The protein powder debate

Protein powders are the most popular dietary supplement amongst athletes and workout gurus. But do they really produce the results they claim to?

How much protein do you need?

For the average adult male the recommended daily intake of protein is 64 g/day (or 0.84 g/kg). For the average adult female 46 g/day (or 0.75 g/kg) is recommended. It is important to note that this recommendation changes depending on your age, activity levels, life stage (eg pregnancy) and health status (eg disease or deficiency). Those who have intense physical training schedules have a higher protein requirement. The additional protein is needed to maintain muscular performance and promote muscular growth and recovery.

If building muscle mass is your goal, the amino acid leucine found in protein sources is of particular interest. Leucine has been shown to stimulate protein synthesis within the body. To get the most out of leucine’s muscle building properties, aim for an intake of 2-3g per protein serving. Eating times are also important which aiming to build muscle. Consumption of leucine rich foods post exercise and in the evening have positive effects on recovery and muscle growth.

To put this all into perspective, roughly 2g of leucine can be obtained naturally in 120g (raw weight) of beef, poultry or seafood, 3 whole eggs or 130g of almonds.

Protein powders

If you have ever looked at purchasing protein powder, no doubt you have been confused by the vast options available.  Whey, casein, soy and egg albumin are the most common powders available. Reading nutrition labels is vital to ensure you know what you are putting into your body. Some protein powders can be all hype and no substance. Meaning, they have well marketed and cleverly packaged products however contain negligible nutritional benefit. Excess carbohydrates and fat seem to be a common trend. Yes carbohydrates are needed post workout to replenish glycogen stores and aid in recovery, but an excess can be damaging to your diet. Whey protein is rich in leucine and is a choice for those striving for muscular gain. There are 3 types of whey protein, the most palatable of which is Whey Protein Isolate (WPI). WPI powder comprises of 90% protein mass with minimal amounts of carbohydrates and fat. 17g of WPI equates to approximately 2g of leucine, 16g protein and 290kj.

The verdict

The reality is, you don’t need to take expensive protein supplements to ensure you are getting enough protein in your diet. Natural sources of protein in your diet are easiest for your body to metabolise. If you struggle to meet your protein needs, then it is reasonable to consider the use of protein powders or supplements. If you decide protein powder is the best option for you, then it is important to make an informed choice about the type of supplementation you use.

Written by Perri Simon

SiSU Wellness Nutritionist

Sources: Supplementation_General.pdf