Protein supplementation is necessary for various reasons. Many people turn to protein powder as a quick and convenient way to boost their daily intake.
Those who are engaged in intensive workouts may need an extra protein boost to aid muscle recovery and growth. Vegans, who might struggle to meet their protein needs from plant-based sources, and older adults who may have an increased protein requirement, may also turn to protein powder.
A more common reason for turning to protein powder is for weight loss. You may have seen ads claiming that one protein powder or another is the key to shedding stubborn pounds.
Is this just another marketing gimmick? Is protein powder truly beneficial for weight loss? And if so, how should you incorporate it into your diet? Here’s what you need to know.
Always consult a healthcare professional before adding supplements to your diet, especially if you have allergies or specific health conditions.
Should I Use Protein Powder for Weight Loss?
You may use protein powder for weight loss, provided you do so in a sensible manner. Protein powders can help reaching your fitness goals when combined with a healthy diet and regular exercise. To lose weight, you need to create a daily calorie deficit – burning more calories than you consume (13).
As part of a calorie-restricted diet, protein powder can help with weight loss in several ways:
Effect On Hormones That Regulate Hunger and Satiety
Protein consumption plays a key role in weight loss, primarily due to its effect on various hormones that regulate hunger and satiety (15). Although additional research is required to determine exactly how it helps you feel fuller longer, it does. Here’s how it works:
Ghrelin (Hunger Hormone)
Protein intake can decrease levels of ghrelin, often known as the ‘hunger hormone’ (11) (17). This hormone signals to your brain that it’s time to eat. When ghrelin levels are low, you feel less hungry (10).
Peptide YY (PYY)
Protein stimulates the secretion of CCK, another hormone that promotes satiety. CCK slows down the emptying of the stomach which prolongs the feeling of fullness and reduces hunger (2).
Glucagon-Like Peptide-1 (GLP-1)
Protein has a minimal effect on blood sugar levels and requires less insulin for metabolism compared to carbohydrates (9). Stable insulin levels can help prevent spikes and crashes in blood sugar that can lead to increased hunger and overeating.
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By influencing these hormones, protein can:
- Help reduce hunger and increase satiety, leading to a decrease in calorie intake.
- Reduce cravings for high-calorie foods, helping to control overall calorie consumption.
- Make dieting more manageable by reducing feelings of deprivation and hunger.
- Help with weight maintenance after reaching your goal weight.
Effects on Metabolism
Protein powder consumption has been linked to increased metabolism (8). Protein requires more energy for digestion and absorption compared to carbohydrates or fats. This process is known as the Thermic Effect of Food (TEF) (5).
During TEF, your body burns calories to digest and absorb the nutrients from food. Protein has a higher TEF compared to carbohydrates or fats, meaning that you burn more calories overall when consuming protein (5).
Moreover, protein also helps in maintaining muscle mass during weight loss (7). This is important because muscle tissue plays a key role in metabolism – the more muscle you have, the more calories you burn even at rest.
Adequate protein intake while losing weight helps to preserve muscle mass, preventing a decrease in metabolism and making it easier to maintain your weight loss in the long term (3).
Does Protein Powder Help You Lose Belly Fat?
Protein powder will help you lose belly fat in the same way that it helps with overall weight loss. Consuming protein powder as part of a calorie-restricted diet can lead to an overall decrease in body fat, including belly fat. This is because protein can help you:
- Reduce your intake of high-calorie foods.
- Feel satisfied and full, reducing the chances of overeating.
- Preserve muscle mass, leading to a higher metabolism and more efficient fat burning when combined with a calorie-restricted diet.
Which Protein Powder Is Good During Your Weight Loss Journey?
The best protein powder for weight loss is one that’s low in calories and carbohydrates. Some protein powders may also contain added ingredients that can aid in weight loss, such as caffeine or green tea extract (6).
When choosing a protein powder for weight loss, look for options with:
- At least 0.7 oz (20 grams) of protein per serving
- Less than 150 calories per serving
- Less than 0.2 oz (5 grams) of carbohydrates per serving
You may also consider trying different types of protein powder, such as whey, casein, egg, or plant-based options like soy, pea, or hemp protein. Each type has its own unique benefits and may work differently for each individual:
- Whey Protein: Fast absorbing and rich in essential amino acids, whey protein is great for muscle growth and repair. It also has a high satiety value, meaning it helps keep you fuller for longer.
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- Casein Protein: Slow digesting and ideal for promoting satiety, casein protein can help reduce hunger and cravings for high-calorie foods.
- Egg Protein: Rich in essential amino acids, egg protein is a complete protein source that also helps promote satiety.
- Soy Protein: A plant-based option, soy protein is rich in essential amino acids and has several health benefits, including possibly reducing cholesterol levels.
- Pea Protein: Another plant-based option, pea protein is hypoallergenic and easily digestible. It also contains a unique amino acid profile that may help with muscle growth. Please note that hypoallergenic doesn’t mean non-allergenic, but rather that it has a low potential for allergic reactions
- Hemp Protein: Rich in omega-3 fatty acids and fiber, hemp protein also provides all essential amino acids and has anti-inflammatory properties.
Ultimately, the best protein powder on your weight loss journey will depend on your individual dietary needs. For example, if you’re lactose intolerant or follow a vegan diet, plant-based options may be the best choice.
On the other hand, if you’re looking for a quick and convenient option, whey protein may be the way to go.
How Much Protein Powder Should I Consume?
The amount of protein powder you need to consume for weight loss depends on several factors such as your body weight, activity level, diet quality, and overall calorie intake.
The purpose of supplementation also plays a role – whether you are using protein powder as a meal replacement or for muscle recovery after exercise.
The base recommendation for protein intake is 0.013 oz (0.36 grams) per pound of body weight (0.028 oz or 0.8 grams per kg) (4). However, this is a minimum requirement to prevent deficiencies and may not be enough for optimal weight loss results.
Although further research is needed, the current results suggest that consuming 25-30% of your total daily calories from protein can promote weight loss, especially when combined with regular exercise (1). For someone consuming 2000 calories per day, this translates to 4.4-5.3 oz (125-150 grams) of protein daily.
The most effective way to determine your exact protein needs is by consulting a registered dietitian who will take into account your specific goals and body composition.
No matter how much protein you need per day, you should never consume it all in a sitting. The best practice for weight loss is to distribute your protein intake evenly throughout the day, with each meal containing about 0.7-1 oz (20-30 grams) of protein.
Your body can only utilize a certain amount of protein at once for muscle repair and synthesis. Consuming more than 1.4 oz (40 grams) in one meal may simply cause some protein to be excreted without any additional benefits. Therefore, spacing out your protein intake and consuming it consistently throughout the day will ensure optimal utilization and results.
Does Protein Burn Calories Without Exercise?
Protein powder can aid in fat-burning without exercise if your daily calorie intake is within a reasonable range
Protein has a higher thermic effect of food (TEF) compared to carbohydrates and fats (5). This means that the body uses more energy to digest and absorb protein, which can slightly increase your overall metabolic rate.
Going on a high-protein diet alone may result in a slightly higher calorie burn throughout the day.
Additionally, protein can help with weight loss by promoting satiety and reducing hunger cravings. This can lead to a lower overall calorie intake, which can contribute to weight loss over time (18).
However, for optimal weight loss results, it’s better to incorporate exercise into your routine.
Are Protein Powders Worth It?
High-quality protein powders that are used as supplements can be worth it for individuals looking to lose weight and improve their overall health. Here are a few reasons why:
- Convenience: Protein powders can be a quick and easy way to increase protein intake, especially for busy individuals who may not have time to prepare high-protein meals.
- Variety: With different types of protein powders available, individuals can choose the one that works best for their dietary needs and preferences.
- Affordable: Protein powders can be an affordable option for increasing protein intake, especially when compared to other high-protein food sources such as meat and seafood.
- Low calorie: High-quality protein powders typically have a low calorie count, making them suitable during your weight loss journey without exceeding daily caloric goals.
- Muscle maintenance: Adequate protein intake is essential for maintaining and building muscle. Protein powders can be helpful in this regard, especially for individuals who may not consume enough protein through their diet alone.
- Nutrient-dense: Many protein powders also contain added vitamins and minerals, providing additional health benefits beyond just protein.
How to Choose the Right Protein Powder
When selecting a protein powder, consider the source, ingredient list, and nutrition label. The following are some key factors to keep in mind when choosing the right protein powder for you:
Protein powders can be made from various sources, such as whey, casein, soy, pea, hemp, and rice. Each source has its unique characteristics and may vary in terms of taste and digestibility. Consider your dietary needs and preferences to determine which source is the best fit for you.
Protein powders aren’t regulated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), so it’s essential to do your research and choose a trusted brand that follows good manufacturing practices.
The Nutrition Label
Look for protein powders with at least 0.7 oz (20 grams) of protein per serving and minimal amounts of added sugars and carbohydrates. Ideally, the powder should also have a low calorie count (less than 150 calories per serving).
Protein powders that contain essential amino acids are also beneficial since they can promote muscle repair and growth. When in doubt, consult a healthcare professional or registered dietitian to determine which protein powder is right for you and your weight loss goals.
Protein powders can aid in reaching your fitness goals when combined with proper nutrition and regular exercise.
Is Protein Bad If You Don’t Workout?
No, protein isn’t bad for you if you don’t work out. In fact, protein is an essential macronutrient that plays a critical role in various bodily functions, such as building and repairing tissues, producing enzymes and hormones, and maintaining a healthy immune system (14).
Can Protein Shakes Replace Meals?
Protein shakes can replace meals, but you must go about it the right way.
If you’re looking to lose weight, replacing one meal with a protein shake can be an effective strategy to keep your overall caloric intake for the day in deficit. However, the rest of your meals should contain other essential nutrients that are necessary for overall health.
Is It Okay to Drink Protein Shakes Every Day?
Drinking protein shakes every day is safe. You should stay within your daily recommended protein intake and consume them in moderation.
Depending on your fitness goals and dietary needs, you may choose to have a protein shake every day or only on workout days. However, it’s essential to note that protein shakes should complement a balanced diet.
Will I Lose Weight If I Drink 3 Protein Shakes a Day?
You can lose weight by drinking three protein shakes a day. The key is creating a calorie deficit, meaning burning more calories than you consume.
These three protein shakes should be accompanied by balanced meals. If protein shakes help you stay within a calorie deficit, and prevent overeating, then they can contribute to weight loss.
Protein powders can be a convenient and beneficial addition to your diet, especially if you’re looking to lose weight. Do your research and choose a high-quality brand that fits your dietary needs and fitness goals.
Protein shakes are excellent supplements to your everyday diet that can help you transform your body and contribute to overall well-being. For sustainable and healthy results, combine them with proper nutrition and regular exercise. Consult a healthcare professional or registered dietitian if you have any questions or concerns about incorporating protein powders into your diet.
This article is intended for general informational purposes only and does not address individual circumstances. It is not a substitute for professional advice or help and should not be relied on to make decisions of any kind. Any action you take upon the information presented in this article is strictly at your own risk and responsibility!
- A High Protein Diet Is Associated with Improved Glycemic Control Following Exercise among Adolescents with Type 1 Diabetes (2023, ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
- Cholecystokinin-induced satiety, a key gut servomechanism that is affected by the membrane microenvironment of this receptor (2016, ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
- Clinical Evidence and Mechanisms of High-Protein Diet-Induced Weight Loss (2020, ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
- Dietary protein intake and human health (2016, pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
- Diet induced thermogenesis (2004, biomedcentral.com)
- Effect of green tea, caffeine and capsaicin supplements on the anthropometric indices: A meta-analysis of randomized clinical trials (2018, sciencedirect.com)
- Effects of high-protein diets on fat-free mass and muscle protein synthesis following weight loss: a randomized controlled trial (2013, pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
- Effects of Protein Supplementation on Performance and Recovery in Resistance and Endurance Training (2018, frontiersin.org)
- Evaluation of the Effect of Macronutrients Combination on Blood Sugar Levels in Healthy Individuals (2021, ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
- Ghrelin (2015, ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
- Ghrelin and glucagon-like peptide 1 concentrations, 24-h satiety, and energy and substrate metabolism during a high-protein diet and measured in a respiration chamber (2006, sciencedirect.com)
- High protein intake stimulates postprandial GLP1 and PYY release (2012, onlinelibrary.wiley.com)
- Optimal Diet Strategies for Weight Loss and Weight Loss Maintenance (2020, ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
- Physiology, Proteins (2022, ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
- Protein, weight management, and satiety (2008, sciencedirect.com)
- The Control of Food Intake in Humans (2022, ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
- The Effect of Ingested Macronutrients on Postprandial Ghrelin Response: A Critical Review of Existing Literature Data (2010, ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
- The role of protein in weight loss and maintenance (2015, sciencedirect.com)