Too much protein intake can at times create complications. During discussions on Protein in various forums, we come across lots of curiosity regarding excessive intake of this macronutrient. I have just finished my research on the benefits of protein to the human body, so the following questions are asked even more frequently  

  • When to eat Protein?
  • How much Protein is too much Protein?
  • Does Protein make you Gain Weight?
  • Are there any harms of protein intake? 

These questions are especially linked to whey Protein powders. From a nutritional point of view, it is a unique product in the sense that no other natural product has such high proteins in it. Still, it is looked at by lot many people with great scepticism. Are you wondering why I called natural? Well, it is simply the dried whey left after making cottage cheese. All additions are to give it a taste or increase its shelf life.

Let us look at the harm from protein if any.

When to eat Protein?

One of the main questions people ask is, ” When to eat Protein?”

I would suggest you get most of your proteins from your food only as then it will be properly distributed at various times throughout the day.

If you still need more proteins for your weight loss program, then have it as snacks between the meals. Due to this you will feel less hungry, have fewer cravings and will eat less during the meal times.

Now if your purpose is to gain muscle mass then have it within one hour of your morning workout as at that time there is maximum need for muscle repair and whey absorbs quickly too.

Casein protein is a slow absorbing protein and if you are on a weight loss plan then, have it an hour before sleep at night, and it will get itself digested throughout the night. You may also have it if you exercise in the evening.

For the prevention of muscle loss in older adults, it is better to distribute it during the day evenly.

Some people do take protein before a workout.  Their purpose is to provide nutrients to the muscle for recovery along with their workout.

What are the the advantages of hydrolysed protein over intact protein?

Hydrolysed protein is a pre-digested protein.  As such it is easily absorbed by the body.  The hydrolysates elicited about 50% more gastric secretion than the whole protein solutions, leading to better amino acid absorption (Calbet and Holst, 2004). (danonenutriciaacademy.in)

How much is too much Protein?

It has to be noted that timing is not as important as consuming enough protein according to your body and activity level. 

In normal circumstances, it is recommended that a person takes 0.8 gm protein for every kg of weight she has.

Now, as society gets more health-conscious protein consumption is increasing.  Not only people in the sports field but others too, irrespective of their age are increasing their consumption of proteins.  Some times to get quick gains, some of us increase its consumption to unreasonable levels.

Generally, bodybuilders, weightlifters, athletes increase their intake of protein in the belief that it will boost their performance.

A couple of days ago a person asked me, “Whether I can have three scoops of protein powder a day”?   Yes, I said, you can, but why?  Why this sudden rush to have a superhuman body, six-pack abs and less than 20 Body Fat Ratio.  Instead, can’t you have some inexpensive protein foods which are light on pocket as well as body?

We can control our problems just by staying within the limiting line.

Proteins with in limit are not at all harmful to a healthy body, period.

You do get all the benefits associated with it if you were on a low protein food till date and are increasing the intake now.  But if you want to have three scoops today then obviously you are inviting various troubles.

Is Protein Powder bad for Kidneys?

First and foremost get your medical examination done to know that you have healthy kidneys and liver. 

If you already have problems here, then increasing proteins is not advisable at all.

Whey or Casein Allergy

If you have milk allergies, then protein digestion is a problem. Then Whey or Casein protein should be avoided.  You will suffer from diarrhoea, stomach upset, bloating and other related problems such as cramps, reduced appetite, nausea, headache, fatigue etc.

Does it have any side effects?

Most side effects are related to digestion only which is due to lactose intolerance. In that case, you can have

  • Whey Protein Isolate is the more refined variant and does not have lactose. 
  • Hydrolysate is even more refined and pre-digested. 
  • A third option is a plant-based protein like pea or rice protein or egg protein powder.

Sugar Content in Protein Powder

It is also important that you read the labels thoroughly on Protein packs.

The sugar quantity varies from 0 gm to 23 gm in one scoop.  So you can get from 96 calories to 200 calories per scoop of protein.  Instead of getting lean, you will start gaining weight if you are unaware.

Is protein powder bad for kids?

Yes, it is in certain cases. It is also mentioned on the manufacturer’s packaging.  Keep out of reach of children or Not recommended for children is usually mentioned on the Protein powder labels.  The reason is Sucralose.  Companies add this compound as it is a zero-calorie sweetener.  Sucralose is good or bad for kids is not yet confirmed. But some companies using it do mention it on their pack along with the warning.

Heavy Metals in Protein Powders

A non-profit group called The Clean Label Project survey reported this. After screening 134 products, they found that many protein powders have heavy metals in them like lead, arsenic, cadmium, mercury and also Bisphenol-A and other pesticides.  It could be due to their manufacturing process or the existence of toxins in the soil.  These can result in Cancer & other health problems.

Regular high doses of whey protein may also cause acne.

Does protein make you gain weight?

Generally, the whey protein is associated with weight loss.  Low-calorie high protein meals cause weight loss. But over-enthusiasm can result in the opposite also.

As mentioned earlier, everything in excess is bad.  If you are having a high calorie, high protein diet, then your proteins start converting to fat, and your purpose of reducing weight or increasing muscle mass is not solved.  On the other hand, the weight starts increasing in such cases.

Bad Breadth

Having a high dosage of protein can cause bad breath as well. More so if you are also restricting your carbohydrate intake.

It is because when the body goes into the ketosis state, it produces chemicals giving an unpleasant smell.

No amount of brushing will help get rid of this smell.  Doubling your water intake does help, or you can chew gum to counter the effect.

Constipation

Another side effect can be constipation due to this combination of high protein and low carbohydrate diet.  As fibre consumption also reduces, it may result in constipation at times and the only prevention of this is by increasing fibre intake.

Dehydration

According to a small 2002 study, it might result in dehydration, as at times nitrogen also gets flushed out with fluids and water, especially in, active persons. More research is required on this, though.

The only way out is to drink more water.

Proteins and Cancer

Some studies have associated protein from red meat with cancer also.  The risk can, however, be lowered by getting the same amount of proteins from fish & poultry.  But more research is required in this case.

Heart Disease

Similarly, it could have an impact on our heart as well, as red meat consumption results in a higher intake of saturated fats and cholesterol.

Summary

As the protein consumption increases, so do various studies & myths around it.  In almost all the cases mentioned above the problem arises due to two reasons.

  1. Suppose you are allergic to lactose.  Then you can shift to plant-based or egg protein.
  2. Your protein intake is very high.

For God's sake, please understand

One cannot get muscles overnight by eating a drum load of Protein.

Nor can you lose weight overnight.   You have to work on both, and you will get results.