September 5, 2020

protein shakes benefits and side effects

Everybody’s heard of protein shakes nowadays. They’re advertised as an effective way to give your body a hit of nutrients, with protein of course being the key focus, to help you perform better at the gym and maintain a healthy lifestyle. On the surface, protein shakes look like a win-win all round. But, like any natural health supplement, they have their side effects.

Generally, protein shakes don’t come ready-made up. You’ll more often find protein powder, which you can batch buy from health stores and mix with water, milk, and any other ingredients of choice to make your “shake”. Protein shakes can be plain or flavoured to taste more appealing. 

They’re quite useful for fitness lovers as you have complete control over your portioning, and really, you can do whatever you want with your protein powder. Some people even add it as a topping to their sweet and savoury meals or bake it into snacks.

Protein shake

When it first became a thing, protein powder was typically animal-sourced, called whey protein. Nowadays, you can get all different types of protein powder, including powders free of animal products like soy protein, hemp protein, pea protein and rice protein. 

No matter which protein powder you use for your shakes, they tend to all have similar benefits and side effects. You can find some of the popular shakes by clicking here.

If you’re looking to include protein shakes in your daily diet, or you’re already using them and just want to know more, this video will explain everything you need to know about their benefits and side effects.


First, onto the benefits. You’ll most likely hear about the benefits of protein shakes from fellow fitness enthusiasts and the developers of the protein shakes themselves. These include:

1. Muscle Growth

Protein shake can help in muscle growth

Whether you’re looking to “bulk up”, or you just want to be toned, protein shakes can help you to achieve your gym goals. Toning is a lot harder than weight loss, not only because of the huge commitment you’ll have to make to strength training, but also because your diet may be preventing your muscles from growing rapidly. 

To gain muscle mass, you need to be taking in an excess of dietary protein, which contains the amino acids that the muscle tissues in the body need to build and repair themselves. Protein shakes offer an easy way to do this.

2. Easy source of nutrients    

How hard actually is it to meet your daily nutritional needs? You only have to look at The Eatwell Table to realise that including every single beneficial nutrient in your diet on a daily basis is near-impossible. 

The good thing about some protein shakes is that they include more nutrients than just protein, and act as a sort of general health supplement while giving you your protein boost. Of course, with protein being the main ingredient, if you struggle to meet your daily protein needs, protein shakes can usually offer a significantly high protein content per serving.

3. Lowers your blood pressure and reduces heart disease risk

Whey Protein can help lower blood pressure

One study found that people who had a high blood pressure experienced more than a six-point increase when they supplemented their diets with whey protein. It’s thought that while protein shakes can’t all-out cure low blood pressure if they’re used regularly in a person’s diet, they may be an effective part of a blood pressure reduction plan.

4. Weight Control

Whey protein can help you control your weight

One thing many people don’t realise is that protein is more satiating than carbs and fats, so if you’re taking in a higher amount of protein in replacement for other food groups, you’ll find that you can stay full and satisfied for longer. One recent study conducted on overweight women and men found that both genders managed to lose more overall weight and fat mass when they supplemented their diets with whey protein compared to those who didn’t.

5. Fantastic source of on-the-go nutrition

Great source of on-the-go nutrition

How many times have you been in a rush, but hungry, and ended up going for the easiest and closest food option, like biscuits, crisps, sweets and other empty-calorie foods? The problem with these foods is that they haven’t got much substance to them, so even though they might make you feel satisfied for a short time, it won’t be long before you’re starving again. 

Protein shakes, on the other hand, can help to fill that hunger hole a lot more effectively – and, a definite bonus, they take seconds to make up, too.

6. Effective even while you sleep

How much of the science behind your workouts do you really understand? It might come as a surprise to you that actually, you don’t build muscle while you’re hitting up the weights at the gym; you cause damage to your muscles. 

Works even while you are sleeping

It’s the growth and repair of these muscles that happen during rest that is when muscle growth typically takes place. Scientists have found that drinking a protein shake before bed can help increase your rate of muscle protein synthesis and recovery, helping to speed up growth and get you back in the gym faster.

7. You’ll Lower Your Cholesterol

Although you’re obviously not going to be taking protein shakes to manage your cholesterol levels, studies have found that whey protein in particular is incredibly effective at helping to lower cholesterol. 

It’s probably not quite at the levels of success to be isn’t going to replacing any cholesterol medications any time soon, but there’s still evidence to suggest that supplementing with a whey protein shake might be a positive lifestyle change to get you back on the right track.

Bestseller No. 1
Premier Protein Shake, Café Latte, 30g Protein, 1g Sugar, 24 Vitamins & Minerals, Nutrients to Support Immune Health 11.5 fl oz, 12 Pack
  • Rise and shine with the luscious creamy coffee flavor and energy from caffeine equal to 1 cup of coffee; Winner of American Masters of Taste Gold Medal
  • 30g of protein to help curb your hunger, as a mid-day snack or for post workout recovery; includes all essential amino acids
  • 24 Vitamins and Minerals: Support your immune health (Antioxidants Vitamins C, D and E + Zinc and Magnesium), 50% of daily value of calcium to help maintain bone health
  • Guilt free indulgence: 1g Sugar, 5g Carbs, 160 Calories and Low Fat; Gluten Free, No Soy Ingredients; Keto and Bariatric Friendly, Kosher
SaleBestseller No. 2
Pure Protein Chocolate Protein Shake | 30g Complete Protein | Ready to Drink and Keto-Friendly | Vitamins A, C, D, and E plus Zinc to Support Immune Health | 11oz Bottles | 12 Pack
  • HIGH PROTEIN, LOW SUGAR(1), GREAT TASTE. Delicious, low-fat, non-GMO shakes formulated to support muscle strength; gluten-free, 140 calories, 24 added vitamins and minerals—vitamins A, C, D and E plus Zinc support immune health—with less than 1g of sugar
  • 30G OF COMPLETE PROTEIN; Not all protein sources are complete protein; Pure Protein’s 30g of quality protein per serving help you achieve your fitness goals by providing the building blocks your muscle tissue needs to grow and recover
  • MADE WITH MILK PROTEIN ISOLATE, HIGHLY DIGESTIBLE AND SUITABLE FOR THOSE WITH LACTOSE INTOLERANCE.(2) A complete protein with all 9 essential amino acids for optimal muscle support; ultra-filtered for more protein with fewer calories and less sugar
  • KETO-FRIENDLY FOR A HEALTHY LIFE.(3) Pure Protein shakes are formulated for women and men on a mission to get fit; whether you're focused on muscle gain or getting lean, Pure Protein RTD shakes give you sustained energy to go for the gold
Bestseller No. 3
Core Power Elite High Protein Shakes (42g), Chocolate, Ready to Drink for Workout Recovery, 14 fl oz Bottles (12 Pack)
  • Product contains pack of 12, 14 ounce single serve bottles
  • Core Power Elite ready to drink protein shakes contain 42 grams of high quality protein from ultra-filtered milk
  • These ready to drink protein shakes are the perfect post-workout recovery drink
  • All 9 essential amino acids, calcium, and vitamin D3
Bestseller No. 4
Premier Protein Shake with Oats, Chocolate Hazelnut, 20g Protein, 7g Fiber, 1g Sugar, 24 Vitamins & Minerals, Smooth & Creamy Breakfast Drink 11.5 fl oz, 12 Pack
  • All the rich, indulgent flavor of your favorite chocolate hazelnut spread in a silky-smooth breakfast-inspired shake, Winner of The American Masters of Taste Gold Medal for SUPERIOR TASTING ready-to-drink protein beverages 
  • 20g protein with all essential amino acids for a nourishing addition to breakfast, as a mid-day snack, or anytime to help curb your hunger 
  • Good source of fiber, with 1/2 serving whole grain oats and 25% of the daily value of fiber per shake 
  • 24 Vitamins and Minerals: Support a healthy immune system as part of a healthy diet and lifestyle (Antioxidants Vitamins C and E + Zinc), 35% of daily value of calcium and 30% daily value of Vitamin D to help maintain healthy bones 

Side Effects

Of course, protein shakes don’t come without their not-so-benefits either. There has been some bad press around protein powder recently, especially whey powder. Here’s what scientists have uncovered:

1. Kidney stone formation

Can cause kidney stone formation

One of the risks you get from consuming whey protein is kidney stone formation. It’s unclear yet whether whey protein is a direct cause of the issue, but evidence suggests that the protein powder might worsen the condition in patients already suffering from it. 

If you do struggle with kidney stones, make sure you’re getting in enough dietary fibre and water when you’re supplementing with protein shakes.

The Benefits and Side Effects of Protein Shakes

2. Improved risk of gout

Again, there’s no clear evidence that whey protein is a direct cause of gout, but there is some to suggest that it can worsen the problem if you already have it. You’ll be best consulting your physician before you start taking whey protein if you struggle with gout yourself, or you have a family history of the disorder.

3. Diarrhea

If you excessively take whey protein, you might have to deal with the odd embarrassing side effect or two, like bloating and excess gas. Some people even find that supplementing with too much whey protein can cause diarrhea, caused by the effects of the protein in the digestive system. 

If you do experience diarrhea from whey protein use, cut down on your consumption and you should be fine from then.

Excess Protein can have an effect on your stomach

4. Liver Problems

Diarrhea might be an embarrassing issue to deal with, but there are plenty of more dangerous side effects of consuming whey protein excessively. Some people have reported liver problems from over-consuming the protein, so be aware of exactly how much you’re taking if you want to keep your liver healthy.

5. Increased osteoporosis risk

Increased osteoporosis risk

Osteoporosis, a disorder that causes weak and brittle bones, has been linked to excessive intake of whey protein. You’re especially at risk of this if you’re using the protein excessively on a long term basis. It’s thought that too much whey protein can lead to a mineral imbalance in the bones, which can ultimately lead to the depletion of the density of bone minerals.

6. Excessive fat gain

Excessive Fat gain

It might sound unbelievable, considering protein powder can help you to lose weight faster, but the issue with some whey protein supplements is that they contain extra fats, sugars, and carbs, which will have a detrimental effect on your whole purpose of supplementing with the powder. 

You’re most likely to find excess sugars and the like in protein shakes that are flavoured, so be aware of which to go for when you’re making a purchase.

7. Wheezing

It’s quite common to suffer an allergic reaction to whey protein, especially if you’re lactose intolerant. While it might be scary to experience any sorts of allergy symptoms from whey protein, they’re generally not life-threatening. 

If you notice you’re having any difficulty breathing, stop taking your protein shakes immediately. You don’t want to damage your health while you’re trying to make a healthier change to your body!

8. Increased digestive issues

Increased digestive issues especially if lactose intolerant

We’ve already mentioned lactose intolerance, and consuming whey protein can cause more than just wheezing in people who can’t digest the sugar. Whey protein contains lactose, and if you’re unable to digest it, you might end up suffering from some pretty nasty digestive problems. 

It’s worth switching your whey protein up for something that’s lactose-free if you want to keep your digestive system happy.

9. Fatigue    

not being able to digest protein properly can resutl to fatigue

Sounds ironic, doesn’t it? But you might find that if you’re struggling to digest whey protein properly, you might also go through adverse effects like extreme fatigue as well as weakness. When the whole point of protein powder is to give you more energy, this can be a depressing symptom to deal with. 

Your body might simply not be able to break down the whey protein – in which case, it’s not the end of the world. Just go for an alternative and see how that one makes you feel.


If you’re thinking about getting started on protein shakes, it’s worth weighing up the positives and negatives and deciding what’s right for you. Protein shakes can make a really great addition to any diet, but it’s important that you don’t use them as a nutritional replacement. If you’re not getting enough protein in your diet, it’s generally not a good idea to drink protein shakes to supplement what you’re missing out on.

Like all health supplements, some protein shakes are better than others. It’s worth shopping around before you make a purchase, and checking out reviews to see what people have to say about a particular brand. 

Protein shake supplement

Try to go for protein powders with the lowest sugar content you can find, and if you’re not keen on the side effects of whey protein, consider a vegan alternative. While it’s not always a case of the more expensive, the better, you will sometimes find that paying more will give you a product with more nutritional benefits, so don’t ignore the costlier powders. Click here to find the best protein shakes.

Ultimately, protein shakes can have a really positive effect on your overall health, and, when used carefully, can help you to achieve your muscle-building goals at the gym. So long as you’re aware of which brands are best for you, you should only ever get a good experience from protein powder use.

About the author

Rachel Perono

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