Do You Really Need Protein Powder to Build Muscle?
If you decided to step it up with your workouts, and finally started going to the gym, you’ve probably noticed something that everyone is talking about: the protein shakes they drink after or before a workout.
Protein powders made into a shake or added to other meals are getting more and more popular as a nutritional supplement. And there’s nothing wrong with it — in fact, your body needs protein. But, you should make sure you’re not getting overdosed, as it’s not a replacement of protein from food sources. Try to consume it through whole foods, choosing a balanced diet that is healthy and contains adequate nutrients. However, if you are trying to build muscle, protein powder may be acceptable, but only under one condition: To never exceed your recommended daily protein intake.
What’s Actually in Protein Powder?
If trying to read the list of all unpronounceable ingredients on the product label doesn't sound very convenient to you, let’s wrap it up this way: protein powders are processed foods, and in their simplest form, they contain either milk or egg whites. There are some vegan and plant-based alternatives too, including hemp, peas or soy-based protein powder. They can also contain added vitamins, minerals, probiotics, artificial sweeteners, caffeine, and creatine. Opt for reputable suppliers only, as some protein powders may contain heavy metals, such as lead, cadmium, and arsenic.
Types of Protein Powder
Even though whey is the most common protein supplement, it’s not the only one. Common types of protein powder include:
- Casein: This is the most abundant protein in dairy. The body digests it more slowly, resulting in a slow but steady release of amino acids into circulation.
- Egg: Egg protein powders are one of the most expensive protein supplements on the market made with pure egg white protein.
- Hemp: Hemp seeds are complete proteins which are perfect for vegans or those with dairy or soy allergies. They contain essential fatty acids too.
- Rice and Pea: These are a great alternative to soy and dairy-based proteins. Pea is an ideal source of the amino acid arginine, and rice contains essential and nonessential amino acids, plus, it's low in carbohydrates.
- Soy: Soybeans are legume high in protein while remaining relatively low in fat. You will recognize it by its stronger nutty flavor, and a bit grainier texture compared to whey. Soy protein is a great alternative to whey or casein for people who do not consume dairy. It also contains all the essential amino acids.
- Whey: Whey is a complete protein, containing high concentrations of essential amino acids including leucine, isoleucine, methionine, and lysine. The body absorbs it quickly and easily.
Do You Really Need Protein Powder?
Even though many manufacturers of protein powder claim that their shakes help decrease body fat or promote weight loss, protein powder contains calories anyway, and if you consume too much of it can actually make losing weight more difficult (especially if you don’t exercise). It’s true that replacing meals with protein shakes may help you reduce your daily calories intake, but if you rely on protein shakes to replace regular meals, you'll miss out on the nutritional benefits of whole foods. Your regular diet should contain 46 to 100 g of protein a day for adults (depending on the weight).
What happens when you get too much protein?
High-protein diet consumed for a long period of time can lead to progressive loss of kidney capacity and hypercalcemia. Otherwise, short term “protein overdose” can lead to an increase in ammonia within the body, but if you consume a slightly increased amount of water, you should be fine.