Protein Powder: The Ultimate Fuelled Guide to Protein Powder Supplementation
|Article At A Glance|
Protein is important in building, repairing and maintaining body tissue and plays a vital role in various physiological processes.
Whey and plant-based protein powders are commonly used and come in several types, including whey protein concentrate, whey protein isolate, casein protein, and whey protein blends.
The amount of protein recommended for daily consumption differs depending on one's physical activity level and health, and although there is limited evidence to suggest a high-protein diet is harmful, exceeding one's protein needs can impact macronutrient balance.
|Platinum Blend by UM Sports|
|Whey Protein Isolate by UM Sports|
|100% Casein by Optimum Nutrition|
So you’ve decided to learn more about protein powder, or perhaps you already use it but don’t know how much to take, regardless, you’ve come to the right place.
In this article, we uncover everything about protein powder, including why we need it, the best type, and how much to consume (based on your goals).
We discuss some of the common myths surrounding protein powder supplementation and provide links to some protein powder recommendations based on some favourite staff picks.
Protein Powder, Why Do We Need It?
Before we dive into protein powder, what do we need protein for?
Protein is one of the three macronutrients, and an essential component in building, repairing and maintaining tissue in the body. Amino acids are the building blocks of proteins, and although roughly 500 have been identified in nature, only 20 contribute to forming proteins.
In addition to building protein, amino acids are involved in synthesising other compounds, such as creatine, peptide hormones, and neurotransmitters, making them a crucial element in various physiological processes in the body (Lopez & Mohiuddin, 2022).
Although adequate protein intake is essential for multiple physiological processes, is incorporating a protein supplement into your diet necessary?
A recent study revealed that 1 in 3 adults (>50) consume insufficient dietary protein, which is imperative for maintaining lean body mass and preserving strength while aging.
Studies have linked protein powder consumption to increased strength and muscle size; therefore, protein supplementation may benefit people wanting to improve strength, power or general exercise performance. (Morton et al., 2017).
Which Protein Powder Is The Best?
So we’ve established the importance of protein powder and its health benefits; the next question is, what type of protein should I buy?
Usually, when it comes to whey or plant protein, it comes down to personal preference, dietary restrictions, or lifestyle choices.
This section will explore the different types of protein powder and help you determine which option suits you.
Whey Protein Concentrate (WPC): The most cost-effective form of protein that contains a good balance of amino acids that are well absorbed. WPC is smoother and creamier in taste than WPI, and can be used as an all-rounder protein for everyday use. WPC is best purchased in Whey Protein Blends.
Whey Protein Isolate (WPI): A rapidly absorbed form of protein due to its higher protein content and lower levels of fat and lactose. WPI undergoes further processing to remove impurities, resulting in a more pure form of protein. WPI is best used as a post-workout protein where rapid muscle recovery and growth are needed.
Whey Protein Blend: A blend often consists of all of the above, generally resulting in a protein powder that provides a high protein source perfect for optimal muscle recovery and growth.
Casein Protein: A slow-digesting protein that offers a slower release of protein into the bloodstream. Casein is most commonly used for a sustained source of protein across a period of time, such as overnight or during periods of fasting.
How Much Protein Should You Consume?
Possibly one of the most common questions asked when it comes to protein powder intake is, how much should I be consuming?
According to current Australian guidelines, the recommended daily allowance (RDA) for protein intake is 0.8 grams per kilogram of body weight (Health, 2021).
Unfortunately, this number doesn’t represent the ideal intake for protein and more so represents the minimum intake the body needs to prevent malnutrition. More studies even suggest this baseline RDA should sit higher at around 1.0 g/kg (Elango et al., 2010).
So how much do we really need then if this isn’t enough?
A study was actually done on healthy, sedentary adults in a metabolic ward for eight weeks to determine this (Bray et al., 2012). In this study, participants were divided into three groups, a low protein (0.7g) group, a normal protein (1.8g) group and a high protein (3.0g) group.
Turns out, consuming between 1.2-1.8 g/kg is the more optimal daily protein intake for healthy, sedentary adults.
If we look at this article written by examine.com, which outlines a fairly extensive summary of protein intake based on these findings, we get a more accurate daily protein intake number.
If you’re sedentary
(You don’t exercise, but you should)
1.2 - 1.8g per kilogram of body weight.
If you’re healthy and active
1.4 - 2.0g per kilogram of body weight.
If you’re healthy and active
(build muscle / maximise fat loss)
1.6 - 2.4g per kilogram of body weight.
You’re an experienced lifter on a bulk
(And want to minimise fat gain)
up to 3.3g per kilogram of body weight.
If you’re overweight
1.2 - 1.5g per kilogram of body weight.
Can You Consume Too Much Protein?
According to Examine.com, limited evidence has been shown that eating a high-protein diet is harmful to human health, assuming there isn’t any pre-existing damage or dysfunction to the kidneys or liver.
If you do have specific kidney or liver issues, you will need to consult with a healthcare practitioner for recommendations on protein consumption.
Please keep in mind that eating more protein than you need will have an impact on your macronutrients, which is always something to keep in mind.
Is There A Best Way To Consume Protein Powder?
Okay so we’ve selected our protein and know how much to consume, what is the best way to consume it?
If you’re calorie conscious, throwing a scoop into a shaker full of water is probably the best option.
if you’re looking to maximise nutritional density (whilst being calorie mindful), blend that sucker with your favourite dairy or nut milk, and include a range of wholesome berries, coconut flakes, and peanut butter (skip for allergies of course).
Don’t be afraid to get creative with protein powder and mix it into yoghurts, and cereals or add it to cooking.
We absolutely love adding Platinum Blend by UM Sports to greek yoghurt, it creates a healthy chocolate mousse!
When Should Protein Powder Be Consumed?
We’re often told that it’s absolutely critical to consume protein immediately after a workout. That’s actually not entirely true.
While it is definitely beneficial to consume protein post-workout, it’s not the most important factor to consider for muscle growth.
Instead, we should be more aware of the total amount of protein we consume through-out the day, rather than the tiny snippet of time we allow after our workout (Schoenfeld et al., 2013).
In other words, it is more important to ensure that we consume sufficient protein daily, rather than focusing solely on the timing of protein consumption.
This means we must ensure each meal has sufficient amounts of protein (approx. 30g is a good number), and we can supplement with protein powder between our core meals of the day.
Protein is an essential macronutrient that plays a vital role in various physiological processes in the body. The use of protein powders is recommended, especially for adults over 50 and those engaged in resistance training, as it promotes muscle strength and growth.
Although the recommended daily allowance (RDA) for protein intake is 0.8 grams per kilogram of body weight, a daily protein intake of between 1.2-1.8g/kg is more optimal for healthy, sedentary adults. However, those who are healthy and active, building muscle, or maximizing fat loss may need up to 3.3g/kg.
It is important to consult with a healthcare practitioner for recommendations on protein consumption, especially for those with kidney or liver issues. Lastly, consuming protein powder with water is the best option for calorie-conscious individuals, but for maximum nutritional density, it can be mixed with other ingredients such as fruits, vegetables, and other supplements.
- Bray, G. A., Smith, S. R., de Jonge, L., Xie, H., Rood, J., Martin, C. K., Most, M., Brock, C., Mancuso, S., & Redman, L. M. (2012). Effect of Dietary Protein Content on Weight Gain, Energy Expenditure, and Body Composition During Overeating. JAMA, 307(1), 47.
- Elango, R., Humayun, M. A., Ball, R. O., & Pencharz, P. B. (2010). Evidence that protein requirements have been significantly underestimated. Current Opinion in Clinical Nutrition and Metabolic Care, 13(1), 52–57.
- Health, N. (2021, April 12). Protein | Eat For Health. Eatforhealth.gov.au.
- Krok-Schoen, J. L., Archdeacon Price, A., Luo, M., Kelly, O. J., & Taylor, C. A. (2019). Low Dietary Protein Intakes and Associated Dietary Patterns and Functional Limitations in an Aging Population: A NHANES Analysis. The Journal of Nutrition, Health & Aging, 23(4), 338–347.
- Morton, R. W., Murphy, K. T., McKellar, S. R., Schoenfeld, B. J., Henselmans, M., Helms, E., Aragon, A. A., Devries, M. C., Banfield, L., Krieger, J. W., & Phillips, S. M. (2017). A systematic review, meta-analysis and meta-regression of the effect of protein supplementation on resistance training-induced gains in muscle mass and strength in healthy adults. British Journal of Sports Medicine, 52(6), 376–384.
- Schoenfeld, B. J., Aragon, A. A., & Krieger, J. W. (2013). The effect of protein timing on muscle strength and hypertrophy: a meta-analysis. Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition, 10(1).
Stephen Brumwell, Nutritionist (ANTA #40048)
Teigen Faux, Exercise Physiologist (Honours) for Scientific Accuracy