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Choosing to stop taking whey protein may have you asking if your muscle mass will be affected in the process.
So, will you lose muscle if you stop taking whey protein? No, you will not lose muscle if you stop taking a whey protein supplement as it does not stimulate muscle growth. Whether you lose muscle mass or not when you stop taking whey protein will rely on eating at or above your maintenance calories and training with high intensity.
With that said, there may be unintended consequences of stopping your whey protein supplementation if you don’t understand how whey protein can impact your overall diet.
So, in this article, you will learn:
- What is whey protein and why it is used
- Reasons why people decide to stop taking whey protein
- How stopping whey protein affects muscle loss
- Tips for when you are stopping your whey protein supplement
Considerations You Need To Make When Stopping Whey Protein
When you are trying to maintain or build muscle, it is important to have an adequate intake of protein throughout the day.
If you struggle to meet your daily protein intake, using a whey protein powder supplement is helpful to hit those protein goals.
One reason that whey protein is so popular is that it is a pure protein source, meaning it is typically very low to no carbohydrates and fat compared with other protein supplements. This is great for anyone looking to increase protein intake without increasing carbohydrates or fats.
In addition, whey protein is fast digesting, which is optimal for post-workout shakes (including cardio workouts) in order to get your muscles the protein it needs for repair and recovery.
Therefore, if you are stopping your whey protein supplementation, you’ll need to consider a few things:
- What other sources of protein will you be replacing your whey protein with?
- Is the new protein source also low in carbs and fat, like whey protein? Or does the new protein source have additional fat or carbs?
- Will the new protein source be as quick to digest as whey protein? And, does this matter for your protein timing?
Should You Stop Taking Whey Protein?
If you are looking to stop taking your whey protein supplement, it is important to ask yourself why you are doing so.
Some of the following reasons include:
1. Dietary Intolerance
According to the National Institute of Diabetes, Digestive and Kidney Diseases, 68% of the population has some degree of dairy intolerance.
As such, you may find that, over time, you develop digestive upset from consuming whey protein.
While you might not experience digestive upset initially, it could be the case when taking whey protein, especially if you begin to heavily rely on it to get your daily protein intake (i.e. 3 scoops or more per day).
This doesn’t mean you need to stop whey protein entirely though.
It just means that you need to decrease your reliance on whey protein as a primary source of protein throughout the day (i.e. reducing your intake from 3 scoops to 1 scoop, and finding other sources of protein from whole foods).
Also, rather than reducing your protein supplementation, or stopping it altogether, because of a lactose intolerance, you could consider a dairy-free alternative.
For example, Orgain Organic Protein is lactose-free, but still provides 21g of protein per scoop to help supplement your daily protein intake.
Key takeaway: The last thing you want is to stop your protein supplementation altogether, and then struggle to get your daily protein requirement necessary to maintain your muscle mass.
- Related Article: Does Protein Increase Testosterone? (What New Research Says)
2. Relying More on Whole Foods
Some people may want to stop whey protein supplementation in order to get more protein from whole sources.
Whole foods as a source of protein will provide you with more nutrients including carbohydrates, fats, vitamins, and minerals to your daily diet.
As most whey proteins tend to be lower in carbs and fats, adding in protein sources from whole foods may help to increase the number of overall calories consumed and also help you to feel more full and satisfied throughout the day.
This is because eating your food is more filling than drinking your food.
A few higher protein sources from whole foods include chicken breast (23g of protein for 4oz of chicken breast), edamame beans (12g of protein per 100g), greek yogurt (17g of protein per 175g), and tuna (20g per 142g).
Key takeaway: It’s totally okay to stop taking whey protein, so long as you have a list of whole food sources that are high in protein and can help you reach your daily protein requirements to maintain or build muscle mass.
- Related Article: Whey Protein Foods: 10 Foods Naturally Rich In Whey Protein
3. Reduce Supplement Budget
Whey protein supplements range in cost from $30 to $90 per container depending on the size and brand you choose.
If you are looking to decrease your supplement budget, cutting out a whey protein supplement could be beneficial considering you can still receive protein from whole foods.
If you are looking to find an affordable whey protein supplement, however, you may find buying in bulk more beneficial.
The cost may be slightly higher upfront however you are going to get more volume for the cost. Nutricost Whey Protein is as low as 0.57$ per scoop whereas most average approximately $1.00 per scoop.
Key Takeaway: It is not a requirement to consume whey protein in order to build or maintain muscle mass, so if you can find a cheaper way to consume protein through whole foods, then you can explore those options.
- Related Article: How Long Does It Take Whey Protein Powder To Show Results?
Does Stopping Whey Protein Affect Muscle Loss?
There are two factors to be mindful of when you are stopping whey protein supplementation if you want to maintain muscle mass and avoid muscle loss:
- Maintaining your overall protein intake
- Continuing to train with high intensity
1. Maintaining Your Overall Protein Intake
In order to not lose muscle mass when stopping whey protein, you will want to maintain the protein intake that you will be losing from the whey protein supplementation from another source.
Knowing how much protein you need to consume in a day for your body composition goals is key.
It is recommended to consume 1.2-2.2g of protein per kg of body weight. Not only will having adequate amounts of protein keep you feeling full and satiated but it also helps to maintain your lean muscle mass, regardless of the source.
If you are choosing to not use whey protein supplements to help with your daily protein intake, you will be required to eat enough protein from whole foods.
However, even though it is possible for you to get enough protein from other sources, individual lifestyle factors may come into play that affects your ability to meal prep consistently, including busy work or school schedules, or family commitments.
Key Takeaway: you’ll need to assess whether you can plan, prep, and cook your own meals, in order to get an adequate protein intake when stopping whey protein supplementation.
2. Continuing To Train With High Intensity
Nutrition plays a big role in the maintenance and building of muscle mass but so does your training schedule.
If you are looking to stop whey protein supplementation, you also want to ensure that you are maintaining a regular strength training program and schedule to at least maintain the muscle mass that you have built to this point.
Key Takeaway: As whey protein is simply a dietary supplement and not a muscle stimulant, you will need to continue putting in the work the old-fashioned way – lifting weights and using your muscles to maintain.
Tips For When You Are Stopping Whey Protein
If you’ve decided you are going to stop whey protein, here are a few tips:
1. Choose a Non Whey Protein Supplement Option
Choosing a non whey protein supplement could be an option if you are looking to simply cut out whey protein specifically. These can be helpful if you have an intolerance to whey.
One of my favorite plant-based protein options is Nature’s Best by IsoPure’s Chocolate Plant Based Protein with 20g of protein per scoop from pea & brown rice instead of whey.
2. Calculate How Much Protein You Need Daily
A rule of thumb is 1.2-2.2g of kg of body weight based on research. When choosing the amount of protein for your body based on this range, selecting protein intake that accounts for 35% of your daily caloric intake is a great starting point.
3. Calculate How Much Protein You Need at Each Meal
By calculating the amount of protein you need at each meal, you are going to be able to plan ahead to ensure that you are consuming adequate amounts of protein throughout the day to maintain muscle mass and overall calories.
4. Make a Protein Cheat Sheet
In order to ensure that you are able to hit your daily protein intake, you can create a cheat sheet with some of your favourite high protein foods with the amount of protein per typical serving size.
This makes meal planning and prepping easy.
Here are a few examples of what you might see on your cheat sheet:
- Chicken Breast: 4oz = 23g of protein
- Greek Yogurt: 175g = 17g of protein
- Cottage Cheese: 125g = 13g of protein
- Edamame Beans: 100g = 12g of protein
- Turkey Deli Meat: 4 slices (16g) = 14g of protein
*Total amount of protein will depend on brand of items listed above.
When deciding to stop taking a whey protein supplement, it is important to ensure that you maintain overall caloric intake, daily protein intake, and a strength training schedule to ensure muscle mass is maintained. There are many options to maintain protein intake should you choose to stop taking a whey protein supplement.
Leidy HJ, Clifton PM, Astrup A, Wycherley TP, Westerterp-Plantenga MS, Luscombe-Marsh ND, Woods SC, Mattes RD. The role of protein in weight loss and maintenance. Am J Clin Nutr. 2015 Jun;101(6):1320S-1329S. doi: 10.3945/ajcn.114.084038. Epub 2015 Apr 29. PMID: 25926512.
Helms, E.R., Aragon, A.A. & Fitschen, P.J. Evidence-based recommendations for natural bodybuilding contest preparation: nutrition and supplementation. J Int Soc Sports Nutr 11, 20 (2014). https://doi.org/10.1186/1550-2783-11-20
About The Author
Caryn Watt is a certified personal trainer & nutrition coach. Working primarily with women all over the world, she focuses her time on helping clients learn more about nutrition and the importance of improving their relationship with food through tracking macros, movement, and mindfulness.
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