Protein powders are one of the most popular nutrition supplements available on the market, and for good reason. Not only do they make it easy to boost your intake of protein and various other nutrients, but there is plenty of research to support the health benefits of using protein powder, too. From weight management to muscle building, protein powders can be a valuable component of your diet and also make meal and snack time slightly easier.
If you aren’t currently using protein powder in your daily routine, I have six compelling reasons for you to add it to your next meal or snack. Keep in mind not all protein powders are created equally and it is important to sift through the options to figure out which product is best for you (this guide should help: The Healthiest Protein Powders for Weight Loss). Now, let’s get to the “meat” of things!
Protein powder can help you gain and maintain muscle.
Protein is an essential nutrient in many different bodily functions, including fluid balance, enzyme production, and tissue repair and growth. For those looking to add to their muscle mass, there is research that supports the use of protein powder. In a 2015 study, researchers found protein powder supplementation may enhance muscle growth in those who engage in adequate exercise, and especially resistance training. While protein powders may be most common amongst younger, active individuals, supplemental protein may also be a valuable source of nutrients for inactive adults, especially elderly individuals. Research has demonstrated a loss of skeletal muscle in aging, and when due to low protein intake, protein powders may also be valuable to minimize muscle loss in elderly adults.
Protein powder may help you feel more satiated.
While “satiety” may not a term you use often, it’s a concept you likely encounter on a daily basis. Satiety is a term used to describe how the satisfaction and fullness you experience after eating. Everyone wants to feel satisfied after a meal, and protein happens to be the nutrient with the highest satiety value. This means you tend to feel fuller, longer following a protein-dense meal. Research indicates protein powder supplementation, especially casein and pea protein, can increase satiety and lead to a decrease in food intake following protein powder consumption. If you are looking for a quick snack to hold you over until your next meal, a protein drink may be a great solution that provides valuable nutrients and keeps you feeling full going into your meal. Try any of these 22 High Protein Smoothie Recipes from Diet and Fitness Experts.
Protein powder can help with weight management.
This concept piggybacks on satiety where the more satisfied you feel, the more likely you are to stick with reasonable portion sizes and avoid excess snacking. Protein from eggs, meat, fish, and dairy can all have the same outcome, and a 2017 study also found supplementation of whey protein may improve weight and body composition, including fat mass. While this study focused on whey protein specifically, other protein supplements, like soy, pea and brown rice, are likely to also have similar satiating effects as well. If you are looking for nutrition habits that may help you maintain healthy body weight, using a whey protein powder as a snack or meal component may be one way to work toward your weight goals. For some options, see 9 Best Whey Protein Powders, According to Dietitians.
Protein powder may improve your heart health.
Blood lipids, like cholesterol, are important indicators of heart health and there is some research that supports the cholesterol-lowering benefits of protein powder supplementation. Low-Density Lipoprotein, or LDL, is the more worrisome form of cholesterol and a 2010 study found that supplementation of whey protein resulted in a drop in LDL cholesterol in participants. Additionally, the same study found those who have high blood pressure saw reduced levels of systolic and diastolic blood pressure following supplementation of whey protein. Similar to high LDL cholesterol, elevated blood pressure and hypertension are also considered major risk factors for cardiovascular disease.
Protein powder may help manage blood sugar levels.
When you eat carbohydrates, like bread, pasta, or potato, your body’s natural response is to release insulin that allows your body to move glucose (a form of carbohydrate) out of your blood and into the cells of your body. In individuals with Type 2 Diabetes, their insulin production and usage become altered and leaves them with elevated amounts of sugar in their blood. A 2005 study evaluated the use of whey protein on blood sugar in those with Type 2 Diabetes and found ingestion of whey protein at a high carb meal stimulated insulin response and lead to reduced blood sugar levels following eating. This is great news for anyone with diabetes as blood sugar control is the cornerstone of disease management.
Protein powder can add nutrients to your day.
While it is obvious that protein powder will provide a protein boost to your day, many protein powders contain a variety of other valuable nutrients, like vitamins, minerals, and even healthy fats. The micronutrient density of protein powders is very different from brand to brand, but keep an eye out for options that contain added bonuses, like chia and flax seeds for a boost of heart-healthy omega-3 fats, and calcium and vitamin D for bone health support. Additional nutrients that you may find in a protein powder that can provide added health benefits are enzymes that aid in digestion, fiber to improve digestive regularity, and iron that supports blood health and oxygen delivery.
Protein powders are not one-size-fits-all; however, most options will provide a variety of health benefits, like those discussed here. It is important to choose a product that compliments your goals and fits within your lifestyle, and check with your physician before using protein powder as it may not be a good fit for all medical conditions. If you choose to enjoy a protein powder as part of your daily routine keep things interesting by incorporating it in different ways. Mixed into smoothies, oatmeal, and added into baked goods are fun ways to utilize protein powders! For more ideas, don’t miss these 18 Unexpected Ways To Eat More Protein Powder.
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