Home Nutrition 10 Health Benefits of Protein Powder

10 Health Benefits of Protein Powder

Written by Jane Summerfield

Protein powder products as a means of getting enough protein are becoming popular today.

In fact, they are what millions of people are downing in place of eating a full protein traditional breakfast meal of eggs and meat or some rashers of bacon for example. 

We are going to look at the science behind them and their pros as revealed by some experts.

What is Protein?

Protein is a very powerful macronutrient. It is famed all over the world for what it can do for building muscles.

A small part of what makes up protein is vital amino acids.

You can’t do without protein as it is responsible for fluid balance in your body, maintaining good health, and hormone regulation.

Look at your skin, eyes, hair, and the strength of your muscles – all of these are supported by protein.

Health-conscious people are always wondering if they are getting sufficient protein. So supplemental protein has become a wonderful way of getting enough.

They have become a huge trend.

These high proteid products only came on the market around 1946 when Bob Hoffman, who was the founder of the Pennsylvania-based York Barbell Company, decided to investigate the nutrition business, developing his protein supplements, etc.

But by 2021 the protein powder market size was already $20 billion!

Read the fascinating history of protein [1]. 

And What is Protein Powder?

Protein powder has become exceptionally popular among bodybuilders and fitness gurus to help them build muscle and boost their performance.

But that’s it – protein isn’t just for sportspeople and helping you with exercises.

Millions of people rely on whey proteins to help them meet their daily protein needs. Some use them to lose weight or to gain weight.

Today you can find animal-based or plant-based protein powders.

10 Evidence-Based Benefits of Protein Supplements

1) It helps with weight management

It is recommended for people who want to control their weight because it makes you feel full and satisfied.

One study found people who experienced a reduction in their body weight and fat mass after taking whey protein supplements and powders [3].

Some studies actually recommend that people take 30 grams of protein at their mealtimes.

This will help with fullness, appetite control, and weight management. 

 Another 2018 study [4] carried out on 24 college student participants who regularly took 48 grams of protein powder discovered that they decreased their fat mass and increased their muscle mass.

On the other side of the coin, your favorite protein dietary supplement can also help you to gain weight if that is what is required.

You can boost your calorie intake by taking them to the foods that are also helping you to put on extra pounds if you are underweight.

Remember that any excess protein can lead to weight gain because then it will go to your fat stores.

 2) Prevents muscle loss in older adults

Older adults and seniors will always have increased protein needs.

As people age, a lot of these people eat less, for many a reason; be it illness, poverty, or inability.

Their physical activity is also at an all-time low and they experience muscle loss.

When you experience muscle loss, you increase your risk of injury as well.

One study on older people suggested that when they took in whey protein powder, it helped them build themselves up to prevent falling risks and muscle loss [5]. 

3) Increases muscle growth

Weight lifters use protein shakes and supplements often to help with muscle gain. 

From a few studies of adults taking part in weight training, those who took protein supplements noted significant increases in muscle size and strength in 6 weeks [6]

Supplementing their diets with protein proved to be equally effective in both men and women.

It is thought, though, that effectiveness might decrease with age.

Older people require higher requirements of protein than younger people do.

Researchers noted that once protein exceeded 1.6 grams per kilogram of body weight, participants didn’t experience any extra benefits.

4) They are convenient

It is hard to resist the lure of adding protein powders to your diet because they come in so many exciting flavors.

You can get fruity ones or flavorless ones.

They are so versatile and so easy to mix into your drink first thing in the morning.

And it’s so delicious.

And if you like to stick to eating whole foods, you can add protein powder into smoothies, cookies, soups, hot cereals, and batter for pancakes.

The most popular way for most people is to use the protein powder and blend it to make a smoothie or a shake. A true on-the-go meal!

5) Whatever your health goals, protein powders assist

Today there are so many special kinds of diets to embark on; there has been a huge demand for foods that are actually diet-friendly.

The ingredients of some foods today contain so many hormones and additives in them that millions of people actually suffer from food allergies.

You can imagine that this has increased the demand to find diet-friendly foods.

You might want to be cutting down on your carbs, or you might have become a vegan, or you might have noticed your skin is suffering from all the food allergies.

Whether you are on a low-carb diet or need to find gluten-free alternatives to what you have been eating, you won’t be let down by the availability of many protein powders to reach all your health goals.

6) Recovery after exercise

Not only does protein help towards building strong muscles, but it helps to repair damaged tissues or maintain muscle too.

Athletes know they can rely on proteinous dietary supplements to speed up recovery after their workouts and they are experiencing muscle pain.

Studies show that when you take protein supplements after exercise you aid recovery.

This is because muscle damage is reduced and muscle performance improved as well as muscle protein synthesis [7].

7) Added nutrition

For people who are aged over 19 years, their protein requirements are 56 g of protein for men and 46 g of protein for women.

Many people find it challenging to meet those amounts. This could be vegetarians or vegans.

That’s when protein concentrates like whey hydrolysate can fill in for those losses.

You can choose between animal-based protein powders or plant-based ones depending on your healthy eating goals or following the recommended dietary allowance.

If you are a bodybuilder, a weightlifter, a senior adult, or you suffer from a chronic illness, your need for protein might rise.

You will be only too glad to know about the correct food intake involving the right combinations of protein intake, whey protein concentrate, or other plant proteins if that is what is good for you.

8) Improved performance when you take it at night

 If you consume a protein powder shake at night you can improve your athletic performance.

This is because it can help to regulate muscle protein metabolism along with muscle growth gains and strength.

Check out these clinical findings and benefits: 

  • Enhanced overnight muscle reconditioning
  • Improved strength during workouts
  • Increased lean mass
  • Improved muscle adaptation to workouts [8]
  • Ability to exercise for longer
  • Weight loss

 When you have a protein shake before bed, you could be promoting weight loss. Protein boosts metabolism and stimulates muscle growth.

When you boost your metabolism, you are speeding up the rate at which you burn calories.

So with your calorie intake; eating more calories than you need can lead to weight gain.

Protein shakes have calories in them and they will add up to your daily calorie total.

If you do want to use a whey protein supplement as a means of losing weight, then you will need to adjust your calorie intake for the rest of the day so that you can accommodate the shake.

For instance, when you blend your protein shake with fruits and whole milk or nut butter, you can easily drink down 300 calories or so.

On the other side of the coin, protein shakes can be beneficial for people trying to lose weight because they are good as meal replacements. 

9) Ideal for those who cannot eat food when ill or for seniors who have no teeth

Sometimes when you feel a bit under the weather, then that old proverb ‘you are what you eat’ comes to mind.

When you don’t feel great, then what you eat and when can help you feel better faster.

Those who battle with cancer, arthritis, or depression, it’s not easy to hear the words “eat up”.

Protein shakes can help because they can glide in quickly and easier, even quelling the thirst that so many sick or old people can experience.

The protein in the drink is the most important nutrient when you feel weak and distressed.

10) Can prevent, aid, and fight certain diseases

Covid-19 has killed thousands of people over the past two years, and the numbers are still growing to this day; that’s because everyone can be a carrier.

Those with compromised immune systems are at high risk of contracting Covid-19.

All health organizations across the world encourage people to get a good night’s sleep, take their vitamins, exercise, and maintain a healthy diet.

This is where the role of whey protein is vital. It maintains the immune system’s cell structure.

Evidence shows that consuming higher proteins is beneficial to maintaining body function and promoting recovery.

In adults with catabolic conditions such as virus infections, malnutrition, and physical inactivity, glutathione is imperative to protect cells against free radical damage and more.

Whey has the capacity to increase glutathione production which leads to improvement in the health of the body.

What is the Recommended Daily Dose of protein?

If you are a healthy person aged over 19, the Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend you have 46 grams of protein for women and 56 grams for men.

The protein requirements might change based on activity levels, health goals, and aging.

It will depend on your individual needs whether you need protein powder supplements.

The first-line approach to good nutrition is to achieve optimal health.

This is done by eating whole foods.

Many high-protein foods can help you meet your protein needs.

Let’s look at what the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), says about the following protein foods and their grams per serving:

  • Chicken: 24 grams in 3 oz.
  • Canned tuna in water: 16 grams in 3 oz.
  • Pork tenderloin: 23 grams in 3 oz.
  • 1-cup lentils: 16 grams
  • 1-cup edamame: 19 grams
  • 1-cup black beans: 15 grams
  • 1-cup split peas: 15 grams
  • ½-cup plain Greek yogurt: 12.5 grams
  • ½-cup almonds: 16 grams
  • 4-Tablespoons hemp seeds: 12 grams 

Not all Protein Powders are The Same 

You get different types of protein powder.

You will probably have noticed that whey protein is the most commonly talked about protein supplemental product for muscle building or sports nutrition.

But you get others that have many health benefits too, and it is true to say that plant-based ones are starting to become very popular as well.

These are the common types:

1) Whey protein supplement

Whey protein concentrate is a water-soluble milk protein.

It’s a high-quality protein popular amongst athletes. Whey protein contains all the essential amino acids that the body requires from food.

Whey protein is also easily absorbed by the body. This property makes it good for fast muscle recovery and increasing lean body mass.

2) Casein

Casein, found in milk proteins is rich in one of the amino acids, glutamine. It is good at helping the body recover fast after exercising.

Casein comes from dairy so it is not suitable for vegans and those with dairy allergy.

People with cow’s milk allergies also shouldn’t take it. Casein is also digested by the body slower so it is best if you take it at night.

3) Soy

Soy protein is a very good alternative to either whey or casein protein powder. It is ideal for those who don’t consume dairy. Soy also contains all of the essential amino acids.

4) Pea

As you can hear, the pea is a plant-based protein powder. Pea protein powder is an excellent alternative to both soy- and dairy-based proteins.

One amino acid, arginine, is particularly prevalent in pea protein.

5) Hemp

Hemp seeds are complete proteins.

They also contain essential fatty acids. Hemp is excellent for vegans and for people who have dairy or soy allergies.

Protein shakes vary in quality and price

 Protein powders are not regulated by the FDA – The United States Food and Drug Administration.

https://formnutrition.com/inform/the-complete-and-unusual-history-of-protein-powder/ shows that a lot of the top-selling protein products actually contain heavy metals in them. Some of these are cadmium, lead, and arsenic.

You need to proceed with caution when buying these powders for yourself.

Choose from a reputable supplier.

How Do I Use Protein Powders?

You can use your protein supplementation powders in smoothies, and even in different meals that you make.

But before you do start using them, check what your nutritional needs are.

In case of nutritional deficiencies, supplementing with protein powders is a good idea.

But it is best to avoid consuming too much protein – some of them contain as much as 80 g per serving. That’s too much for most people, in fact. 

One study from 2013 found that using protein supplementation with too many grams of protein per serving can damage your kidneys and liver.

They can affect your calcium balance too. [2].

When you are consuming excessively high levels of protein in your diet, this can result in reducing your intake of other nutritional foods like fiber-rich veggies and fruit, as well as legumes.

The body needs these to sustain healthy gut bacteria.

Many people suggest that you take your protein drinks after your workouts. Research findings are not conclusive yet, because there are studies that do show conflicting results.

Conclusion 

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) doesn’t analyze everything that protein diet supplements contain.

So for you, it’s best to choose ones that you know have gone through third-party testing.

This will ensure that the powder has all it says it has in it.

That means choosing powders that are certified by the National Sanitation Foundation (NSF)

This is an organization that provides third-party testing for products. It ensures that their quality, safety, and contents are up to standard. 

You can see if your powder is NSF-certified by checking out the logo on the packaging.

  • Then consider what your goals are – are you looking to bulk up?
  • Do you want a product that has plenty of fiber in it?
  • Do you want ones with fewer sweeteners, etc.?

It is actually best to choose a protein powder that contains no added sugar – or at least one that uses natural sweeteners like monk fruit, or stevia.

It is very important to ensure that your protein powder has no harmful additives added to it like unhealthy amounts of milk sugar for instance.

There is no doubt that protein powders can be highly beneficial supplements for all kinds of people

It benefits athletes, people who don’t do exercise, seniors who battle to eat food, vegans, and vegetarians.

They simply are a convenient source of complete protein, and many of them contain other nutrients as well.

Just remember that not everyone needs extra protein though.

If you are eating a diet that has plenty of dairy, egg, fish, and dairy, and you are not a person who spends hours working out and doing intense weight training, then you probably don’t need to be taking protein powders. 

If you are serious about supplementing your diet with protein powder, though, choose a product that is high in quality, and possibly tell your doctor before using it.

Choosing right means that in all likelihood, you are getting in all those wonderful 10 evidence-based benefits that we have been talking about. 

References

You Might Also Like: