Don’t worry, you’re not the only person who’s ever asked, “Why Does Whey Protein Make Me Feel Nauseous?”
In fact, it’s actually fairly common to feel sick after downing a protein shake.
So, is this something that everyone experiences?
Or is there a particular reason that you appear to be suffering?
Allow me to explain the various connections between whey protein and nausea.
Why Does Whey Protein Make Me Feel Nauseous?
The most obvious reason that whey protein makes you feel nauseous is because of the lactose content. It is estimated that 68% of the world’s population could be lactose intolerant. However, many people may not even realise that they are part of this statistic. This is also why many people turn to whey protein isolate, as opposed to concentrate. Furthermore, you should be wary of “additional” ingredients in whey protein, e.g. sugar, sweeteners, carbohydrates, fibre, and fats.
1. Are You Taking Whey Protein Concentrate or Isolate? (Lactose)
So, as I’ve mentioned, many whey protein supplements contain lactose.
And approximately 2 out of every 3 people are actually lactose intolerant.
However, the vast majority of us may never actually realise that we’re lactose intolerant.
In fact, from a personal perspective, I myself have frequently “enjoyed” many dairy and lactose-based products without actually realising that they were making me feel sick.
And probably, much like yourself, when I started to take my training seriously I immediately increased my protein intake.
Let’s face facts, if you’re training in order to increase muscle mass, then you know that increased protein intake is going to be your best friend.
So, much the same as most people, I turned to whey protein to help me achieve my goals.
However, in my newbie ignorance, I didn’t realise that not all protein powders are created equal.
Now, of course, in the modern day and age there are various protein supplements, many of which are specifically geared towards those with special dietary requirements.
But, that said, most of us typically veer towards whey protein when we first break our “supplement virginity”.
However, it wasn’t long before I realised that not every single protein powder was suitable for me.
So, if you are potentially lactose intolerant, you’ll want to avoid the most popular of all whey protein supplements, namely concentrate.
In fact, if your post-workout shake typically makes you feel nauseous, then you’re best avoiding whey concentrate, and switching to isolate.
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2. How “Lean” is Your Whey Protein?
I would hazard a guess that one of the main reasons that you take whey protein is to build muscle.
Protein will not only help you to maintain muscle mass, but when combined with strength training, you can also experience muscle growth.
Furthermore, you’ll typically need to eat at a calorie surplus in order to gain weight as well.
Why Do You Need to be in a Calorie Surplus to Build Muscle?
So, it’s not uncommon for certain protein powder varieties to also include carbs and fats.
In fact, you could find that consuming a single protein shake which includes carbs and fats has as many calories as a main meal.
Plus, you’ll also find that many whey protein supplements also contain the fibre inulin.
Inulin is a natural fibre found in many plants and obviously in some of the foods that we eat, e.g. asparagus and onions.
However, although inulin has numerous health benefits, it can cause digestive issues when consumed in high quantities.
In fact, too much inulin in your diet will not only make you feel nauseous, but can also cause stomach cramps, diarrhea, and flatulence.
So, this is something you should definitely be wary of.
3. Check Your Whey Protein’s Other Ingredients
Carbs, fibre, and fats aren’t the only ingredients that could be causing you to feel sick.
Let’s face facts, if you’ve ever tried “plain” whey protein powder it usually isn’t the best.
We’ve all been there, you swallow your protein shake following your workout, it’s a struggle, your grimace, but you eventually force it down.
Basically, as I’ve mentioned, not all protein shakes are the same, and some, not to put too fine a point on it, taste awful.
But, let’s not forget, whey protein is an extremely popular supplement.
In fact, market research conducted by Statista in 2018 revealed that 46% of Americans regularly consume whey protein drinks and shakes.
Just to put that into perspective, this equates to around 151,570,000 people.
So, as a whey protein manufacturer this obviously means one thing – you have to make your product as enjoyable as possible to the consumer.
And unfortunately this means that many whey protein supplements are packed with sugar and artificial supplements.
These include fructose, dextrose, aspartame, maltodextrin, and many other ingredients that are guaranteed to spike your blood sugar levels.
So, check the label, as there could be an obvious reason why your particular brand of whey protein makes you feel nauseous.
4. Are You on a High-Protein Diet?
The issue of feeling nauseous may not be down to whey protein alone.
What I mean by this is that you need to consider your diet as a whole, and this is especially true if you’re following a high-protein diet.
Okay, I’ve mentioned a few times now that when it comes to building muscle or losing weight that protein is an extremely important macronutrient.
Protein intake will help your muscles to recover faster, plus it will help your muscles to grow back bigger and stronger.
With that being said, protein can also be considered a diuretic, and protein also requires water to be processed efficiently.
So, when you increase your protein consumption it’s also extremely important to also increase your water intake as well.
Additionally, if you are consuming more protein you may have also decreased your carb intake.
And carbs cause the body to store water.
Therefore, if you haven’t increased your water intake, but you’re eating more protein and fewer carbs, there is a chance that you’re dehydrated.
And one of the symptoms of dehydration is nausea.
So you need to make sure that you are drinking enough water.
Problems With a High-Protein Diet
So, as you can see, there are many reasons why whey protein makes you feel nauseous.
Firstly, two out of every three people in the world are estimated to be lactose intolerant.
So, if you’re consuming whey protein concentrate, the lactose could be the root of your problems.
Additionally, there are various ingredients in whey protein shakes that could be to blame.
Protein powders typically contain inulin and sweeteners, plus in the search for extra calories, your whey protein could also contain carbs and fats.
Finally, if you’ve increased your protein intake you will also need to increase your water intake.
Not doing so may leave you dehydrated, which can lead to you feeling nauseous.
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Hi, I’m Partha, the founder of My Bodyweight Exercises. I’m someone who’s been passionate about exercise and nutrition for more years than I care to remember. I’ve studied, researched, and honed my skills for a number of decades now. So, I’ve created this website to hopefully share my knowledge with you. Whether your goal is to lose weight, burn fat, get fitter, or build muscle and strength, I’ve got you covered.