Last updated:

25 July 2023

We all have a family member who believes protein shakes are bad for you. Are they right? Let’s debunk myths with science today.

are protein shakes bad for you

Reading time:

4 min read

We all have a family member who believes that protein shakes are bad for you.

No sooner do you begin your gym journey, you’re being told you should quit and go back to eating fast food because your whey protein powder is doing more harm than good.

Talk about frustrating.

But here’s the thing… what if they’re right?

That’s right. What if protein shakes really are bad for you? And is there a limit on how many you should drink per day?

I’m going get to the bottom of this one today because I’ve noticed a LOT of media reports spreading absolute bulls**t about whether your protein supplement is wrecking you from the inside out.

is too many protein shakes bad for you


Earlier this week a website reader brought to my attention a tragic story, in which a young Australian lady died and the media placed the blame on “too many whey protein shakes”.

You can read it here.

I was f**king raging when I read about it, because a) this young woman was a mother of two and I find the whole thing very sad, and b) the media used the story to scare the public in a bid to get more clicks.

The report claimed that the young mum died as a result of drinking too many whey protein shakes and bodybuilding supplements while following a strict exercise routine at her local gym…

… and it’s absolute bulls**t.

are protein shakes bad for you

Despite media sensationalism, what we have here is a tragic case of bad luck.

Because buried deep in the article we can see that the young lady in question unknowingly suffered from urea cycle disorder. This is a very rare genetic condition (1/8000) which renders the body unable to properly digest protein, leaving harmful waste products in the bloodstream.

The continuous build-up of these waste products was the cause of death.

are protein shakes safe


Not only is protein safe, our body literally needs the stuff.

Avoiding protein would wreak havoc on our insides, causing way more damage than good, which is why I get irked when the media mis-report the facts.

There’s decades of research showing that protein is perfectly safe, and that even diets which are relatively high in protein, such as the ones typically followed by bodybuilders and athletes, are perfectly safe. (1, 2)

But what about whey protein shakes?

Well, they’re literally the same as food. Whey is derived from milk, and contains the same amino acids found in other food sources. These amino acids help us to build muscle regardless of whether they arrive via whey protein, chicken, steak, turkey, egg, etc.

The one exception to the rule regarding the safety of protein?

You guessed it – kidney issues. If you have pre-existing kidney problems your body will not be able to handle a large protein intake, and that’s precisely what happened in the tragic story above, they just didn’t report it very well. (3)

The family of the yound lady are campaigning for the supplement industry to include warnings on whey protein supplements about the damage they can cause if individuals have pre-existing kidney issues. I’m definitely on board with this move, because it could potentially save lives. The same thing should be done on the labels of all high protein foods, too (chicken, burgers, etc).

In the meantime, be safe in the knowledge that whey protein shakes are perfectly safe UNLESS you have pre-existing kidney damage. I highly recommend getting yourself checked out by your local GP if you have any concerns.

Who Is Russ Howe PTI?


Russ has been a personal trainer in the UK since 2002, and provided both training advice and full programs on this website since 2011.

His work has been featured in Men’s Fitness magazine, and the content on this website led to him being voted one of the world’s top 50 fat loss coaches by HuffPost.

Russ spends his time coaching men and women inside the legendary Powerhouse Gym, South Shields, and writing training tips for the 114,301 members of his popular free training e-mail (join it below).


  1. Antonio, J., et al. A High Protein Diet Has No Harmful Effects: A One-Year Crossover Study in Resistance-Trained Males. J Nutr Metab (2016).
  2. Poortmans, J.R., et al. Do regular high protein diets have potential health risks on kidney function in athletes?. Int J Sport Nutr Exerc Metab (2000).
  3. Knight, E.L., et al. The impact of protein intake on renal function decline in women with normal renal function or mild renal insufficiency. Ann Intern Med (2003).

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