Is protein powder healthy?

Is protein powder healthy?

It has been more than ten years since I embarked on my fitness journey. The most common thing that hasn’t changed over the years is the articles and endorsements from gym instructors and nutrition coaches about the protein powder and its benefits. I love my fitness regime, the feeling of being in control of one’s physical being is terrific, but these endorsements bring me to a crossroads where I have to take a call whether my fitness journey needs Protein Powder. 

Earlier, there were not many options when it came to protein powders. Today there are plenty of options available in quite budget-friendly formats. Most protein powders promise the development of lean muscles and weight loss, claiming to be a vital part of a healthy lifestyle. But are these claims valid? Is protein powder an essential commodity when it comes to fitness? Let us check it out. 

 

How is protein powder made?

Protein powder is a dietary supplement made from the powdered form of protein sources such as milk ( whey protein) or now the powdered form of soy, hemp seeds or peas. 

They are made by extracting protein from dairy or non-dairy sources. Different processes are carried out to make protein powder in its palatable form. The powder must be soluble in water or milk to make it consumable. 

 

The two different types of protein powders are 

 

Animal Based Protein Powder 

In animal based protein the extracted protein is from Animal sources such as Milk, Eggs and so on. Most of these protein powders are usually fortified with vitamins and minerals. Milk based protein powders are made of whey or casein, eggs or collagen. The animal source of protein has a complete amino acid profile.

 

Plant Based Protein Powder 

Plant based protein powder is made from plants that contain amino acids which are necessary for muscle growth. 

 

Most of the plant proteins do not contain the complete amino acid profiles, that means you do not get complete amino acids to support protein synthesis. Again the plant based protein powders can be fortified with different vitamins and minerals. 

 

What is the protein requirement of the body? 

Depending on the fitness regimen the protein requirement of the body changes. A normal human being who does moderate workout for 30 minutes should consume 1 gm of protein per kg of body weight. If your weight is 68 kgs. You should approximately have 68 gms of protein throughout the day over four meals. It is always recommended to split the protein intake over all the meals instead of concentrating the protein intake in one meal. 

 

Do we require a supplement instead of a natural protein source? 

Any supplement should never replace the natural source of protein. The balanced plate should contain all the macronutrients. Despite eating well, if the macronutrients are not sufficing to the fitness goals like the muscle building or for athletic performance, the whole scenario has to be checked and worked out with the registered dietitian who has prior knowledge and experience of the subject.

 

As stated above the protein requirement of the body varies from person to person based on their fitness goals. If you are not able to achieve a protein ratio of 0.8 gms per kg of body weight then protein can be supplemented. 

 

What are the benefits of having protein powder?

Proteins are the building blocks of the body. Protein powders are a concentrated source of protein that would help

  • Post workout muscle recovery 
  • Growth of muscles and other tissues 
  • Maintaining pH balance and fluid balance

 

Getting all the nine amino acids through plant based protein sources is difficult, so amping up your protein intake is possible with protein powder. 

 

What are the common downsides of protein powder

It is very common to have protein powder as a supplement but it is important to do the background research and get the supplement that is tested by a third-party. 

As per Harvard Health here are some downsides of consuming protein powder.

  • There is limited data available on the long term effects of protein powder consumption
  • The consumption of protein powder may cause digestive issues. Especially with people having dairy allergies should reconsider consuming whey protein shake. 
  • The sugar and carbohydrate content of some protein powders may be more than the prescribed amount to enhance the palatability, there is a prescribed limit of 24 grams of added sugar and 36 grams of sugar for women and men respectively as per AHA ( American Heart Association.)

 

Frequently Asked Questions

Is protein powder bad for health?

There has been quite a discussion about protein powder being good or bad for health. The biggest threat with consuming protein powder everyday is the contamination of the supplements. The Food and Drug Administration ( FDA) does not regulate all the supplements. Nutritional labels might vary to the actual content of the supplement. So, you practically do not know what you are consuming.

Is it bad to drink protein powder daily?

When it comes to protein powder or fitness supplements as such, moderation is the key. There are some fitness regimens that require more protein 2.0 grams per kg of body weight and so forth, for such a requirement one can have protein powder over and above the natural source of protein through wholesome meals. 

While consuming it on a daily basis here are some points that you need to consider. 

  • What is the source of the protein powder?
  • Are you able to comfortably digest the protein powder?
  • Does your protein powder contain 3- 4mg of leucine per scoop for better maximum protein synthesis?
  • What is the fitness regime that you are following and what is the aim of your fitness regime, whether it is weight loss, fat loss or body recomposition. 

What are the healthiest protein powders?

There are many good brands of protein powders but from my personal experience here is a list of some of the tried and tested protein powders 

  • Optimum Nutrition Protein Powder 
    • Available in three different flavours this is the most trusted and popular brands over the years. 
  • MyProtein
    • Tested both whey and plant based protein powders from My Protein. 
    • The plant based protein powder is good for people with IBS and other digestive syndromes. 
    • The flavours make the protein powder palatable which is a good thing.
  • FoodStrong
    • One of the latest brands in India.
    • I personally like the protein powders from them. 
  • Big Muscle 
    • An upcoming protein powder brand 
    • I have not tried but have heard about their isolated protein powders.

 

Conclusion: 

I personally like taking protein powder because it increases satiety and helps to maximise exercise performance. If you are getting nutrition coaching or consulting the registered dietician then it is better to consult them before starting any protein powder regime. You can always get some trial packs and see how your body is digesting protein powder, then you can decide. 

References: 

https://www.biprousa.com/blogs/why-you-should-use-a-protein-supplement-high-in-leucine

https://www.researchgate.net/publication/265175365_The_Effects_of_Protein_Supplements_on_Muscle_Mass_Strength_and_Aerobic_and_Anaerobic_Power_in_Healthy_Adults_A_Systematic_Review/link/5890875da6fdcc2351c09c32/download

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6245118/

 

Snehal Joshi
mugdhaaa@gmail.com

Snehal is a Certified Nutrition Coach by National Academy of Sports Medicine. She is writing about her persuits of Nutrition Science since last 4 years.

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