Protein Powders For Training: Are They Worth It?

By Wendy Innes. May 7th 2016

Protein powders have become common place in nearly every store that sells any type of vitamins or dietary supplements.They are most often used amongst bodybuilders and athletes for various purposes. However, there are many people who don't know what they do, what they are for or if there are any side effects to using them. Here, people can find the answers to their questions about whether or not protein powders are useful.

What Are Protein Powders?

Protein powders are dietary supplements that are made from whey, a milk byproduct, soy or eggs. The protein sources are processed into powder and then flavored. They can be mixed with water, milk or juice to consume. Most often, they are mixed with milk, eggs, another dietary supplement, like creatine, and a variety of other ingredients for flavoring and body enhancement in the form of a protein shake.

In one high profile case, NFL running back, Michael Cloud, substituted a different protein powder for his regular brand. It turns out that the new protein powder also contained steroid precursors that showed up on a test for performance enhancing drugs. Olympic bobsledder, Pavle Jovanovic, had a similar occurrence when he used the same product.

What Are Protein Powders Used For?

Protein powders are used for increasing the amount of protein that someone consumes. Athletes and bodybuilders commonly use protein powders to increase the size of their muscles. Because muscles are made of protein, those who put extreme stress on their muscles, either through sports or bodybuilding, need to increase their protein intake to help their muscles recover after their workout.

New studies also show that protein supplementation can increase metabolism and aid in weight loss. According to a study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, whey protein had the greatest affect on metabolism, but increased protein overall could also modulate metabolism. Another study published in the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition showed that protein supplementation helped muscles heal after injuries.

Who Can Benefit From Protein Powders?

The majority of people who use protein powders are bodybuilders and athletes of some sort, although there are indications that they can be useful for other populations.

Protein powder based, meal replacement shakes can be quite beneficial to certain individuals who have dietary concerns. There have been several studies done that suggest that the elderly may benefit from protein powder based supplementation. There are a number of instances in which aging people find it difficult to intake adequate amounts of calories and nutrients for their health. So by using these shakes, even those who have difficulty swallowing foods, which is common after having suffered a stroke, can more adequately maintain their health.

Children are another group that may benefit from protein powder supplementation. Children with certain health concerns, or those who are picky eaters, can increase the number of calories and nutrients consumed by mixing protein powder in their beverages or food.

It is important to note that there are many different types of protein powders. Some are just plain protein, and might not be appropriate for anyone other than bodybuilders or athletes since they lack a good balance of nutrients. However, there are some protein powders that offer complete nutrition that are more suitable choices.

It's also important to keep in mind that protein powders can be used in a variety of ways. While many people do simply mix them with liquid and drink, protein powders can also be mixed in with other foods. For instance, there are many recipes available online for cookies and bars made with protein powders. They can also be mixed in sauces, yogurt, eggs, oatmeal, ice cream and even pasta.

Are Protein Powders Safe?

Generally speaking, protein powders are considered safe. However, there are some things that people need to be mindful of when using these products.

It is very easy to consume excessive calories when using protein powders because they already have a fair amount of many packed into one scoop of powder. Those who have concerns about their weight, or are suffering from health conditions like diabetes, will want to discuss their use of protein powder with their doctor.

Poor nutrition is also a risk when using protein powder, if it is not used correctly. Protein powder and shakes are meant to supplement a balanced diet. By substituting protein powder and shakes for multiple meals throughout the day, people may not be getting the nutrients that they need for optimum health. This is more of a risk with plain protein powder, so if someone who is not an athlete or bodybuilder is going to consume multiple shakes per day, they need to ensure that they choose a product that has other nutrients and vitamins in it.

On very rare occasions other substances may be found in protein powders. One investigation by Consumer Reports found that some products contained arsenic, mercury and other toxic materials. As mentioned above, two professional athletes found that there were substances in their protein powder that caused them to fail tests for performance enhancing drugs. To their knowledge, they were simply consuming protein powder, which is not banned by sports organizations. Both athletes filed suit with the company, and the suit were settled out of court.

Protein powders are generally considered safe and can have some positive effects on health. Anyone considering using these products should consult with a doctor first to ensure that it is safe for them. However, as it is with most health products, the buyer should always exercise caution before use.


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