Whey protein drinks supply you with essential amino acids as well as branched-chain amino acids to help you recover from intense workouts and build new muscle. As a pre-fabricated nutritional supplement, they are convenient to consume any time you want to boost your intake of high-quality protein, and they are available in a variety of flavors to keep your interest. On the other hand, whey protein drinks come with several drawbacks. Before adding them, or any dietary supplement, to your fitness routine, consult your health care practitioner or a dietitian.
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In addition to protein, whey protein drinks can contain variable levels of sugars and fat. Whatever the proportion of macronutrients, however, they add calories to your diet. If you substitute whey protein drinks for protein-dense whole foods, the calorie content of your drinks may not matter, but if you consume them in addition to your normal diet, you might add enough extra calories to cause unintended weight gain over time.
Whey protein drinks can be more expensive than whole foods containing an equivalent amount and quality of protein. According to sports nutritionist Nancy Clark, whole foods such as peanut butter, skim milk and tuna are economical compared to protein supplements, and the quality is every bit as good. Milk, in particular, is rich in branched-chain amino acids, and therefore whey protein drinks offer no advantage over milk in terms of their amino acid composition.
The lactose content in some formulations of whey protein drinks can cause you digestive distress if you are intolerant to this milk sugar. Your body requires the enzyme lactase to digest lactose, but insufficient synthesis of this enzyme can lead to symptoms of abdominal pain, gas and diarrhea as the undigested sugar travels through your intestines. While consuming lactose does not cause permanent harm if you are lactose intolerant, the symptoms can be unpleasant.
Lack of Nutrients
Although they might contain some level of fat and carbohydrate, whey protein drinks contain fewer essential nutrients than many whole food sources of protein. For instance, a lean steak contributes zinc and iron to your diet, a slice of roasted turkey gives you several B vitamins, salmon adds heart-healthy fats and beans on a whole-wheat tortilla provides you with dietary fiber, and a whey protein drink may offer none of these nutrients. You may miss out on some of these nutrients if you rely on whey protein drinks as your primary protein source.
Unlike conventional foods, over-the-counter drugs and prescription drugs, dietary supplements do not undergo safety approval by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration prior to being sold on the market. Whey protein drinks might therefore expose you to contaminants or impurities that may be in the product you consume. Although buying from a reputable manufacturer can minimize this risk, it is a risk you may not want to take.