I joined this site after scanning a few on the net recently. As the title suggests, whey can create insomnia - if you over do it! I am writing this post as another thread here talking about it was locked.
I was on about 5 to 7 scoops a day of high quality whey protein isolate and suffered the consequences. I always ruled whey out of elimination diets to correct my insomnia because I thought it was so 'natural' as a supplement. I should have been using it in a 'natural manner', maybe once a day, instead of using it as a meal subsitute for protein throughout the day and evening.
To naturally obtain this amount of amino profile/quantity, I would have to consume at least 6 times that weight in powdered semi-skimmed milk. Add water to that, and you've got a hell of a lot of milk!
The component that causes the problem is GLUTAMATE. A great amino acid for training and growing - in moderation. However, if you refine it, and have it in a free form (as derived by the whey isolate process) , any excess can be converted into harmful nervous system 'excito toxins'. The dreaded MSG or monosodium glutamate has as it's active component the same glutamate found in whey.
The glutamate literally attacks the nervous system, placing it in a stressed state while simoultaneously making it difficult for taurine synthesis - which normally acts as a neuro sedative. Some amino's in substantial 'free form' are never tolerated well in excess in some people. Eg too much supplemental taurine can lower test (over 6 grammes daily) and too much tyrosine can over stimulate the nervous system ( I estimate over 5 grammes daily).
The symptoms I got were:
(1) unusual fat burning potential overnight - I would wake up the next day and actually see fat had diminished as if on diet drugs or amphetamines. My partner commented my fat level was "obscenely low". I also felt like I was on amphetamines - not good after a few months.
(2) Progression to early waking insomnia, eventually progressing to difficulty getting to and staying asleep - for months!
(3) Anxiety chest pains - when I wasn't (and had no reason to be) anxious or worried.
(4) A lump feeling in my throat, again similar to that of anxiety. None of these anxiety 'mimic' symptoms were attenuated by aerobic or anaerobic exercise - in normal circumstances of anxiety or depression, exercise would substantially diminish physical symptoms.
(5) An eventual slump in mood created by long term insomnia.
(6) Slightly raised blood pressure and a constant 'pounding' heart - not faster, just much harder. My heart would pound throughout the night and on any movement from rest whatsoever.
(7) Gastrointestinal disturbances, particularly upper tract.
(8) Hypervigilance, though thankfully I never got to the paranoia stage!
My blood test results were in normal range but my doctors agreed there was a physiological issue as they concurred my mood and outlook were still positive. It was a conversation with a psychiatric nurse I knew that got my attention. The first thing they asked was 'what is your diet like?' They explained many of their cases for insomnia problems were in fact caused by diet and not depression, and especially by supplements. I realised that relying 100% on whey isolate as a protein source was a damn foolish thing to do. Looking back, the real symptoms began when I went from 2 scoops to 6 scoops a day whilst working on a contract job near home. I was working so much I just threw in the whey to put off having to cook or by meat as it was wasting my working paid time!
I cut the whey powder out and after two days I was able to take an afternoon nap - this was impossible only a week prior. The washout period for glutamate is at least 36 hours - which also makes it difficult to nail down diet culprits due to the perception of 'overlapping' days of symptom experience. As excessive glutamate can also cause nerve damage of the type often seen after trauma or extreme stress, recovery can be measured in weeks and months as nerves begin to regrow.
Anyway, I hope this is useful for discussion. Everyone is different and some folk can handle higher levels of one supplement than others. I've been off caffeine for 6 months as a result - which has actually been a good thing. But from now on, I'm not going to be such a lazy ass and get cooking my own meals again! I will not rule out whey completely and in due time, use it respectfully as one should any supplement.