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Are Protein Powders Safe? – Life At Risk

Life At Risk

For some people, drinking protein powders is a daily thing. They need that extra amount of protein in their diet to achieve whatever goal they’re striving for. The making of a protein shakes takes no more than 5 seconds, but the effects on your body can last a lifetime. These effects can be very good, but also very bad. If you don’t know exactly what’s going into your body when drinking protein powders, it’s time to be educated. Are protein powders safe? That’s today’s question, and the answer might surprise you, stay tuned!

Is Protein Powder Harmful?

The quick answer that should be given here is that it can be. I underlined the word “can” because it can pose a danger to certain people while being completely harmless to others. The properties in different protein powders, whether we’re talking wheycasein, or even vegan, don’t fly well inside some people.

Are Protein Powders Safe? - Life At Risk
The ingredients are what really determine what effects occur in a person’s body. I’ll cover the many possible ingredients in a protein powder that may pose a threat to us, ordinary drinkers. As a constant protein drinker myself, I also need to watch for a couple of things on this list, some more than others.

Dairy/Lactose

Dairy and lactose are both within the most popular protein powder type on the marketthat being whey and casein protein. Both whey and casein come from cow’s milk. Through a long process jumping from facility to facility, they arrive in your pantry as powder. Below is a video explaining how whey protein starts from the utter of a cow to the cabinet in your kitchen.

Lactose Intolerance

How is lactose in a protein powder a problem for people? Well, as one of the most common digestive disorders on planet Earth, lactose intolerance makes it hard for people to enjoy dairy products. The inability of their stomachs to breakdown lactose causes lactose to ferment in the colon, which is when the problems arise. Symptoms and side effects of lactose intolerance include…

  • Bloating
  • Gassiness
  • Vomiting
  • Upset Stomach 
  • Abdominal Cramps 
  • Diarrhea 

A solution to being lactose intolerant in protein powders is choosing a different type of protein powder. The two main protein powders to avoid in this situation are whey and casein since they’re literally made from milk. I advise choosing a vegan protein powder next time around to better enjoy your shake.

Milk Allergy

With side effects similar to those of lactose intolerance, an allergy to milk is much different. For one, an allergy to milk can actually be deadly. No one thinks about dying when drinking a protein shake, that’s for sure. An allergic reaction is an overaction from your immune system to a harmless, foreign substance called an allergen.

Are Protein Powders Safe? - Life At Risk

The severity of allergic reactions can vary. A non-severe allergic reaction may seem quite annoying, but nothing too dangerous. Some of these reactions include…

  • Sneezing
  • Watery Eyes
  • Itchy Eyes
  • Runny Nose
  • Fatigue 

Then there’s a hazardous set of allergic reactions called anaphylaxis reactions. If not treated immediately, the reactions can prove to be fatal. Milk is a common anaphylaxis reaction people experience. Some severe allergic reactions include…

  • Hives/Itching
  • Tightness in Throat 
  • Wheezing/Shortness of Breath
  • Tingling in Hands/Feet 

Much like with the solution with lactose intolerance, staying away from whey, and dairy, in general, is heavily advised. Since whey, along with casein, have milk, your best bet is to go the vegan route for your own sake. 

Gluten

Gluten is another common ingredient in a protein powder that people need to look out for. For those of you who don’t know what gluten is, gluten is a group of protein that is found in starchy foods. Foods like pizza, pasta, cereal, and bread all contain gluten. But why’s it important?

Well, other than proving absolutely no nutritional value, gluten may cause problems in the digestive system of many. Individuals with celiac disease are unable to consume digest due to the protein causing inflammatory damage to their digestive tract. The damage won’t kill you, but it can cause complications down the road after consistent consumption.

You could experience malabsorption, the inability of your digestive tract to absorb nutrients for your body to use. Now that, can cause some severe damage, your body needs nutrients to live.

If you have celiac disease, the nutrition label on the back of anything, let alone protein powders, is going to be your best friend. Analyze it and make sure that no gluten is contained in the product. Typically, if a product is gluten-free, it’ll display somewhere on the front or side that no gluten is found on the food.

Allergic Reactions

Are Protein Powders Safe? - Life At Risk

I touched on this earlier, but allergic reactions can happen with a lot of different ingredients. There exist other allergic reactions caused by certain ingredients in a protein powder. Once again, taking a look at the nutrition/ingredients label is vital for your health. Doing some prior research also helps out a lot when buying a protein powder just for you. 

Brown Rice

Yes, brown rice is a starchy carbohydrate, but it also can be used as a great source of plant-based protein. In general, allergies to brown rice or rice are not uncommon and put people on their toes when it comes to vegan protein powders. You may get away from dairy with vegan powders, but you still need to look at the ingredients being used.

Peas

Peas are also a great source of plant-based protein. They are one of the only vegetables that provide solid amounts of protein. People allergic to peanuts, another common allergen, may always feel effects from consuming peas. Although peanuts are not in the same families as peas, allergic-type reactions still may occur.

Soy

Another common protein source for protein powders is soy. Soy is made of soybeans that can be used to make tons of products, such as soy milk, soy powder, and even soy meat. Allergies to soy are very common and are listed as being a causer of anaphylaxis symptoms.

Protein Powders With The FDA

This might not be an ingredient, but dietary supplements’ associations with the FDA are complicated. In case you didn’t know, the FDA can’t regulate protein powders. Does that sound crazy? That’s because it is.

Since the ’90s, dietary supplements have been placed into their own category, which doesn’t follow the strict regulations of the FDA. This allows manufacturers to get away with dirty things. A group called “The Clean Label Project” dedicate themselves to expose ingredients used in protein powders. In 2018, they released an infographic from a study they conducted about protein powders.


Heavy metals and toxins like lead and arsenic were being used in protein powders. Not only are they putting these substances in products, but they also don’t label them in their ingredients label. Unless the product is causing harm to the consumer, the supplement is “considered safe until proven unsafe,” according to the FDA.

Are All Protein Powders Bad?

After hearing all that, it’s probably hard to trust a protein powder ever again. But in reality, they are entirely safe for the most part. It all depends on what situation you are in with your body and what it can tolerate.

For example, I’m a little lactose intolerant, and my favorite protein powder is a whey protein. I do experience some effects from the powder, but they aren’t too problematic because they only last for so long. I can enjoy the taste of my protein and tolerate the minor side effects.

Also, not every protein powder company is a liar. Many manufacturers still prioritize the quality of their supplements over everything. For this reason, these companies have been around for a while, such as Optimum Nutrition. The guys from ON have been around since the ‘80s because of the faith people have in them.

Conclusion

In conclusion, are protein powders safe? They are, for the most part. They have properties inside them that can prove hazardous for some people, but harmless for others. The FDA can’t really touch protein powders, so it is important to know exactly who you’re buying your protein powders from. Companies that have been around for a long time are trusted by their customers and consumers.

Got any questions? Leave them down below, along with comments you may have about protein powders!

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