One of the most common questions I get is “Do you think protein powders are helpful?”
My answer is, “Sometimes.”
Here’s why I say that—let’s take a crash course on protein powders.
What’s in that scoop?
Protein is a macronutrient found in foods such as meats, dairy products, eggs, nuts and beans.
Proteins are made up of amino acids. The nine essential amino acids that your body can’t produce (and must come from your diet) are Histidine, isoleucine, leucine, lysine, methionine, phenylalanine, threonine, tryptophan and valine.
A protein is said to be “complete” when it contains all nine if it’s missing one or more it’s “incomplete.”
What are my protein needs?
Recommended daily intake of protein for an average adult male is 56 grams per day, and for females, it’s 46 grams.
It’s easy to get what you need when you consider the protein in many foods. For example, four ounces of chicken has 33.8 grams, four ounces of salmon has 29.1 grams, and four ounces of beef has 32 grams.
But there are circumstances under which your body might need more protein:
1- In the teen years
A teenager may need more protein, especially if he’s participating in sports because his body is still growing and uses more protein in general.
2- When you’re starting or changing an exercise program
If working out is new to you and especially if you’re trying to build muscle, you’ll likely require more protein than you normally would.
Also, if you normally run five miles four times a week, but then you start training for a marathon, your body will definitely need more protein.
3- If you’re going vegan
People who pursue a vegan or vegetarian lifestyle eliminate a number of protein sources from their diet, including meat, chicken, and fish, and sometimes dairy and eggs as well.
The skinny on powders
Protein powders come in a variety of forms, the most common of which are whey, soy, egg, rice and casein-based products.
Here are some things to consider about each:
Whey protein is the most popular type of protein supplement. Whey is a complete protein created during the process of turning milk into cheese. As such, it may be a concern for people with dairy allergies.
Soy protein is one of the few plant proteins that’s a complete protein, but beware: Soy is becoming increasingly genetically modified. The process of genetically modifying crops creates protein structures that are completely foreign to your body…and time will tell what effects these “Franken-proteins” will have on your health. Soy is also a common allergen.
Egg protein is made by separating out egg yolks and dehydrating egg whites. They’re a great source of complete protein, but they too are a common allergen.
Rice protein is hypoallergenic and easily digested and tolerated by most people. The downside is that rice protein is not a complete protein.
Casein protein is a complete protein that is produced using a separation process applied to milk that can isolate the milk protein. But it’s also an allergen for many.
Do I need a protein powder?
Although some people supplement with protein powders to make sure their protein needs are met, the vast majority are athletes that are looking to build muscle!
As far as grams of protein needed for athletes go, here are some guidelines:
- Recreational athletes need 0.5-0.75 grams of protein daily for every pound of body weight
- Competitive athletes need 0.6-0.9 grams per pound
- Athletes building muscle mass need 0.7-0.9 grams per pound
That being said, there are other considerations that you need to be aware of when using protein supplements.
What protein powders don’t tell you
Before muscle grows, your body’s rate of protein synthesis must also increase…and that doesn’t come about automatically by eating more protein. It’s a complex process that involves your cell signaling and DNA to make those amino acids turn into muscle.
Plus protein synthesis is done by your liver. So if your liver isn’t as healthy as it should be, guess what–you might be running low in protein regardless of what you take in.
Lastly, too much of anything is never a good thing, and that includes protein.
Excessive intake of protein can lead to excess acid waste accumulation. Over time this can trigger kidney problems, accelerated bone loss and even osteoporosis!
Get your protein and use it!
Whether or not you choose to use protein powders is up to you. If you feel you have the need, then, by all means, there are a lot of great products out there.
To ensure that your body gets the amino acids you need AND can use them, it’s crucial to have a diet that your body can more easily digest and features a variety of protein sources.
Make sure you have the enzymes too!
If you’ve had a typical modern diet for a while and/or have taken antacids, chances are excellent that you have expended way more digestive enzymes than Nature intended …and you may have diminished your body’s ability to produce enough. This can, in turn, impact your system’s ability to break down protein sources into their amino acids!
If you think enzymes may be a concern for you, an enzyme supplement like Digestizol Max can be just what you need.
Now you are armed with the information you need to not only decide whether protein powders are right for you but also the advice you need to make sure you’re absorbing those precious amino acids!