Last updated on November 3rd, 2022 at 02:23 pm
I hear this asked all the time, “Will I Lose Muscle if I Stop Taking Whey Protein?”
Many of us become slaves to our daily dose of post-workout protein powder.
There’s no way we’d miss out on taking it because we’re afraid that we’ll lose all that hard-earned muscle.
But, is this actually true?
Allow me to reveal whether cutting out protein powder will diminish your gains.
Will I Lose Muscle if I Stop Taking Whey Protein?
You will not lose muscle if you stop taking whey protein. Nevertheless, if you don’t replace this protein in your diet, while at least maintaining your calories, and the weights that you lift in the gym, then you can lose muscle mass. Whey protein is merely a dietary supplement. It is actually the macronutrient protein that is full of essential amino acids and crucial for muscle tissue repair. So, in effect you can actually build muscle without whey protein. However, this will depend on your protein and calorie intake, as well as your training.
1. Whey Protein isn’t a Magical Ingredient
It actually amazes just how many people are worried that they will lose muscle if they stop taking whey protein.
There’s almost a belief that whey protein is some type of magical ingredient.
However, nothing could be further from the truth.
Whey protein is definitely not some type of anabolic steroid that stimulates testosterone production.
In fact, whey protein is simply a dietary supplement.
It is nothing more than the watery part of milk that separates from curds during the cheese-making process.
I even find people asking, “Can I Take Whey Protein Without Working Out?”
Once again, I’ll reiterate that whey protein is a dietary supplement.
So, this is almost the same as asking whether you can drink milk or eat chicken breasts if you don’t work out.
One of the main reasons that taking whey protein is viewed as a good thing is because it’s sometimes hard to get all the protein you need from food alone.
A standard protocol when it comes to building muscle is to consume 1g of protein per pound of body weight.
But, in truth, many people can still build muscle with a much lower protein intake.
But taking the 1 gram per one pound of body weight example, it may be extremely difficult for a 200lb man to consume 200g of protein through diet alone.
Realistically, this is about 1.5 pounds of chicken breast.
Now, while this is perfectly feasible it’s likely to leave you feeling extremely full for most of the day.
This is why it makes sense to eat a more “normal” diet and supplement with whey protein.
In fact, I’ve recently discussed whether 100grams of protein is enough to build muscle.
2. Maintenance Protein, Calories & Training
Okay, now that we know that whey protein isn’t some type of magic elixir, let’s get to the point about potentially losing muscle.
So clearly you won’t lose muscle if you stop taking whey protein.
However, there is a good chance that you will lose muscle if you don’t at least maintain a number of things.
This includes consuming at least the same amount of protein and calories, while lifting the same weights as you did before.
Therefore, if anyone has found that they’ve lost muscle once they stopped taking whey protein, it’s because they didn’t adhere to one or all of these factors.
In other words, they consumed less protein than previously.
They reduced the amount of calories they were eating on a daily basis.
Then again, perhaps they weren’t lifting as heavy during their training sessions.
The body can’t realistically differentiate between what type of protein, or any other macronutrient, it is consuming.
So, realistically you could eat junk food all day long, but as long as you stick to your macronutrient profile and daily calorie intake, you could build muscle, burn body fat, or even lose weight.
A Maintenance Example
Let’s take our 200lb man as an example again.
We’ll say he’s in his 30s and works out 4 days a week with a muscle-building routine.
In order to maintain his current lean muscle he will need to consume around 2,900 calories a day.
This will be made up of approximately 200g of protein, 300g of carbohydrates, and 100g of fats.
So, if he was previously supplementing 40g of his daily protein intake through whey protein shakes he now needs to replace this in his diet.
However, it is also necessary for him to keep up with his other macros in order to maintain the amount of calories he’s consuming.
Remember, he has to fuel his workouts as well as aiding recovery through nutrition.
So, reducing the number of carbs, protein, or healthy fats could mean that he simply doesn’t have the energy to perform his workouts as previously.
And this of course can eventually lead to muscle loss.
3. You Can Build Muscle WITHOUT Whey Protein
This should be obvious to you now, but I’ll say it anyway.
You don’t need whey protein to build muscle.
As long as your calories, macronutrients, and training is on-point you can pack on massive amounts of lean muscle.
You can use the bodybuilding.com macro calculator to determine your requirements.
As I’ve mentioned, whey protein is definitely not some magical ingredient that will suddenly catapult your muscle-building to a new stratosphere.
It is nothing more than a whey (sorry, pun intended) for you to get some additional protein into your diet.
For the vast majority of us it is more than possible to consume the optimal amount of protein on a daily basis through diet alone.
Yes, of course this will probably take some planning on your part.
Plus, if you’re eating 1g of protein per pound of body weight, along with adequate carbs and fats, then you should feel well satiated every single day.
This will also ensure that you can fuel your workouts.
It should mean that you can progress with your workouts and therefore pack on even more muscle.
And it should also mean that you can aid your recovery, which is when the magic really happens.
Now, I’m not saying that you need to stop taking whey protein.
It definitely has its benefits.
However, as long as you realise it is nothing more than a dietary supplement then you’re good to go.
In reality, you could stop taking whey protein and replace it with a tin of tuna, or half a chicken breast, or a large serving of cottage cheese, and maintain your protein intake.
7 Ways to Get More Protein in Your Diet
So, as you can see, you will definitely not lose muscle if you stop taking whey protein.
With that being said, you will need to replace this protein in your diet through natural foods.
Plus, as long as you maintain your current calorie intake, as well as your level of training, then you will also maintain your current muscle mass.
It’s important to realise that whey protein is nothing more than a dietary supplement.
So, it’s simply a way to get more protein into your diet.
Whey protein certainly does not work in the same way as some testosterone-boosting supplements.
It is basically food and nothing more.
Hi, I’m Partha, owner and founder of My Bodyweight Exercises. I am a Level 3 Personal Trainer and Certified Strength & Conditioning Specialist through the Register of Exercise Professionals, United Kingdom. I have been a regular gym-goer since 2000 and coaching clients since 2012. My aim is to help you achieve your body composition goals.