No matter the type of physical activity you enjoy, as an athlete, you’re likely using some kind of protein to help support lean muscle mass and improve your muscle recovery. But did you know there are some sizable cons of protein powder? Indeed, the type of protein you consume can make a big difference.
So, when you’re choosing your protein supplement to help you achieve peak performance, you shouldn’t just be considering how much protein to take and when to take it - but also what kind you are taking.
One of the most common types of protein supplements on the market today is protein powder. Although it is an extremely common form of protein, and widely used within the fitness industry, there may be more cons of protein powder than you realize.
That’s what we are going to discuss in this article. And, by the end of it, you’ll have the information you need to make an informed decision about the type of protein that is right for you.
There are better alternatives to protein powder, but before you can start to look into what those are, you first need to know what the cons of protein powder are.
Is protein powder bad for you?
Answering the question, “Is protein powder bad for you?” is not all that straight forward. When it comes down to it, protein powder isn’t necessarily bad for you, but it depends on a few key components.
Everyone has slightly different dietary needs, especially when it comes to athletics. For instance, an endurance athlete has far different nutritional requirements than a bodybuilder.
On top of that, our bodies can react differently to different ingredients. That’s why some people may experience whey protein powder side effects like bloating or an upset stomach while others may not.
Honestly, no matter the type of protein that you are using, how it is made and the ingredients it contains all impact the effectiveness and how your body reacts. One of the cons of protein powder is that it doesn't always have the best protein absorption rate.
The absorption rate of protein powder is important to recognize because it can be so difficult to digest that it impacts your muscle recovery and lean muscle mass.
If you are using a protein powder for athletic purposes, you want to ensure that it is the best way to support lean muscle, have faster muscle recovery, strengthen ligaments, and prevent injuries.
So, you need to decide, is protein powder bad for you?
Since it isn’t necessarily bad for everyone, the best way to decide this is to evaluate your personal fitness goals and if protein powder is the best protein supplement to help you achieve them. After all, if there is a better alternative, wouldn’t you choose that?
Let’s take a look at 5 of the top cons of protein powder, so you can see if your protein supplement is doing you justice or not.
5 cons of protein powder
Here are some common complaints amongst users of protein powder, and some scientific reasons why it may not be the most effective supplement option for athletes. While these five cons of protein powder won’t be deal breakers for everyone, they are important to know.
1. Protein powder can be high in added sugars
Being high in sugar isn’t always a bad thing, but it is if the sugar is added or artificial.
One reason why it may not be all that bad is if you are an endurance athlete. For activities like biking or running long distances, you need carbohydrates which turn into sugars to fuel your body and give you more energy.
The type of carbohydrates and sugars that are included in your protein powder are what make or break it as one of the cons of protein powder.
When you are shopping for a protein supplement of any kind, get used to looking at the ingredients for this reason. You want your supplements to support your fitness goals, not work against you.
The first step in doing this is knowing your personal nutrition needs and how much sugar and carbohydrates you should consume.
The American Heart Association recommends 25-36 grams of daily added sugar. Keep in mind that this is added sugars, so it wouldn’t count things like fruits that contain natural sugars in combination with a fiber (because your body processes these sugars differently than added refined sugars).
While this is the daily recommended amount, many protein powders actually contain around 23 grams of added sugar per scoop. And some of those same protein powders have a serving size of two scoops.
In consuming that type of protein powder, you’ve effectively already surpassed the daily recommended amount of added sugars, which can be one of the cons of protein powder.
Since added sugars do not contribute any nutritional value, but are high in calories, they tend to have a detrimental effect on your overall health due to the unhealthy spikes in blood sugar and unnecessary calorie overload.
Some protein powders also contain artificial sweeteners such as sucralose and aspartame that may have other harmful effects.
Even if it is natural cane sugar or something similar, be aware of the harms associated with too much sugar intake in your diet.
2. Protein powder may contain hidden ingredients and additives
Similar to the added sugars, another one of the cons of protein powder lies within the ingredients. Unless you are taking the time to read the ingredient label of the protein powder you use, you may not notice all of the hidden ingredients or additives it contains.
Some common additives in protein powder include caffeine and creatine. While caffeine can be beneficial in something like a pre-workout, it should still be used with caution and moderation - which is why knowing how much caffeine is in a supplement is important.
Consuming too much caffeine can cause some physical side effects like migraines, insomnia, and even tremors.
Creatine may not seem like it would be a harmful additive as it is another popular ingredient found in many athletic supplements. However, because creatine increases how much water is in your muscle cells it can lead to weight gain, dehydration, muscle cramping, and stomach pain.
So, much like caffeine, creatine should be used with caution and in moderation, especially for people with kidney and liver issues.
Beyond the additives in many protein powders, one of the most significant cons of protein powder is that many contain hidden ingredients.
What we mean by hidden ingredients are things that aren’t on the ingredient label because they are toxins or contaminants that end up in the protein powder during processing.
The Clean Label Project found that over 130 popular protein powders tested for high levels of heavy metals, pesticides, BPA (bisphenol A), and other contaminants.
Some of the most notable contaminants they found within this study included lead and cadmium which can cause permanent brain and kidney damage.
Even protein powders that are certified organic or plant based didn’t fare much better during this study. Protein powders labeled organic actually contained nearly two times the amount of heavy metals on average in comparison to the conventional protein powders in the study.
3. Protein powder often causes stomach upset
One major complaint athletes have about protein powders is that it can cause an upset stomach and bloating. This isn’t true for everyone, but protein powder isn’t great for sensitive stomachs.
While several ingredients in the protein powder may contribute to how it makes your stomach feel, the predominant factor is the absorption rate. The absorption rate of any type of protein all comes down to the molecule size in comparison to the size of your stomach pores.
Essentially, the larger the protein molecule, the harder it is to digest, and the more likely it is to give you an upset stomach. As your body struggles to digest large protein molecules, you are also not fully absorbing the nutrients from the supplement.
Where the protein itself is coming from can also impact how you digest it and if it will cause an upset stomach.
For instance, whey protein isolate is one of the most common protein powders on the market, but it is also one of the most likely to cause an upset stomach.
Whey protein is a byproduct of the dairy industry, and comes from highly processed ultra-pasteurized milk. Alkalizing minerals, lipids, and vitamins are being stripped during this process, which can over-acidify your body.
How your body reacts to these specific aspects of whey protein or any protein powder variety will vary and it may take some trial and error, but it is one of the important cons of protein powder to consider.
4. Protein powder is inconvenient
Lack of convenience is one of the cons of protein powder, but probably not a deal breaker for most athletes. Most of the time, you are looking for the most effective protein supplement, it won’t matter if it is the most convenient to use.
Still, one thing that many people complain about in regards to protein powder is that it can be messy during use. And, and when you want to take it with you to the gym, it takes some extra planning and prep.
Most protein powders come in a bulk canister which is great to eliminate unnecessary packaging, but it can also make it more difficult to transport a single serving of protein powder.
You also need to add water, or a liquid of some kind like almond milk, in order to take the protein - which can further complicate the portability and add to the messiness.
So, while this might not be one of the biggest cons of protein powder, we’re sure it’s one you can relate to!
5. Protein powder doesn’t always taste great
The flavor of a protein powder can be one of the major cons of protein powder depending on who you ask. Because if something doesn't taste good, you aren’t going to want to consume it.
Flavors will vary from company to company due to the ingredients. The amount of sugars and other additives can also affect the flavor of a protein, so be aware that even if it tastes good, it may be because of the added sugars.
How chalky the protein powder is when mixed with liquid also influences the overall experience.
We’ve all been there, and it can be hard to choke down a chalky protein drink, especially if it doesn’t mix well and there are pockets of undissolved powder.
So, if there are this many cons of protein powder, then what is the better alternative?
The best protein supplement for athletes
When deciding how to support lean muscle growth and muscle recovery, you need the best protein supplement available. That’s why we invented Frog Fuel liquid collagen protein.
When looking at collagen protein vs whey protein or any other protein powder, the main distinction is the absorption rate. Frog Fuel is a nano-hydrolyzed collagen protein, which means you can digest and absorb it within 15 minutes of consumption.
Not only is it a fast acting and stomach friendly protein option, Frog Fuel liquid collagen protein comes in convenient packets that you don’t need to mix with anything. So, it’s as simple as throwing it in your pack and hitting the gym.