Protein is an essential part of a balanced and healthy diet. It’s an important macronutrient, aiding your body in tissue repair, muscle growth, and a range of other bodily functions. For many people, it can be difficult to include an adequate amount of protein in their diet – nutritional supplements like protein powder can help to top them up. There are other benefits too, especially when combined with regular exercise, like aiding in weight loss and toning muscles.
If you’re thinking about incorporating extra protein into your diet, it’s important to know what you’re putting into your body. There are plenty of proven health benefits to using protein powder, as long as it’s being consumed safely and in moderation, that is. Check out the following article for a brief overview of the pros and cons of the popular supplement.
Pro #1 – Health Benefits
If there weren’t recognisable health benefits to protein powders, then nobody would use them, right? Protein is a key component in bone, muscle, and skin, and your body needs it for a variety of other functions too, like enzyme and hormone production. It’s important to take in the right amount of protein – but this will change slightly, depending on your goals. For example, many gym enthusiasts and athletes will consume additional protein in order to fuel muscle growth, and help them to ‘bulk up’ after strength training. However, research also showed that it is only beneficial up to a certain point – once protein consumption exceeds 1.6g per kg of body weight, it no longer has a noticeable effect on the muscles.
Protein powder can also help with weight management. Protein-rich supplements make people feel full, and hence they are likely to reduce the amount of real food they consume. This could mean a reduction in snacking, or limiting portion sizes. Either way, protein powder can be very helpful for the overweight or obese, allowing them to lose bodyweight more easily.
Pro #2 – Convenience
As previously mentioned, some people may struggle to get their required protein through food alone, particularly vegetarians and vegans, who have fewer protein sources to choose from. Incorporating a supplement can give them the boost they need and can be consumed whenever it’s convenient. Unlike a protein-rich meal, powder can be used when you’re out and about, or don’t have the time or the appetite to eat. It could even be added to meals that are low in protein, like porridge or pancakes.
Pro #3 – High-Quality Protein
If you choose to buy your supplements from a respectable source, it’s likely that you’ll be getting high-quality forms of protein. You could pick whey protein, casein, soy, etc. – they’re all good options. Protein powders are what’s called ‘complete proteins’, meaning they generally contain all of the amino acids the human body requires and can absorb them with ease. Occasionally, however, you might not be getting what you’ve paid for – this is discussed later. Another option you could go for is enhanced protein. Ingredient Optimized’s enhanced protein is a high-quality, superior formula, which is designed to provide maximum physical nutrition while also delivering a satisfying taste. Backed up by FDA approval and over five years of research and development, their ‘ioWhey’ protein is not only safe and organic but provides a higher absorption rate than traditional whey protein.
Pro #4 – Saving Money
Depending on where you make your purchases from and how you use the product, protein powder can be very cost-effective. Based on price per gram of protein, supplements are significantly cheaper than alternatives like eggs and chicken breast. In truth, they can’t be used as alternatives to a balanced meal, but purely as a protein source, they’re an excellent way to save money.
On the other hand, nutritional supplements can potentially be quite expensive, especially if bought in a shop dedicated to fitness. Unfortunately for the high-street stores, they can no longer compete on price with online suppliers.
Con #1 – Potentially Consuming Too Much Protein
Protein powder should always be used in moderation. As previously mentioned, at a certain point the body has no use for excess protein, and additional consumption can be harmful. The dangers associated with excessive protein consumption include fatigue, headaches, cramps, and nausea. Experts believe it can also lead to kidney damage (as the kidneys need to work overtime to process the extra waste products of protein metabolism), and even an increased risk of cancer.
Another risk is unwanted weight gain. If used improperly, the excess protein you take can end up being stored as fat. This is also the case if you eat more protein in place of other important food groups, like carbohydrates.
Con #2 – Lack of Micronutrients
This disadvantage is primarily due to people replacing meals and other protein sources with powder alone. Supplements don’t typically contain the vitamins that regular food does, but they can make you equally full. Hence, many people will skip meals or eat less than they normally would, missing out on essential micronutrients like iron, zinc, and potassium. Furthermore, as much as companies advertise the health benefits of their products, there’s no real nutritional benefit of taking in protein powder as opposed to regular food. You can easily get your required protein without a supplement, even if you’re trying to up your intake for muscle growth or toning.
Con #3 – Unknown/Hidden Ingredients
This one isn’t applicable to most reputable protein brands, but it’s something to watch out for. Some products contain added sugars and oils, which can lead to potentially unwanted weight gain. This also defeats the purpose of consuming a ‘healthy’ diet supplement if it’s actually full of additional fats. Furthermore, some powders can be contaminated with ingredients not listed on the label. This can occur due to inconsistent regulation of supplements, and it means they can occasionally contain toxins such as bisphenol-A (BPA). BPA is an industrial chemical used to make plastics and resins, and research has shown that it can occasionally seep into foods from the inside of containers. While it has been classified as safe in very low levels, some protein powders have been found to contain far more than the legal limit.
In almost all cases, your workout supplement will be completely safe. However, it’s best to know exactly what you are consuming, so make sure you do a little research into the company beforehand. As well as checking the label for unwanted ingredients, take a quick look at reviews online to make sure similar customers were happy with the product. This can help you avoid any potentially nasty surprises.
To conclude, there are several things to consider if you’re thinking about incorporating protein powder into your diet. It can act as a cost-effective and useful way to increase your protein intake, promoting muscle growth and even weight loss. It is also far more convenient than traditional sources – you can drink it on the go in shake form or add it to meals. However, remember to be careful when choosing a supplier, and do some research beforehand, as some companies can provide low-quality or even unsafe products. If bought from a trusted source and consumed responsibly, protein powder can be a great help in achieving your health goals.