Ever since I got into weight lifting back in 2013 whey protein became a staple in my diet. Whey protein is classed as ‘complete protein’, containing high levels of branched-chain amino acids which are necessary for human dietary needs. Whey protein is rapidly absorbed by your muscles to promote growth and reduce muscle repair time, which makes it an easy way to re-feed after a heavy workout.
However just like most things in life there’s a downside. Whey proteins are derived from cow’s milk and there has been a known link between dairy and acne. Many proteins also include IGF-1 (insulin like growth factor), a hormone thought to aid muscle growth, however this ingredient has also been linked to increasing acne. How? Studies have shown IGF-1 to increase sebum production and skin cell growth. The body can only regenerate new skin cells at it’s own pace and when we take whey protein we are forcing it to generate faster and doing so (in some people) leads to clogged pores followed by acne.
I no longer take whey protein because of the impact it was having on my skin, I went back to it multiple times to see, if it was definitely down to whey protein and I found the same result every time. Whilst the breakout wasn’t cystic, I was getting small pimples across my forehead the day after taking protein. When took for longer periods at a time, say a week, my skin would continue to get worse, when I stopped taking whey my skin returned to normal within a couple of days.
Some people will find whey protein doesn’t affect them at all, but if you have sensitive skin and your finding yourself breaking out the day after your shake then it could be down to that. There are many alternatives to taking whey protein, whilst it is can be difficult to consume the daily protein requirement, especially whilst lifting weights, you’d be surprised how much protien there is in a number of foods. Alternatively there are vegetarian or vegan proteins, whilst I’ve not tried these they may have a different impact on the skin as they don’t include hormones.
If you have tried vegetarian or vegan based proteins let me know in the comments if it has reacted with your skin!