Protein powder can be a valuable tool for building lean, healthy muscle. It could also be your secret weapon for fat loss.
So, it’s fair to say the stuff’s amazing. But how do you use it?
What is protein powder?
Protein is what’s known as a macronutrient, meaning it’s one of the three essential nutrients we need every day to live and stay healthy. The other macronutrients besides protein are carbohydrates and fat.
Protein is full of the amino acids needed for muscle growth, which explains its popularity with those seeking to bulk up.1
Protein powders are forms of edible protein which has been finely ground or milled to achieve a powder which can be mixed together with liquid (such as plant milk, dairy milk or water) to achieve a shake, or added to baked goods and even savoury foods.
The protein in protein powder can come from various sources, both plant and animal-based. These include whey and casin (made from milk), beef, egg, soy, hemp, rice and pea protein.
How much protein is in protein powder?
This really depends on the type and brand of protein powder you buy. A good benchmark is between 15g – 20g protein per serving. One serving size is usually one scoopful – the scoop is normally provided with the powder.
What are the benefits of protein powder?
Eating and drinking things which contain protein powder can help you reach your recommended daily amount of protein, supporting fat loss, helping to build muscle and keeping you healthy.2
Eating whole foods is always best for your body. However, advantages of supplementing a whole foods diet with protein powder include:
- You want to get more protein, but don’t want to take on lots of extra calories from whole food protein sources, for instance from nuts
- High quality sources of protein from foods can be expensive. Therefore, it can be more cost-effective to top up your protein intake with powder
- If you have a smaller appetite but want to get more protein, drinking your protein in a shake or eating foods which are fortified with protein powder is easier than forcing yourself to eat larger amounts of food
When to use protein powder
In terms of the time of day or night you should be getting your protein powder, the truth is it doesn’t really matter. As long as your body is getting regular protein, you’ll reap the benefits.
If you have a specific goal, however, you might want to consider that some health and fitness experts recommend the following:
- For weight loss, protein-rich snacks such as yoghurt between meals might help curb your appetite and lead you to eat fewer calories overall3
- Also for weight loss, eating a protein-rich meal at breakfast time is thought to help some people eat fewer calories throughout the day4
- For muscle gain, some fitness experts believe that the two hours post-workout is the best time to take your protein powder for maximum muscle gain.5
How much protein powder to take per day?
The NHS recommends a modest amount of protein for optimal health – 55.5g for men and 45g for women. This is based on 0.75g of protein per kilogram bodyweight per day for adults.6
However, those who are trying to gain muscle and bulk will require more protein to support their muscle-building.
People looking to up their protein intake for appetite control will also require more.
The exact amount you’ll require depends on various factors unique to you. These include:
- Your weight
- Your height
- Your goals (weight loss, muscle gain etc)
There are online calculators which you can use to work out your protein requirements, so that you can get a personalised protein recommendation to align to your specific goals.
Remember, whole foods count towards your protein intake too, so don’t just count the amount of protein you take via powder.
How to use protein powder
The most well-known use of protein powder is by mixing it up in a shake. The most basic of protein shakes consist of a scoop of protein powder and water.
Protein powder is almost always flavoured, as it can taste unpleasant on its own. To make your protein powder even more palatable, we suggest using a better-tasting liquid than water in your protein shake. This could be anything from dairy milks, plant milks to fruit and vegetable juices.
Try our Nutritionist Emily Rollason‘s recipe for a breakfast smoothie packed with protein.
Almond butter protein smoothie
- 100ml milk (or almond for vegan/ dairy free alternative)
- 2tbsp Greek yoghurt (or dairy free alternative)
- ½ ripe banana
- 2 dates
- 1 scoop of vanilla whey protein (or dairy free alternative)
- ¼ teaspoon mixed spice
- 1tbsp almond butter
- Handful of ice
Add all of the ingredients into a blender, whizz until smooth, then pour.
Protein powder can also be used in making raw food protein snacks, such as bars and balls.
Protein balls are so convenient and can be made in your blender at home for a small cost. Simply blend rolled oats, a scoop or two of protein powder and your favourite nut butter in a food processor until smooth. You can add honey or ground almonds (or other ground nuts) to your liking but remember that the calories can really add up. If your goal is weight loss, then go easy on the added extras.
Shape the mixture into balls (the consistency should be very thick, not too sticky, and easy to mould). Then, place them in the fridge to set for a couple of hours until they are firm and hold their shape.
Baking with protein powder
Protein powder can also be used as a secret ingredient to ramp up the protein in your favourite baked goods. Pancakes, not usually known for their protein content, can be given a boost by supplementing a little of the flour in the recipe for protein powder.
Looking for protein powder recipes? Check out these for chocolate protein spread, protein cookies and even protein-packed ice lollies.
Last updated: 11 August 2020