Benefits of Protein Powder

Erin Coleman, R.D., L.D.
Protein powder

If you're following a vegetarian or vegan diet, protein is a key nutrient to make sure you get enough of, according to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Supplementing your diet with protein powder can help you meet your body's nutritional needs in a convenient way. Knowing more about protein powder for vegetarians will help you determine if it's the right choice for you.

Nutritional Perks

Protein powder, which is often made from whey, casein, soy, egg, pea, hemp, brown rice, or other plant-based protein, is loaded with nutrients. A scoop of protein powder generally provides about 25 grams of protein and is often fortified with vitamins and minerals. Whey, casein, egg, and soy protein powders contain all essential amino acids, making them an excellent source of complete protein. Hemp, pea, and brown rice protein powders are other options for vegan dieters. Many protein powders are low in sugar, but check the nutrition label to be sure.

Convenience Considerations

If you're following a vegetarian or vegan diet, you may find it difficult to get plenty of protein, especially if you're an athlete with higher protein needs. Using protein powder is a convenient way to boost your protein intake. Simply mix protein powder with water, soy or almond milk, or regular milk for a quick easy meal or snack when you're short on time. You can even add protein powder to foods like oatmeal and yogurt.

Energizing Benefits

Protein powder, especially mixed into protein smoothies, gives you a quick boost of energy when you're on the go or before and after workouts. What makes protein powder energizing is when it contains carbohydrates, which many protein powders do. If not, mix your powder with a form of energy-boosting carbohydrate like milk, soymilk, yogurt, or fruit. To make a nutritious protein smoothie, blend protein powder, ice, milk or water, fruit, and nut butter for a refreshing boost of energy. A variety of protein smoothie recipes are available to choose from, so you can have a different type of smoothie each day of the week. A sample energy-boosting recipe using protein powder is as follows:

  • 1 cup of unsweetened almond milk
  • 1 tablespoon of peanut butter
  • 1 small banana
  • ¼ teaspoon of ground cinnamon
  • 1 scoop of chocolate-flavored protein powder of your choice
  • Ice

Blend these ingredients for an energy-boosting meal or snack.

Muscle-Building Perks

If you're a vegetarian and trying to gain muscle mass, protein powder can be beneficial for you. A 2015 review published in Sports Medicine found protein supplementation promotes gains in muscle strength, size, and power in people who resistance train regularly. This occurs because dietary protein is needed to help repair and grow muscle fibers in response to strenuous resistance training sessions. For best muscle building results, drink a protein shake before and after strength-training workouts and complete three to six sets of 12 reps (or less) using heavier weights to maximize muscle growth, suggests the American College of Sports Medicine.

Weight and Fat Loss Advantages

It's no secret high-protein diets are often effective for weight loss. One reason for this is because protein boosts satiety more than any other nutrient, according to a 2008 review in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. Protein also helps you maintain lean mass and reduce body fat. A 2008 study published in Nutrition and Metabolism reports using whey protein supplements enhances weight loss, significantly reduces body fat, and maintains muscle mass to a greater extent than not taking protein supplements. Protein helps spare muscle loss during periods of calorie restriction simply because it is a necessary ingredient for building and maintaining muscle mass in the body. Without enough dietary protein, your body can break down muscle mass in an attempt to fuel itself.

Protein shakes made with powder work well as meal replacements when you're trying to cut calories to shed pounds. However, if you want to reap weight and fat loss benefits from protein powder, avoid added sugar, as well as refined grains like white bread, sweets, and sugary drinks. You should also work out regularly.

Benefits for Patients

Using protein powder to make shakes is beneficial for patients recovering from surgery or illness and those who are on liquid diets due to other health conditions. For example, protein shakes are often useful for people recovering from bariatric surgery, dental surgery, or gastrointestinal disorders who are unable to tolerate solid foods. Often, people in these situations have increased protein requirements and may have difficulty meeting their body's needs without liquid protein supplements.

Better Sleep

Taking protein supplements, like protein powder, may even help you sleep better. Higher-protein diets appear to help overweight and obese people sleep better while dieting, according to a 2016 study published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. Additionally, a 2014 review in Sports Medicine found higher-protein diets seem to improve sleep quality in athletes. Because protein powder helps boost your overall protein intake, try it for a better night's sleep.

Bottom Line

While protein powder is often expensive, you can reap numerous health benefits from using it. Protein powder is helpful for vegetarians in many ways. Even vegan dieters can find the perfect plant-based protein powder to meet their body's protein needs.

Benefits of Protein Powder