Updated: Feb 20
Protein powder is a popular supplement used by people looking to increase their protein intake, build muscle, and improve athletic performance. It is typically made from animal-based proteins, such as whey or casein, or plant-based proteins, such as pea or rice. In this article, we will explore the benefits and disadvantages of protein powder and how it can be used to support a healthy lifestyle.
Benefits of Protein Powder Supplementation
Protein powders are a convenient method of ingesting protein without having to cook or prepare foods. They are a dried powder that only needs to be mixed with a liquid like water, milk, or juice in order to be ingestable (via drinking). A scoop of protein powder contains on average, 20g of protein. The quality and utilization of this protein depends on the type of powder the protein is derived from.
One of the main benefits of protein powder is in its nutritional ability to deliver protein, which helps build and repair muscle tissue. When we lift weights or engage in other forms of resistance exercise, we create small tears in our muscle fibers. These tears are then repaired during the recovery process, leading to muscle growth. Protein is an essential nutrient for this process, and protein powders can provide a convenient and easy way to increase our protein intake.
Drinking protein powder could also help with weight loss. "Several clinical trials have found that consuming more protein than the recommended dietary allowance not only reduces body weight (BW), but also enhances body composition by decreasing fat mass while preserving fat-free mass (FFM) in both low-calorie and standard-calorie diets" (Moon and Koh, 2020). Protein offers high satiety (it can help us feel fuller for longer), making it easier to stick to a calorie-controlled diet. Adequate protein intake can also help preserve muscle mass while dieting. This is important because muscle tissue is more metabolically active than fat tissue, meaning it burns more calories even at rest.
Types of Protein Powder
There are several types of protein powders on the market, including whey protein, casein protein, soy protein, and pea protein. Each type has its own unique set of benefits and drawbacks, so it's important to consider he one that best fits your individual needs and goals.
Whey Protein - One of the most common types of protein powders is whey protein. Whey protein is a type of protein powder made from the liquid portion of milk that is separated during the cheese-making process. It is a fast-acting protein that is easily absorbed by the body and has a high biological value. Whey protein is a complete protein, meaning it contains all nine essential amino acids, and it is also rich in branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs), which are important for muscle growth and recovery. It is often taken after a workout to support muscle repair and recovery, and it can also be used as a meal replacement or snack to help with weight management. Whey protein is available in a variety of flavours and can be easily mixed with water, milk, or other beverages to make a protein shake. A drawback of whey protein is that most brands unless otherwise indicated, will contain lactose, a sugar found in milk. For those that are lactose intolerant, whey proteins may upset your stomach and cause other unwanted side effects. Luckily, more and more brands are releasing lactose free versions (although it may be at a premium price).
Casein Protein - Casein protein is a type of protein powder made from the protein found in milk. It is a slow-digesting protein that is often taken before bed to help with muscle repair and recovery during sleep. Casein protein is also rich in branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs) and is a good source of calcium. It is a good choice for people looking to support muscle growth and recovery, and it can also be used as a meal replacement or snack to help with weight management. Unlike some other types of protein powders, casein protein can thicken when mixed with liquid, making it a good option for adding to smoothies or making protein-rich pudding.
Soy Protein - Soy protein is a type of protein powder made from soybeans. It is a plant-based protein that is a good choice for vegetarians and vegans. Soy protein is a complete protein, meaning it contains all nine essential amino acids, and it is also high in other essential nutrients, such as fiber and healthy fats. It is a good choice for people looking to support muscle growth and recovery, and it can also be used as a meal replacement or snack to help with weight management. Soy protein is available in a variety of flavours and can be easily mixed with water, milk, or other beverages to make a protein shake, although mixability depends on the brand and some do clump up. It is important to note that some people may have an allergy or intolerance to soy, so it is important to check with a healthcare professional before adding soy protein to your diet.
Pea Protein - Pea protein powder is a dietary supplement made from peas, a type of legume. It is a plant-based alternative to animal-based proteins such as whey or casein. Pea protein powder is high in protein, with a typical serving providing 20-25 grams of protein. It is also rich in essential amino acids, making it a complete protein source. Pea protein powder is easy to digest and is suitable for individuals who may be lactose intolerant or have a sensitivity to dairy products. It can be added to smoothies, shakes, or baked goods as a protein boost. Some people use pea protein powder as a way to increase their protein intake while following a vegan or vegetarian diet.
It is important to note that protein powders should not be used as a sole source of protein. It is important to get a variety of proteins from whole food sources, such as meat, poultry, fish, eggs, beans, and nuts. Protein powders can be a convenient and easy way to supplement your protein intake, but they should not replace whole foods in your diet.
How to Choose The Right Protein Powder
One of the first things to consider when choosing a protein powder (and also how you take it) is your individual goals. Are you looking to build muscle, lose weight, or support athletic performance? Different protein powders may be better suited to different goals.
For example, whey protein is a fast-acting protein that is easily absorbed by the body and has a high biological value, making it a popular choice for post-workout recovery. Casein protein, on the other hand, is a slower-digesting protein that can be taken before bed to help with muscle repair and recovery during sleep, while also providing higher satiation ( a feeling of fullness ) than whey.
2. Dietary Preferences
Another factor to consider is your dietary preferences and needs. If you are vegetarian or vegan, you may want to choose a plant-based protein powder, such as soy or pea protein. If you have lactose intolerance or a milk allergy, pea protein may be a good option. It is also important to consider any allergies or intolerances you may have to ingredients found in protein powders, such as soy or gluten. Protein powders may also contain artificial sweeteners and fillers which are not agreeable with some people. Keep an eye out for those!
Protein powders come in a variety of qualities, depending on origin, protein type, ingredients, and production process. Look for protein powders that are made from high-quality sources, such as grass-fed dairy or organic plant-based proteins. It is also a good idea to choose protein powders that have been tested for contaminants, such as heavy metals or pesticides, as powders could have a higher chance of containing elevated concentrations of these unwanted substances due to the nature of the product.
4. Taste and Mixability
Finally (and maybe most importantly), consider the taste and mixability of the protein powder. Some protein powders may have a chalky or grainy texture, which can make them difficult to mix or unpleasant to drink. Look for protein powders that are smooth and easy to mix and choose a flavour that you enjoy. This will make the protein powder making process easy (imaging only having to shake your bottle twice vs shaking it 50+ times to get rid of the clumps).
A tub of protein powder may also last 30 - 60+ servings so the flavour is important because you will be drinking it until you finish the tub. Experiment and play around! Our favourite is anything with chocolate or peanut butter.
In conclusion, protein powder is a popular supplement that can help with muscle building and repair, weight loss, and athletic performance. There are several types of protein powders to choose from, including whey, casein, soy, and pea protein, each with its own unique set of benefits and drawbacks. It is important to choose the one that best fits your individual needs and goals, and to remember that protein powders should not be used as a sole source of protein.
It is also very important to always remember to wash out the water bottle or shaker bottle you use to mix your protein in. After even a few hours (and especially if left in a car on a hot summer's day), the leftover protein powder may create an awful smell and a sludge that will make it harder to clean your bottle. It is also for this reason that we prefer protein bars! Taking in the fact that we do not need to deal with a dirty shaker bottle, protein bars are even more convenient! If you are looking for a delicious protein bar with 25g of protein, check out our Zentein protein bars! They are also made with collagen protein, a special type of protein.