Protein Powders: The Good and The Bad
As you lace up your trainers and hit the park for a run or step up your time at the gym to start your weight loss or body building journey, you’ll need to start to adapt your nutritional intake to match the additional work that your body is doing.
If you have been visiting the gym, you’ve probably heard the guys working out talking and laying emphasis on protein supplements they take after workout and the kind of protein they prefer.
Protein powders have become so popular ever since body building and weight loss became a trending issue.
Protein powders can be made into a shake or consumed however you like. Protein powder, which you can be quickly throw into smoothies, shakes, soups or add to homemade protein bars.
You can buy your protein powder in every nutrition store and all over the internet. You can findpre-mixed, ready to drink protein shakes at the store.
Increased training and fitness means working your muscles more, adding tension to your joints and bones, as well as increasing tone and density. And the key to muscle recovery, fatigue prevention and injury is protein.
Made up of amino acids, which are the building blocks of muscle in the body, protein is an important food source to ensure healing, tissue repair and stimulate cell growth.
It is traditionally found in meat, fish, milk and eggs but for good sources for vegetarians include pulses (lentils, chickpeas, beans), soy products (edamame, tempeh and tofu), nuts and seeds like quinoa. Read more about foods that contain whey protein here
Body builders and athletes use protein powder because it is one of the easiest ways to add more protein to your diet in terms of digestion and absorption.
What are the benefits of protein powder?
This is a question you must have been asking yourself. Why eat protein powder when my diet contains protein?
The fact is these days, we don’t get enough nutrients from our diet due to over-cooking. Over cooking causes nutrient loss. This is why we need supplements.
Body builders and dieters need protein supplements because they need protein to help them achieve their goals.
Adding protein powders to their diet means that they are taking the amount of protein they need to achieve their goals.
It is commonly believed that dieters, athletes and bodybuilders should consume more protein than sedentary people to maintain optimal physical performance.
So supplementing with protein alongside a healthy diet and the right fitness plan will help you lose weight, burn fat, build muscle and satisfy your daily nutrition requirements.
The reason most body builders don’t gain the amount of mass they want is because they don’t take protein supplements very serious.
Building your muscle is about protein balance. If you make more muscle protein than you break down, your muscles will increase in size and strength.
However, if you make less muscle protein than you break down, your muscles will tend to get weaker and smaller.
Because bodybuilders have increased lean body mass and burn extra calories working out, they require more protein than people who are sedentary. This is another major reason for taking protein supplements.
Of course, one of the best ways to get the amount of protein that your diet requires is through solid food, but as many bodybuilders would agree that it is not always easy to get all of their protein through solid foods. This is where protein powders have their place.
Bodybuilders and dieters prefer protein powders because:
- Protein powder is very easy to digest
Body builders and athletes like protein powder because it is very easy to digest. It can be mixed with water, milk, cereal or added to your favorite smoothie.
- Helps increase protein intake
Protein powders will provide your body with the necessary foundation to create the amino acids that it needs to build muscle tissue, quicker and more efficiently.
Athletes and bodybuilders get enough benefit from the intake of protein powders because intensive physical activity requires higher than usual levels of protein.
By eating more protein, you will also be giving your muscles more time to recover but they also grow faster as a result.
Because solid food takes more time to digest and to break down the protein and send it to the muscles, it can be best to take your protein powderimmediately following your workout session, since protein powders digest easily and protein shakes only take about 30 minutes to reach the muscle after ingestion.
A teenager who is building his body needs more protein in his diet because he needs it to fuel his workout. The teenager’s body is still growing, so he needs more protein in general.
- It helps burn fat
You have probably ben told or you must have read about protein’s fat burning abilities. A muscle-building protein powder is by no means a substitute for a fat loss supplement.
Fat loss supplements, on their own work in a much different manner as they are formulated to increase a person’s metabolic rate or minimize food cravings.
Protein powders on the other hand also help you stay fuller for longer, yet increases the ability of your muscle to repair and build new fibers quickly to increase body mass.
Protein powders are very important for body builders who also need to burn excess fat from their body.
- It helps pairs muscle
During your workout session, when you lift weights, you are actually tearing the fibers of your muscle tissues.
These tears are very little that you are not really damaging the muscles to a very dangerous extent, but the damage is enough that your body tries to prevent it.
Your body needs protein to repair the damage done to your muscle fibers, but it also is necessary in order to lengthen and expand the muscle fiber.
- It helps enhance performance
Taking protein powder helps improve performance because it reduces stress and lowers cortisol levels (hormone that destroys level).
- It provides ATP energy
Your brain and organs require glucose so as to function well, but your muscles rely on a different form of energy which is known as ATP.
Without the presence of essential amino acids, your body won’t produce ATP energy, and the amino acids currently in your body will be turned into waste products and eliminated.
Without ATP energy, your muscles won’t have power to contract. This means your muscles won’t be able to lift, curl, press or squat.
There are other benefits to taking protein powder. These benefits include:
- Protein powder boosts immune system
Daily intake of protein supplements can help boost your immune system.
Protein powder is an ideal supplement for those who are attempting to recover from an injury or illness. It may speed up the recovery of wounds or other ailments by encouraging the growth of new tissues.
- It promotes healthy skin
A diet that is high in protein helps prevent and reverse skin aging. It has been reported that those who do not take adequate amount of protein tend to age faster than those who take enough protein.
A loss of muscle tone and sagging skin on legs and arms could also result due to low intake of protein.
Do protein powders have any side effects?
Now that you understand the importance and benefits of protein powders, it is vital that you know the possible downsides to it.
Like every other supplement, protein powder has its own possible side effects which are:
- The supplements are not regulated by the FDA
Under the Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act of 1994 (DSHEA), protein supplements, like every other supplement, have not been regulated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
This means that there is no need for supplement manufacturers to register their products with FDA and they do not need FDA approval before producing or selling dietary supplements.
Unfortunately for us, this lack of a regulation might result in products with contaminants.
- Risk for ketone buildup
The recommended daily intake of protein for healthy adults is 0.75 g of protein/kg body weight, which translates into approximately 45 to 56 g of protein a day.
The recommended daily intake for adult athletes is about 1.5 g/kg body weight, with a range of 1-2 g/kg body weight.
Taking excessive protein can lead to a buildup of ketones bodies. When an excessive accumulation of ketone bodies occurs, an abnormal but not necessarily harmful state called ketosis results.
With higher levels of ketone bodies progresses, the body’s pH is lowered to dangerously acidic levels, thereby leading to a state called ketoacidosis.
As your kidneys get rid of these toxic ketones from your body, you can lose a significant amount of water, which in return, puts you at risk of dehydration, especially when you exercise heavily.
Dehydration from a ketogenic diet can also make you feel weak and dizzy, cause you to have bad breath, and lead to other health problems.
- Weight Gain
Weight gain could be a side effect for you when using protein powders. Your body uses protein as energy for its cells, and it also uses it to build muscle. Your body is limited in the amount of energy and muscle it can store from protein.
If you consume more protein than your body actually needs, which not surprisingly is very easy to do with protein powder, your body won’t use it to build muscle or store it for later use.
Extra protein converts into fat, and your body stores it that way as excess pounds. The body’s fat storage capacity is limitless.
This could cause unwanted weight gain for you.
- It can cause dehydration
Consuming too much of a protein powder supplement can increase your risk of dehydration.
When your body metabolizes protein, it makes use of extra water to properly use and eliminate protein byproducts.
If you’re using protein powder for the purpose of enhancing muscle gains through exercise, you’re at an even greater risk of dehydration because exercise induces excess fluid loss through perspiration.
Signs and symptoms of dehydration are fatigue, headache, lightheadedness, decreased urine output, dry mouth and excessive thirst. So you know you are dehydrated when these occur.
- It can lead to kidney problems
When your body metabolizes proteins, your kidneys take the up the responsibility for excreting protein’s waste products, urea, uric acid and ammonia.
When your body produces a large amount of urea, your kidneys may become overwhelmed by their filtering task, therefore they may begin to fail, according to the American Association of Kidney Patients.
If you consume too much protein supplement, you are at an especially high risk of reduced kidney function if you happen to have an underlying kidney problem, because your kidneys may already have trouble eliminating protein’s waste products.
- High intake of protein may cause Osteoporosis
Your body releases acid when you take in large amounts of protein. To buffer the higher acid load in your body, your bone releases calcium, and the calcium and acid are excreted together through your urine.
Chronic loss of calcium in your urine can weaken your bones and this will likely increase your risk of osteoporosis as you grow older.
If you are woman consuming too much protein, you are at an even higher risk of osteoporosis.
Should I consume protein powder or avoid it?
After reading about the benefits and side effects of the much talked about protein powder, you may begin to get confused and contemplate or taking it or totally avoiding it.
The bottom line is…
Protein powders for a healthy, noncompetitive adult who participates in recreational sports and sedentary people are usually not really necessary.
If you are an active person, and you are eating a healthy balanced diet, chances are you do not need a protein supplement and using one will be counterproductive because of the extra calories (do not forget, 1 gram of protein provides as many kilocalories as 1 gram of sugar!).
However, athletes, body builders and vegetarians are special individuals that may require protein supplements.
Athletes and body builders, especially the ones who train with weights and burn a significant amount of calories from cardiovascular and aerobic training, may require additional supplementation.
However, their need for extra protein could be easily obtained through the diet, thereby negating the use of protein supplements. But protein powders are easily digestible and ready to consume.
Vegetarian diets are often very low in protein, so supplementing on protein may be appropriate.
Now, if you’re still interested in trying a protein powder supplement or following a high-protein diet, consult your doctor in advance to ensure that you don’t have an underlying health problem that could be worsened by supplementation.
Once your doctor or health care provider gives you the thumbs up, find a protein supplement that contains all nine of your body’s needed essential amino acids.
Protein powders like other supplements have their good and bad sides. This article has shed light on whether they are good or bad for you as an individual and how they can help you achieve your goals.
When buying your protein powder, buy the one that your body needs to function well and make sure you are buying one that is of good quality.
However, do not replace your main diet with protein as it is not a food but a food supplement. Remember, a healthy diet is important for the success of your weight loss and body building journey.