Adding protein powder to a glass of milk or a smoothie may seem like a simple way to boost your health. After, all, protein is essential for building and maintaining muscle, bone strength, and numerous body functions. And many older adults don't consume enough protein because of a reduced appetite.
But be careful: a scoop of chocolate or vanilla protein powder can harbor health risks. "I don't recommend using protein powders except in a few instances, and only with supervision," says registered dietitian Kathy McManus, director of the Department of Nutrition at Harvard-affiliated Brigham and Women's Hospital.
Protein powders are powdered forms of protein that come from plants (soybeans, peas, rice, potatoes, or hemp), eggs, or milk (casein or whey protein). The powders may include other ingredients such as added sugars, artificial flavoring, thickeners, vitamins, and minerals. The amount of protein per scoop can vary from 10 to 30 grams. Supplements used for building muscle contain relatively more protein, and supplements used for weight loss contain relatively less.
Earlier this year, a nonprofit group called the Clean Label Project released a report about toxins in protein powders. Researchers screened 134 products for 130 types of toxins and found that many protein powders contained heavy metals (lead, arsenic, cadmium, and mercury), bisphenol-A (BPA, which is used to make plastic), pesticides, or other contaminants with links to cancer and other health conditions. Some toxins were present in significant quantities. For example, one protein powder contained 25 times the allowed limit of BPA.
How could protein powder contain so many contaminants? The Clean Label Project points to manufacturing processes or the existence of toxins in soil (absorbed by plants that are made into protein powders).
Otherwise, get protein from whole foods: nuts, seeds, low-fat dairy products (yogurt, milk, cheese), legumes (beans, lentils), fish, poultry, eggs, and lean meat. "You'll find," McManus says, "that there are many ways to get protein without turning to a powder."
The current recommended dietary allowance (RDA) is 0.8 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight, though if you're an active exerciser, you may want to shoot for 1.2 to 2 grams per kilogram of body weight. An easier way to think about it? Carolyn Brown, MS, RD says a general rule of thumb is looking at 20 to 30 grams of protein per meal. Most protein powders come with about 18 to 20 grams per serving.
Artificial sweeteners or sugar alcohols: Many protein powders (and protein bars) contain artificial sweeteners or sugar alcohols to add a bit of sweetness, but these compounds may cause GI distress, SELF previously reported, especially in the forms of bloating, gas, cramping, or diarrhea. Plus these artificial ingredients may not be great for your gut health, Brown says. Examples of artificial sweeteners include sucralose and aspartame, while sorbitol and xylitol are some sugar alcohols.
This protein powder blend is chock-full of functional mushrooms and a combination of organic hemp protein powder, organic American pea protein, organic chia, organic pumpkin protein, and organic coconut protein, containing 18 grams of protein per serving. It also uses real vanilla versus artificial flavoring and sugars, and the formula is free of gums and other fillers too.
This vanilla collagen powder is a favorite of Mackenzie Burgess, RDN, registered dietitian nutritionist and recipe developer at Cheerful Choices: "Try blending this vanilla collagen into "proffee" (TikTok's viral protein coffee) or a protein mug cake"
There are many different types of protein powder, including dairy-based and plant-based powders. In this article, we discuss some of the health benefits of protein powder and the different types available.
Eating protein-rich foods and taking supplements may help people feel fuller for longer. Feeling full tends to result in smaller portion sizes and less frequent snacking, which can help a person maintain a healthy weight or lose weight if necessary.
A 2018 analysis of 49 studies supports the use of protein supplementation for this purpose. The research suggests that protein supplements significantly improve muscle size and strength in healthy adults who perform resistance exercise training, such as lifting weights.
The researchers also noted that once protein exceeded 1.6 grams (g) per kilogram (kg) of body weight (or 0.73 g per pound (lb) of body weight), the participants did not experience any additional benefits.
There are several different types of protein powder. Whey is the most popular protein supplement and the one that researchers have tended to focus on, but it is not the only one. Common types of protein powder include:
Excessively high levels of protein in the diet can also result in a reduced intake of other beneficial foods, such as fiber-rich fruits, vegetables, and legumes that the body uses to feed and sustain gut bacteria.
Protein powders can be a beneficial supplement for many people, especially for athletes, older adults, vegetarians, and vegans. They are a convenient source of complete protein. Sometimes they also contain other nutrients.
Protein shakes are a really popular and convenient way of getting more protein into your everyday diet, supporting your muscles throughout your gym training. Protein shakes come in a variety of formulas, so you can find the perfect protein powder to support your unique workout goals.
How "good" they are would depend on how they are used within the grand scheme of your whole diet, as well as how they complement other lifestyle-related behaviours. However, the research does tend to be fairly one-sided in supporting the use of protein powder is not just improving body composition, but also performance recovery, weight management and even as a means of reducing the impact of age-related loss of lean muscle mass.
Most protein shakes would be considered keto-friendly, however, "diet" shakes, "weight-gainers" and "recovery" shakes would all likely contain an amount of carbohydrate that would take you out of a ketogenic state.
Studies reveal that whey protein can help build and maintain muscle mass, assist athletes with recovery from heavy exercise, and increase muscle strength in response to strength training (11, 12, 13).
One 2009 study in young males showed that whey protein increased MPS 31% more than soy protein and 122% more than casein protein following resistance exercise (14). In a newer 2021 study on rats, researchers also found that the dairy proteins milk, whey, and casein have more impact on MPS after exercise than soy protein (15).
Other studies suggest that whey protein may improve body composition by decreasing fat mass and increasing lean mass, especially when paired with resistance training and decreased calorie intake (17).
Casein is a type of protein found in milk that is digested and absorbed more slowly than whey protein, which can reduce the rate of muscle protein breakdown. It may be also more effective at increasing muscle growth than some other types of protein, including soy and wheat.
However, egg protein powders are typically made from egg whites rather than whole eggs. Although the protein quality remains excellent, you may experience less fullness because the high fat yolks have been removed.
Egg white protein is a good source of essential amino acids and is rich in leucine. Though more research is needed on the potential benefits, egg white protein supplements may be a good alternative to whey or casein for those with dairy allergies.
A 2015 animal study noted that pea protein is absorbed slower than whey protein but faster than casein. Its ability to trigger the release of several fullness hormones may be comparable to that of dairy protein (39).
Another small study found that whey protein and pea protein were similarly effective at improving body composition, muscle thickness, workout performance, and strength when paired with 8 weeks of high intensity functional training (40).
Pea protein is a good source of BCAAs and contains all nine essential amino acids. It may also be comparable to whey protein in terms of its ability to increase fullness hormones and improve body composition, strength, and performance when combined with exercise.
Hemp is rich in beneficial omega-3 fatty acids and several essential amino acids. However, it is not considered a complete protein because it has very low levels of the amino acids lysine and leucine (37, 43).
The 8-week study demonstrated that daily consumption of 0.8 ounces (oz), or 24 grams (g), of rice or whey protein resulted in similar changes in body composition and performance when combined with a resistance training program (45).
Rice protein contains all essential amino acids but is not considered a complete protein. Though research is limited, one 8-week study found that rice protein and whey protein were similarly effective at improving body composition and performance when paired with resistance training.
Due in part to their high fiber content, plant proteins tend to digest slower than animal proteins. Although this may not pose a problem for many people, it can limit the amino acids your body can use immediately after exercise.
One small 2015 study provided resistance-trained young males with 2.1 oz (60 g) of whey protein, a pea-rice protein blend, or a pea-rice blend with supplemental enzymes to accelerate digestion. The enzyme-supplemented powder was comparable to whey protein in terms of the speed at which amino acids appeared in the blood (46).
Many protein powders contain a blend of plant sources to provide all nine essential amino acids. However, plant proteins are digested more slowly, which can limit the amount of amino acids available for your body to use immediately after exercise.
For instance, for people with a dairy allergy or those interested in limiting their intake of animal products, vegan protein powders sourced from plant-based ingredients like peas, flax seeds, hemp, or brown rice may be a good option. 041b061a72