Is Protein Powder Actually Healthy?

And we’ve finally found THE BEST protein powder!

Close up of a jar with white powder and a scoop in it against a background of a bottle with milk
Photo by Kristiana Pinne on Unsplash

Proteins are molecules that protect your body. So we MUST consume via diet and supplementation to stay in the best shape.

The current Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) for healthy individuals is 0.8 g of protein for every kilo of your body weight per day. So if you weigh 70 kilos (~154 lbs), you must aim to consume 56g (0.1 lbs) of protein every day.

This can be through protein-rich foods like

  • Poultry and meat: eggs, chicken, seafood, shellfish,
  • Veggies: corn, broccoli, Brussel sprouts, asparagus, artichokes
  • Legumes and lentils: Chickpeas, edamame, soybeans, adzuki beans
  • Whole grains: Quinoa, millets, rice, wheat, buckwheat
  • Nuts and seeds: Almonds, chia seeds, hemp seeds, walnuts, sunflower/pumpkin seeds

Choose plant-based protein sources for better absorption and less lethargy or post-meal slump. They’re also highly sustainable, cheaper and linked to fewer health hazards.

Protein powders FTW!

Another way to meet our daily requirements is through protein supplements. The most commonly used and widely known form of supplement is a protein powder. It’s made from eggs, milk (casein, whey) and plants (soybeans, peas, hemp).

Since it’s the most easily available, pocket-friendly, easy-to-use and bioavailable, we choose protein powder as the go-to supplement. Workouts, body weight regulation, intermittent fasting, clean eating routines — whatever the reason, a good protein shake checks all boxes.

Or that’s what is expected.

But did you ever wonder what happens when you guzzle down a tumbler of protein shake before or after workouts? Why does your trainer insist on stocking up on these powders? Or why are people coming up with meal recipes with protein powders all the time?

It’s because you NEED protein.

Proteins are integral to our body’s functioning, housekeeping and to our survival. Here’s what research says about the benefits of protein powder and/or proteins:

8 Health Benefits of Proteins or a High-quality Protein Powder

1. Boost Performance and Recovery

This is exactly why protein shakes will never run out of business!

There’s increasing evidence to prove how and why proteins boost performance and muscle mass. A low-calorie diet along with supplementation prevents post-workout side effects. High protein intake also helps in quick recovery from fatigue and injuries caused due to intense training.

2. Support Bone and Joint Health

Every bone in our body is composed of ~35% of protein (mostly, collagen) and 65% of minerals like calcium and phosphorus.

We, therefore, need adequate protein intake to maintain bone density and muscle mass. Older adults can limit the risk of falls and fractures by consuming enough calcium along with a high-protein diet. In fact, a study suggests that whey protein supplement preserves bone health and muscle mass without any adverse effects.

3. Regulate Blood Sugar

Protein-rich foods and supplements improve overall blood glucose control. Though the exact mechanism remains unclear, high protein intake lowers blood sugar levels in type 2 diabetic patients.

This could be because proteins take longer to convert to glucose. They take longer to digest and will not shoot up blood sugar levels immediately. The latter can be harmful to normal and diabetic individuals with insulin deficiency.

4. Detoxify and Enhance Immunity

Low protein intake weakens the immune system. This occurs because proteins (and their constituents, amino acids) regulate the production, circulation and maintenance of immune system cells. They are also crucial to the production of antibodies and other molecules that actively fight pathogens and protect us from infections/diseases.

Foods rich in amino acids like glutamine, arginine and proline may boost your immunity. They help in the synthesis of anti-inflammatory proteins that flush out toxins and free radicals to detoxify our blood.

According to experts, a Mediterranean diet includes many such foods and is the best option to boost immunity. You now know what to eat during the flu season!

5. Improve Sleep, Mood and Brain Health

Proteins are crucial for our brain and sleep cycle to function well. Our brain extensively uses amino acids — tryptophan, tyrosine, histidine and arginine — to synthesize protein-based molecules called neurotransmitters. Therefore, providing these amino acids through food and supplements improves our memory, mood, anxiety, sleep quality and overall brain health.

Supplements with whey and soy protein isolates are also rich in vitamin B12 and folate. These, along with other minerals in our food, have shown a positive impact on the nervous system and cognition.

6. Slow Ageing

A protein-rich diet helps support the diverse processes in our body and extends longevity. Proteins in food and supplements are broken down into amino acids (like tryptophan and leucine), which keep a tight check on inflammation levels in our body.

When we’re able to reduce inflammation, our immunity, organs, muscles and skin are preserved and work better. In short, you stay healthier, look and feel younger, and live longer.

As you age, about 30%–35% of your diet should constitute proteins.

7. Maintain Heart and Digestive Health

Research shows that higher plant-based protein intake may reduce the risk of heart diseases and heart failure. Add more fish, shellfish, whole grains, lentils, beans and peas and limit lean meat intake. This approach continues to be highly debated though.

Unsalted nuts, seeds, tofu and other plant-based high-protein foods are excellent to boost heart and digestive health. Such a diet favours the growth of good gut bacteria, protecting us from pathogens and gastrointestinal diseases. Including rice, soy and wheat in your diet improves the gut microbiome, thereby, overall digestion.

8. Help With Pain and Inflammation

Proteins bring about pain and also relieve pain. What a beautiful irony!

Higher protein intake has proven to reduce and control inflammation levels in the body. Special proteins (histamines and C-reactive protein) ably suppress allergies and free radical damage. Long-term clinical studies clearly show that plant protein has a superior anti-inflammatory effect compared to animal counterparts. So, stock up on lentils, beans, nuts and seeds.

How do you best reap the benefits of proteins and protein supplements? It’s all about the quality of the supplements and when you consume them.

When’s the best time to drink your protein shake: Pre-workout or Post-workout?

Most studies recommend post-workout.

Simply because it contributes to one’s total daily energy and protein intake. Also, not consuming anything post- or pre-workouts may not significantly affect muscle mass development, strength and recovery.

A high-quality protein supplement contains almost no fillers, allergens or preservatives and still tastes great, just like the ones from our favourite brand Pure Le Natural.

Pure Le protein supplements contain literally THE BEST quality ingredients in their most bioavailable form. They’re also:

  • Gluten-free
  • GMO-free
  • Therapeutic-grade
  • High potency
  • Kosher
  • Low-calorie
  • Fat-free
  • Keto-friendly
  • Paleo-friendly
  • Low on FODMAP

Get your hands on the Pure Le protein family today! Know more about them here.

Psst! They also offer a WATER-flavoured protein! (Whaaaaat!!!)

References

  1. 2015–2020 Dietary Guidelines health.gov Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
  2. Protein The Nutrition Source, Harvard T.H.Chan School of Public Health
  3. Workout Supplements The Nutrition Source, Harvard T.H.Chan School of Public Health
  4. Whey Protein Isolate Supplementation While Endurance Training Does Not Alter Cycling Performance or Immune Responses at Rest or After Exercise Front Nutr. 2019; 6: 19.
  5. Effects of Protein Supplementation on Performance and Recovery in Resistance and Endurance Training Front Nutr. 2018; 5: 83.
  6. The Effect of a Whey Protein Supplement on Bone Mass in Older Caucasian Adults J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 2015 Jun; 100(6): 2214–2222.
  7. Bone Health In Brief Micronutrient Information Center, Linus Pauling Institute, Oregon State University
  8. An increase in dietary protein improves the blood glucose response in persons with type 2 diabetes Am J Clin Nutr. 2003 Oct;78(4):734–41.
  9. Protein: metabolism and effect on blood glucose levels Diabetes Educ. 1997 Nov-Dec;23(6):643–6, 648, 650–1.
  10. Amino acids and immune function Br J Nutr. 2007 Aug;98(2):237–52.
  11. Nutrition and Immunity The Nutrition Source, Harvard T.H.Chan School of Public Health
  12. Amino Acid and Protein Requirements: Cognitive Performance, Stress, and Brain Function The Role of Protein and Amino Acids in Sustaining and Enhancing Performance, Bookshelf, National Library of Medicine
  13. Association Between Dietary Protein Intake and Sleep Quality in Middle-Aged and Older Adults in Singapore Front Nutr. 2022; 9: 832341.
  14. The Effect of Whey and Soy Protein Isolates on Cognitive Function in Older Australians with Low Vitamin B12: A Randomised Controlled Crossover Trial Nutrients. 2019 Jan; 11(1): 19.
  15. Role of Dietary Protein and Muscular Fitness on Longevity and Aging Aging Dis. 2018 Feb; 9(1): 119–132.
  16. Dietary Protein and Changes in Biomarkers of Inflammation and Oxidative Stress in the Framingham Heart Study Offspring Cohort Curr Dev Nutr. 2019 May; 3(5): nzz019
  17. Protein Consumption and the Elderly: What Is the Optimal Level of Intake? Nutrients. 2016 Jun; 8(6): 359.
  18. Heart-Healthy Foods: Shopping List MyHealthfinder,Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion
  19. Effect of Dietary Protein and Processing on Gut Microbiota — A Systematic Review Nutrients. 2022 Feb; 14(3): 453.

--

--

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store