regarding your body being in a state of ketosis


Take it from me first hand if you are lactose intolerant, you will want to get the whey protein isolate. Isolate will contain less than 1% lactose, which is the sugar in milk that causes lactose intolerant individuals to get sick. Digesting a small 1% concentration of lactose is usually tolerated pretty well by lactose intolerant people.

Standard whey protein powder has about 5-6% lactose. I have heard of several lactose intolerant individuals, including myself, who have a hard time with the lactose concentration of regular whey protein powder.

Excess Protein

Your kidneys will have a very hard digesting too much of any protein. Excess protein is responsible for two reactions in the body:

  1. Your blood will turn acidic.

    Your blood pH should be in the 7.0 range. When blood becomes very acidic, the body must correct itself by making your blood more basic. The most basic available element in your body is calcium (showing off my college degree here). Your bones will release calcium into your blood, which will then bond to the acidic byproducts of the protein, turning your blood back to a neutral level. Goodbye healthy bones, hello osteoporosis.

  2. You could develop kidney stones.

    That doesn’t sound too bad, until you realize that your body is going to need to remove those little calcium deposits that are floating around in your blood. These calcium deposits end up in your kidneys to await your next trip to the restroom. I’m sure you have heard of kidney stones and now you know one of their causes. Ouch! Be sure to limit your initial intake of protein in order to ensure your body responds to well to it.


Another thing excess protein can do, is to put your body into a state known as ketosis. It doesn’t matter what you have heard in the past, prolonged ketosis is bad on your kidneys. Your body will begin to burn fat for energy, which is good; but this is the result of a complete lack of carbohydrates, which is bad.

Most medical resources regard ketosis as a physiological state associated with chronic starvation. Glucose is regarded as the preferred energy source for all cells in the body with ketosis being regarded as a crisis reaction of the body to a lack of carbohydrates in the diet. Ketosis would thus be a dangerous state which unnecessarily stresses the liver and causes destruction of muscle tissues.

This is still the view of the majority in the medical and nutritional science communities, although in recent years it has been challenged by a number of doctors and adherents of low-carbohydrate diets, who dispute both the body’s preference for glucose and the dangers associated with ketosis.

The Protein Shake Diet

Some people also drink straight protein shakes all day long. This wrecks havoc on your body because it loses it’s ability to properly digest fats and carbs. A good principal for protein supplementation, is that that your diet should be consistent by consuming protein, fats, and carbs in moderation.

A 40/30/30 (p/f/c) diet is much better than a protein shake diet, at least over the long term. Moderation is key for healthy eating.

In general there are no side effects related to supplementing with whey protein. Follow some of the tips above to make protein supplementation an important and useful aspect of your diet.

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510 Responses to “What Are the Side Effects of Protein Powder?”

  1. April says:

    hi! this website is great. i learn a lot from it.

    id just want to consult about protein powder. im female and would like to build muscles and strength. i use muscletech-nitrotech, consume 1 cup after every workout. i only drink it when i work out and only once in that workout day. im afraid of damaging my kidney. do you think im doing it right to build muscle and stay healthy?

    i go to gym 3-4 times a week, focusing on 2 muscle group each work out. thank you!

  2. April says:

    and my concern is, i read all the stuffs about muscletech’s effect. but does that apply to females as well? or is it a different case?


  3. zach says:

    Hi, I am 23, 6 foot and weigh 69kg. I am going to the gym at least four times a week and taking protein shakes 3 times a day plus regular meals to try and stack on the weight quickly. Is this too much protein? If so, when are the best times to be taking protein shaes and how many should I be having amongst ordinary meals.

    • Steve says:

      Not sure how much protein is in your shakes, but if you trying to gain weight then extra protein shakes will definitely help.

      • zach says:

        i am putting 3 scoops into each shake and creatine as well. If I cut down to one shake a day plus regular meals will this still be enough to gain mass?

        • Steve says:

          You can probably cut down on the amount of protein in each shake. There’s no reason to go over 30 grams of protein per shake for most people. Given your size, you can probably tolerate 40g. You can use 1 or 2 shakes a day to supplement your diet. At 69kg, which is about 152 lbs, you can definitely benefit from any and all extra calories. I’ll assume your goal is to weigh at least 180 lbs or 82kg, so I’d say you should be looking to get at least 180 grams of protein each day.

        • mikeyt says:

          That is to much!!!you can only probly about 30 grams of protine in a meal.Bodybuilders eat tons of protine but spread it out over 8 meals a day.

    • Steve says:

      You do not gain weight by taking only protein shakes. In fact it helps you to reduce extra fat.
      Carbs and bulk powders will deffo help. Such as Meltedextron.

  4. Ashish says:

    I am 25, 165cms and 56 kgs and for the past 6 months i m going to GYM 4 days a week.
    I want to start taking some nutrition for weight gain.
    Please suggest.
    What about Nitro juice & Optimum nutrition.
    Also tell me the side effects if any of these nutritions.

    • Steve says:

      I don’t have any experience with nitro juice, but I feel it’s a nitric oxide enhancer. I like either NO-Xplode or Xtreme NO, which you can get by clicking here: Xtreme NO. For protein powder, my first choice is Shakeology and my second choice is Optimum Nutrition. Click here for Shakeology. Click here for Optimum. I also highly recommend XTend, an amino acid drink mix that tastes awesome. None of these products have any side effects, with the exception of NO-Xplode, which I find makes me feel ill if I take a full serving along with an energy pill.

  5. Alex says:

    Hi I’m 16 and I just wanted to know if there is a danger to become fat when we use weight gainer protein ??

    • Steve says:

      You gotta be careful when you use weight gainers. They are not all very high quality, most are loaded with sugar and other empty calories. I prefer to mix my protein powder with some healthy foods like flax oil, natural peanut butter, fruit, yogurt, etc… You can find quite a few protein shake recipes in my protein shakes post.

  6. kim says:

    for a little over a week i came up with my own deit plan which require more protein. My breakfast everyday is a boiled egg, cup of skim milk a orange and sometimes a high protein shake (13grams).All day i drink water. Lunch has been protein bar low in carbs maybe some strawberries or a garden salad and or 1 cup of brocolli. in the middle of the day i eat plain low fat yogurtonly. Dinner will be salmon brown rice brocolli again maybe some more milk and thats all, so far nothing more or less. I will work out in the mornings for about 30 minutes but here’s the problem, i feel weak and dizzy it really concerns me because i think i’m doing all the right things but now i’m not so sure. Any advice will help!

    • Steve says:

      When do you feel weak and dizzy? If it’s during your workout, then you may want to consider eating more calories an hour before you train. It also sounds like you might not be eating enough calories. Consider keeping track of your protein, fat, carb, and calorie intake each day for a week. Not sure how much you weigh, but you probably need at least 1400-1600 calories a day just to survive, and I don’t think you are getting that many calories eating what you outlined above.

  7. nikki says:

    im 182 cm 75kg

    how much protein should i take?

  8. Rex says:

    It seems that Optimum Nutrition Protein Powder is really a wonderful product in supplementing our diet with extra protein. May be we can try this one. Thanks for sharing. Nice post!

  9. jean paul says:

    im 18 and i have been going to the gym for 2 years now and i never get the result that i wanted i get mucle but not wat i desire. and im stiil skinny wat weight gainer should i use?

  10. Hollis says:

    ive heard 30 grams of protein for every 3 hours. ive also heard 30 to 40 grams. which is true? is it size dependant?

  11. raj says:

    i am 23 years old and m using biorecharge formula 1.. are der any side effects in future using it..

  12. deepak says:

    plz tell me side effect of protin powder..

    • sandi says:

      Too much protein in the diet can have a couple of side effects. The 1st is that it will create a build up of acid in the tissue. This will put stain on the kidneys and can in long run leas to calcium being taken from the bone to try and alkalize the blood. This can create osteoporosis. Also will make muscle recovery slower. Eat lots of greens or take some barley grass powder daily.

      Another thing will be that no matter what macronutrient you ea (carbs, fat or protein) if you consume more then you are burning can be converted to fat. How ever if you are increasing your training and muscle mass is gaining the muscles will use the protein to replace the losses from your work outs.

      • Steve says:

        So what exactly do you consider “too much protein”, Sandi? I’ve never heard of protein causing ‘a build up of acid in the tissue’. Please cite a reference to support this claim. The metabolism of excess amino acids create ketones, which can put strain on the kidneys in extreme cases.

        One common theory is that the metabolism of protein also creates an essential amino acid called methionine. Methionine is necessary for certain bodily functions such as detox, digestion, and muscle building, but it can be toxic. In excess, methionine will acidify the blood, which will leech calcium from the bones in an attempt to neutralize the acid. These claims often point to animal protein as the culprit. Unfortunately these claims are unsubstantiated and tend to be pushed by vegetarians. In fact a study (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11914191) shows that animal protein actually increased bone mineral density, while plant protein decreases bone mineral density. Yet another reason to avoid soy protein.

  13. Viki says:

    Hi , I am 23 , 5’6” & weighing 56 kg . I want to go for protein shakes coz i want to build up . I am an ectomorph . Any suggestions ??
    Thanks in advance !! (-:

  14. sanket says:

    i m 6’1 ft tall and weigh around 98 kg…i have started taking ‘whey protein’…along with water..i want to reduce my weight…i regularly hit the gym….and take the shakr 3 times a day…r there any side effects??

  15. KEVIO says:

    hey..um 20, 5’6….whats the best suppliment for weight gain, lyk in a weeek o two…ya startcing changes on ur body….! thaxs

    • Steve says:

      Actually I’m about to publish an article on Pure Ecdysterone that I used to gain 20 pounds in 90 days. Only myself and one other person in the US can get this product as we have an exclusive deal with the chemist who is extracting the stuff. I’ll be publishing an overview and a PayPal Buy Now button later this week.

  16. swap says:

    is there any side effect of protein shake on our sex life ?

    • Steve says:

      Only indirectly. How? Use protein – get stronger, leaner, look good naked, increase self esteem = more people will want to have sex with you and a healthier body usually means you will function better sexually.

  17. viplav says:

    im 22 yrs old i workout for 6 days in a week im 75kgs and i love bodybuilding and i really want to take part in compition . i used different types of supplements and a lot of it . but now the problem is when ever i start using supplements i feel dizzy ,i feel breathless ,heavy breathin n all .. im really tensed plz suggest sumthing as im crazy about this sport and i want to compete one day..

  18. Prasad says:

    Dear Steve,

    Im 30 yrs old and hight 5’11 and 86Kg im going to the gym atleast 3 to 4 days a week. i want to get more mussels.please let me know what is the best protein for me?and how should i use it. Thanks

  19. kristian says:

    hi im 24, working out regularly for months now.. 5’5 70 kilos.. my only reason why im working out is because i dont have time to play basketball anymore and of course, i want to stay healthy and fit.. problem is im gaining too much muscle even though i don’t really lift heavy weights. should i cut down my protein diet or just less lifting and more cardio?

    • Steve says:

      You should actually switch to lifting really heavy weights. When you use a higher rep range like 10-15 reps, you are training to gain muscle. Instead you want to focus on a lower rep range like 3-5 reps to develop strength. You should also try doing some Olympic lifts and plyometrics, which both use light weight or body weight, to train for speed and power rather than muscle mass. For cardio you’ll want to focus more on high intensity intervals with some endurance cardio sprinkled in for all that running up and down the courts.

  20. Paula says:

    Hi i am currently drinking High Protein IGF-1 (USN) drink 3x a day! I am eating little snacks throughout the day and having a big meal in the evening! I am trying to lose weight though would this add weight on?? I am going to the gym 3 x a week and trying to run at least 2x a week!!!


    • Steve says:

      You might add weight or stay the same, but you should be more concerned with your total body fat. If body fat goes down, that’s all that really matters. Be sure not to add calories to your daily total if you are not already losing fat.

  21. gabby says:

    Dear Steve,

    Thanks this site is great. I really want to start the gym to gain muscles, endurance. Is there still a chance for me? Sad to say, I’m 55 yo, 150#, 5’6″. Any advise for a beginner? I appreciate your reply.

    • Steve says:

      At 55 you are still a spring chicken. You have a good 20 years of intense exercise and another 10 years of moderate intensity ahead of you. Seriously, you can do any workout on this site as long as you have no existing medical conditions that would make certain exercises contraindicated (bad for you). If I were you, I would stick to a full body routine 3 days a week. My Generic Full Body routine or my Full Body Fat Loss routine would be great for you. Consider using endurance cardio instead of HIIT cardio initially until you get used to it. Gradually increase weight and intensity as you learn about your body.

  22. ARUN says:

    i want to take protein power i am so skinny but i have piece muscle.I want to get mass but how much i ate i am not getting mass …i am very unhappy so i want to take protein powder…every body says it will occur kidney stone..is it true ?please tell me how to take food properly and about having side effect………………..^^^^^
    i am taking good weights ,even i am skinny i am able to take hold of weights
    in bar weight i usually take,
    chest max:60 kg{upper,lower,base}
    biceps max:50 kg
    triceps max:30 kg
    wings:60 kg
    shoulder:30 kg
    leg:60 kg
    plz tell if i want to modify it tooooo

    • Steve says:

      Firstly, try my Werewolf Muscle Training routine. Secondly, supplement with protein powder if you don’t have a history of kidney stones. If you get a kidney stone, stop using protein powder. It is not common for protein powder to cause kidney stones, but it is possible. Just don’t use too much protein powder. One extra shake a day will help you, and consider adding more high calorie foods like peanut butter, other nuts, whole milk, and olive oil or flax seed oil. Other than that, I’d say your not training with high enough intensity. If you can curl 50kg but only bench and squat 60kg, then something is wrong. Lift heavier on the compound exercises like bench, squat, deadlift, and shoulder press; and stop doing so many biceps curls.

  23. MM says:

    I drink 3-4 protein shakes a day But i do mix in frozen fruits. Also, you have to keep in mind that different protein shakes have different amounts of protein. So for example, if your drinking a shake with 20 grams 3 times a day its totally different then drinking a shake of 60 grams protein 3 times a day. As a general rule of thumb you should be consuming 1 gram of protein per pound of body weight.

  24. thanx for the info on kidney stones and protein shakes. No more shakes for me. My hubby keeps making them for me/ I will excuse him- he didn't know……or maybe he knows that I am insured lol.

  25. I drink one protein shake a day. it contains 16 grams of protein, I eat protein enriched foods every meal such as beans eggs meat along with vegatables and wheat bread and brown rice, I have lost about 10 lbs in 1 month. the thing I have noticed is constipation, the opposite of lactose intolerance. I continue to drink plenty of water and watch and see what developes. Not really worried about kidney stones because the beans are loaded with carbohydrates and protein.

  26. I am 55 and *possibly* hypoglycemic (which isn’t what this Q is about but might be useful info.) For breakfast I eat a a whole grain cereal mixed with nut meals (hazelnut, almond and pecan), yogurt, and a half scoop of protein powder. Cereal is eaten slowly over course of the AM. I have an early supper consisting of a huge raw veggie salad with lots of ingredients including some tofu for protein. During the day I snack on a protein bar and/or rice cakes with peanut butter.

    During workouts I sometimes experience rapid-onset of dizziness and a horrible feeling of depression and physical exhaustion. My weight-to-height ratio is good, so caloric intake seems to be OK.

    My questions: could I be getting too little protein, given that I don’t eat meat? Could this cause the bad feelings during and after workouts? Or would hypoglycemia be a more likely cause of depression and fatigue after exercise? Any recommendations?

    • Steve says:

      I think you are better off consulting a doctor about your potential hypoglycemia. Just off the top of my head, it could be a blood sugar crash in the middle of your workout. For someone without hypoglycemia, I would recommend sipping diluted Gatorade, Powerade, or whatever you use for a post-workout shake, throughout your workout. I doubt it has anything to do with your protein intake.

  27. Sharan Kumar says:

    Whey protein prevents cancer, its has got an amino called cysteine, when gets into the cell converts to glutathione, a potent antioxident…….So have "whey" all the way……peace sharan.

  28. do you have to workout when useing protien.

  29. gyanesh says:

    hey sir i really want to knw that does drinking an protien powder once time in a day hav any side effect to my body or not… n used to smoke 3 to 4 times daily ….
    plz do reply me sir
    i m 22yrs old n 65kg

  30. Joseph says:

    have been taking protein powder, will my gained weight be maintained if i stop taking the supplements.

  31. As soon as I read about the side effects of protein powder I discontinued use straight away as it was making my digestive system unhealthy and I put not having enough fibre to blame. I only continued use before hand to rebuild my muscles after starting a physical demanding job. I had no idea that these protein diet shakes were destructive to the kidneys and bones. I think people should really do research into these body building diet fads that we see on the tv before hand and read the fine print after all they are trying to sell this stuff they are only going to emphasize on the positive outcome which is weight loss from fluid loss and muscle mass the only positive thing that came out of using a protein shake for me.

  32. BIBA says:

    I am a 61 yr old female. upto the age of 51, i weighed 130kg. i dieted for 1 yr and lost 65 kg. i kept this weight off until last year. but since 1 yr, my wt has gone upto 85kg. i started dieting and taking ISO 100 twice a day (28gms each time). I work out 4-5 days a wk but because of my knee problem, my work outs are limited. i started dieting 2 months ago.I feel the protein drink is making me gain weight. shall i stop having it? i take itat 9am and the other one after my workout at 4.30pm. i feel very sleepy and lethargic after i have my ISO 100 no carb, no fat protien drink. Please advise. thx.

  33. Sanoj Sen says:

    can you prefer a protien powder for me?
    im extra slim, 5'8 inch tall.
    i go to gym 5-6 times a week.

  34. Matt Ayala says:

    If you start can you suddenly stop?

  35. iwantmuscles says:

    Hi Steve!

    I am a 51 yo man 6’2″ and 185lbs, I desparately want to build some muscles and work out 6 days a week. However my cholesterol was a bit high and through execise and diet, brought down a bit. Which products combination is the safest for me and how do I use it.



    • Steve says:

      The following advice comes with a disclaimer: be sure to talk to your doctor before starting an exercise routine or diet plan. Especially if you have a history of any kind of cardiovascular disease or illness. Now, my $.02

      First of all, you don’t want to lift weights 6 days a week. I can see lifting 4 times a week and including cardio training twice, though you will want to transition from endurance cardio to high intensity intervals once your body is ready for it. You can do some additional cardio as well, but it’s probably not needed unless you are training for a marathon, triathlon, or some other sport or race. As far as supplements, all you really need is some protein powder. Maybe invest in some fish or flax oil supplements for good health. A multivitamin is probably a good idea too, and make sure you get adequate calcium and vitamin D.

  36. Jackson says:

    sir im 18(53kg) and i have recently started going to gym to gain weight and muscles but i dont use any protein powder becoz parents tell its not good for health … i eat 3 bananas before workout and 4 boiled eggs after workout are they sufficient or should i add anything in diet please suggest

  37. sachin says:

    what all protiens are bad?

  38. Afgboy says:

    Hi, I’m 20 yrs old ,79 kg and 180 cm height . I take 1 shake of protien (3 scoops = 59g) and creatine after each workout plus healthy meals, and I workout 6 days a week . Do I exceed in using protein ?

  39. jay says:

    Hi steve your blog is awesome I am 25 6′ and 92.5 kg I have stated using creatine so I was wondering if there will be any side effects in the future?

    • Steve says:

      It all depends on your physiology whether or not you will have side effects from creatine. Some folks do and some don’t. Some professional athletes report tendon and ligament injuries associated with creatine, but most experts agree that it is the fault of some other performance enhancing drugs. I personally experienced great results from creatine, aside from some short term side effects like cramping when I don’t consume enough fluids. To this day I don’t experience any long term side effects that I can attribute to create use. I can’t tell you to use it or not, so it’s your decision.

  40. Des says:

    Hi i am 14+ this year and weigh arnd 60+ kg,I want to get bigger. Shd i take weight gainers?
    I have been working out for a few months alr and theres result but my arms arent getting any bigger although its getting stronger and its like i have not enough fats to build anymore muscles. pls advice thanks

    • Steve says:

      Weight gainers shouldn’t be necessary at age 14. You just need to follow a good routine, using compound movements, train your legs, and eat, eat, eat. It would be ok to add maybe 1 protein shake a day, but it is more important to eat real food. Breakfast, lunch, dinner, and 2 quality snacks in between. Even if you go to school days, you can still make a diet like this work.

  41. sahil says:

    hi im 17yrs.176cm.54kg. nd di dnt tk ny proteins or weight gainer . but from know i wnt to gain weight . so please help me

  42. ravinder says:

    hi im 17yrs,176cm,,,54kg weight,,,,,nd i dnt tk ny proteins or weight gainer. ….bt know i wnt to gain weight …so please help me

  43. Lori says:

    Hello, I want to lose weight and have found that I am slowing down and weight gaining as a female hitting my dreaded 40’s. I have tried my old ways to lose weight and its not happening like it used to so I want to know if I buy some kind of shake in the morning and lunch and then a snack and a normal supper and then maybe treadmill for an hour a day? I don’t want to get dizzy and have 3 kids so I need a lot of energy too. I would like to lose 30 lbs. and also don’t mind if I lose some muscle. I purchased ISONatural today and now I am reading about how protein shakes may affect your kidneys making me wonder if I should use them at all.

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