Why protein is important and how protein powder affects the body
Few nutrients are as important as protein. If you don’t get enough, your blood glucose levels, sugar cravings, muscular recovery, body composition and general health suffers.
Using protein supplements such as protein powders, is proven to improve muscle growth and strength, but can also help repair damaged muscles and tissues.
However, it is important to note that the body can only process limited amounts of protein, which means that excessive use of protein will not offer any extra benefits.
The “right” amount of protein for an individual actually depends on many factors, including age, level of activity, body composition, the current state of health, goals and so on.
See our full range of protein powders >
How much protein is best for weight loss?
To lose weight in an effective and sustainable manner you need to get your protein intake right. Weight loss is about energy balance.
To lose weight you need to take on board fewer calories [energy in] than you burn [energy out]. Research shows that eating protein helps reduce the calories in, as protein helps control your appetite.
A recent study showed that men who consumed 25% of their calories from protein had increased feelings of fullness and a reduced desire for late afternoon and night snacking.
In another study, women who increased their protein intake to 30% of calories ended up eating 441 fewer calories per day and lost 11 pounds in 12 weeks, simply by adding more protein to their diet.
The best protein powder for weight loss
Whey Protein Powder for weight loss
Studies have shown that consuming sufficient protein (including the addition of whey protein) results in a significantly higher loss in body fat and a greater preservation of lean muscle. This is exactly what you want as muscle is metabolically more active than fat mass.
In addition, other studies have shown that whey protein supplements can reduce hunger in both men and women. Whey protein reduces ghrelin and glucagon-like peptide 1 (two hormones that stimulate appetite), which may explain its effectiveness in reducing hunger and boosting weight loss.
If protein reduces hunger, a question that naturally comes to mind is “can protein powder replace a meal?”. The short answer: No. In order to reap the full benefits of adding protein to your diet, it is crucial to get all the essential nutrients that protein powders will not provide.
Vegan Protein Powder for weight loss
Although fewer studies have been done on mixed plant-based proteins, the studies that have been done to date do show the same positive effects on hunger, weight loss and preservation of muscle mass.
As the protein in plant-based food has a lower biological value than animal-based food, a combination of plant-based food is necessary to get these same benefits from plant proteins.
This is why vegan protein powders, such as Form Nutrition, tend to be a mix of different proteins. The most commonly used are brown rice protein, pea protein and hemp protein.
Our favourite vegan protein powder: Form Nutrition Vegan Protein Powder >
What about whey protein for women?
Research shows that the positive effects of protein powders within a balanced diet are effective for both men and women. Preservation of lean muscle mass is especially important for women throughout all phases of life, as naturally, women have a lower muscle mass than men.
If you are looking for protein powder for women, Supernova Protein has developed their Woman 01 Vegan Protein. This is a pea and brown rice protein powder that is jam-packed with other superfoods to also address other issues, such as lack of energy, stress and bloating.
Why you need protein for muscle building
Muscles are largely made up of protein. They are dynamically and constantly being broken down and rebuilt, and to a greater extent if you workout.
To gain muscle, your body must build more muscle fibres than it breaks down. This means that your body needs to be in a 'net-positive nitrogen balance'.
For this reason, people who want to build muscle need to consume higher amounts of protein, alongside stimulating their muscles by doing resistance exercises.
How much protein do you need?
Regular exercisers and athletes have higher protein requirements than the general population. The extra protein consumed by active people helps to repair and rebuild muscle cells that are damaged during intense exercise.
The amount of protein you need depends on the type of exercise you do and your weight.
So just how much do you need?
- Weight training/high-intensity exercise - 1.2-1.7g per kg body weight per day
- Endurance training- 1.2-1.4g per kg body weight per day
- Sedentary population - 0.8-1.0g per kg body weight per day
NOTE: Consuming more than 0.25g/kg body mass offers no further benefits to muscle protein synthesis and the excess is basically used for energy.
Which protein powder for muscle building?
As well as getting the amount right, the quality of the protein you use is incredibly important.
Leucine, a branched-chain amino acid, plays a critical role in ‘switching on’ muscle protein synthesis. Some foods are naturally high in leucine, including milk (and therefore whey protein) and red meat.
As such, research suggests that a whey supplement is better at getting your body to make more muscle, compared to a single plant-based protein (e.g. soy).
An example of a great whey protein for lean muscle gain that we have tried and tested is KIN's 'Whey Less'.
As mentioned earlier, if you use a combination of plant proteins (such as hemp, brown rice and pea protein) you will also get all the amino acids found in whey.
Therefore the results in muscle building will be the same. Form Nutrition is our vegan protein powder of choice, thanks to its complete spectrum of amino acids and probiotics, as well as its incredible taste.
When to have protein?
In studies where volunteers were already consuming adequate amounts of protein in their diet, consuming whey protein supplements after their workouts made no difference to protein synthesis or strength.
However, the timing of protein consumption did. Eating the protein supplements in the hour following exercise can help to prolong the protein synthesis response to exercise, helping to promote muscle gains and minimise muscle breakdown (losses).
If you are rather consuming protein powder for weight loss, a 2018 study of people performing resistance training found that taking protein supplements along with meals is the more effective timing.
Verdict on protein powders
Whether you're looking to lose fat or gain muscle (or both!), when used in the right way as discussed above, good quality protein powders can certainly help support your goals.
Protein powders are also extremely convenient and portable, which makes them a great option for boosting your protein intake, not only after a workout or on the go but in your day-to-day diet too.
Easy ways to incorporate protein powder into your diet
- Mix a scoop of protein powder into your morning yoghurt, smoothie or sprinkle on your porridge
- Add some protein powder to home-baked goodies like pancakes, energy balls, bars and bread
- Simply combine protein powder with water, almond milk (or any other non-dairy alternative) and a handful of ice for a delicious afternoon or post-exercise snack
Check out these 5 delicious vegan protein smoothie recipes >
NEXT UP: Plant-based protein vs. whey protein: Which one is right for you? >
DISCOVER: Premium nutrition products to nourish the body from the inside out >
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- What are the benefits of protein powder? Medical New Today. Accessed online