What Is Protein Powder? Health Benefits & Hidden Dangers (Guide 2022)

protein powders

You’ve undoubtedly overheard the men behind the weight machines at your gym gushing about the protein shakes they like drinking after a workout. People nowadays use protein powders as a dietary supplement. They blend it into a drink or sprinkle it over cereal.

Protein powders are widely available and sold in most health food stores and online. Now, supermarkets and health food shops provide ready-to-drink protein drinks for extra convenience. But can just bodybuilders profit from protein powders, or can regular athletes also use them?

You may already be consuming protein powder if you’re trying to maintain a healthy weight and physical appearance. However, you should be aware that not all protein powders are identical. Some are more potent, some have more of the eight necessary amino acids, some will keep you satisfied for longer, and some are vegan-friendly. 

This review will help you determine whether or not protein powders are appropriate for your fitness objectives.

What Is Protein Powder? Is It Good For You?

Different types of protein powders are available. The most famous types include whey, soy, and casein protein. Whey is the most popular choice since it is a complete protein from milk and can be easily digested due to its high water solubility. All nine essential amino acids are present in complete proteins. However, vegans may prefer soy protein despite its less pleasing flavor and worse solubility in water.

The cost of protein powder varies greatly. In the words of experts, the price is not that relevant for the casual athlete who doesn’t have a special requirement at a given stage of their training. Less costly and more widely accessible proteins may provide essentially the same advantage. Thus, their usage is not wasteful. Professional athletes and other hard-training individuals often use protein powder as a dietary supplement to ensure they get enough protein. To increase muscle mass and strength, it is common for individuals to try to consume more protein.

Muscle protein is composed of 20 amino acids, nine of which are considered essential and eleven others considered secondary. The three essential amino acids known as BCAAs—leucine, isoleucine, and valine—are required for constructing muscle. Protein powders may vary greatly in the number and types of these ingredients they include. Most plant-based protein sources lack some important amino acids, whereas animal-based ones contain them.

Types Of Protein Powders

Protein powder comes in a few distinct varieties. Most studies have focused on whey since it is the most popular protein supplement, but it is not the only option. Common varieties of these dietary supplements include:


Animal-based protein powders include whey. Whey is a milk protein that dissolves in water and is a favorite choice among sportspeople. It contains all essential amino acids for human nutrition, making it a complete protein. The body requires the best whey protein powder for fast and readily effects.


This protein is high in glutamine, an amino acid that may accelerate muscle repair after exercise. Casein originates from dairy, making it inappropriate for vegetarians and anyone with milk allergies. The body digests this nutrient more gradually, so it may be preferable to take it at night.


People who are lactose intolerant or otherwise avoid dairy products may replace their protein needs with soy protein, which is a complete protein. Additionally, it has a complete set of amino acids.


The protein from peas is a high-quality alternative to the protein found in soy and dairy and is thus included in many plant-based protein powders. The amino acid arginine is plenty in pea protein.


Seeds from hemp are rich in essential fatty acids and contain all the essential amino acids. Those who are vegan or have allergies to dairy or soy will find plant-based proteins a great food option.

The cost and quality of protein shakes vary widely. However, the protein powder market remains unchecked by the FDA in the United States.

Many of the most popular protein powders on the market may contain heavy metals, including lead, cadmium, and arsenic. Therefore, consumers should exercise extreme care when shopping for protein powders and instead choose products sold by reputable companies.

Health Benefits of Protein Powder

Protein is essential for your muscles, bones, and skin structure. Hormones, enzymes, and other chemical processes can’t happen without them. Potential protein powder health advantages include:

Managing Your Weight

Many forms of protein powder are commercially available. People may experience more satiety after eating protein-rich meals and taking protein supplements. People who are satisfied with their food eat less and rely on snacks less often. As such, this may aid in weight management. According to research published in 2017, taking a whey protein supplement may help those who are overweight or obese shed excess pounds and fat. Heart disease risk factors may be mitigated, including systolic and diastolic blood pressure, total cholesterol, etc.

Increasing Muscles Mass

Muscle development requires protein. Many athletes and gym rats drink protein smoothies after strength training because they think it will help them bulk up.

In 2018, researchers looked at 49 trials and found that they all favored using protein supplements for this reason. Protein supplements may dramatically increase muscle growth and strength in healthy people who exercise resistance (e.g., lifting weights). Moreover, the supplemental protein was just as beneficial for women as it was for males. However, as individuals age, their protein needs increase. Therefore the efficacy may decline. Protein has been shown to provide health benefits, although these effects were negated when intake levels were higher than 1.6 grams per kilogram.

Post-Workout Recovery

As well as aiding in muscular development, protein may assist heal injured muscles and tissues. For this reason, some athletes utilize protein powder to reduce the time it takes for their muscles to recover from exercise-induced discomfort.

Using protein supplements post-workout will speed recovery, improve muscular function, and boost protein synthesis.

Extra nutrients

Individuals should take at least 46 grams of protein per day for women and 56 for males, respectively, if they’re 19 or older.

Protein powder might be a simple solution if you, like several vegans and vegetarians, have difficulties getting these amounts. Protein intakes above the average may be necessary for certain individuals, including athletes, weight lifters, the elderly, and those with long-term health problems.

Studies suggest that athletes who exercise very often may benefit from consuming between 2.4 and 4.0 g of protein per kilogram of body weight each day. T

How to Use Protein Powder?

You can enhance your fruit smoothie by the addition of protein powder. People should figure out their dietary requirements before starting to use protein powders. Protein powders are an option for those whose diets do not include enough protein. To be safe, however, you should limit your protein intake. Many folks can’t handle the 80 g in a single serving of certain powders.

According to a study, chronically high protein intake may negatively impact kidney and liver function. It may also affect the body’s natural calcium and bone levels.

However, suppose you don’t take foods abundant in fiber, such as fruits, vegetables, and legumes, that the body uses to feed and sustain intestinal flora. In that case, high protein intake can compensate for this imbalance.

In addition, experts have not decided yet which is the best time to use protein supplements. Many advocates recommend taking it post-workout, although studies have shown inconsistent outcomes, leaving study conclusions ambiguous. The latest scientific evidence reveals that taking protein supplements with meals is more effective than taking them in-between meals for weight management and fat mass reduction.

According to a study, individuals who consumed 30 grams of protein after exercise, even on a reduced-calorie diet, had better protein synthesis outcomes.

To prepare flavored protein powder, just combine the powder with water as directed on the container. Many individuals like blending protein powder with milk, fruit, and vegetables to create a nutritious smoothie.

Read What Dieticians Say About Protein Powders

A typical serving of protein powder is two scoops (about a quarter cup) using the plastic spoon included in the pack. A single meal may contain between twenty and twenty-six grams of protein. Powders often have few calories and few carbohydrates. First, analyze your aim for this crucial macronutrient to understand how a powder serving fits your daily demands.

The daily protein requirement for a healthy adult who does little exercise is 0.8 g/kg BW, or roughly 2.2 lb. However, protein demands may rise depending on your exercise level and age. Some studies suggest that 1.4–2 grams per 2.2 pounds of body weight are necessary for gaining muscle mass due to strength training, whereas 1–1.2 grams per 2.2 pounds of body weight is recommended for those over 60.

One serving of protein powder may provide about a third of your daily protein needs of about 60 grams. That’s not trivial; in fact, it’s rather crucial.

You may assess your protein powder based on its nutritional value by comparing its protein content to other protein-rich meals. Protein powders provide the same amino acids as a 3-ounce lean chicken breast in a single meal. One serving of supplemental protein may provide even more than a serving of cooked lentils.

Individuals use protein powders to replace other protein sources or add them to a meal to increase the protein level. Even with a few tablespoons of almond butter, a smoothie prepared with vegetables and fruit has very little protein (around 6 grams). Blending in a powder may quickly raise the protein level to a more substantial proportion of your daily requirements, which converts the drink into a food supplement.

Purposes of Different Proteins

Whey protein is ideal for regular consumption as one of the most often consumed proteins. It’s an excellent source of all nine necessary amino acids and digests quickly. An increase in energy and a decrease in tension are two benefits.

After exercise, whey isolates and concentrates are most effective.

Another popular option is soy protein. Some women report a reduction in menopausal symptoms and a decrease in high cholesterol after taking this. Moreover, it aids in bone mass development, which might be useful in treating osteoporosis.

Due to its slower absorption rate than whey, you may consume egg protein daily. Milk’s protein content aids in boosting the immune system and building muscle mass. Brown rice protein is a wonderful option for vegetarians and those who don’t eat dairy since it comes from a plant. Also, it doesn’t contain any gluten. Protein from peas is cheap, easy to digest, and hypoallergenic. The protein found in hemp is also entirely vegetarian. There are plenty of healthy omega-3 fatty acids to be found in it.

The best protein for weight loss such as shakes don’t include fillers like sugar or sweeteners made from starch. Avoid those that include branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs), which stimulate muscle development and fat accumulation. If you are lactose intolerant or vegan, you should avoid consuming milk-based protein drinks (such as whey or milk proteins) and instead consume shakes made entirely of plant proteins (such as soy, pea, or hemp). Patients with diabetes should choose sugar-free protein drinks (avoid protein powders with sugar among their top three components). Look for a smoothie that is also minimal in carbs ( 5-15 grams per serving).

How To Pick The Best Protein Powders

If you’re in a hurry but still want to give your body the nourishment it needs, try a protein powder. Many people use them to achieve weight loss goals, boost athletic performance, increase muscle mass, and enhance general health.

However, there seems to be an infinite number of protein powders available. Hence, it might be difficult to determine which kind is ideal for your specific needs.

Dietitian experts emphasize the importance of understanding the variety of protein powders on the market and how they compare to a protein found in complete foods.

Third-Party Analysis

Protein powders are not subject to inspection by the FDA because of their unregulated nature. To be sure you’re getting what you pay for, look for protein powders that have been independently tested.

Use only protein powders with the NSF seal of approval. The NSF is a group that offers impartial testing of protein powders and other nutritional supplements to guarantee their quality, purity, and safety for consumers. Alternatively, any third-party laboratory may run the tests on the powder. As such, manufacturers should display the results on their websites.

Substance Class of Sugar Substitute

Protein powders come in many different varieties, each with its unique blend of flavorings. Some use sugar alcohols or artificial sweeteners to get their sugary taste.

Select a protein powder with a natural sweetener like stevia or monk fruit or one with no added sugar.

Additional Components

If you want to be sure your protein powder doesn’t include any nasty fillers, you should read up on it. To be sure you’re buying safe food for your family, research organizations like the Clean Label initiative and read consumer reports.

Check your Medical Profile

Patients with renal illness should avoid consuming large amounts of protein at once. If you’re looking for powder, go for anything on the lower end of the protein spectrum (10 to 15 grams per serving). Patients with IBS or lactose intolerance may have digestive issues with powders that include lactose sugars, sugar substitutes, or dextrins/maltodextrins. It’s best to avoid gluten-containing powders if you have celiac disease or gluten sensitivity. Ready-to-drink protein shakes are more expensive than tubs of protein powder because of their added convenience.


Protein consumed within 60 minutes of exercise may aid in recovery for athletes and other heavy exercisers. At that time, your muscle tissue is most receptive to protein development and repair effects.

Eating protein at every meal and snack might help you feel full longer, which can be helpful for weight management. While there is no hard and fast rule about how much protein you should eat at once, most experts agree that you should consume at least 3 ounces (or 20 grams) at each meal.

Adding Flavors to Your Drinks

Depending on the components and protein source, the flavor of each protein powder is different. To expand their offerings beyond vanilla, chocolate, and strawberry, many manufacturers rely on fillers or flavor enhancers developed by food experts. Making protein shakes using milk or water-soluble milk protein instead of water will give them a creamier, milkshake-like texture and enhance their flavor. Mix with a single serving of fruit or even a spoonful of peanut butter to create your flavor enhancers.


You can get all the protein you need for the day from smoothies or eating full meals. However, they don’t supply equivalent nutrients.

Perhaps unexpectedly, shakes are often less nutrient-dense than full meals. For that reason, smoothies may help you lose weight, but entire meals might give a stronger nutritious impact.


Protein Powders FAQs

  • Can I get by without using a protein supplement?

You need more protein than the current recommendation of 55g per day if your workout regimen consists of weight lifting, cardiovascular activity, or endurance training. Protein powder is convenient and fast to meet your daily protein needs. A fast-digesting protein like whey may be a lifesaver when you’re too tired to sit down and eat a normal meal after a workout. Slow-releasing proteins like casein are ideal before bed because they provide your body with the amino acids it needs to repair muscle tissue as you sleep. The word “supplement” alone should serve as a reminder that these products are meant to complement rather than replace a healthy diet. The best method to get the protein you need daily is via red and white meat and fish since these foods also include several other important elements.

  • What is the proper method for taking in protein powder?

Protein powder is versatile; it may be consumed as is, blended into a nutritious fruit smoothie, or even used as an ingredient in the kitchen (protein powder recipes are a booming industry).

  • What dosage of protein powder should I take?

For a good reason, 30 grams is the standard serving amount recommended by most protein powders. According to studies, this is about the right quantity to help your muscles recover after a workout and kickstart the muscle-building process known as protein synthesis. You will not only become larger and stronger but slimmer as well, thanks to the fact that a high-protein diet has been shown to help decrease body fat.

  • How often should I consume protein powder?

The best time to ingest a protein powder is immediately after exercise, when your muscles demand the supplement most. Drinking a shake made of whey protein combined with cold water or milk within half an hour after completing your exercise will help speed up the recuperation process. This will cause your bloodstream to be flooded with amino acids, which will then be quickly shuttled into your muscle cells to be converted into new muscle tissue.

Protein powder is versatile and may be consumed whenever it is convenient. Put a scoop of your preferred flavor into a blender with an egg and a banana, and blend until smooth. Having the ingredients on hand to whip up a shake is a lifesaver when you’ve been on the go all day and haven’t had a chance to sit for a full dinner.

Some whey protein products seem excessively priced.

Some well-known companies’ items may appear pricey, but their excellent quality and effectiveness don’t come cheap. On the other hand, you get what you pay for, just as with good meals. 

  • So what if I’m on a strict diet?

The good news is that non-dairy protein powders are easier to come by than they ever have been and can be used by vegans. Most protein powders will work for vegetarians if they examine the ingredients. If you have food allergies or follow a limited diet, you should always read the labels of the products you buy to determine whether or not they are safe for you to eat.

  • Taking protein powder may lead to weight gain, right?

Though protein powder alone is unlikely to be the culprit, your use may lead to excess weight. You may gain weight, for instance, if you add protein powder to your regimen without making other dietary changes.

To summarize, there is no need to worry about any adverse effects that may occur from consuming a protein shake on a rest day or during a time when you are doing fewer activities than you would normally perform. Weight gain is possible if high-protein smoothies are consumed independently rather than as a workout supplement.

  • Can I use protein smoothies instead of actual exercise?

Protein smoothies cannot replace your primary meals. These protein shakes lack the necessary range of vitamins and minerals to be a useful dietary source. Moreover, protein smoothies augment a person’s amino acid intake.

  • If I don’t use the protein in my diet for muscle growth, what will happen to me?

Protein shakes are surprisingly calorically dense given their high protein content and the prevalence of indulgent ingredients like peanut butter and chocolate. Protein shakes may add a lot of additional calories to your diet, which might contribute to weight gain if you’re not exercising regularly.

  • What happens when you increase your protein intake?

Excess protein is often retained as fat, while excess amino acids are eliminated. This might result in weight gain over time, particularly if you eat too many calories while attempting to boost your protein consumption.

  • When should I drink protein powder?

Many people drink protein smoothies after working out because of protein’s muscle repair and regenerative function. However, studies show that it makes little difference whether you consume the smoothie before or after your exercise routine.

Wrap Up: What Does Protein Powder Do?

Athletes, the elderly, vegetarians, and vegans are just some of the groups who may benefit from supplementing with protein powders. You can get all the amino acids you need from them quickly. There are occasions when they also have additional nutrients.

Although some people may benefit from a higher protein intake, this is not the case for everyone. Those who consume protein-rich foods but don’t engage in strenuous weight exercise don’t need to take protein supplements.

Selecting a high-quality product and consulting a physician or nutritionist before starting a protein powder supplementation program is recommended for anybody looking to improve their diet.

When is the best time to utilize a protein powder if you’ve concluded that you need supplemental protein? Experts recommend consuming them as a snack or meal replacement at any point in the day, but not immediately before or after exercise. And keep in mind that if you have access to a regular, balanced diet, there is no practical need for protein powders.

Is protein powder healthy? Yes, provided it passes independent quality assurance testing, has low sugar content, and no dangerous additions. You may supplement your diet with protein powders and still consume the foods you like. Protein powder complements your diet, so keep that in mind. That’s why we say it’s a dietary supplement. It would be best to prioritize getting your protein from whole foods as a balanced diet.

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