What are the pros and cons of protein powder?
Learn more the pros and cons of protein powder. Protein powder is an easy way to boost your protein intake, but not all protein powders are created equal.
Proteins are the building blocks of life. They are found in every cell in the human body and play an essential role in muscle growth and repair. Protein itself is composed of amino acids, some of which are made by the body and some of which come from food. The latter are called essential amino acids, and are found in animal sources like eggs and meat, as well as in plant sources like legumes and nuts.
Most people can get more than enough protein by eating a balanced diet, but others – athletes, pregnant women, people dietary restrictions, etc.– may need to supplement. This is where protein powder comes in. Protein powder can be a convenient way to boost your protein intake and ensure that you are meeting your nutritional needs. That said, there is a lot of misinformation about what protein powder is and what it can do for you. Now without further ado, here are some of the pros and cons of protein supplements.
Protein powder is convenient. In just a few minutes and with minimal cleanup, you can consume 20 + grams of protein. Try cooking quinoa that fast. Plus, if you have a shaker bottle, you can bring your protein powder with you wherever you go. This is a blessing for athletes looking to start the recovery process immediately after a workout.
Compared to other sources of protein, protein powder is expensive. The protein in chicken, for example, can cost less than 2 cents per gram whereas the protein in your average protein powder costs over 4 times that much.
Protein powder is versatile. The most popular way to consume protein powder is in a shake or smoothie, but protein powder can be added to many different recipes. Have you ever had protein powder popovers? They are delicious.
Many protein powders can cause gastrointestinal (GI) side effects. If you are want a protein powder that will not upset your stomach, avoid the following:
Avoid food additives. Most protein powders are full of food additives. Although they are not necessarily bad for you in small quantities, food additives can add up quickly, especially if you drink a protein shake every day. At higher quantities, food additives can cause gastrointestinal (GI) side effects.
Many food additives are hard to digest and sit in your gut for longer than they should. This gives your gut bacteria more time to ferment (eat), and as they eat, these bacteria produce gas, which causes bloating, cramps, and nausea.
In the short term, gas also slows colonic transit (the amount of time it takes food to travel through the colon), which can lead to constipation. In the long term, food additives disrupt regulatory pathways in the intestine and trigger the development of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) and systemic inflammatory disorders.
Keep an eye out for artificial sweeteners too. Artificial sweeteners are poorly absorbed by the gut, which means that they feed your hungry gut bacteria. They also alter the composition of your gut microbiota (the collection of microorganisms that help you digest food). This can lead to serious GI problems and widespread inflammation.
Finally, artificial sweeteners, especially sugar alcohols like xylitol, can cause diarrhea because they draw water into your gut. Now you might finally have something to blame for those post-protein shake trips to the bathroom.
Here is a list of the most common food additives in protein powder:
acacia gum, acesulfame potassium, artificial flavors, aspartame, carrageenan, cellulose gum, dextrin, dextrose, erythritol, gellan gum, guar gum, gum arabic, inulin, locust bean gum, “natural” flavors*, maltodextrin, rice syrup solids, soy lecithin, silica, sucralose, sunflower lecithin, xanthan gum, xylitol
When it comes to identifying food additives, go with your gut. 😉 As a rule of thumb, they are the ingredients that you cannot pronounce. Food additives are not the only thing to look out for when buying protein powder, however. There are several other ingredients that can upset your stomach.
Avoid dairy. Dairy-based proteins like whey can casein are byproducts of cheese and yogurt production. They are known to cause digestive issues, especially for people with lactose intolerance and irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). Over one in three Americans are lactose intolerant, and the prevalence of IBS is somewhere between 10 and 15 percent in the United States. It follows that you may be lactose intolerant or have IBS and not even know it.
Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a poorly understood condition, and it is unclear why dairy triggers symptoms. Lactose intolerance, on the other hand, is clearly understood. People with lactose intolerance are unable to fully digest lactose, the sugar in dairy. As you just learned, partially digested food feeds the bacteria in your gut, which produce gas.
Protein powder has a long shelf life. Most protein powders will last anywhere from 12-18 months in your cupboard. How would eggs taste after that long?
Many protein powders tastes bad. One of the biggest issues people have with protein powders is the chalky aftertaste. Protein powders tend to have a chalky aftertaste because they are made with protein concentrates and isolates, foods chemically or mechanically stripped of everything but the protein. Protein concentrates and isolates are listed on the ingredient list as “pea protein,” for example, as opposed to “peas. Unlike real foods, they are missing the nutrients that make food taste good
Some protein powders also taste bad because they are made with artificial sweeteners or stevia. These sugar substitutes are either way too sweet, or have bitter bitter aftertaste because they activate bitter taste receptors in addition to sweet taste receptors. This bitterness, which many say reminds them of licking aluminum foil, can linger in your mouth for hours.
Protein powder offers an easy way to measure your protein intake. How much protein is in a cup of chickpeas? You could figure it out, but it would take a minute. How much protein is in a scoop of protein powder? Just read the Nutrition Facts.
Dairy-based protein powders can cause acne. Dairy indirectly stimulates insulin production, which regulates sebum production. Sebum, an oily, waxy substance produced by your body’s sebaceous glands, can clog your pores and cause pimples. Dairy can also hinder your ability to process blood sugar efficiently, which can cause inflammation in your skin. This matters because acne is an inflammatory disease, that is, clinical evidence shows that inflammation occurs at all stages of acne development.
Protein powder will boost your protein intake. At the end of the day, 20 grams of protein is 20 grams of protein. Just be sure that you are not scooping a bunch of food additives along with your protein.
Looking for a new protein powder? Learn more the pros and cons of protein powder. Protein powder can be an easy way to boost your protein intake, but not all protein powders are created equal.
This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment.