Whey is a product of cheese-making -- it’s the watery part of milk that separates from the curds. Some people use whey protein as a source of protein or as a supplement for health conditions.
Why do people take whey protein?
Protein powders are popular with athletes, particularly those doing strength training. They provide a good source of nutrients and amino acids. Some choose whey protein because they are lactose intolerant or allergic to other protein sources, like eggs or soy.
Several studies have found that whey protein, when combined with strength training, might increase strength, muscle size, and lean body mass.
A few studies of whey protein as a treatment have been promising. It's been found to help prevent excessive weight loss in people with HIV.
Early evidence suggests that whey protein might also help prevent milk allergies in formula-fed infants. When compared to cow’s milk protein, whey may prevent the development of atopic dermatitis or eczema in young children. Talk to a pediatrician before giving your baby whey protein.
Whey protein has also been studied as a way to slow down metastatic cancer. More research needs to be done.
How much whey protein should you take?
Whey protein is not a standard treatment, so there's no standard dose. Studies of whey protein in athletes have used up to 1.5 grams per kilogram of a person's weight. Talk to your doctor about what dosage might make sense for you.
Can you get whey protein naturally from foods?
Whey protein is found in milk in small amounts. In the process of turning milk into cheese, whey protein is removed.
What are the risks of taking whey protein?
- Side effects. Most people tolerate whey protein well. High doses can cause nausea, increased bowel movements, thirst, cramps, bloating, and headache.
- Risks. While some people with lactose intolerance rely on whey protein, people with milk allergy should not. It could cause an allergic reaction. If you have kidney disease, check with a doctor before using any type of protein powder.
- Interactions. If you take any medicines or supplements regularly, talk to your doctor before you start using whey protein. It could interact with antibiotics and certain medicines for osteoporosis (alendronate, or Fosamax) or Parkinson's disease (levodopa).
Given the lack of evidence about its long-term safety, women who are pregnant or breastfeeding should not take whey protein unless a doctor recommends it.