Whey protein alone will not cause weight gain, as long as you don't eat more calories than you burn throughout the day. A high-protein diet helps keep you feeling full for longer, so you might end up consuming fewer calories overall.
Key Takeaways About Whey Protein and Weight Gain
This article will explore whey protein supplements and weight, and will cover the following key points:
Whey protein powder does not cause an increase in weight, as weight status often comes down to energy balance.
Consuming whey protein is a convenient way to help meet your body's protein needs and increase muscle mass, especially when combined with resistance training and a consistent exercise regimen.
If whey protein powder is causing you to be in a caloric surplus, an increase in body fat may result.
Your body can absorb about 20-25 grams of protein at one time, so it's important to spread your protein intake throughout the day to optimize muscle growth and repair.
If you are looking to put on weight, taking whey protein with added calories in the form of carbohydrates can be helpful.
Does Whey Protein Make You Gain Weight?
All credible dietitians and nutritionists agree, that there is no one food or macronutrient that will make you gain weight. Rather, weight status is impacted by daily habits and routines surrounding diet and exercise. Body weight changes can happen for a multitude of reasons such as changes in hormones, stress levels, or physical activity.
Therefore, whey protein powder alone will not cause someone to gain weight.
Ultimately, when caloric intake exceeds the calories you burn, people may gain weight. If consuming protein powder is leading you to consume more calories than you burn, it might cause weight gain.
An important aspect of weight management is focusing on eating foods that are nutrient-dense and satisfying. Eating high-protein foods helps people feel full, so in fact, adding protein powder can be a helpful way to manage hunger levels and weight.
Can Whey Protein Help With Weight Loss?
While whey protein will not cause someone to gain weight, a high protein diet can actually be supportive in helping someone lose weight. Losing weight can be extremely difficult but adding whey protein or vegan protein powders to your routine can dramatically increase satiety.
Including protein rich foods, consuming protein shakes, protein bars, or finding other ways to include powdered protein in your diet can be a great way to support weight loss goals and overall health. When choosing protein foods, be sure to look for complete protein sources, or those that contain all essential amino acids.
Plus, if weight loss is your goal, it's also important to consider your nutritional daily intake and limit processed foods.
Can Whey Protein Powder Increase Belly Fat?
As explained in the previous section, no one macronutrient can make you gain weight.
Therefore, whey protein alone will not lead to weight gain or an increase in belly fat. As a reminder, weight gain can occur if someone is consuming more calories than they burn, which causes the body to store these excess calories as fat.
If protein powder is causing you to be in a calorie surplus, it's still impossible to make a blanket statement as to where the excess energy will be stored.
People store extra weight in different places on their body, and the way in which the body distributes and stores fat varies from person to person.
Fat distribution depends on age, gender, genetics, and metabolic health. Some people, especially females, may first gain weight in their hips, while males tend to gain weight first around their midsection.
Can I Drink Protein Shakes on Off Days?
People can absolutely drink shakes made with whey protein powder on off days. Protein shakes are popular among the fitness community because it's a convenient and efficient way to ensure adequate protein after your workout.
However, drinking a protein shake when you're not working out is simply a convenient way to give your body more protein.
If your exercise routine is intense and you're burning a lot of calories, your body's protein needs are often elevated even up to 24 hours after a workout, which means a protein shake on an off day can be a great idea (1).
Or, if you're looking to lose weight, protein powders can be a helpful way to increase satiety and reduce total calorie intake.
Will Whey Protein Powder Without Working Out Make Me Gain Weight?
Drinking protein shakes on off days doesn't automatically correlate to weight gain. Since weight gain often comes down to energy balance, if you're consuming more calories than you burn, weight gain can occur.
It's important to evaluate the role whey protein plays in your diet. Are you consuming whey protein as a way to meet your body's protein needs whether you're working out or not? If so, you don't have to worry that whey protein will cause weight gain.
On the other hand, if you're already meeting your body's nutritional needs through your diet and you choose to consume excess energy from whey protein, weight gain may result.
But this is not specific to whey protein, as any additional food or supplement that goes beyond your body's energy needs has the potential to cause weight gain, regardless of exercise.
Does Whey Protein Powder Help Build Muscle?
Building muscle is a process that requires additional energy in the form of carbohydrates and high-quality protein. Whey protein is a fantastic source of high-quality and highly bioavailable protein. Whey protein is a complete protein meaning it contains all nine essential amino acids that the body requires to build muscle.
Whey protein also helps stimulate the release of insulin from the pancreas, which encourages muscle protein synthesis. Whey protein is also digested and absorbed rapidly, which is helpful for quickly repairing and building muscle fibers, especially after a workout.
Which Protein Is Best To Build Muscle?
When choosing a protein source to build muscle, it's important to choose a protein source that has all essential amino acids. Essential amino acids are those that the body cannot make on its own, and therefore we must get them from food or supplements.
Additionally, it's helpful to choose a protein source that is highly bioavailable, meaning it can be readily absorbed and utilized by the body. Of all protein powder supplements, whey protein is the most bioavailable form of protein, making it one of the best for building muscle.
Mass Gainer vs Whey Protein: Which is Better to Gain Weight?
Mass Gainer is a whey protein supplement that is high in calories and protein to encourage weight gain. Compared to our whey protein, mass gainers usually contain nearly ten times the amount of calories and double the amount of protein.
As we know, weight gain results from consuming more calories than you burn. Consuming a supplement that is very high in calories and also nutrient-dense is a great idea if your goal is weight gain.
The calories in a clean mass gainer supplement, like Naked Mass, come largely from the addition of tapioca maltodextrin, which is a safe additive that is high in carbohydrates.
Gaining weight in the form of mostly lean muscle mass can be challenging, however, it's important to choose your protein sources wisely.
Naked Mass contains whey protein, which is a fast-absorbing protein to fuel muscles after a workout. It also contains casein protein, which is more slowly digested and absorbed, helping to keep your muscles nourished throughout the entire day.
If your goal is not weight gain, sticking to a regular whey protein supplement is your best bet and you will still get high-quality protein to fuel your muscle growth without the additional calories.
How Much Whey Protein is Too Much?
Too much of a good thing is not always a good thing. Whey protein powder is a fantastic source of high-quality protein, however, there is no need to go above and beyond your body's needs. Most people need anywhere from 0.8 to 1.2 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight daily.
Exceeding your body's protein needs will mean that excess amino acids are converted into fat for storage. Alternatively, excess amino acids from protein may be converted to glucose for energy by a process called gluconeogenesis.
There is no real benefit to consuming more protein than your body needs because there's a limit to how much protein the body can absorb.
Plus, if you're trying to lose weight, consuming too many calories from too much protein powder can get in the way.
How Much Protein Can Your Body Absorb?
Many sources suggest that the body can absorb and utilize 20-25 grams of protein at one time or over the course of a couple of hours. This breaks down to the body being able to absorb approximately 10-12.5 grams of protein per hour (2).
If you're trying to increase your protein intake or build muscle, it's important to space your protein intake out throughout the day.
How Many Times A Day Should You Eat Protein?
There may be no added benefit for your muscles if you consume additional protein in one sitting. Rather, your muscles would benefit if you space out your protein intake by having more protein-rich snacks, meal replacements, or mini-meals throughout the day.
For example, instead of having the typical three meals daily, it might be beneficial to have six eating occasions each day, by incorporating snacks in between your meals.
Does Timing of Whey Protein Matter?
It's also important to ensure you're eating protein very soon after a workout to optimize muscle repair.
Right after exercise, the body is more adept at absorbing and utilizing protein. The first 30 minutes after exercise is considered the most optimal window to consume high-quality and fast-absorbing protein such as whey protein as muscle protein synthesis is most active during this time.
For some, it can be challenging to ensure this many meals and snacks daily, which is why nutritional supplements can be a convenient way to get more protein.
What Kind of Whey Protein is Best?
Look for whey protein from a reputable company that is free of additives or artificial sweeteners.
The best absorbed form of whey protein is hydrolyzed whey protein, which is also known as whey protein hydrolysate. This form of whey is already broken to its most easily digestible form, making it easy for the body to utilize. You may also see products with whey protein concentrate, which is a cheaper but less effective form.
If you opt for plant based protein powders, choosing pea protein or soy protein powder is your best bet. Pea protein and soy both are high-quality sources of protein that can be a part of a well-balanced diet.
Adding whey protein is easy as you can simply blend your favorite product into protein shakes for an easy on-the-go meal or snack.
Are There Side Effects to Whey Protein?
If you can tolerate dairy products, you should have no problems tolerating whey protein powder. Even if struggle with lactose intolerance, whey protein contains such little lactose that most people can tolerate it just fine. However, some people may still experience mild symptoms from whey protein powder blends and may benefit from plant based proteins instead.
If taken in excess amounts, some people can experience an upset stomach from whey protein powder. However, if taken in the recommended amounts, whey protein is easily digested, very safe, and tolerated by most people.
Be sure to look for high-quality products that are free of additives or artificial sweeteners, as these ingredients are more likely to cause digestive upset.
Whey protein powders are healthy supplements that are helpful for helping people meet their protein needs and build muscle.
On its own, whey protein or any protein supplements will not make you gain weight, as weight gain will only occur if people consume more calories than they burn.
When choosing a whey protein supplement, be sure to choose a high-quality product from a trustworthy company that is also free of additives or artificial ingredients.