Whey protein is a type of nutritional supplement made from cow's milk and is used by athletes to aid in muscle recovery following intense bouts of resistance training. Whey is also promoted as a general health supplement to help prevent or correct a protein deficiency in your diet. Excess protein intake may increase uric acid, a chemical compound that is produced by your body as a result of the breakdown of purines in protein metabolism. Talk with your physician about whey protein to make sure it is not adversely affecting your uric acid levels.
Uric Acid Cycle
Proteins, including the milk proteins found in whey, are nitrogen-based. Once digested, the nitrogen in protein gets processed by your liver, which converts nitrogen into urea, a compound comprised of nitrogen, ammonia, carbon dioxide and water. Normally, urea, or uric acid, gets filtered out of your blood stream by your kidneys and flushed out of your body in your urine, but too much uric acid, usually resulting from a high protein intake, can cause uric acid to build up in your body.
According to MayoClinic.com, a high uric acid level, called hyperuricemia, resulting from a high intake of purine-containing foods, can cause kidney abnormalities, such as kidney stones and even kidney failure. The National Kidney & Urologic Diseases Information Clearinghouse states that uric acid-based kidney stones are likely caused by persistently acidic blood resulting from a diet rich in animal proteins. Limiting your animal-based protein intake and getting protein from a wider variety of sources, such as plants, may help reduce the risk of developing uric acid-based stones.
Gout is a form of arthritis which causes pain, tenderness, stiffness and swelling in the major joints throughout your body. According to the book, "Nutrition for Health, Fitness and Sport," excessive protein intake can cause gout through the buildup of toxins, such as uric acid, in your bloodstream. Excess uric acid causes gout by forming crystals that accumulate in your joints and cause inflammation and other symptoms.
To reduce the accumulation of uric acid in your body, limit your total daily protein intake so that the increase in protein metabolism does not cause excessive uric acid production. MayoClinic.com recommends consuming no more than 170 g of protein daily, although this number can differ based on factors such as age, sex and overall health. Also, get your daily protein requirements from a variety of protein sources, especially plant proteins, which don't contain purines.