Why you don’t need protein powder.
Why you don’t need protein powder. Learn more about protein powder and why it’s not an essential part of a healthy diet.
You don’t need protein powder.
What is protein powder?
Protein powder is a protein supplement in powder form. It is used to increase dietary protein intake, and common types include egg white, pea, and whey. The most popular way to use protein powder is to mix it with cold milk or water and make a protein shake, but it can also be added to oatmeal, smoothies, and other recipes.
Why use protein powder?
There are many reasons why people want to eat more protein, but most people start using protein powder because they cannot easily get enough protein from regular food.
What constitutes ‘enough’ protein is different for everyone.
The current recommended dietary allowance (RDA) for protein is 0.8 grams per kilogram of body weight a day for sedentary adults. A sedentary person who weighs 150 pounds should therefore eat about 55 grams of protein per day. This amount can vary depending on a number of factors, however, including activity level, age, and overall health. Strength athletes, for instance, may need as much as 1.6 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight. This means that a 150 pound person who does regular strength training needs to consume over 100 grams of protein each day.
What is easy for one person may not be easy for the next.
Getting 100+ grams of protein from normal food can be challenging. Getting even 50 grams of protein can be challenging if you have a dietary restriction. Vegetarians and vegans, for example, often have a hard time getting enough protein because they cannot eat meat. This is where a protein supplement can come in handy. 1 serving of protein powder will normally give you 20+ grams of protein and help you hit your daily protein goal.
Why protein powder and not another dietary protein source?
People like using protein powder because it is an easy way to add protein to their diet. Making a protein shake, for example, only takes a minute. It is also easier to swallow your protein than it is to chew it.
This is all to say that the decision to start using protein powder is personal. In somes cases, a doctor or a dietician will recommend that you supplement your diet with protein powder, but in most cases, the decision is yours and yours alone.
Do you need protein powder?
If you are easily getting enough protein from normal food, you do not need protein powder. Most people, for instance, can easily get more than enough protein from sources like eggs, fish, and legumes. That said, a protein supplement might be helpful if you do not have time to cook, or if you have trouble digesting regular food. Many of our customers, for example, use drink wholesome because other dietary protein sources upset their stomach. If it were not for an easy to digest protein supplement, they would have a hard time getting enough protein.
It is important to acknowledge that protein powder is just food. It alone will not make you stronger; it alone will not make you lose weight. In other words, do not expect it to do anything for you that normal food cannot. It can certainly help you achieve your fitness goals – like gaining muscle and losing weight – but only when paired with thoughtful exercise and nutrition. This means that protein powder is a waste of money if you are looking for a quick, easy way to lose or gain weight.
Which protein powder?
There are many different types of protein powder, and no one type is necessarily better than another. In other words, egg, pea, and whey protein can all help you achieve your nutrition goals, whatever they might be. Some brands of protein powder are better for you than others, however, and to understand the differences, you must look at the ingredient list.
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.
egg whites, coconut, cocoa, monk fruit
Protein Matrix Comprised of (Whey Protein Concentrate, Whey Protein Isolate, Calcium Caseinate, Micellar Casein, Milk Protein Isolate, Egg Albumen, Glutamine Peptides), Polydextrose, Sunflower Creamer (Sunflower Oil, Corn Syrup Solids, Sodium Caseinate, Mono- and Diglycerides, Dipotassium Phosphate, Tricalcium Phosphate, Soy Lecithin, Tocopherols), Natural and Artificial Flavor, MCT Powder (Medium Chain Triglycerides, Nonfat Dry Milk, Disodium Phosphate, Silicon Dioxide), Lecithin, Cellulose Gum, Salt, Yellow 5, Sucralose, Acesulfame Potassium, Papain, Bromelain.
*This is the actual ingredient list of one of the best-selling protein powders in the United States.
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.
Avoid protein concentrates and isolates.
Finding an additive-free, dairy-free protein powder is hard. Finding an additive-free, dairy-free protein powder made with real foods is next to impossible. Why? Most protein powders are made with protein concentrates and isolates, foods stripped of everything but the protein. They are listed on the ingredient list as “pea protein,” for example, as opposed to “peas.”
We will not go into the details, but protein concentrates and isolates undergo heavy mechanical and chemical processing before becoming protein powder. Sometimes, manufacturers use chemical solvents like hexane to separate the protein from the food. This means that what you end up putting into your body looks nothing like real food.
The potential problem here is that your gut might not know what to do with ingredients like these. Your gut prefers the real thing, not some heavily-processed imitation, so protein concentrates and isolates might be hard to digest for people with sensitive stomachs.
Instead of protein concentrates or isolates, we use egg whites and chickpeas. Egg whites are simply broken, pasteurized, and dried before becoming protein powder. Chickpeas are just dried and ground. Minimally-processed ingredients like these are easy to digest and a stomach-friendly alternative to protein concentrates and isolates.
Unless you have a sensitivity or allergy to eggs, egg white protein is the best protein for people with sensitive stomachs. Egg whites are low in fiber, low-FODMAP, and have the highest protein digestibility-corrected amino acid score (PDCAAS) of any whole food. Our customers have experienced fewer digestive issues with egg white protein than with any other type of protein.
If you cannot eat eggs, try our chickpea protein powder. We like chickpeas because, compared to other plant protein sources, they are high in soluble fiber. Unlike insoluble fiber, which can have a laxative effect, soluble fiber increases in size as it moves through your digestive tract. This can help make your bowel movements easier and more regular.
“I just finished my first bag and ordered 2 more! I Iove this stuff! I have IBS and every protein powder hurts my stomach…except drink wholesome!”
Protein powder is not necessarily a waste of money.
This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment.