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Is Your Protein Shake Making You Fat?—Understanding Protein Powder Side Effects

Your healthy protein shake might actually be the reason you are gaining weight in spite of diet and work out. We tell you more.

Whether you’re a fitness junkie or are simply looking to shed some kilograms and get healthy, protein shakes can seem like the best way to kickstart the journey. There’s no denying that they can help you achieve those goals, however, you need to know about possible protein powder side effects. They can sometimes do just the opposite of helping lose weight! If you aren’t careful, protein shakes can explode your caloric intake, making you pack on the kilos.

Whether protein shakes help or harm you largely depends on the choices that you make, so here’s what you need to know about protein shakes and weight gain.

Reasons for Weight Gain With Protein Shakes

Shake As Snack

Protein shakes are recommended to boost your intake of protein. Protein helps with functional abilities, like building lean mass, boosting muscle recovery, and increasing satiety. Though the benefits of protein in achieving your fitness goals are undisputed, you should also consider the possible protein powder side effects.

A study by nutrition experts from Purdue University helped shed light on the effects of protein shakes on lean muscle mass versus body fat or body weight. They found that the manner of consumption can make all the difference. Consuming protein shakes as part of meals can help increase lean mass and decrease body fat while consuming them as snacks between meals promotes undesirable weight gain.

These protein shake side effects have more to do with calorie calculations, rather than protein quality. People who consume protein shakes at mealtimes are more likely to adjust the calories from meals to include additional calories from their protein shakes. When consumed as snacks, people are more likely to skip such dietary compensation. This leads to a higher calorie intake than most realize, which results in weight gain.

No Exercise To Burn It Off

It’s safe to say that most people understand that consuming more calories than you burn will lead to weight gain. Despite this, many of us fail to take into account the added calories from protein shakes. If you supplement your diet with protein shakes but don’t modify your diet or workout routine to account for those extra calories you will gain weight and it won’t be from added muscle mass. Let’s look at a simple scenario to better understand this protein supplements side effect.

Let’s assume that you consume a protein shake daily without making adjustments to your diet and exercise program. Even if your protein shake contains just 200 calories (which is on the lower side), your body weight would start to increase steadily – 200 excess calories per day would translate into a weight gain of about 10 kgs within a year . If you don’t do any weight training at all, it’s most likely that all of that weight gained would be from body fat.This is one of the main disadvantages of protein powder intake by novices who lack adequate knowledge about protein supplementation.

Shakes With Sugar

Protein shakes are often marketed as healthy or low in calories, but you need to read the fine print. While some protein shakes are genuinely low in added sugar, many contain as much as 30 grams of sugar per serving! This is one the main hidden dangers of protein powder supplementation. If you’re throwing in ingredients like dry fruits, nut butters, and sweetened plant milk, sugar and calorie content of your protein shake goes even higher.

If you don’t read the labels and monitor sugar content, your protein shake could end up containing 40 grams of sugar or more, which resembles a dessert, rather than health food. After all, a single scoop of ice cream typically contains half that amount of sugar at 20 grams. Keep in mind that the daily recommended limit for added sugar intake is 24 grams for women and 36 grams for men . Exceeding the limit won’t just cause weight gain, but also puts you at risk of heart disease and diabetes.

Should You Ditch Protein Shakes?

The short answer is ‘NO’, you definitely shouldn’t. Protein shakes can be a great way to add protein to your diet, especially if you work out regularly and aren’t getting enough of it from your meals. Protein intake of about 15 to 20 grams soon after or before your workout can help with muscle development and recovery, especially whey protein because of the speed with which it is processed. Protein is also more satiating than carbs, so including protein shakes as part of meals can help reduce food cravings, reducing the risk of overeating.

Is protein powder safe for children and teens?

Protein powders help in keeping up with the daily recommended intake of proteins. However, it is not recommended for children and teens.

Children and teens normally are not deficient in protein if their diet includes protein-rich food and they do not have any medical condition that prevents the intake of protein. Protein in excess can do more harm than good. Doctors normally recommend a protein-rich diet in such cases before recommending protein supplements.

Put your child or your teen on a protein supplement only if he/she is diagnosed with any medical condition, is underweight, or is on vegan or vegetarian diet. This should be done under the supervision of a paediatrician.

Increasing the intake of protein without sufficient exercise to burn it off can lead to several protein powder side effects like liver damage, excessive weight gain, and a weakened immune system.

10 Protein Powder side effects

You might be a bodybuilder, a fitness enthusiast or may be gymming only to shed those extra kilos. Whatever it may be, you will be made to feel that protein shakes are the best way to kick-start your workout routine to achieve the set goal. There are a large variety of proteins known but the most common one is whey protein which is predominant in milk. It is popular owing to the rich amino acids present that are highly bioavailable. However, along with the benefits of protein powder, the potential protein supplement side effects also are a concern. They are:

#1. Deteriorates gut health

Consumption of protein supplements leads to an imbalance of gut bacteria which may cause constipation, stomach ache, and gas. Digesting dairy protein or dairy products may become difficult.

#2. Causes kidney problems

An increase in plasma urea content, urinary calcium excretion, and urinary volume are all the outcomes of disruption of normal kidney functioning which is a result of whey protein consumption. This can put more pressure on the kidneys and lead to kidney stones. As a precautionary measure to neutralise protein supplement side effects, you should increase the intake of water and fibre.

#3. Triggers liver problems

If you are on protein supplements to enhance the intake of proteins, you should necessarily burn it off. Whey protein aids muscle synthesis. Exercising to burn off the excess protein is equally important. Else, the protein will go to the liver for the processing which may lead to liver damage in the long run.

#4. Can cause cardiovascular diseases

Whey protein can affect heart function because experts have linked high-protein sources to higher levels of saturated fats, increased blood sugar levels, and higher blood acidity. This may result in arrhythmia, cardiac arrest, and other heart problems

#5. Enhances blood acidity

The ideal pH level of our blood level is between 7.35 to 7.45. Consumption of whey protein decreases the pH level of our blood. Whey protein powder made of dairy products will be acidic and increase the acidity of our blood. The processing of these proteins burdens our kidneys making our blood more acidic.

#6. Boosts ketosis

A high-fat and low-carb diet is believed to be the ultimate formula to achieve weight loss goals. Whey protein no doubt keeps you satiated for long and can be a replacement for carbohydrates and it boosts ketosis i.e., it burns fat instead of carbohydrates to generate energy. In the process, it creates ketones which can be used as fuel. Ketones created in the long term puts a lot of pressure on the liver. In addition, ketones are acidic and will enhance the acidity levels in the blood. It is thus recommended to limit the whey protein consumption as a supplement only to prevent imbalance in the diet.

#7. Reduces bone density

Intake of whey protein in excess will disrupt the mineral balance in the body. This can reduce the bone density which can result in the onset of osteoporosis.

#8. Worsens Gout Pain

If you are suffering from gout, consuming whey protein can make gout more painful. Consulting a physician before starting to use whey protein is recommended to mitigate or minimise the protein supplement side effects.

#9. Disturbs nutritional balance

An excessive dose of any single nutrient can be more harmful than beneficial. An increased dosage of whey protein will enhance the intake of protein which may result in nutritional imbalance and you may become deficient in other essential nutrients. So, ensure that you are getting enough of other essential nutrients as well when you start consuming whey protein.

#10. Weight Gain

Bodybuilders and fitness enthusiasts tend to include more protein in their diet to gain muscle mass and for fast muscle recovery. Consuming protein supplements in addition to protein-rich food will result in the intake of protein over and above the recommended dietary allowance. However, one of the dreaded protein powder side effects is weight gain. This can happen for various reasons as detailed below.

Tips to reduce the side effects of Protein Shakes

To minimize the risk of protein powder side effects, just follow these simple tips.

If you’re looking to supplement your diet with protein powders, be sure to include them in a wider balanced diet. For example, while you may consume a whey protein shake with bananas, almond milk and blueberries before a workout, try to eat protein from whole foods for the rest of the day rather than replacing them with another protein shake.

If you’re focused on weight loss, the worst protein shake side effect would be weight gain. To minimize this risk, check the labels to make sure your protein powder doesn’t contain too much sugar. When making your shake, don’t stuff it with ingredients that will raise the calorie count, instead opt for low-sugar low-calorie ingredients that are high in nutrition.

Don’t cheap out. The cheapest protein powders are often packed with fat and carbs and some may even contain contaminants that increase the risk of protein shake side effects. Try to use whey isolate protein, which is more expensive, but of a higher quality. And, of course, opt for a trusted brand.

Most of the risks of protein supplements side effects are linked to overdoing the supplementation. Make it a point to do precise calculations of your caloric requirements based on activity levels. Then make sure that your protein supplementation combined with food intake doesn’t exceed total caloric requirements. You also need to keep it balanced to ensure you’re getting all the other essential nutrients too.

As should already be apparent, protein shakes can be extremely healthy, but it largely depends on how you use them and the kind of choices that you make.

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