An article highlighting the undesirable and potentially harmful effects from excessive use of protein powders.
Protein powders are increasingly popular. Fitness enthusiasts use the supplement for weight loss, building lean muscle mass and enhancing athletic performance while others use it as a convenient meal replacement or snack. However, are there undesirable and potentially harmful effects from excessive use?
Recommended protein intake
Protein requirement depends on several factors including body weight and activity levels. According to the International Society of Sports Nutrition, a daily intake of 0.8 grams per kilogram of body weight or about 0.36 grams per pound is enough for nearly 97.5 percent of healthy men and women. A 150-pound person would therefore need about 54 grams of protein daily. For those who train intensely such as endurance athletes or power lifters, the recommendation is 1.4 to 2.0 grams per pound of body weight which is about 0.6 to 0.9 grams per pound. Pregnant women also need more protein. The average American diet contains 70 to 100 grams of protein daily, exceeding the recommendation.
Protein and acidity
A diet high in protein generates a large amount of acid in the body that the kidneys must eliminate. While some studies suggest that this increase in acidity can lead to several problems including kidney damage and osteoporosis, other studies dispute these findings.
According to the proponents of the acid-alkaline diets, increased acidity is one of the major causes of inflammation which is associated with a host of conditions such as heart disease and cancer.
In 2010, Consumer Reports magazine sampled 15 protein powders and drinks and found that most of them had low to moderate ranges of the heavy metals arsenic, cadmium, lead and mercury. When accumulated in the body, these heavy metals are toxic to major organs. The report found that with especially three of the popular brands, consumers who have three servings daily could be exposed to levels that exceed the maximum limits for heavy metal contaminants.
Allergens and impurities
Many popular protein powders are derived from whey and soy. Whey protein is derived from milk and the lactose in whey protein powders can cause digestive discomfort to those who are lactose-intolerant. As for soy, not only is it a common allergen but it may also slow down thyroid function and potentially lead to dreadful weight gain.
Many protein powder formulations also contain artificial sweeteners and flavoring to mimic the taste of milkshakes. These artificial ingredients may cause uncomfortable side effects such as bloating and gas.
A three-ounce piece of meat contains about 21 grams of protein. Many people eat more than three ounces of meat in one sitting so they can easily meet the recommended protein requirement in one to two meals. Considering most protein powders contain 20 to 30 grams of protein per serving and given that most people are not endurance athletes, adding one or two servings a day can be extremely taxing to the body.