7 Reasons Why Protein Powder May Make You Feel Sick


As a lifter, you may have heard that it’s very important to get enough protein in order to build muscle. However, you grab a protein shake and it doesn’t make you feel good. Why does protein powder make you feel sick?

There are many reasons why protein powder may make you feel sick. These include:

  • Drinking too fast
  • Drinking too much
  • Protein Powder not fully dissolved
  • Lactose or Protein Intolerance
  • Too much sugar
  • Too soon before/after a workout
  • More protein powder than needed

This is a pretty complex issue, and there are many possible answers that may apply to you. Keep reading down below to figure out which one is your issue, and how you can stop it from happening!

Drinking Too Fast

This one isn’t specific to protein shakes, but it applies nonetheless. If you’re consuming protein powder after a workout, you may be hungry/thirsty, and drink much faster than you should be.

Any time you’re eating or drinking something, going too fast can upset your stomach.

Especially if you just finished a workout, and are drinking a protein shake loaded with ingredients, it’s a good idea to take it slowly. Overdoing it can shock your stomach and leave you with cramps, nausea, or worse.

Drinking too Much

Some people like to drink multiple protein shakes a day. This works for some, but for others, it leads to a sick feeling. Too much of anything, no matter how beneficial it is, can make you feel sick.

On top of this, you probably don’t need that much protein from protein powder itself. It’s important to get a lot of your protein intake from other sources, like meat.

Man outside experiencing nausea.

Typically, around 1 gram of protein per pound of body weight is enough. If you’re especially active, you may need a bit more. Consuming more than your body can handle will take time for your body to become accustomed to but will, in the meantime, cause your body to be subjected to indigestion problems. 

Protein Powder Not Fully Dissolved

Failing to fully dissolve your protein powder will most likely cause you to feel sick or nauseous. I know you’ve tried to make a protein shake before and found clumps of dry protein powder still in it.

These dry clumps are more than likely to cause indigestion. When you’re making a protein shake, really make sure that whatever drink you’re using, milk or water, has fully absorbed the powder.

Add plenty of milk or water to your protein shake. This will balance out the many ingredients already added to the powder, which can leave you uncomfortable and nauseous.

Having enough liquid in your shakes will help to thin out the protein and may lessen your nausea or uncomforability.

Lactose or Protein Intolerance

Funnily enough, whey protein powder, which comes from milk, is usually perfectly fine for lactose-intolerant people to drink.

This is because while protein powder is being made, all of the lactose (milk sugar) is removed.

However, you probably know that one of the main ways to make a protein shake is by mixing the powder with milk. If you’re lactose intolerant, this is where issues come in.

Glass of milk.

If this is you, try using water instead of milk. It doesn’t taste as good, but it may not make you feel sick.

Other people simply don’t react well to protein powder. I think most people that drink protein shakes regularly have experienced this at least once.

There’s no specific cause for this, but all the highly concentrated protein powder just upsets some people’s stomachs.

If you think this may be your problem, try cutting out the shakes and find other ways to get enough protein, like meat or nuts.

Too Much Sugar

Many protein powders come with artificial sugars so that you aren’t getting too many calories from your protein shake. On top of this, many protein shake recipes include fruits or flavorings that increase the sugar content.

All of this can lead to an upset stomach. Too much sugar isn’t good for you anyway, but it can also make you feel straight-up sick.

Try looking for protein powder that is purer, with fewer added ingredients. On top of this, take a look at what else you’re adding to your shakes, and try cutting back on anything that has a lot of sugar.

Too Soon Before/After a Workout

This one’s similar to the old trope about swimming; you shouldn’t eat/drink a lot right before/after.

Most people don’t drink a protein shake right before a workout for this exact reason. However, many do right after a workout, but this can be just as upsetting for your stomach.

Directly after a workout, your blood is still flowing fast, and your nervous system is still very active.

Man deadlifting in a dark room.

Consuming a large amount of protein, or anything, before your body has had the time to settle down can cause you to feel sick.

You may have heard of the anabolic window, which is the idea that you need to get in protein very soon after a workout, or you won’t be able to build muscle from said workout. This is not true.

Try waiting an hour after your workout to have a protein shake. It might be the change you need to stop feeling nausous.

More Protein Powder Than Needed

Even if you’ve cut out sugars and lactose, and followed every other step in this article, having too much protein powder can still make you feel sick.

Stick to the recommended dose, usually one scoop, and have only that each day. As I mentioned earlier, some people can take more and feel great, but others can’t.

After a certain amount of protein, your body isn’t even going to be able to use it.

Once you’ve consumed more protein powder than your body needs to repair your muscles after a workout, your body works to turn the extra protein into waste. This puts extra stress on your system and is a waste of money, health, and protein powder.

Really, only take what you need. There’s no use in consuming more than you really need to build muscle because your body can’t do anything with it.

You can’t brute force your way into bigger muscles by consuming more protein powder. It’ll make you feel sick.

Pete Schenkel

My name is Pete Schenkel, and I've been into weightlifting since I was a teenager. Now, my main focus is growing Powerful Lifting and putting more information out there. In fact, I'm also currently working on becoming a certified personal trainer.

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