What Happens If You Eat Too Much Protein?

does protein make you gain weight
Last updated:

Can you remember that old nursery rhyme of old – about Little Miss Muffett who ate who curds and whey?

Most kids in the English-speaking world remember that rhyme – how she was scared off by a spider while she was eating her curds and whey.

That was back then. But today, whey is highly appreciated by the fitness world as well as health enthusiasts.

Whey is an essential protein supplement to consume for tough workouts.

Archaeologists found ancient protein in ceramic jars in Turkey.

They discovered that jars were used to handle whey [1].

This just proves how such a highly nutritious ingredient was valued in ancient times.

Today, whey is still a very important food. In fact, when it comes to traditional cheeses, it is Ricotta and Mozzarella, two famous Italian kinds of cheese that use whey in the cheese-making process. 

Whey also used to be enjoyed as a drink. In the 17th and 18th centuries, there used to be whey houses – similar to the coffee shops of today.

The fashion developed into whey health spas. Guests would use whey to treat their skin ailments.

And in 460 BC, Hippocrates, the father of medicine prescribed whey [2] for treating gastrointestinal ailments as well as skin conditions. 

With the increased interest in health today, whey has become highly recognized once again

Modern dieticians today have proven that whey is packed with all the essential amino acids – the main one being found in whey is leucine, a key component in maintaining and building the muscles.

No wonder it has become so popular among fitness enthusiasts as well as older people who just want to look after their health. 

When you go to the gym, you will hear the guys talking about their protein shakes. Protein powders for protein shakes come in various forms. 

You get soy ones, casein protein ones, and whey as well.

Whey is the most commonly used one. It’s a complete protein [3] which means it contains all nine of the essential amino acid needed for human dietary needs. 

Can Protein Powder Cause Weight Gain?

You shouldn’t have too much protein though

Check out these daily recommendations from the American College of Sports Medicine and the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics:

  • An average adult needs 0.8 grams of protein each day per kilogram of body weight.
  • If you are involved in athletics, you will need 1.1 to 1.4 grams of protein for every kilogram of body weight. Competitive athletes need more – 1.2 to 1.4 grams.
  • If you are involved in ultra-endurance sports, you might need up to 2.0 g per kilogram of weight.
  • If you are an athlete building muscle mass, you might need 1.5 to 2.0 grams per kilogram per day.

Benefits of Whey Protein

1) Muscle building 

Muscles love protein, especially complete proteins like whey. Whey protein has branched-chain amino acids in it.

This is a certain type of protein that helps to build muscle.

2) Wound healing 

The amino acids in whey protein help the skin, tissues, and muscle repair from surgery or wounds.

3) Weight gain and nutritional boost 

People who need to gain weight can benefit greatly from eating high protein foods and they usually are able to healthily hit their target with protein powder supplements.

If you have been ill for a long time, whey can help you get back to normal body composition without eating too much protein from other sources that may contain saturated fat for example.

So, if you are unable to get the right amount of protein from whole food sources, whey protein will help you.

And those who battle to chew or swallow can benefit greatly from sipping on a whey drink, meeting their daily protein needs.

Why does whey protein intake make you put on weight though – you don’t want that!

1) The calorie content

Whey protein is low fat and even low carb, but it does contain calories. Too many calories from any food can make you put on weight

2) Some protein powders contain extra sugar and processed ingredients

These can be things like artificial flavorings, added sweeteners, or added sugars.

If you do use a protein supplement like a protein shake, check that it lists whey as the only ingredient.

3) Some protein supplements don’t have strict regulations such as some drugs and foods that do

Some supplements might have fillers or heavy metal contaminants in them.

Others may be bad because consuming excessive amounts of proteins may have similar damaging effects as drugs on people with preexisting kidney disease.

You need to choose whey products that are NSF Certified for Sport or certified by Informed-Choice – they have been tested independently for purity.

4) Possibly, you have digestive problems

You could experience diarrhea, nausea, or constipation from taking eating protein-containing whey, particularly if you take it in large amounts. 

Excess protein can also cause other health problems like kidney damage, dehydration as well as constipation.

Whey Protein for gaining body weight 

Whey protein doesn’t make you put on weight. It is used, though, if you need to put on weight – if you understand the difference.

It is not an unusual thing for older adults to experience weight loss unintentionally.

It is caused by protein-energy wasting [4].

Protein-energy malnutrition can lead to death, fractures, falls, cognitive abnormalities, infections, and more.

It is vital that older adults ensure that they prevent unwanted weight loss so that they can increase their quality of life.

This is where the use of a nutritional supplement such as whey is used to help people gain weight.

Whey protein has 9 benefits for weight gain in older adults

1) Helps with weight gain

Consistent weight gain can be seen in older adults who are seriously thin and ill from protein-energy wasting

2) It adds extra protein

This is because some adults might be simply unable to get enough protein.

3) It helps the muscles

Studies show that whey protein actually improves muscle performance. It optimizes senior’s ability to provide oxygen to muscles 

4) Minimizes risks from sarcopenia

Old age comes with many problems including an increased risk of muscle loss. Whey protein can minimize or prevent sarcopenia. Sarcopenia can affect your ability to carry out physical work and can cause older people to lose balance and fall over easily.  

5) Can improve your overall health

Whey helps to improve health, recover from diseases; prevent metabolic risk, heart disease, and liver complications.

6) It’s easy to use…

…especially in powder form, as it’s easy to add to smoothie shakes, and baked goods

7) Easy for those who battle to chew…

Particularly the oldies who battle to chew tough and fibrous beef or poultry.

8) Provides more calories:

Provides all the essential nutrients and calories.  That’s why older adults can benefit from gaining weight from the additional calories that are provided

9) Improves B vitamin status

Particularly folate and vitamin B12 which are so important for older people. They keep the nerves and blood cells healthy.

For fitness enthusiasts, gaining or losing weight boils down to a simple formula: calories out versus calories in

If you are gaining weight, you are probably consuming more calories than what you are burning.

Even if you have a strong understanding of nutrition science, it is not always the easiest thing to make healthy food choices consistently.

Even a highly disciplined person with the best intentions about their fitness and weight can find themselves hitting bumps along their weight loss journey.

It’s probably due to their lack of understanding of the caloric profiles of the foods they eat.

Often protein is greatly misunderstood. It has a huge association with building muscle, so many believe that when they consume whey powder, it’s going to make them put on a lot of weight.

But the truth is that protein alone will not make you put on weight [5].

You will only put on weight when you consume more calories than what you are burning.

And if you are gaining weight, it won’t matter what you eat to create a surplus of calories.

It is best if you can get your energy from nutrient-dense calories because they will keep you fueled up for your day.

Will Whey Protein Powders Make You Gain Weight?

Well, it will depend a lot on the blend that you are consuming. How much protein should you consume, and how often you should consume it?

There are indeed some manufacturers that make protein powder blends, particularly for people who need to gain weight.

They want to build muscle and they want to maintain their strength or their endurance.

Those kinds of protein blends will intentionally have more carbs in them and also calories than some of the other blends.

Some manufacturers, on the other hand, also make protein powders, particularly for people who want to lose weight.

They add more protein ingredients that will support weight loss goals.

For both putting on weight or losing it, the quantity of the protein and the timing are equally as important as the ingredients in the powder.

Weight loss and Weight Gain are Really All About Caloric Intake

Say for instance you have too many servings of protein powder during the day, your overall calorie intake might well go up, and you’ll put on weight.

The same problem is faced with people who think the keto diet will help lose weight only to find out that eating healthy carbs quantity is just part of the weight loss goal.

Typically low carb and high fat intake do not invalidate recommended dietary allowance.

If you want to maintain or lose weight, then you need to stick to the recommended daily serving for your particular protein powder.

Your weight will depend mainly on the quality and quantity of the whole foods you are eating throughout the day; along with your high-quality protein powder. 

Various studies from academic research institutions show that when you consume too many processed foods and you don’t time your meals properly, you can put on weight [6].

If you monitor your diet every day, you can ensure that you get sufficient amounts of protein that will help to build your muscles without adding too much body fat.

That means you have to eat protein-rich foods without taking in excess calories.

No, Whey Protein Doesn’t Increase Belly Fat

Whey protein won’t make you notice an increase in weight or fat – unless your supplement intake is exceeding your daily caloric needs.

Like we said earlier, if you are consuming more calories than what you are burning, even if they are from whey protein shakes, your body is going to store the excess energy.

The distribution of fat you notice when you put on weight will also depend on a couple of factors such as your gender, genetics, and age.

But most people typically add it to their midsection first and typically lose it in that area last. 

And will I put on weight by drinking protein shakes, but not working out?

When you work out, whether you do cardio exercises or resistance training – they are all important in controlling your weight.

Resistance training helps to burn calories and also provides several health benefits like strength and improved endurance. You will also notice an increase in muscle mass.

Working out is extremely valuable for the growth of lean muscle as well as overall health.

It is advised that everyone partakes in regular exercise.

If you are consuming protein shakes but you don’t work out, it is not for sure that you will put on weight but you will be burning fewer calories [7].

You need more calories than your body burns to gain weight

To safely gain weight, you need to increase both healthy fats and muscle mass. But don’t forget that excess fat on your body is bad and can be worse if you keep eating unhealthy foods.

It is imperative that you choose quality protein sources in your daily diet.

To gain weight you would need to add 1-2 pounds each month by consuming not over 500 extra calories per day.

When you consume those calories using a weight gain meal replacement smoothie or a good whey protein supplement will depend on your choice and lifestyle.

Benefits of Whey Protein

  • Protein is an essential part of a weight gain strategy.
  • It is the key nutrient in building muscle.
  • You need plenty of BCAAs (Branched Chain Amino Acids) which are the building blocks of protein.
  • They are the fuel for the protein synthesis of muscle.
  • You will need complete protein supplements for muscle growth because our body can’t make all the types of proteins on its own.

If you want to gain weight, it is recommended that you consume, say, 0.7 grams of protein per pound of body weight.

Know also that there are side effects of a very high protein diet. High protein diets can cause problems in the body including; cramping and bloating [8], particularly if you are sensitive to high-fat dairy products and consume whey.

Eating too much lean red meat may contribute to greater weight gain compared to meals from a variety of protein sources like whole grains.

You need to find the correct protein consumption that is best for you and use them while trying to maintain an active li. 

Conclusion 

You need to control your protein intake if you want to reach your fitness goals.

Fitness enthusiasts, athletes, and bodybuilders who want to build muscle will all focus on a high protein diet.

But if you want to lose weight, then a right-timing protein shake can keep you feeling full throughout the day – then you don’t consume so many other calories.

Whether it is whey powder or whether you eat whole foods, when you consume protein alone is not going to make you lose weight or gain any weight.

The only thing that ultimately leads to weight gain in your body; be it for muscles or fat, is the number of calories you take in.

It’s that simple.

Burn more calories than you eat; you lose weight.

Weight loss on its own might sound simple.

But you need to consume a balanced diet with high-quality protein so you can keep up your energy and keep your body nourished.

Consume only quality protein from trustworthy manufacturers.

They need to be upfront and honest about the ingredients they add.

It’s the right protein supplement that makes your fitness routine a very enjoyable part of your lifestyle.

The body that reflects back at you in the mirror will make you realize how worthwhile it is to do it all correctly.

References