PROS AND CONS OF PROTEIN POWDER IN DIET: IS IT REALLY NECESSARY?
Protein is well known as one of the essential nutrients to include in every meal for proper functioning and good health. You probably learned from an early age that it is a body-building food nutrient that also benefits your skin, nails, and hair. This is one of the reasons individuals who aim to build muscle mass increase their daily protein intake.
However, due to how stressful making complete meals can be, many have looked to supplements such as protein powders to help out. Records show that over $20 billion worth of protein powders were sold as of 2022, which means it is becoming one of the most sought-after food products after oats.
So, what makes them so popular? Are these powders suitable for the average human body? If yes, how much is enough, and how effective are they in nourishing the body? Read on to find out the answers to these questions and learn more about this product.
What is Protein Powder?
It is a dietary supplement made from protein extracted from animal and plant sources in powdered form. Protein powder is often used in preparing protein shakes. Fitness gurus and athletes mostly take it to help build their muscles and improve their overall performance as they exercise or carry out sports activities. Others consume it to meet their daily protein needs, recover faster from an injury or post-surgery, and either gain or lose weight.
The recommended dietary allowance of protein is about 0.8 grams per kg of body weight. Women should consume 40 grams of protein, while men, 56 grams for those over 19. This daily intake should be increased in older adults to compensate for nutrient depletion. As mentioned earlier, individual needs dictate the amount of protein to be consumed.
Types of Protein Powders
Protein powders come in so many varieties that it can be overwhelming when deciding to get one. As mentioned earlier, generally, protein powders are extracted from both plant and animal sources which is what makes up the types described below:
This is also known as whey protein powder. The most common of this kind is made from 20% of the proteins found in cow's milk. It has a high content of leucine, an essential amino acid, and is also easily digestible. Another variant constitutes up to 80% of cow’s milk protein and is rich in casein. Other kinds of whey protein are made from eggs as well as collagen.
The growing number of vegetarians and those allergic to dairy products led to the development of this type of protein powder. Plant-based protein powders are made from protein sources such as peas, soy, algae, hemp, and pumpkin seeds.
Pros of Protein Powders
There are several benefits to consuming protein powders. A few of them are discussed below:
One of the benefits of consuming protein powder is helping to attain and maintain a healthy weight. It enables you to gain weight, especially when taken in excess regularly over time. Once the body can no longer digest the excess protein, it goes to the fat stores. However, with exercise, the extra protein might not become fat but muscles, increasing your overall weight.
Protein powders help with weight loss by helping you attain satiety without overeating. It is a good way to be nourished for most of the day, especially protein-wise, without being starved despite the daily low-calorie intake. Increasing your protein intake can generally also help induce weight loss and reduce fat stores in the body. This is why food supplements like protein powders are recommended to individuals who want to shed weight while still consuming balanced diets.
One striking thing about protein powders is how versatile they are. They are available in multiple flavors and can be used with just about any kind of food. They can be used to make smoothies and pastries like pancakes; you can even take them with almost anything from fruits to bars to cereals.
You can also work around your nutrient demands to get animal-based, collagen-based, or vegan proteins. Dairy-free and soy-free options are also available if you are allergic to certain ingredients.
Incorporating protein powders in your diet can be helpful for muscle growth as they are good sources of concentrated protein. Most fitness experts consume it before or after working out. Lifting weights can only do so much if the body does not have enough nutrients to help gain muscle mass.
Protein powders can even help speed up the process. A review has shown that adults who regularly consumed protein supplements reported a significant increase in size and muscle strength after a few weeks.
Overall Reduced Cost
A jar of protein powder might seem costly. However, you will see a remarkable cost difference compared to consuming the same amount of protein through raw food sources. In other words, consuming protein powders save you more money than preparing meals with high protein content. Also, if taken in the right amounts, it lasts longer than the usual sources of protein such as chicken breasts, beef, eggs, etc. So if you are looking to start a high-protein diet, purchasing protein powders makes shopping less expensive when bought alongside the usual food sources of protein.
One of the most talked about pros of protein powders is their convenience, especially for a quick breakfast or as an added nutrient source to any meal. If you are always on the go to a high energy demanding job, you could incorporate a glass of protein powder into your morning routine. It is easy to prepare, and sometimes all you need is water to dissolve the powder. Protein powder is also suitable for those always on the road, so they are energized all day.
Due to their low-calorie content, protein powders offer a metabolic advantage as they give muscles the strength to keep running. Most of these powders contain all the essential amino acids the body cannot produce on its own, so when consumed, they help the body function optimally.
Cons of Protein Powders
Despite their benefits, protein powders also have some downsides that you should know. Here are some:
For a product with high protein content, you might wonder how this is so. Protein powders can give you a false sense that you are eating healthy. They have low fiber content compared with proteins from plant sources, thus affecting bowel movement. They also do not contain the needed vitamins and minerals that whole foods provide the body with. This is why it is not advised to rely on protein powders alone without main meals, as they are not meal replacements.
Presence of Contaminants
As with most sealed products, some harmful contaminants could exist. A study showed that some best-selling protein powders contain heavy metals such as lead, mercury, or even arsenic. If ingested, these do more harm than good to the body, so care should be taken before purchasing any protein powder. Furthermore, not all manufacturers are sincere with the detailed content of their protein powders. Some powders could contain steroids or other stimulants, which may not be listed so as not to impact their saleability. Hence, it is vital to exercise caution before trying out any product.
Excessive Protein Intake
Protein overloading can become an issue if high amounts are consumed for an extended period. This can happen with regular intake of protein powders as they have high protein content. Individual bodies differ and metabolize certain nutrients at varying paces. Thus, those whose bodies cannot take as much protein have their kidneys working overtime, which leads to kidney problems.
Other health issues such as cramps, headaches, fatigue, dehydration, and bone loss from reduced calcium levels are complications of excessive protein consumption. It can also indirectly reduce carbohydrate intake, an essential macronutrient for energy production, leading to lethargy and difficulty concentrating.
Although cost-effective for those seeking to begin high protein diets, it is expensive compared to whole food proteins for the average person. Also, the fact that it cannot replace real food means you are spending extra money in addition to the cost of whole foods.
Factors to Look Out For in Protein Powders
After weighing the benefits and disadvantages described above, if you decide to purchase a protein powder, here are a few things you should consider while choosing one:
1. Type of Protein
The type of protein powder to buy depends on your goals, such as to build muscle mass, lose weight, or meet your daily needs. It is important to check the label for the kind of protein contained before purchasing. Some powders also come with added nutrients such as fiber which you could look out for depending on your needs.
2. Third-party Tested
It is vital to check if bodies responsible for evaluating food products, such as the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), have tested and approved the protein powder as safe to consume. This assures you that it is up to standard and made of high-quality ingredients, as the manufacturers claim.
3. Type of Sweetener
Various forms of artificial flavors and sweeteners are usually added to protein powders to make them more appealing. You should check the ingredients to avoid those with sugar alcohols or artificial sweeteners, as they can disturb your gut. Extra care should be taken if you have an underlying bowel-related condition. Protein powders with no added sugar, little sugar, or natural sweeteners could be chosen as they are safer.
4. Added Ingredients
Ingredients vary from product to product, so you must go through the product label to rule out any allergens, especially among the additives. Moreover, some protein powders have been reported to contain carcinogenic heavy metals, so you should thoroughly research before choosing your preferred option.
As added tips, you should also track your intake of protein powders and pay attention to your body so you can reduce or stop consumption if there are changes in functioning. Before incorporating a protein powder into your diet, consult a registered dietitian to see if you need it.
In summary, protein powders are healthy if made from good quality products that have been third-party tested. The dietary supplement can help you attain your bodily goals and maintain good health if consumed properly. However, protein powder intake is optional as most people meet their protein needs through whole foods alone.
Protein powders only help enhance your diet and do not work as meal replacements. Ensure proper research before purchasing any such product. Full meals with balanced nutrients should always be prioritized. Protein powder can be taken in addition to full meals to give the body the overall nutrition it needs. That said, every individual has unique health considerations and requirements, and a professional can provide personalized guidance based on your specific needs and medical history.
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- Is Protein Powder Healthy? Here's What a Dietitian Says
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- Protein powder pros and cons: What to look for to support weight loss and overall health
- Protein Powder: Our Point of View
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