Is Protein Powder Good For You?
What would a protein powder commercial be without an overly-oiled, super muscular man, 100-lb dumbbell, and a plastic jar with shiny script on it? They'll sell you more power, strength, agility, and bigger muscles, but is protein powder really good for you? Some people may use protein powder as a weight loss aid. While studies have shown a high protein diet may promote weight loss and prevent weight regain better than a low protein diet, you may or may not need protein powder to achieve this goal.
Protein Powder vs. Whole Foods
Most protein powders are dairy-based and are generally marketed as whey or casein. Other varieties include egg or soy-based powders with additional plant-based products such as hempseed, pea, chia seed, and brown rice. Protein powders are considered supplements by the Food and Drug Administration and thus their claims are not regulated, nor reviewed before they hit the market. While protein helps keep us fuller longer, there is no conclusive finding as to how the same amounts of protein from powders compare to consuming a similar amount of protein from whole foods. That said, protein powders are generally highly processed products that are fortified with vitamins, minerals, and fiber, many listing artificial flavors, colors, and preservatives prominently in the ingredient list. Therefore, be forewarned you are ingesting more than just pure protein when choosing a powder.
How Much Protein is Enough
On average Americans exceed the daily recommended amount of protein, so most already get enough protein in their diet to support a strength training program. However, there’s only so much protein can do. Many protein powders tout anywhere between 25g to 40+ grams of protein per serving. If you are severely restricting calories and run the risk of not meeting the daily recommended amount, about 0.8 grams per kilogram of body weight, protein powder is an option but the bottom line is, protein is protein. A 2009 McMaster University study has shown 20g of protein to be an optimal amount of protein post-workout, that number is similar to the amount recommended in a well-balanced meal.
In comparing different protein powders, evidence is scant on how different types affect muscle protein synthesis. A number of studies have found whey protein more effective than casein in stimulating muscle protein synthesis during rest and after resistance exercise, but many fail to mention that many protein powders incorporate both whey and casein protein in their ingredient list. Therefore, if you do try it, the protein powder you choose should be minimally processed, low in sodium, and low in added sugar. The type is less important, as your total daily protein intake and regular physical activity is more important in maintaining muscle mass. If you’re looking to protein powder to assist in weight loss, as you may already know, as long as you maintain a caloric deficit, you will lose pounds.
Have you taken different types of protein powders?