There’s a certain stereotype when it comes to protein powder, and it tends to involve a super-ripped bro in a white tank, chugging a protein shake in the gym. Especially if you’re a woman, protein powder can seem like a “dude-only” thing, reserved mainly for the hardcore bodybuilding set. But whether you’re male or female, an avid weightlifter or a cardio bunny, it’s time to get on board with protein powder.
Protein powder has a number of benefits: it accelerates fat loss, builds lean muscles, and increases strength. Below, we outline everything you need to know about the chalky stuff, including how to select the best type of protein for your needs and some creative ways to sneak more protein in your diet.
Benefits of Protein Powder
Everyone needs protein in their diet—the recommended daily amount is 46 grams for women and 56 for men—but if you work out regularly, you might require even more than that. However, we don’t all have the time to bake a chicken breast or throw some steak on the grill. Therein lies the beauty of protein powder: It’ a convenient source of concentrated, high-quality protein. Many protein powders pack as much as 30 grams in a single scoop, along with a rich supply of essential amino acids, vitamins and minerals.
If you feel like you’re putting in time at the gym but not seeing the results you want, you might consider adding protein powder to your diet for that extra little oomph. Upping your protein intake can help you shed flab and build lean muscle mass, research has found. For example, a 12-week study published in the journal Nutrition & Metabolism found that obese subjects who drank an isometric shake containing whey protein lost, on average, 6.1% of their body mass fat compared to subjects who drank a control beverage.
Protein powder can also help keep hunger pangs at bay, making it an effective weight management tool, evidence suggests. According to a 2008 study, protein supplementation was found to increase feelings of satiety in overweight or obese patients, and it even accelerated fat loss.
Lastly, consuming protein can help aid in muscle recovery and strength building. According to a recent study published in January 2015, protein supplementation was found to promote muscle strength and enhance aerobic and anaerobic power in active individuals.
Animal-Based Protein: Animal-based protein powders include two main types: whey protein and casein protein. Both are derived from dairy products and provide a rich source of protein, vitamins, minerals and amino acids. Whey protein tends to be the most popular and readily available choice because it is fast absorbing and contains very little lactose or fat. Casein, on the other hand, contains lactose, so it might not be suitable for individuals with lactose intolerance; it’s also slower to digest, so it might create intestinal upset for some individuals.
Vegetable-Based Protein: Vegetarians and vegans might consider opting for plant-based protein powders, which include soy protein, pea protein, brown rice protein, and hemp protein. Plant-based protein powders provide a safe alternative for people with allergies to milk products or for those who adhere to a vegetarian, vegan or raw diet. Soy protein powder is comparable to whey protein in its protein levels, but there are concerns about the effects of soy-based food on hormones like estrogen and testosterone.