Is Whey Protein Bad For You? A Definitive Look

Whey protein is hailed as a convenient source of high-quality protein. 
But let’s shed some light on the hidden drawbacks. 

With its widespread use in fitness and nutrition, is whey protein bad for you? 

As a certified personal trainer, we’ll get into the downsides based on credible sources. Whey protein might not be as beneficial as you think. Maybe.

Here’s what’s coming up. 

Is Whey Protein Bad For You?
Toxic Chemicals Found 
What’s Wrong With Whey Protein?
What Is Whey Protein? 
Why Use Whey Protein? 
3 FAQs About Whey Protein 
Bottom Line 

Is Whey Protein
Bad For You? 

The truth is that if you take recommended doses of whey protein, it is not considered bad or dangerous. 

There are still facts you should be informed about, like toxic chemicals reported by The Clean Label Project. 

As with many things, too much whey protein can be bad. Different individuals can react differently to whey protein so there is no one-size-fits-all answer. 

Whey protein is a milk derived product, so it can negatively affect those allergic or sensitive to dairy. 

Whey protein powder is also questionable in terms of the manufacturers of the products.

Different brands have their own blend of ingredients, and some may cause you digestive discomfort give the protein a bad taste. 

Quality matters. Some whey protein supplements might contain additives or low-quality ingredients, so it’s essential to choose reputable brands known for purity and reliability.

Toxic Chemicals Found 

Clean Label Project™ is a national non-profit with the mission to bring truth and transparency to food and consumer product labeling. 

They did a Protein Powder Study in 2018 which had some alarming results. 

During the study, they worked with a chemistry laboratory to test over 60 brands and 134 products. 

Clean Label Project found detectable levels of the following toxic materials: arsenic, cadmium, lead, mercury, BPA, mycotoxins, and pesticides. 

The source of the contaminants came from soils where the ingredients were grown, and from the packaging in which the protein is sold. 

Those protein powders with eggs as their source of protein tested cleaner. With a shock, the worst proteins were plant-based proteins, with 75% positive for lead. 

Whey proteins fell somewhere in the middle. That means that some whey protein products may not be free of toxic chemicals.

What’s Wrong With
Whey Protein?

Whey protein powder is a dietary supplement, which means it’s not regulated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). 

The FDA leaves it up to the manufactures of protein powders to ensure the safety of their products.

As you can imagine, there’s no way to know if what’s in the protein is actually what’s on the label. 

It could contain ineffective ingredients, extra additives that aren’t safe, or even toxic chemicals. 

Protein supplements are still fairly new to studies, so long term affects are not known. 

What is known about whey protein powder is that it’s hard on the digestive system of those who are allergic to lactose.

It can also become dangerous in doses that are more than the recommended amount. 

There are many contributing factors that can make whey protein not the best choice for you. Those factors are: 

Whey Allergy 

Whey can cause digestive problems in some sensitive individuals. It can cause side effects like nausea, cramping, gas, and diarrhea. Additionally, some may have reactions to artificial sweeteners in the product. 

Overdose Symptoms 

Whey protein powders can contain fillers and food thickeners that lower the quality of the product.

These can cause adverse effects to your body in large amounts. You can experience acne, thirst, bloating, fatigue, headaches, reduced appetite, and increased bowel movements. 


Whey protein powders may contain vegetable oils and other hydrogenated ingredients that serve to improve texture and flavor. But these can contain trans fats, which can lead to inflammation.

High In Sugar & Calories 

Some whey protein powders use artificial sweeteners, which adds up to 0 grams of sugar. But other do use real sugar, and it can be as much as 23 grams per scoop (according to Harvard Health).

Other whey protein powders can have a lot of of carbohydrates and calories. This can lead to an unhealthy spike in blood sugar and possible weight gain. 

What Is Whey Protein?

is whey protein bad for you?

Whey protein is a byproduct of whey liquid from milk.

  • Have you heard of curds and whey?
  • Milk breaks down into solid and liquid portions in the cheese making process.  
  • The liquid is called whey protein and the solid curd is called casein protein. 
  • The liquid whey is further refined when the water is removed, and you’re left with a powder.
  • Wa la! You have concentrated whey powder, a common protein supplement. 

Whey powder is a complete protein because it has all 9 essential amino acids not made by the human body. 

Manufacturers of whey protein add additional ingredients and flavors to enhance the taste, smell, marketability, and shelf life of the product. 

Whey protein is low in lactose content, but it is not completely lactose free. There are, however, variations of whey proteins that can give you a lactose free option. 

Let’s get into those. 

Types Of Whey Protein

There are three types of whey protein powders available. 

  • whey protein concentrate 
  • whey protein isolate 
  • whey protein hydrolysate 

Each of these is processed in a different way, which gives them different attributes. 

The amount of concentrated protein content is different in each, and that is balanced with other nutrients like carbohydrates and fats. 

Whey protein concentrate contains 30 to 90% protein, with the rest being lactose, carbohydrate, and fat. This is no good for those with lactose allergy but has a more flavorful taste. 

Whey protein isolate is the purest form, with 90 to 95% protein. It has less of other nutrients and is free of lactose. This is perfect for those with lactose intolerance. 

Whey protein hydrolysate has undergone a process called hydrolysis, where some of the protein has been broken down. This makes is easier to absorb and digest, and for those with lactose allergy. 

Looking at the big picture of why protein, choosing one over the other will not give you superior benefits. 

That is unless you are lactose free. Choose why protein isolate in that case. 

Why Use Whey Protein?

Whey protein is popular among fitness enthusiasts, athletes, and individuals looking to add more protein to their diet. 

Whey protein can be used as a weight loss tool, meal replacement, or recovery method from training. 

Data from this study suggests that people who do resistance training may benefit from protein supplements after evening workouts and in the morning.

Taking protein at these times helps to reduce the effect of protein loss and help with performance recovery. 

Reasons to use whey protein are: 

  • Fast Absorption. Whey protein is rapidly absorbed by the body, making it ideal for a post-exercise recovery drink. It helps deliver amino acids to muscles quickly, aiding in muscle recovery.
  • Muscle Building. It’s high-quality protein that contains all 9 essential amino acids. Protein is shown to target muscle growth and development. It helps to strengthen bones and repair cells. 
  • Weight Management. Protein helps with feeling full for longer. This manages weight by reducing overall calorie intake.
  • Convenience. Whey protein is easy to consume and digest. It can be quickly prepared as a shake, making it a convenient option for post-workout nutrition or as a snack.

3 FAQs About Whey Protein

Is It Ok To Have Whey Protein Everyday?    

Having whey protein daily is perfectly ok, especially if you don’t meet your protein needs through food.Quantity matters, so take the recommended amount. 

If you have health concerns like kidney issues or lactose intolerance, it’s recommended to consult with a healthcare professional.

Moderation and balance are key, and whey protein shouldn’t replace whole food sources of protein. 

What Happens When You Stop Taking Whey Protein?   

When you stop taking whey protein, there typically aren’t any severe withdrawal effects or negative consequences.

Here are two things you might notice when you stop taking whey protein:

No Immediate Impact on Muscle Mass. Muscle gains depend more on consistent resistance training and overall protein intake rather than the specific source of protein.

Changes in Protein Intake. Make sure you’re getting enough protein from other sources in your diet. 

Who Cannot Use
Whey Protein?   

Whey protein is generally safe for most people, but some groups of people might need to be careful with it. Those are: 

  • Individuals with dairy allergies or lactose intolerance
  • People with kidney issues
  • People with digestive issues
  • Vegetarians and vegans
  • Individuals on restricted protein diets
  • People taking certain medications

Bottom Line 

Whey protein is convenient way to increase protein and support muscle growth and repair. 

It can be a solid addition to your fitness routine, but is whey protein bad for you? When it’s used appropriately, it’s safe to consume. 

But some may be be allergic to whey protein, so proceed with caution before using. Also, some may be sensitive to ingredients found in whey protein. 

Remember to buy reputable protein powder brands, and always read reviews and comments to make an informed decision. 

Looking for more about protein? Check out these protein powder facts.


Shalom is a content creator, musician, and a teacher at heart. As a certified personal trainer, his goal is to encourage others to lead healthier lives and to get buff in the process!

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