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The Pros and Cons of Protein Supplements: Why You Should Take (Or Skip) That Shake

Taking a protein powder supplement regularly can have several key health benefits, especially if you’re someone who exercises frequently. Getting enough protein improves muscle strength and size, prevents exercise-related injuries and speeds up how quickly your damaged muscles get repaired.[1]

 

But as with anything health-related, there’s no one-size-fits-all recommendation for protein supplements. In fact, some people may find that these supplements do nothing for them, are a waste of money, or potentially downright harmful.

 

Here’s what you need to know about the potential dark side of drinking a protein shake.

 

Protein Overdosing

 

For maximum health and fitness benefits, exercise experts suggest getting at least 15% of your daily calories from protein.[2]

 

That might sound like a lot, but according to the Protein Summit reports in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, the average adult already eats an average of 16% of his or her daily calories from protein.[3] That means every protein shake or protein supplement you take pushes you past the point where protein supplements are beneficial.

 

If you’re already eating a protein-rich diet and you regularly take protein supplements, all this excess protein can lead to:

  • Weight gain. Sure, you may be taking protein in order to build a lean physique, but excess unused protein gets stored in your body as fat.
  • Digestive problems. A diet too high in protein puts a lot of stress on your liver and kidneys.
  • Eating a diet of 30% protein, which many athletes are led to believe they need, has been linked with chronic dehydration.[4] Athletes on protein supplements should therefore ensure they’re drinking extra water.

 

Protein Allergies and Sensitivities

 

Most protein shakes and bars are made from whey protein, which is made from dairy. If you have a dairy sensitivity, these protein supplements can cause bloating, gas, and similar symptoms.

 

Other common allergens[5] that are common ingredients in protein supplements include:

  • Eggs
  • Soy
  • Wheat
  • Tree nuts
  • Peanuts

 

If you have any food allergies, read the fine print in the supplement’s ingredients carefully!

 

Women and Bone Health

 

Having too much protein in your diet can cause your bones to lose calcium and bone strength, which increases your risks of fractures and injuries. This is especially important for women who are worried about osteoporosis.[6]

 

The Final Verdict

 

Protein supplements can bring major benefits, especially if you:

  • Work out daily
  • Eat a diet low in protein
  • Struggle to get all your nutrients from whole foods, such as during travel
  • Are recovering from a sports injury

 

However, if you already have a lot of protein in your diet, suffer from various food allergies, or are worried about chronic health conditions that are impacted by protein, talk to your doctor to see if your protein supplements are pushing you past a healthy limit.

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