For people who want a protein boost without having to go through the trouble of cooking a steak or simmering a batch of lentils, protein powder can be a lifesaver. By simply adding a scoop of this powder to smoothies, drinks or recipes, you can benefit from up to 25 grams of this nutrient in your diet with just one scoop.
If you regularly use protein powder, know that you are not alone. The protein supplement market continues to grow every year, and the inclusion of protein powder in many diets is a trend that isn’t going away anytime soon. If you are one of the many people who include this supplement in their daily diet and are wondering what effects this habit can have on your body, read on.
What are protein powders?
Protein is one of three macronutrients your body needs to function properly. You can get protein from a variety of food sources, including milk, eggs, tofu, and peas. In addition to food sources, protein powders can also be a source of protein.
Some of the most popular types of protein powder include:
Whey protein comes from milk and contains all essential amino acids. It is usually quickly digested and can mix well with many liquids.
Casein protein is another milk protein that contains all the essential amino acids. But unlike whey protein, casein protein is absorbed at a slower rate. This feature can benefit those who want to feel satisfied long after consuming it. However, if you are allergic to casein, be sure to avoid its powdered form.
Made from the yellow pea, Pea Protein is a vegan-friendly protein powder that contains all of the essential amino acids (although it is low in the amino acid methionine). This protein powder also contains fiber and various vitamins and minerals, including iron.
Hemp protein is produced from the seeds of the Cannabis sativa plant, but is free of THC (the chemical responsible for most of marijuana’s psychoactive effects). This protein powder contains fiber, omega-3 fatty acids, micronutrients and antioxidants.
Egg white protein powder is made by removing the yolks, then dehydrating and pasteurizing the whites. Egg white protein is considered a high quality protein source and is highly digestible, providing all essential amino acids.
What Happens When You Take Protein Powder Every Day?
Taking protein powder every day is something many people rely on. From busy people who tend to enjoy a high protein smoothie to help them meet their needs, to bodybuilders who need an extra protein powder boost.
If you’re one of the many people who take protein powder every day, here are a few things that can happen.
You can maintain a healthy weight
According to a 2022 review published in Nutrition, Metabolism & Cardiovascular Diseases, some studies have shown the positive effects of protein supplements on improving satiety, which may support weight loss goals. It is important to remember that weight loss can result from many factors, not just from adding this supplement.
You can gain more muscle
Protein is essential for muscle growth. And according to a 2022 meta-analysis published in the Journal of Cachexia, Sarcopenia and Muscle, increased protein intake has been linked to greater accumulation of lean body mass. Adding protein powder to your diet is an easy way to increase your intake, which can have this effect, especially if you exercise regularly.
You may be exposed to heavy metals
Reports, like the one published in 2020 in Toxicology Reports, suggest that heavy metals, including arsenic, cadmium, mercury, and lead, may be present in some protein powders. Chronic exposure to certain metals is linked to the development of kidney disease, thyroid disorders, weakened bones and neurological dysfunctions.
What to Look for in a Protein Powder
Since protein powder is classified as a supplement, it is not regulated by the Food and Drug Administration. And for that reason, it’s important to choose a third-party tested protein powder. Look for third-party testing certification from a reputable source, such as the USP or NSF, when purchasing supplements.
It is also important to verify that the strength, quality and purity of the product are accurate. Although all manufacturers are expected to follow GMP guidelines, GMP certification means that they have actually followed them.
Additionally, it’s important to assess whether certain ingredients in your protein powder are suitable for your own needs. Some powders may contain added sugars, allergens and herbal solutions which may not be suitable for everyone.
Finally, think about the type of protein powder you choose. Those who follow a vegan lifestyle better choose pea, hemp or other vegetable protein powder. And people who favor a protein powder that provides all of the essential amino acids shouldn’t choose options that don’t meet that need, like hemp (unless it’s fortified).
How much protein powder do you need?
The amount of protein a person needs depends on a number of factors, including the amount of protein they consume from other sources, their activity level and their current weight. Many people add one to two scoops of protein powder to their diet every day. Working with a nutritionist to determine how much protein powder you need can be helpful.
Who should avoid taking protein powder?
Protein powders are generally recognized as safe for healthy people. Too much protein powder should be avoided by people with reduced kidney function. And for allergy sufferers, protein powders made from this causative allergen should be avoided.
Protein powder can be a positive addition to a balanced diet, especially for people who struggle to get enough protein. But the goal isn’t to add protein powder to everything you eat. Instead, these products are meant to meet (not exceed) your daily protein needs. As for whether protein powders are a healthy way to go, it certainly can be if you go with simple, plant-based ingredients, especially if they’re tested for contaminants.
Of course, whole, nutrient-dense foods should always be your first choice. In unprocessed foods, protein is combined with fiber and other nutrients, providing multiple benefits to your body. The reality remains. Nothing can replace real food.