Beginner’s Guide: Protein Powder for Health and Wellness
April 5, 2022
Did you know that protein is found in every single cell in the human body? It’s in our hair, skin and virtually all of our other body parts and tissue.
That’s why protein, or more specifically the twenty-plus amino acids that it’s composed of, is considered the building blocks of the body. It plays a key role in creating and maintaining our cells. It also helps our blood carry oxygen, aids in the digestive process and famously helps build muscle.
“Protein is essential to repair muscles, strengthen bones, help you stay energized and to support healthy skin, teeth, hair and nails,” says Dr. Dawna Venzon, a registered dietician and a principal research scientist for Nutrilite™ products with more than a decade of experience in the nutraceutical industry. “We all need to ensure we’re getting an adequate amount of protein each day.”
The body can make certain amino acids itself or modify others from food, but it can’t store them. And there are nine essential amino acids our bodies need that only come from food sources, which is why you need to pay attention to your daily protein intake.
You can get your recommended amount of protein each day through meats, poultry, fish, eggs and dairy products, or it can be from plant-based sources like peas, beans, whole grains, nuts and seeds. It can also be from protein powder.
Protein powders are exactly what they say they are: powdered forms of protein. If you’ve looked at protein supplements before, you know that whey protein and plant protein are the two main contenders on the market. But what’s the difference between the two?
While plant protein obviously comes from plants, whey protein is animal-based—it comes from milk. Because whey protein powder is an animal-based protein, it typically contains more amino acids on its own than a plant-based protein powder from a single plant source.
Plant-based protein powder is often made from peas, seeds or rice. It’s usually easier on the digestive system than whey-based protein powders. Plant-based protein powders that combine more than one plant source can offer a wide range of amino acids.
Regardless of the source, protein powders are a great lean protein alternative for people who are looking to increase their protein intake, swap out high-fat proteins, build muscle or have another tool in their weight management toolbox.
“A high-quality protein powder can give people the necessary protein to power their cells and provide energy,” Venzon says.
Protein powders can be a key part of plant-based diets, whether it’s vegan, vegetarian or flexitarian, which allows for some meat, poultry, fish or dairy, just not a lot of it. Whatever level of plant-based eating you choose, it will mean consuming more fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds and grains.
There are plenty of plant-based protein sources you can incorporate into your diet, including tofu, beans, quinoa, tempeh and lentils. But if you have a hectic schedule or are a bit picky and need some time to expand your palate, you may need some other alternatives.
Some days it might be easier to make a smoothie using your favorite plant-based protein powder or add your vegan protein powder to your morning oatmeal to ensure you’ll get the protein you need for the day. Nutrilite Organics Plant Protein Powder, which comes in vanilla and chocolate, is great for a variety of recipes. It’s also a vegan protein powder and certified organic by the USDA.
The amount of protein recommended for the average person can be determined several ways, including calculations based on weight and age, but generally it’s 46g a day for adult women and 56g a day for adult men, according to the Institute of Medicine.
Looking at it another way, the World Health Organization recommends we eat 0.83 grams of high-quality protein per kilogram of body weight per day. For a person weighing 60 kilograms (about 132 pounds), that’s almost 50 grams of protein each day—or about eight eggs. The USDA uses ounces, recommending 5.5 ounces of protein each day for those on a 2,000-calorie diet. (If you want a more personalized recommendation, visit this handy calculator.)
However, research has shown that some people may benefit from a larger amount of protein each day, including athletes, older people with limited diets or people trying to manage their weight.
Because the essential amino acids in protein are key nutrients to developing and maintaining muscle, people who are cutting their total daily calories to lose weight should consider getting a larger portion of the calories they do consume from lean protein versus carbs and fats.
And because many traditional proteins like meat, eggs and cheese are high in fat, cholesterol and calories, protein powders are a great alternative. They are an easy and convenient way to add lean protein to your diet without sabotaging your weight loss efforts.
Protein is also very filling. It can make you feel fuller longer, reducing the chance for random hunger pangs or snack attacks.
Being underweight is a health challenge just like being overweight. If you’re at the other end of the spectrum and are looking to put on some pounds to get into a healthier weight range, protein powders are an easy and effective way to increase your daily calories.
Protein powders can be used for quick, protein-rich smoothies as a snack. Or you can use protein powders to make a protein-rich dessert to top off your meal. The amount of recipe combinations for protein powders is endless and can easily help you achieve your desired level of protein and calories each day.
While you may think only body builders or professional athletes need to worry about building muscle, it's actually something that matters for everyone. In addition to regular aerobic exercise, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control recommends that adults do some strength training at least two times a week, working all major muscle groups.
That’s because building lean muscle not only adds definition to your physique—think sculpted arms and abs—it can also protect your bones as you age. Ensuring you get enough protein in your diet is important to preventing the loss of lean muscle that naturally happens to all of us as we age.
Here’s how it works: Your body uses amino acids found in proteins to strengthen and repair muscles, and these types of amino acids can only be obtained through the food you eat—those nine essential amino acids. So it’s important to pay attention to the type of protein you consume when you’re looking to build or maintain muscle.
While protein powder can be used to fuel your workout, it can also be used to fuel your body’s recovery after working out. Protein helps support your muscles as they recover, and once they do you are able to build on that new muscle mass during your next workout. So, using protein as part of your recovery actually sets the stage for your next great workout.
Whey protein can be quickly absorbed by your body and is effective right after a workout. It helps your body recover and builds muscle mass.
Click here to find other protein powders and supplements that can help support your health and wellness goals. And for more tips on healthy eating, check out our other articles.
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