It is a tiresome task to lose weight and to keep it off. What can we do to efficiently achieve our ideal weight? Many people take protein powder in the last decade to supplement their diet and workout regimen, but some don't understand what even goes into the powder and what it can do to your body if used incorrectly. Like many fad diets and nutrition claims, there are pros and cons. We’ll let you be your own judge, but we'll give you some insight on the current research.
Protein powder have been studied to be a potential option for those who need to lose weight and to maintain that loss (1). You might find this odd as protein powder is seen to be a product used by athletes and bodybuilders for increasing physical strength and endurance. Protein powder nowadays not only contain a large amount of protein but other nutrients as well. Should one use protein powder in addition to our regular meals? Let’s explore this topic together.
Taking protein powder after exercise has shown improvement in muscle mass as well as providing more power during physical activity (2). Research has also shown that protein powder helps increase exercise capacity and has an anti-fatigueaffect (3). In addition to body strengthening, it also provides additional health benefits. For instance, consuming whey protein reveals an increase the Hemoglobin, Red Blood Cells and Hematocrit in our body which helps our blood stay oxygenated and healthy (3). Also, products that contain blueberries and green tea extract may protect us from infections after heavy exercise, therefore, has a hand in bettering our immune system (4).
Researchers have found that a high protein diet can cause an increased risk of kidney disease (5). Compared to other nutrients like carbohydrates and fat, your kidneys are more involved with the metabolism of protein. With you adding a significant amount of that into your diet causes them to overwork. The more protein you eat, the more urea will be produced as a means of getting rid of the excess amino acids and nitrogenous waste hence, causing strain to your kidneys (6). If you are looking for products that help with increasing muscle function, repairing damages as well as relieving sore muslces, protein powder is not the right product for these tasks (2). Studies have also shown that some protein powder contains pharmaceutical drugs that can cause significant damage to individuals who use it on a daily basis (7).
Another con, is for our adolescent population. While going through puberty, the consumption of whey protein have caused teens to present with more acne (8). During such a sensitive period of their lives, acne is definitely not the best outcome for this stage of development and may cause an impact to their self-esteem.
Dietitians generally deem it unnecessary for people to consume protein powder as they tend to eat ample amounts of protein already (9). The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics recommends the general public to eat well balance mealsas well as do moderate exercise in order to maintain good health (10). It is more important to have variety in your meals and receive our nutrition from natural whole food sources rather than relying on supplements (10). Some whole food sources of protein are lean meats, poultry and fish. Other good sources come from eggs and dairy. Plant sources rich in protein are beans, pulses and legumes as well as nuts and seeds. Some slightly processed food alternatives are cheeses, tofu and yogurt.
SYMPTOMS TO LOOK FOR:
The addition of protein powder as a supplement should only come in when you are deficient in protein or experiencing symptoms of inadequate protein consumption. This is a time to seek medical help.
These are the following but not always pertaining to:
- Lethargy (always tired)
- Brittle nails and flaky skin
- Muscle wasting (sunken cheeks)
- Edema (water retention in abdomen)
The recommended amount of protein you should have in a day as a normal adultshould be only 0.8 grams per a kilogram of body weight if you want to maintain a healthy protein balance. If you are exercising with the goal to significantly gain muscle weight you may consider increasing your protein consumption to up to 1.2 grams per kilogram body weight depending on your status. As everyone is different due to their health status and physical activity levels, please seek your physician or a Registered Dietitian for advice when you start a protein powder routine.
By: Emly Yuen
Final Edits By: Renée Y. Chan, MS, RD, RDN, CDN
1. Westerterp-Plantenga MS, Lemmens SG, Westerterp KR. Dietary protein – its role in satiety, energetics, weight loss and health. British Journal of Nutrition. 2012;108(S2):S105–S112.
2. Parnell JA, Wiens K, Erdman KA, Evaluation of congruence among dietary supplement use and motivation for supplementation in young, Canadian athletes. Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition 2015 16,12-49 doi: 10.1186/s12970-015-0110-y.
3. Ronghui R, The research of Anti-Fatigue Effect of Whey Protein Powder in Basketball Training, The Open Biomedical Engineering Journal, 2015, 9 330-334 doi:10.2174/1874120701509010330
4. Ahmed M, Henson, DA, Sanderson MC, Nieman DC, Gillitt ND, Lila MA,The protective effects of polyphenol-enriched protein powder on exercise-induced susceptibility to virus infection 2014 28(12) 1829-36 doi: 10.1002/ptr.5208
5. Juraschek SP, Appel LJ, Anderson CAM, Miller ERM, Effect of a High-Protein Diet on Kidney Function in Healthy Adults: Results From the OmniHeart Trial American Journal of Kidney Diseases 2013,61(4) 547-554 doi: 10.1053/j.ajkd.2012.10.017
6. Maughan RJ, Quality assurance issues in the use of dietary supplements, with special reference to protein supplements American Society of Nutrition. 2013, 143(11) doi: 10.3945/jn.113.176651.
7. Whitney E, Rolfes SR. Understanding nutrition. Stamford: Cengage Learning; 2015. 200
8. Silverberg NB, Whey protein precipitating moderate to severe acne flares in 5 teenaged athletes. Cutis 2012 90(2) 70-72.
9. Parnell JA, Wiens KP, Erdman, KA, Dietary Intakes and Supplement Use in Pre-Adolescent and Adolescent Canadian Athletes Nutrients 2016, 8(9), 526; doi:10.3390/nu8090526
10. Freeland- Graves JH, Nitzke S, Position of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics: Total Diet Approach, Journal of the Academy of Nutrition And Dietetics, 2013,113(2) 307-317
About the author:
Emily Yuen is a second year Food, Nutrition and Health student at the University of British Columbia. She is a sports enthusiast who loves to play Ultimate Frisbee on her free time. She wishes to become a sport dietitian and help athletes with their fitness goals.