What Are the Side Effects of Protein Powder?

Your QuestionsI get plenty of questions in various comments throughout the website, but I also get comments and questions via the 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?”

Sexy with Protein ShakeResponse:

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.

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. Find great deals on protein powder and other supplements at Dealslands.co.uk , where they have frequent discounts on lots of nutritional products.

That said, I want to examine this question 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

Lactose

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.

Ketosis

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. Hi Steve. I just started going to a gym like 3 days a week for now i’d like to go more but the aches won’t let me anyways. I’m like really skinny and i can’t gain weight. I’m 6’1 and 65Kg. I’m thinking about taking some protein stuff but I don’t know which one to use and I don’t know how to use them(like how much and when). Can you help me pls ??

    • If you want to get rid of the aches, switch to spirulina powder instead. You get protein in the form of amino acids which can repair the muscle right away. You won’t get the aches with spirulina if you take enough (about 10-30 grams) right after exercising. Why eat protein that takes time and energy to break into its simpler amino acids?

    • search vince del monte’s workout. great for skinny guys! it costs a little, but believe me, you’ll be educated PROPERLY on how to gain weight in a healthy fashion. and you say your going to the gym 3 times a week? 3-4 times in really all you need, its stupid to go everyday unless you are taking steroids.

  2. Hi, I am inquiring for my father. He is 85 and has lost a great deal of weight after being ill. He was told that perhaps he should take some extra protein shakes or powder which they gave him with meals in hospital. Would this be safe at any age?

    • Protein shakes are safe for persons of any age as long as they don’t have a medical illness that could be exacerbated by increased protein consumption. I’m assuming since the hospital gave him extra protein with his meals, that it wouldn’t be an issue. Give it a try.

    • Why put more stress on an old persons body by introducing protein? I’d suggest going with the simpler amino acids which don’t accumulate in the body and are virtually harmless (too much of one amino acid might be bad though). An old persons digestive system isn’t usually what it was when it was younger. Tearing apart those tough protein molecules isn’t easy, even for a youngster. Try supplementing with amino acids for more vitality. I highly recommend spirulina. It has the perfect combination of amino’s.

  3. hey, I’m 15 years old and I am quite skinny and I have recently used Maximuscle Progain, but not seeing much difference. I do weights about 5-6 times a week but at home, so like push ups, chin ups, dumbbells etc.. I was wondering what is the best muscle gainer (not weight) out there?? Thanks.

    • You probably won’t gain as much weight at home as you would training in a gym. I suggest you skip the push ups in favor of bench presses and overhead press, and skip whatever you are doing for legs in favor of squats, deadlifts, and interval sprints. Use Optimum Protein mixed with 1%, 2%, or even whole milk, in order to add calories to your diet.

    • I was using Maximuscle Progain, but was not seeing any weight gain as well. Tried the Progain extreme, have to say it did work. I also tried other weight gainers but they didnt work.

      Progain extreme is expensive though, but gives u the result. I guess its cos of it contains creatine, glutamine which is not in progain. But im not sure if its suitable at your age to have these creatine and glutamine.

      • I’ve been experimenting with different one’s. There is definitely a difference.during my search for information I saw a blurb on this guy Anthony Roberts who is supposed to be some expert in AS, but just got his website siezed? – I guess there is a story about him on steroidtimes.com with some wacky cartoon. Anyone know more details?”

  4. I’m drinking 4/5th-1 scoop of whey (20-30 grams) with water or milk right when I wake up and this is my pre-breakfast meal so I can last getting ready and driving to work – before I get to eat.

    Then on work out days, I will have a full scoop before I eat dinner.

    Then before I sleep I drink 4/5th to 1 scoop of casein, which I use to wash down my multivitamin.

    In addition to all of thus, I aim for at least 2 full meals and healthy snacks in between.

    1. Is this too much in the powdered supplement form?
    2. Any suggestions on how to improve this?
    3. Any warnings about the process I take?

    Thanks!

    • Actually it all sounds great to me. I’m afraid you might get sick of protein shakes if you’re not absolutely dedicated to it, and I’d like to see more calories from whole food, but ultimately I think you will do good on this type of diet for a while. What are your goals?

  5. Get swole, of course 🙂

    I’d ideally read a fairly athletic/muscular build and overall be very healthy with minimal cardio.

    Target: 5’11” 180lbs with low/average body fat.
    I’m having a lot of trouble putting on anymore weight though.

    So far, haven’t gotten sick of the shakes over a year. I’m considering looking into a non-Soy, non-GMO protein, any suggestions?

  6. Ah – I’m taking ON Natural because it doesnt have artificial sweeteners. I don’t get sick from it (bloated, gassy, tired) like I would from others. However, I’m fairly sure it’s not non-GMO has I asked them to comment on it and I didn’t get a reply both times.

    I figure, if I’m going to be taking this stuff 2-3 times a day I should find the healthiest kind. TBD…

  7. hey steve recently i started to hear about protein powder but i didn`t try it before im 21 years old and 48 kg female my goal is to reach 55 kg but it`s really hard for me to gain wheight and i can`t go to the gem so would you plz tell whar kind of excersises i can do at home to be appropriate with the protein suppplement? and the quantity of powder.btw i don`t want muscles i want more kg.thank you

    • Body weight squats, lunges, push ups, pull ups, and sit ups. You can be far more creative than that too. Just search around for bodyweight workout routines. Use 1-2 servings of protein powder each day.

  8. Body weight workouts can be great. Push up variations and pull ups are awesome exercises. Once you are really fit then pull ups need additional weight, but for most people they provides an excellent workout that builds a lot of muscle and helps support the spine into older age.

  9. I’ve started taking protein powder as a supplement to my green smoothies with which I usually consume in the morning. This more of a health choice for me rather than an attempt to build muscle. I’ve purchased lifetime life’s basic protein powder which I’ve been putting in my smoothies. My drinks consist of pineapple, bananas, blueberries, OJ, (some kind of green), some maca powder, and a scoop of the protein powder. I usually put a full scoop of the protein powder which is 22 grams of protein. I’ve been noticing though that I’ve been feeling really tired and heavy headed afterwords. Is there such a thing as too much protein for some people?

  10. Hey, not sure if you’ll reply to this but its worth a shot.

    Well, I’m 19 years old, 5’10 and weight about 133 pounds (lbs). I’m underweight, I know that, I look skinny. I’ve been “pumping iron” for about 3 months now and have put on little muscle because I do not want to over do it.

    Talking with my dad today he suggested for me to gain a little weight, he said about 3 stone -_-

    Well, what do you suggest? I’m 9.5 stone now…

  11. hi.. im 15 years old. i just wanted to no if this will get u stroger and more muscle mass… im new to this work out stuff.. and im tryin to get my bench press up and way more squats.. what kind protein will help me.

    this is my work out routine
    squat 400 4x’s 3 day a week
    dead left 385 2x’s 3 days a week
    bench press 160 1x 3 days a week.

    im trying to get my benching way more up.. plz help

  12. my is 70 years old he has hight blood presser, kidney failler and he just has his surgery , prostoctomy last 2 weeks , since he doesnt have any appetaite i am thinking to give him the protein powder .

  13. hello friends , its john ..i am 18 years old and 5’6 and 123 Lbs..i want to get weight and mass and also some peoples told me that may be it will help you get height if you are younger than 22-21..so recently i bought Mega mass 4000 and simple mega mass protein powder for me .. but i feel regret now cause some of my friends suggested me to not to use it ..cause it may cause hair lose or kidney failure .. so i wanna just make sure .. What do you peoples Suggest me ..Shall i use it or not? and how much weight would i gain if i use 2kg mega mass pack.. im So worried Please Help me friend ..!

  14. I am 21 years old and i have just started going the gym to tone up, i was looking into protein shakes, but i am not sure which one is best to buy, when to take them, and how much to take after the gym, i want to be 100 percent sure before i start taking them, and want to no the side effects. i am going to the gym 4 times a week. can you please give me so information about it.

  15. I have a fairly normal diet, but I take about 100 grams of whey protein. I also try to eat the same amount of carbs as protein. I feel like my body has become really adapted to my protein intake, because I feel hungry during a lot of the day. I want to add about 25 grams of protein, but I’m worried too much of it is bad for my health. Do you think that since my body has adapted to 100 grams that it’s ok to add another 25 grams. I see that bodybuilders eat like 1 or 1.5 times their bodyweight in protein.

  16. hey i m 21 years old and i need a protein shake…i waz juss wonderng if i use protein shakes and afta some months i stop gyming….will my body go thin again? or will it stay the way it did when i waz gyming?plzz help me..

  17. my son has been taking musashi now for 1 month or more and has developed a slight but anoing short cough or grunt id like to know if anyone has experenced the same symtoms if so please post a coment or posible cause, could it be an alergic reaction if so i need to know if its the protien powder hes been mixing it with milk i just found out someone said to change to a rice or soy based powder if thats the problem then can someone please let me know hes 6;1 and 65kgs at 20 years old any help would be of assitance thank you

  18. I am 15 years old and only 1.5 metres tall. I have just bought some Syntha-6 Protein powder and I want to know if there will be any side effects I should know about. I only weigh 40kg aswell. I just have the simple stuff.

  19. Hey

    Im 20 years old and I have started to put on some mass. I have 6 small meals a day and get my required protein through the meals + 1 scoop of the protein supplement (I use ON Hydrowhey protein – generally just after my workout). I was wondering if its OK to continue this throughout the year, or should I stop the protein powder for a few months once my box (3.5lb) is complete and then restart again.
    A friend mentioned it being bad for the intestines or the kidney, dont remember.

    • You should be fine to continue using the protein supplement, just don’t overdo it. You don’t need 3 protein shakes in a day, so if you are just using the one scoop a day I don’t see a problem.

  20. I am a 44 year old male and have abused my body over the last 10 years or so, I love my beers. I have recently joined a local gym and absolutely love it. (6 times per week, 20 mins running, 30mins muscular 20 mins swim and sauna per session) I want to start to build some muscle and would apprecaite info on which suppliments I should and when i should use them as a beginer

  21. Hey I workout five days a week and am taking protein powder right after a workout. I do chest Monday wed and Friday for about forty minutes and do some tricep or bicep for ten minutes. Tuesday I do shoulders and Thursday back forty minutes. the Tuesday and Thursday I run three miles and wall sits then do abbs for ten minutes. Satuday and Sunday I might run once again. Any suggestions for my workout?

    • Do you train chest three times a week with 10 mins of tris and bis. You do shoulders Tues and back Fri, run three miles and abs on both days.

      I don’t see any real leg training and your are wasting time training your chest 3 times more than anything else.

      What is your goal: fat loss or muscle gain?

  22. Hi, my son who is 12, swims 15 hours a week in an elite competitive swimming club. He is very skinny and wants to put on more muscle weight to help improve his speed. He has a very good diet and renews his carbs 15mins after training, as suggested by dieticians. Would you recommend protein shakes – or is he too young. If you do recommend them, can you suggest which ones and how often, thanks.

    • Protein shakes are great for everyone in moderation. I wouldn’t recommend more than one a day for a 12 year old. I’d suggest you mix Optimum Nutrition protein powder with whole milk and perhaps something like fruit, yogurt, flax seed oil, or whatever else you find in the cabinet. This guy is going to need more of a weight gain shake than a skim milk fat loss shake. Read my 105 Protein Shake Recipes post for great protein shake ideas!

  23. hey im 19 and i work out and train five days a week. doing upper body weights in the morning and muay thai and brazilian jiu jitsu at night. i work out for about an hour in the morning and the train 2.5 hours at night(on most days, at 3+ days but weights every day. i am 6ft5 weigh 122kgs. ive come down 8 kgs in a year and my goal is to get down to 105-100kgs and have lean muscle mass. i realise i am overweight to begin with but without sounding in denial i do have quite a wide and solid frame. i use hydroxy ripped which is a lean protein with minimal amounts of carnitine and chromium picolinate in it which i take 2-3 times a day. my question being, how can i maximise my weightloss even further/faster and what is could i be doing and what am i doing that is wrong?

    • You probably aren’t overtraining, but given the amount of exercise you do, if you start to plateau, feel sick, or lose motivation, then I’d consider that you might be exercising too much. The next thing I’d look at is your diet. Diet is responsible for 75-80% of your weight loss progress. Dial in those calories, increase protein, lower carbs and target them around your workouts, eat healthy fat. If it is too complicated and confusing, consider hiring a nutritionist for a month or so.

  24. hey steve..i m 21 yrs old.i am 5’10” and weigh 72 kgs
    i have recently started gyming and i want to build muscle…..
    can u suggest me about suppliments n other related thngs
    plz………….

  25. Hey im 16 and have recently started doing weights im very skinny and workout everyday benchpress dumbells and weights for my legs. im currently using hyperboli mass and am taking one scoop of protein a day and was wondering would i need to take any more than that..

  26. Hi, me and my step brother have recently started using a multi gym at my house.
    Our main aim is basically just to build up muscle and become more toned.
    We are doing 1 hour sessions, 3 times per week and drinking a protein shake before eacy session…
    Can anyone suggest an effective routine to use to see the best results??
    Thanks.

  27. Now since i red this I’m scared to take protein shakes. Like will it give me some cancer or cause diseases or hurt my body in anyway? I wanna take this protein powder called isoflex would that be a good kind ? And I wanna get big muscles but I’m skinny what could i do ?

  28. I was thinking,if i take whey protein and have achieve the muscular looks that i want,should i stop consuming the protein? and if so what will happen to the muscle that i have gain.will it turn to fats even if i continue working out the same way with the same intensity as i use to but just without the whey protein?

  29. Hey there Steve, you sound like a pretty smart guy and I have a few questions.

    I am 18, 175lbs, 6’1-2” and I work as a Pipefitter on a 9 days on / 5 days off shift. While i’m working I wake up, have breakfast, go to work. During a day at work (some days more physically exhausting than other) I have 3 breaks about 3 hours apart where I eat enough food to hold me over to lunch, then lunch, then I eat a little bit to hold me over till supper. After supper I work out for 30-40mins. every day, and some days I run on the treadmill for 5km. I eat healthy, I’m in really good shape, and I have a fair amount of muscle in my upper and lower body (max bench: just over 200lbs.) I want to get bigger and stronger but I don’t know how much or what type of protein to consume, and I dont know when to consume it or for how long? Please help me out, it would be greatly appretiated.

  30. hi i am 15 years old and my weight is 48 kgs i just joined gym and i need a protein powder to gain weight so which one is the best for me i usually dont eat a lot and how much should i consume without side effects

  31. Hi! I just wanna know how much protein powder will I use every time I go to the gym and should i drink before and after the work out? By the way I got to the gym thrice a week. I am 5’11 weighing about 172 pounds, 16 years old and my goal is to get more meat in me. ( If you know what I mean =D ) Thanks!

  32. i am 20 yrs old , my weight is 39 i want to gain my weight & my height m small so can u help me which kind of powder i have to use to gain my weight & my height don’t suggest such kind of powder does will do side effect .

  33. So i have been on just about every different type of protein, creatine, Nitric acid, amino acid you can imagine, the best way to tell a protein powder is not by what people tell you, you need to investigate your self. Read as much as you can, I’ve found for me personally a protein powder with high protein, around 37g per serve and low carbs, about .15g per serve is perfect but this will vary with different body types and metabolisms. A good pre work out formular never go’s unnoticed either, this will help push yourself to hit that extra hight when doing reps. It will also help with recovery, but again each suppliment effects people differently so its best to do some reading first. Also keep an eye out for new products coming out on the market, it wont matter what your on and the results your getting there will always be someting new and possibly better just around the corner. If anyone needs anymore tips and hints on what they should and shouldn’t do let me know.

    • It’s not that simple some protein works in different ways for different people. I have found the best product to be WPI (whey protein isolate) it has a very high protein content and low carbs it also absorbs into the system faster but there is also rice protein and soy protein that are very good. I have three shakes a day, one first mid morning, mid afternoon and one before bed. Always check the content of protein powders for the quantities of protein and carbs you want as low carbs as possible and high protein. also you could use a mass weight gainer supplement like Pro complex gainer by optimum.

  34. Hey Steve I been going to the gym for about a year now and my torso is pretty ripped, but my arms and legs let me down. I have started taking weight gainer to create some bulk, but is it normal to feel some discomfort in your stomach? Or a UN-usual feeling?

    • Harry this is not usual. i think maybe you should try a differnt brand to the one you are using. No supplement should give you any discomfort if it is stop using it! I would try a pre workout formular to help you get the most out of your work out.

    • This is correct and it will draw the calcium from your bones into your blood stream to try to counter this, which intern will cause kidney stones. But this shouldn’t happen unless you sit down with your container of protein and eat it by the spoonful for a week strait! I have been on and off protein for years and the worst thing i have had happen is put on a lot of water weight because I used a crappy brand!

  35. Hi Steve,

    I am skinny and weigh 112 lbs , 38yrs old but with high cholesterol levels due to genetics. I am not taking any drugs to cut cholesterol and would not like to take any.

    I would like to gain at least 20-30 lbs considering my height (5’10”)and have been told to take whey protein and more calories but that could increase my cholesterol.

    i have chosen to follow the P90X system and the nutrition plan that comes with it.

    Any suggestions from you would be highly appreciated.

    J

    • The P90X system is not good for gaining weight. The workout and nutrition plan is pretty good, but it is used for getting ripped, not for getting big. For adding calories, simply choose foods that are low in cholesterol like chicken and fish. Avoid red meat and eggs. Use a cholesterol-free protein powder and increase your calories by using protein shakes, low-cholesterol meat and fish, healthy fats, whole grains, fruits, and vegetables. Check out the Werewolf Training program on this site for a routine that hundreds of people have used to gain hundreds of pounds of muscle.

  36. hi there.
    I have been going to the gym for around a year now and although my strength has built up, my body hasn’t. i have changed my work out to more reps and lower weights, I am considering protein shakes but wondering how often to consume them, I also do 2 days of running between my weights work out. should i have protein after that as well?

    • You should definitely add some protein shakes. Train in the 8-12 rep range for a couple of months to try to build some extra bulk, or use the Project Swole Werewolf Training routine to gain muscle mass.

    • Yes you can. You should eat lots of low fat meat like fish and chicken instead. Be sure to drink lots of water and consult with your doc or a nutritionist if you want someone to micro-manage your diet.

  37. hey steve, im lactose intolarent and i was wondering what a good protein powder would be for me.
    i really want to try optimum nutrition 100% whey, would that be ok?

  38. Hey Steve, I am 175 lbs 5’11..I have been lifting weights for about a year, there looks to be some improvements, but i am looking for more, but I do not want to gain weight. Any protein I can use to gain lean muscle, but not gain to much weight?

  39. Hello.. I’m 5’9″ weighing 70 Kg and age of 20 years.
    I possess athletic physique.
    I want to increase my height by 2-3 inches and put serious muscle mass..
    Please suggest a diet program and exercises for me..
    I’m available for gym 6 days a week.

  40. i would highly recommend that anyone using protein powder, get one without aspartame or sucralose.

    Trust me, aspartame is very bad stuff. And most powders contain tons of it. Just look it up to learn more.

    Dont know why everyone needs their protein to taste like chocolate shakes anyway.

  41. hello, im 16 years old, weighing about 55kgs. im finding it extremely hard to gain weight and therefore looking for a solution by trying out the whey protein powder. which brand do u recommend and how much of it should i use a day? (i plan to start working out once i get the powder)

  42. I’m 20 years old and i’ve only 52 kg.I have been going to the gym for around 1 month.i’m 5’53 taller.which protein powder will be more useful for me to gain weight and muscle…??

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