When it comes to whey protein supplements, people are often concerned whether they are “natural” and do they have a long term effect on their health. This is one of the most common questions asked during our workshops and it’s time we address questions on similar lines at length:
Is Whey Protein Natural?
Long story short, it is as natural as any processed food you buy like yogurt or corn flakes. Similar to the examples, it is processed from a naturally occurring whole food i.e. milk and then it is processed to leave out some parts and fortified with some nutrients and preservatives. Where most people get it confused with are bodybuilding/performance boosting steroids which manipulate hormones for enhanced results but can definitely affect your long term health. Whey proteins are not steroids and they are derived from milk. Just don’t go for a cheap shady brand, always read the ingredients and nutrition labels and you’ll be safe.
Isn’t Protein bad for Kidneys?
The hypothesis suggested by earlier dietitians was that higher protein intake (not just protein supplements but for all forms of protein, be it milk, eggs, pulses, nuts etc.) results in higher uric acid secretion and was damaging to patients with kidney issues. But this hypothesis was further extended for healthy human beings without enough research on healthy subjects. For people who have normally functioning kidneys, there is no evidence suggesting that high protein intake can cause kidney dysfunction or formation of stones on its own. Changes occurring due to high protein intake is just body adapting to a higher nitrogen load well within the working limits of a healthy kidney. For delving deep into this subject, check out this excellent research review.
Should you take it?
While Arnold may have a simple answer for you in the meme, this question is specific to each individual. If you’re just having a glass of milk as your only animal protein source, you can probably add more protein rich food sources like dairy products, eggs and pulses before jumping on to protein supplements. They are definitely richer in other nutrients. Ideally, supplements should come into the picture only when you are unable to complete your nutritional requirements from the whole foods you eat. At PSI Fitness, we first assure that clients are getting enough micronutrients from their meals to sustain various body functions and after that we look at the following parameters to judge their protein requirements and whether it is really necessary to ask them to spend extra on protein and should they go for whey or some other form of protein:
- Current diet (foods you eat, grams of protein consumed)
- Quality of protein consumed (especially important for vegetarians)
- Gender and age (contrary to popular perception, elderly and women can benefit more from a high protein diet)
- Body Fat % and weight
- Current physical activity (and the personalized exercise plan we make for them to follow gradually)
- Lactose intolerance
- Health goals (despite popular belief, people aiming for weight loss need more protein than those aiming for muscle gain)
- Financial willingness
- Personal convenience
To summarize, it is safe to take a good quality whey protein for a healthy person but if you should it or not and how much you should take, that is something much more complex and dependent on a lot of factors. Also, just eating extra protein will not do wonders to your physique if you’re working out. Leave us your feedback and questions in the comments section and we’ll try to address them in future posts.
In Lucem Scientiam
Disclaimer: Please counsel with your physician before starting any self regulated nutritional interventions.