This is by no means a new topic in the fitness industry. In fact, there’s hundreds of articles regarding whey-protein and whether it’s as good as they say it is for us. Personally, I prefer to have an unbiased view on the matter. It’s easy to see both sides of the argument. It’s obvious why people take the supplement, as it’s basically guaranteeing results, and there is a lot of evidence out there to support this. Although, many people still get these same result by simply improving their diet and not touching supplements. Let’s explain…

The biggest problem is advertisement. You just can’t believe everything you read on the internet! Most of the articles are written by supplement companies themselves, or people who benefit from the industry. The truth is, most of the athletes, who get paid to advertise the products, don’t even take them! However, you can’t just blame the supplement companies entirely. The media in general, plays a significant role in the brain-washing belief of the need to consume so much protein, very little carbs and next to no fat. When in actual fact, even if you’re an active individual you only need to consume between ½ and 1 gram of protein per 1lbs of body weight. This will alter depending on how much activity you’re undergoing and the muscle mass of the person etc. Usually though it falls around the 10-20% of your daily macronutrients. Below are some of the most common side effects of consuming a large amount of protein supplements.

  • Gaining fat- Any extra protein consumed will simply be converted to sugar and then fat. As 1gram of protein contains 4 calories, just like any macronutrient, if you eat too much the body stores it away as fat.

  • kidney stones/failure- This is one of the worst side effect of a prolonged high intake of whey protein. Although I’ve never suffered from kidney stones myself, I’m told it’s incredibly painful. As little stones of calcium collect in your kidneys and the only way to get them out…is to pee them out! Worse even is if the kidneys fail altogether, then you’re in big trouble.

  • Intestinal Irritation- I think most people have had this to some degree. It can include things such as diarrhoea and flatulence and is normally due to the lactose content in whey, especially when taken with milk.

  • Bloating- Again this is one a lot of people experience. Forever feeling bloated is not a very nice feeling, it’s very uncomfortable. However, it normally disappears when you avoid taking whey shakes for a few days.

Excessive whey protein has also had links with gout and the growth of cancer cells. I hope that’s not scared you too much, protein is a wonderful macronutrient. But like everything it needs to be taken in moderation. A lot of you might think protein is protein, what difference does it make! Well it makes a huge difference in how it is digested in our bodies. Firstly, let me explain how whey protein is made, and how it finishes up in those tubs of powder so many of us associate with a health product.

Whey protein is produced during the process of making cheese, which all starts when enzymes are added to cow’s milk, causing it to separate. This then forms into curds, curds are used to make the cheese, leaving behind the whey protein in a liquid state. The liquid is then pasteurized and dried into a powder. There’s a couple of different method when it comes to the processing of the proteins at this stage, it can undergo Microfiltration or Ion Exchange, which I will explain in more detail.

Microfiltration

This method uses fine specialty filters to strain the protein. The filters are called micro-filters or ultra-filters because the holes are extremely small. This is a physical method of removing the contents from the protein. This is the preferred method as it does much less damage to the protein, however its more expensive so it often gets disregarded by many supplement companies.  

Ion Exchange

This method is used to concentrate and purify whey protein. Usually, the two chemicals which are used in the process are hydrochloric acid and sodium hydroxide. Ion exchange is the budget choice, as it’s much cheaper to carry out than the microfiltration. However, it also harms (denatures) a few of the amino acids present. These include immunoglobulins and gylcomacropeptides, which may improve calcium absorption and boost immune function. It’s even been known for some of these chemicals to remain in the whey powder, although this can alter from batch to batch.

After either of these processes, the protein is added with its flavouring, in many cases containing a ton of sugar and sweeteners. Protein bars are often added with a lot of nasty ingredients such as fractionated palm kernel oil, sugar alcohol and high fructose corn syrup.  

To conclude, I’m not trying to say all protein supplements companies are bad, many give good advice and supply high quality protein. I am saying however; be very careful about what you trust. As everything isn’t always as it is marketed! Just because an extremely fit athlete is telling you he takes the protein isn’t always a good enough reason to buy the product. Do your research! Ultimately, you can easily achieve your daily recommended amount of protein through a good healthy, all natural diet. For whatever reason you may require additional protein, I would recommend Pumpkin, Hemp or Brown Rice powders instead of whey. Check out our previous blog-post on whey alternatives for more info.

Lewis Fallon
Personal Trainer and Nutritionist

ProToGo

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