Protein powders have gained widespread popularity, not just among professional bodybuilders and athletes, but have become a convenient source of complete protein for vegetarians, vegans and older people.

Protein powders are supplements that contain proteins or amino acids, in their simplest form, which can be easily digested and absorbed as they are in an elemental state.

Who needs protein powder?

Protein is a key macronutrient that makes up muscle, bone, cartilage and skin. Hence it is important to include enough protein in a person's diet.

The Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) of protein is 0.8 grams per kilogram of body weight. The number can vary based on a person's age, sex, activity levels, muscle mass and health status.

Most people get adequate protein from their diet and may not require a protein supplement. However, it is a convenient and useful supplement if someone is not getting enough protein from dietary sources. It is also useful for bodybuilders and athletes to meet their additional protein requirements.

Types of protein powder

There are three main types of protein powders:

1. Whey protein: It is a fast-absorbing protein often recommended after exercise. Whey is the watery portion of milk that separates from the curds when cheese is made. Although mostly used by athletes for strength, it is believed to have immunity benefits and is used by people with asthma, diabetes and many other conditions.

2. Casein: It is a slower digesting protein that gives milk its white color. Since it is slower digesting, it might help in reducing appetite and increasing feelings of fullness. It is used by athletes, people with diabetes and liver disease caused by alcohol consumption and many other conditions.

3. Plant protein powders: They are made from the combination of protein derived from wheat, pea, hemp or soy products that helps in tissue building.

Benefits of protein powder

1. Helps in muscle building - Protein powder helps to improve muscle strength and build muscle mass after resistance training.

2. Used in weight management plans - It can give a satiating effect and might help to suppress appetite. Many weight management plans incorporate it as part of their reduced-calorie diet.

3. Prevents muscle loss in older people - Studies have shown that the use of protein powder might help tackle sarcopenia, an age-related progressive loss of muscle mass and strength.

4. Helps to reduce inflammation - High doses of whey protein have been found useful in reducing C-reactive protein in the blood, a key marker of inflammation in the body.

5. May lower blood pressure - Bioactive peptides, called lactokinins, in whey protein may help lower blood pressure in people who suffer from high blood pressure.

6. May help treat type 2 diabetes - Taking a whey protein before a high-carb meal has been shown to moderate blood sugar levels.

Side effects of protein powder

Apart from protein, it might contain other ingredients that can be harmful to health if used in excessive quantities.

1. Heavy metals

Protein powder may contain heavy metals like cadmium, arsenic, mercury and lead due to contamination from pesticides and contaminated ingredient sources. These heavy metals when consumed in excess can lead to various neurological, reproductive and metabolic problems.

2. Artificial sweeteners and sugar alcohols

To enhance the flavor of protein powders, artificial sweeteners and sugar alcohols are added to them. Excessive use of artificial sweeteners affects the gut microbiome. Studies in mice have also shown that artificial sweeteners can have negative effects on glucose metabolism and can lead to weight gain.

High-protein alternatives

For people who want to get high protein from their diet but do not want to opt for protein powders, here are some natural alternatives to include in the diet:

  • Meat- chicken, beef, pork, and lamb
  • Fish and shellfish
  • Dairy products
  • Eggs
  • Tofu
  • Soybeans
  • Hempseeds
Protein supplement
These 12 brands of protein powder have been specially formulated for women, allowing them a healthy and effective protein supplement for proper muscle development las - initially (Lori Semprevio) CC BY-NC-ND 2.0