Protein powder is a common nutritional supplement found in stores frequented by athletes, but its benefits extend beyond those who work hard in the gym. Since protein is an integral part of our daily diets, adding protein powder to your routine may be beneficial.
Here’s what you should know about protein powder and a few types of people the supplement might help.
Understanding protein powder and its benefits
Protein is one of the core macronutrients that our bodies need to build and sustain muscle, repair tissue and balance hormones. Protein is most commonly found in meat, but it can also be found in a variety of other foods like eggs, nuts and seeds and more.
Protein powder uses a special formula to deliver extra protein to the body. It is usually added to water or milk to create protein shakes, but it can be incorporated into other foods and drinks for the same nutritional benefits.
Users should be aware of where their protein in their protein powder is sourced. There are many types of protein powder, including whey, casein, soy, pea and hemp. Whey is the most thoroughly researched and generally available, and it offers all the available amino acids.
However, types like whey and casein are not suitable for vegans or people with allergies because they are milk proteins. Hemp and soy protein also contain all the essential amino acids, while pea protein is higher in the amino acid arginine.
Taking protein powder can offer benefits beyond adding more protein to the diet.
- Weight management: Protein can help the body feel fuller for longer, reducing the urge to snack or indulge in extra meals. Studies have shown that protein powder may help people maintain a healthy weight and potentially lose weight (although eating a balanced diet is still extremely important!).
- Muscle growth: Protein powder is most commonly associated with a growth in muscle mass. Because protein is a key component of new muscle growth, many people pair protein powder supplements and strength training to improve their muscle size and strength.
- Recovery: Since protein is a core building block of muscles, bones and other tissues, it may be able to contribute to tissue repair and ease soreness. This is commonly needed after a workout, but could potentially be useful after injuries, as well.
Types of people who can benefit from protein powder
Just about anyone can benefit from adding a protein powder supplement to their diet, especially if they don’t eat a lot of protein-rich foods. However, certain types of people may be more inclined to take protein powder to improve muscle mass, stay healthy and give the body what it needs.
- Athletes: Athletes are probably the most likely people to use protein powder supplements regularly because of their proposed benefits to muscle growth and strength. People who are starting to work out more regularly and those who are ramping up their exercise routines will have a greater need for more protein, in particular.
- Vegans and vegetarians: People who don’t eat meat—or, in the case of vegans, any animal products—have an increased risk of lacking protein in their diets. Protein can be found in a variety of non-meat and non-animal products, but not eating enough or a variety of foods may result in a lack of certain amino acids or a protein deficit overall. Plant-based protein powders can be a great supplement in these cases.
- People with chronic illness: Individuals who suffer from chronic illnesses may be suggested to increase their daily dose of protein to help them stay as healthy as possible. Protein powder may help increase their daily protein intake without requiring a significant change in meals. Protein powder also helps offset muscle degradation during periods of weight loss; this can be beneficial for people with chronic illnesses, as well as for people who are actively trying to lose weight.
- Elderly people: Muscle mass tends to decline with age, which is why protein powder can be an excellent supplement for older adults. Taking protein powder in your later years may help maintain or increase muscle mass to keep you strong and able.
Before adding protein powder to your diet, be sure to speak with your doctor and find a well-researched supplement from a reputable company that offers an adequate amount of protein per serving to meet your needs. Long-term excessive protein use may cause damage to the kidneys and liver, so it’s important to be mindful of these risks and only take the necessary servings.