Do Protein Supplements Have Side Effects?

March 08, 2021

Protein is crucial in building and maintaining muscle, bone strength and various other bodily functions. Many people struggle to include healthy protein sources in their daily diet. Hence, pouring a scoop of protein powder into a glass of milk or water may seem like an easy hack to fulfil your daily protein intake. But you need to be cautious - protein powders might have certain health risks or side effects!

What is protein powder?

Protein powder can come from plant sources (rice, potatoes, peas or soybean), eggs or milk (whey protein). But they can also contain some other non-favourable ingredients such as added sugar or artificial sweeteners, artificial flavours, thickeners and so on. The amount per scoop can vary from 10 to 30 grams.

How safe are protein powders?

It can be difficult to choose a ‘good’ protein supplement. Do pay attention to the ingredients list, because additives such as creatine, caffeine and sweeteners might be included but not mentioned in the advertisements. Not knowing about this can be fatal for some consumers. For instance, if you have a habit of having a few cups of coffee every day and you land up consuming a protein powder that also has added caffeine, it could lead to troubling side effects including migraines, insomnia and even tremors.

A popular sports supplement, creatine, increases the overall amount of water in your muscle cells. This can cause weight gain and increase the chances of dehydration, muscle cramping and stomach pain. Creatine can be particularly fatal for people with kidney and liver diseases.

Keep in mind, people who are lactose-intolerant should avoid milk-based protein powders, which are the most popular ones (whey protein and casein protein). They might lead to allergies, bloating, digestive distress and even diarrhoea.

A study reveals appalling findings!

Earlier in 2020, Clean Label Project, a non-profit organisation, conducted an independent study of 134 products and screened them for 130 types of toxins. The researchers found that many of these protein powders contained heavy metals (arsenic, lead, cadmium and mercury), bisphenol-A (BPA is used to make plastic), pesticides and many other harmful contaminants linked to cancer and other fatal health conditions. Moreover, some toxins were found in very high quantities. For example, one protein powder contained as much as 25 times the amount of BPA allowed!

The organisation suspects the manufacturing processes and/or the existence of toxins in the soil. The entire report can be seen on the Clean Label Project’s website (

Protein powders are not strictly regulated. Their effects can vary based on any existing health conditions you might have. It is advisable to consult a healthcare professional before buying any random protein powder jar. Upon consuming, if you experience anything unusual, immediately consult your physician.

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