If you are interested in health and fitness, you have likely heard about the protein powder debate. Is protein powder good for you? Does protein powder really help your muscles grow and recover? What kind of protein powder is the best?
A 2018 study confirmed that consuming protein post-workout can potentially help optimize physical performance and positively impact recovery after endurance and resistance training. However, total daily energy and protein intake in the long-term play the largest role in promoting adaptations to exercise. In other words, it is your overall diet that contributes the most to your fitness results.
Nonetheless, consuming nothing at all after a tough workout offers no benefits and can even be harmful. As a result, athletes are advised to consume protein post-workout because of its potential benefits, and many athletes may choose protein powders because of their convenience.
If you do choose to use protein powder post-workout, it is important to be critical of which protein powder you choose. Protein powders are supplements, which means that they are not regulated by the FDA so it is imperative that you always check the nutrition label in order to ensure that you are choosing one that is safe and healthy for your body.
Here are five things to look out for when choosing a protein powder:
Too much protein
The recommended daily amount of protein is 0.8 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight. For example, if you weigh approximately 68 kilograms (150 pounds), then you should aim for about 54 grams of protein each day. However, some protein powders have over 40 grams of protein per serving, and this, combined with your other meals throughout the day, could lead to an overconsumption of protein.
A 2013 study found that too much protein may be associated with increased risk of heart disease, cancer, and can impose unnecessary stress on the liver, kidneys, and bones. As a result, researchers suggest consuming no more than 30 grams of protein in one sitting. Thus, be sure to choose a protein powder that has fewer than 30 grams of protein per serving.
Too much sugar
Protein powders come in all different flavors, such as chocolate, caramel, and vanilla. However, in order for a protein powder to taste sweet, manufacturers often add excessive amounts of sugar. The American Heart Association recommends that women consume no more than 24 grams of added sugar and men consume no more than 36 grams of added sugar each day.
However, some protein powders contain over 24 grams of added sugar in just one serving. Thus, be sure to look out for sugar content when selecting a protein powder. Too much sugar can lead to weight gain and an unhealthy spike in blood sugar.
USDA Organic Certification
Opting for organic food over processed food is usually a great choice for your overall health. However, a 2018 study tested over 130 best-selling protein powders and found that certified organic products contained over two times the amount of heavy metals, such as lead and arsenic, when compared to non-organic protein powders.
Of course, not all organic protein powders contain unhealthy metals. However, since supplements are not regulated by the FDA, it is very difficult to find out if your organic protein powder contains these metals. Thus, it may be a better idea to stick to non-organic protein powders for now.
In this same 2018 study, 75 percent of the selected plant-based protein powders tested positive for lead. On the contrary, products with egg as a source of protein tested cleaner than plant-based powders. Unless you are vegan and have no choice, it may be best to choose a protein powder that is not plant-based.
NSF Certified for Sport label
At this point in the article, you are probably wondering if any protein powders are safe. While it is the healthiest option to get in your daily protein from whole foods like eggs, nut butters, and lean meats, protein powders can be convenient. If you decide that the benefits outweigh the risks of protein powder, then select a powder with an NSF Certified for Sport label.
Supplements with this label have been tested by professionals who determined that the supplement does not contain an unsafe level of contaminants or prohibited substances. However, even if a product has the NSF label, make sure that you still check for too much protein or sugar to be sure that the powder is the best and healthiest choice for your body.