Is Protein Powder Safe For Diabetics

is protein powder safe for diabetics
If you are into fitness and building your body then there is no doubt that you will at some point research the benefits of adding protein powder to your nutrition plan. Protein powder can definitely assist in meeting your daily protein requirements as well as aiding in recovery and muscle building. However, all these benefits aside, is it safe for persons living with diabetes to consume protein powder? If so what qualities should you look for and what ingredients should you avoided?

For the purpose of this article, I will separate protein powders into two main groups. Milk based and plant based protein powder. Whey is one of two types of proteins found in milk (the other being casein) and it is a by-product of the transformation process of cow’s milk into cheese.

Casein is digested and absorbed much slower rate than Whey. Casein forms a gel when it interacts with stomach acid, slowing down stomach emptying and delaying the absorption of amino acids into the bloodstream.

Milk based protein powder has a high biological value as well as high levels of essential and branched chain amino acids. Amino acids help repair torn muscle tissue and build new ones. The higher the amino acid profile, the more effective it will be at helping to rebuild and create muscle tissue. Plant based protein powder can be just as effective as milk based protein powders. Different types include brown rice protein, pea protein, hemp and soy protein. However, plant based protein powders are lower in amino acids compared to their milk based alternatives. You would have to combine several types of plant based protein powders in order to achieve a similar amino acid profile. e.g(brown rice and pea protein)

So lets get to the question at hand.

Can Diabetics Use Whey Protein Shakes?

Yes, people with diabetes can use whey protein whether it be as a delicious protein shake, a beverage or added to foods in the recommended amounts. It is always best to consult your doctor first before adding supplements to your nutrition plan. I have been using protein powder for over 10 years with no issues or side effects. However, any supplement I take I use in moderation and always adhere to the recommended dosages. I also research the product extensively and identify any ingredients I’m not familiar with. Then, I research the effect it could have on my blood sugar and overall health.

I typically use shakes on weight training days or days that I have not met my protein requirements. This would usually equate to about 3 shakes per week for some weeks. Sometimes I go weeks without consuming protein powder to give my body a break and to force myself to consume protein and nutrients from healthy home cooked meals. Protein shakes are not a necessity. It’s just an easy form of protein to supplement your already spot on diet and diabetes care. If those 2 factors are not in check, adding whey protein will simply be a waste of money.

Whenever protein powder and diabetes are mentioned in the same sentence, the topic of kidney issues always comes up. The two main risk factors for kidney disease or kidney failure are high blood pressure (hypertension) and diabetes. A high protein intake has been shown to accelerate kidney damage in people who already have kidney disease. Note that it’s the general protein intake and not just protein powder. However, higher protein diets do not adversely affect kidney function in healthy people. From the studies and medical research conducted, there have been no reports or findings that confirm consuming whey protein has a negative impact on the health of persons living with diabetes.

Although Protein shakes may be safe for diabetics still use caution

As diabetics we should have frequent checkups and tests conducted. If you are a diabetic and consume high levels of protein daily then kidney tests such as ACR and GFR should be at least every 3 months. ACR (Albumin to Creatinine Ratio) and GFR (glomerular filtration rate). GFR is a measure of your kidney functions and is performed through a blood test. Your GFR will determine if you have any kidney disease and what stage. ACR is a urine test to see how much albumin (a type of protein) is in your urine. Too much albumin in your urine is an early sign of kidney damage.

Like any other food or dietary supplement, moderation is key. Consuming more than 200 grams of protein each day can exceed the liver’s ability to turn excess nitrogen to urea. This can lead to nausea, diarrhea, and other adverse side effects in some individuals. As a diabetic it makes no sense to put your body under the unnecessary strain of processing extremely high amounts of protein or any other supplement for that matter. Although protein powder may be safe for diabetics, don’t over do it. You can still grow muscle with a moderate protein intake. Also be sure to take breaks from consuming protein powder. It’s always a good idea to cleanse your body of processed foods and chemicals from time to time.

The Effects of Protein Powder on the Blood Sugar

Most protein powders contain a maximum of 12 grams of carbohydrates per serving which can be considered as pretty low carb. Other powders such as mass gainers will contain from 30 grams of carbs upwards going as high as 120 grams per serving. Mass gainer protein powders will usually require a significant amount of insulin to regulate blood sugar levels. The higher the number of carbs the higher the risk of having a high blood sugar. The protein shake I currently use is Nitro Tech Whey Gold by Muscle Tech which contains 2 grams of carbs. 2 to 12 grams of carbs should not increase your blood sugar levels by a significant amount. For me 12 grams would raise my blood sugar by approximately 2 mmol/L. However, I’ve realised that with some protein powders my blood sugar would spike although it contains relatively low carbs. Sometime I could go from 7 mmol/L to 12 or even 14 mmol/L which is insane.

After doing much research and consulting with my doctor, I’ve discovered that certain amino acids in the whey protein powder specifically glucogenic amino acids, can be converted into glucose through a process called gluconeogenesis. This glucose can then increase your blood sugar level if not accounted for. On the flip side, I have used plant based protein powders and they did not have the same effect on my blood sugar level. This may be due to the lack of glucogenic amino acids and high amounts od ketogenic amino acids in this type of powder contains.

A ketogenic amino acid is an amino acid that can be degraded directly into acetyl-CoA, which is the precursor of ketone bodies. Acetyl-CoA (acetyl coenzyme A) is a molecule that participates in many biochemical reactions in protein, carbohydrate and lipid metabolism. This is in contrast to the glucogenic amino acids, which are converted into glucose. Ketogenic amino acids are unable to be converted to glucose as both carbon atoms in the ketone body are ultimately degraded to carbon dioxide in the citric acid cycle.

When consuming my protein shakes I have to dose accordingly based on the type. It’s best to test your blood sugar before and about 30 to 45 minutes after consumption to assess how a particular protein powder will affect your blood sugar. Be sure to mix the powder with water only for this test in order to get a true reading.

Check out this selection of protein powders: whey, plant based, casein and more.
the best selection of protein powders

Choosing the Best Protein Powder

Protein powders can be an incredibly useful tool in helping you hit your fitness goals, but with so many on the market choosing which one is right for you can be very difficult. To add to that, many options on the market are full of controversial ingredients. Additionally, it’s probably a good idea to make sure the protein powder is verified by the NSF Certified for Sport program or, it would be devastating to find out the powder you’ve been taking has illegal steroids or stimulants. Usually it’s best to look for protein powder that has the fewest, simplest ingredients while still getting the job done. Last but not least, it should taste good! I have tried protein powders that are difficult to mix and tries to choke you on its way down. I’ve also had a few that taste absolutely horrible. Pick something you enjoy the flavor of, you want to reward your workout with protein powder, not dread it. Check out this in-depth guide from to assist you in choosing the best protein powder –

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