Whey Protein Myths & Benefits

Anyone who goes to the gym has come across different opinions on supplementation and protein intake, but there is a few out there that frequently pop up. here at CSN we've heard sentences such as “Too much protein causes kidney damage”, “Whey protein supplements are just full of crap, you don’t know what you’re really taking”, “ You can only digest 20g of protein per meal”, “Protein powders are pointless, just eat more food”. Those are a common few but no doubt there is similar accusations getting spoken about throughout gyms across the country. 

Whey Protein

For years whey protein has been super popular amongst sports athletes and continues to be so. Whey protein has been proven to prevent and attenuate disease when delivered in amounts that exceed normal dietary intakes. The RDA of protein currently is 55g. Let’s make it clear why it is 55g. The reason why it’s suggested at this rate is because that is the amount of protein needed for a positive nitrogen balance. It has nothing to do with growth or repair. Whey protein contains all the EEA which includes high amounts of BCAAs. ( branch chained amino acids ) BCAAs have been proven to help preserve muscle, build muscle and enhance fat loss. The “Journal of Sports Science and Medicine” also shows that whey protein has antioxidant properties to help boost your immune system. Now let’s take a closer look at the myths....

Whey protein is extremly popular

Athletes don’t need extra protein!

Due to the confusion with the recommended 55g daily and other 'bro science' floating about, many believe athletes don’t need extra protein. Well... there is evidence that proves they do! Bodybuilders for years have stuck by the rule of thumb of 1g of protein per pound of bodyweight while the FDA have been advising 0.8g per KG of body weight. For a 200 pound male, bodybuilders would recommend 200g daily while the FDA would recommend 72g daily. Now let’s take a look at actual scientific data. Here is a quote from a research paper by Dr.Lemon “data suggest that the RDA for those engaged in regular endurance exercise should be about 1.2-1.4 grams of protein/kilogram of body mass (150%-175% of the current RDA) and 1.7 - 1.8 grams of protein/kilogram of body mass per day (212%-225% of the current RDA) for those who perform strength exercises." This research paper shows those who perform strength exercises should consume 1.8 grams of protein per kilogram of bodyweight. This total adds to 162g for the 200-pound male.

Want to find out how much protein you need? Dr Emil 'Goliath' explains it perfectly here.

Let’s take a look back at the FDA recommendation and bodybuilding recommendation vs actual scientific recommendation. The bodybuilding community was far more accurate than the FDA. The bodybuilding community only being 38g off while the FDA being 90g off! Quoted from a recent BBC article stating Whey Protein “The British Dietetic Association (BDA) says high levels of additional protein can cause side-effects, which can include nausea as well as kidney and liver damage.”    Again, this is false. The information on high protein intake is bad on the kidneys comes from data which was done on people with pre-existing kidney problems. There is ZERO evidence to show that high protein diets ( 200-250g daily ) cause kidney or liver damage in healthy adults.

In simple terms more protein > more amino acids > more nitrogen > more conversion to urea > more stress on the kidney. High protein diets would indeed cause stress on the kidneys of anyone with pre-existing problems, but not to healthy adults. Having more muscle mass does, in fact, cause elevated liver enzymes and creatinine levels but this does not mean liver damage. Elevated liver enzymes do show up in people with liver damage but correlation does not equal causation. Many people will have blood work done after being active in the gym and on protein shakes for a while and have elevated creatinine levels, but blood work itself cannot determine liver damage. The strong correlation leads many to believe it would, but further testing would show that the intake of whey protein and increase muscle mass elevates creatinine levels too without any liver damage. This information is so easy to misinterpret and the media are very quick to twisting the words about to make it look like sports supplements cause some health problems.

“You don’t need whey protein shakes, drinking milk is just as good”

CSN hear this all the time, and to be frank, it makes us rage. An average serving of whey protein would give you 20g of protein with less than 1g of fat and 1g of carbs. To get 20g of protein from semi-skimmed milk you would need 600ml of milk! Not only that but by increasing the amount of milk needed to compensate for the required amount of protein, you would also be consuming 30g of carbohydrates and 10g of fat.  This is 10x and 30x more fat and carbs respectively for the same amount of protein. As you can see, drinking milk instead of whey protein just isn’t practical for an athlete who is on a strict diet.

The last myth we hear is “ You can only absorb [X amount] of grams per meal”. You can absorb any amount of protein in one meal. For example, you could consume 150g of whey protein in one meal, your body would absorb it. Digestion would slow down allowing the body to break the protein down to amino acids when it would need it. Is this optimal for protein synthesis and anabolism? No. Recent studies show that high-quality protein sources such as eggs and whey have an anabolic cap of about 30-40g. Anything over this would be pointless as it would give no extra benefit. So, yes you can absorb a very high amount of protein in one meal, but it would not benefit you. Maximising anabolism each meal is the goal and should be done with eating 30-50g of protein each meal with a 3-5 hour gap between meals.  

whey protein is an essential supplement for most bodybuilders


High protein diets do NOT cause kidney or liver damage in healthy adults. - High protein diets are proven to be needed for athletes to recover, grow and perform at 100% performance. Protein levels at RDA for athletes are shown to cause muscle loss. - Whey Protein is proven to have several health benefits - Whey protein is proven to have no health risks - Whey Protein supplementation is 100% safe.

Remember, whey protein and other supplements are just that, supplements. Anything in excess causes health risks. I’m sure consuming 500g of protein could and I’m also sure that consuming 2 gallons of coke a day could cause some health risks. Everything should be done in moderation, and in moderation, whey protein has many health benefits.

As always Team CSN are here to help, call or email us today and we can give you professional, unbiased advice on all your nutrition and supplement needs.