What is protein powder?

As the name suggests, protein powder is an easy and convenient source of high-quality protein.

There are three common types – whey, soy and casein. But egg, pea and hemp protein powders are also available.

Unless you have a good reason not to use it, whey protein powder, which comes from cows’ milk, has been shown to be the most effective at stimulating muscle protein synthesis. It’s soluble in water and is a complete protein ie it contains all nine of the amino acids you need in your diet. However, if you’re a vegan, soy protein powder is the one to choose. It’s not as soluble in water and some people think it has an unpleasant taste, so it’s best to combine it with other strongly flavoured ingredients.

Most people get enough protein in their diet by eating chicken, fish, meat or dairy products, but there are times when a supplement like this is useful:

  • For growing teenagers.
  • When you start a gym programme and want to build muscle.
  • When you up your exercise levels to train for a more challenging event such as a half marathon.
  • If you’re a vegan or vegetarian.
  • When you’re recovering from injury.

It’s important to note that you don’t need much protein powder. If you eat too much your body will have to break it down, which can be hard on your liver and kidneys, so always read the label. More is not necessarily better.

Health benefits

If you’re trying to lose weight, you actually need more protein than if you’re just trying to maintain your weight. When you lose weight, you lose fat and muscle, but you don’t really want to lose muscle, so you need to up your protein intake to counteract this. Whey and casein protein powders are the best bits of milk – the protein – without the carbohydrates and fat, so they are ideal to use as part of a weight loss diet.

Protein also helps you feel fuller for longer, so you won’t be raiding the fridge later on. And if you’re the active sort, it is essential to build and repair muscle cells after strenuous exercise.

The time of the day you eat protein affects the benefits it has on your body. So, when is the best time to eat protein?

First thing in the morning after a good night’s sleep. However, eating it around 30 minutes before strenuous exercise can help limit the damage you do to your muscles as you work out too. And, eating protein as soon as you’ve finished can give your muscles the protein they need for recovery and growth.

Recipes

Protein powder is commonly added to shakes or smoothies. However, it can also be stirred into your breakfast porridge or included in recipes for pancakes, flapjacks, cookies and, of course, energy balls.

Energy ball recipes including protein powder: