Proteins are nutrients that are essential for the proper functioning of the human body. They serve as major sources of energy and form the building blocks of life. Structurally, proteins are large, complex organic molecules. These molecules are required by the body for the growth and the repair of tissues.

The richest sources of protein naturally available for consumption include meat, poultry, eggs, seafood, nuts, seeds, soy products, milk and its products, beans and peas.

Protein powders, on the other hand, are a form of supplement that can be taken to meet the protein requirements of the body. They are mainly produced from high protein sources such as soy, peas and whey. Depending upon the food habits, not all people consume meat or seafood, the most abundant sources of protein. In such cases, intake of right amounts of protein can become a tad challenging, for which protein powder can prove to be a boon.

Read on learn about these and many other benefits of taking protein powder, and the precautions you need to take.

(Read more: Protein benefits)

  1. Sources of protein powder
  2. Protein powder benefits
  3. Homemade protein powder
  4. Protein powder dosage
  5. Side effects of protein powder
  6. Takeaway
Doctors for Benefits and side effects of protein powder for muscle and weight gain for men and women

Protein powders available in the market are derived from various sources. These powders are further modified to suit individual needs. The major sources of protein powders most commonly used today have been listed below.

1. Protein powder containing lactose:

These protein powders are obtained from milk or milk products and contain carbohydrate lactose.

  • Whey protein powder: The most common source of protein powder is whey protein powder. The liquid part of the milk that remains after it has been curdled and strained is called whey, which is used to make this supplement. This makes whey protein powder highly soluble in milk and easily absorbable by the human body. It is usually branded as the most favoured gym protein powder.
  • Casein protein powder: Casein is a protein found in milk that is much slowly absorbed and digested by the human body. It is often marketed as a ‘superior’ source of protein, though its effect has been found to be similar to that of whey protein powder.

2. Lactose-free protein powder:

These protein powders are mostly plant-based products that do not contain dairy, hence lack lactose. These type of protein powders are also often referred to as vegan protein powders.

  • Soy protein powder: It is a type of protein powder obtained from the soyabean plant. Soybean has been found to contain protein in sufficient amounts. This plant-based protein powder is considered as a good source of protein.
  • Pea protein powder: Another popular plant-based source of protein is pea protein powder. This is commonly used because it is free of dairy as well as gluten constituents.
  • Brown rice protein powder: Brown rice is a good source of protein, and thus, brown rice protein powder is popular among vegans and vegetarians. The effects of brown rice protein powder on the body have been found to be similar to that of casein or whey.

3. Egg protein powder:

This type of protein powder is prepared from the whites of the egg. The egg whites are dehydrated and crushed to form a powder. The egg protein powder contains all the required vitamins and minerals in addition to its protein content.

The benefits of protein powder are profound, which makes it a favourite supplement for people of all age groups. The major benefit of protein powder intake has been recognised as an increase in body mass facilitated by these supplements. Given below are some of the most notable benefits of protein powder consumption.

  • Helps gain weight: Protein powder is well-known for its benefits in weight gain, especially in people with lower BMI. Instead of increasing your fat reserves, it bulks up muscle mass, ensuring that you gain healthy weight.
  • Promotes weight loss: When taken under the guidance of an expert, protein powder can be an excellent addition to your weight loss diet. It promotes satiety and curbs hunger pangs, helping you eat less.
  • For building muscles: Recent studies indicate that consumption of protein powder along with intense training helps build muscle mass while at the same time providing you with toned muscles.
  • Benefits for women: Protein powder is loaded with various nutrients, minerals and vitamins that are effective in preventing nutrient deficiency, promoting healthy weight gain and maintaining strength and muscle tone. Consuming whey protein also provides calcium and vitamin D, which strengthens bones.
  • Reduces blood pressure: It has been evidenced that whey protein facilitates blood pressure reduction due to the presence of lactokinins. However, if you are a hypertensive person, it is best to talk to a doctor before taking protein powder.

Protein powder for weight loss

Weight loss experts recommend the use of protein powder for an effective outcome. Sufficient dosage of protein powder helps to achieve a sense of fullness. This prevents a person from over-eating and frequent snacking. This helps in achieving the desired weight loss goal and in maintaining a healthy weight.

Studies have found that whey protein supplements can help reduce the fat mass in people who are over-weight thus, assisting in weight loss.

Protein powder for muscle building

Protein powder is one of the essentials when it comes to gym enthusiasts and athletes. It is an essential component for building up of muscles. People undergoing strength training find protein shakes to be very effective in helping them to maintain the muscle tone.

According to a recent study, protein powder supplements have been found to significantly improve muscle strength and size in healthy individuals who perform exercises that include heavy lifting intense training etc.

Protein powder for weight gain

Protein powders are effective for weight gain in people who are underweight or have a lower BMI (lesser body mass according to their body type and height). Gaining weight must not merely occur by increasing the number of calories. It should rather a selective gain of muscles instead of gaining fat. Protein powder shakes are an effective means of boosting the process of weight gain.

One of the best practices is to ensure that maximum calories are derived from protein powder shakes as opposed to other sources. Plant-based proteins such as soy and pea protein powders are generally recommended for effective weight gain.

Protein powder for blood pressure

The effects of using protein powder, especially whey protein powder include lowering of blood pressure. The bioactive compounds called lactokinins, present in whey, act as hypotensive (blood pressure lowering) agents. This further reduces the risk of cardiovascular diseases due to a high blood pressure.

Studies have found that the use of whey protein powder significantly reduces blood pressure in hypertensive patients. It is, however, important to consult with a physician regarding the right dosage of protein powder to be consumed by people with high blood pressure.

Protein powder for men

Protein helps in repairing damaged muscle cells and tissues. It also helps in gaining muscles. Protein powder shakes can be used to recover from muscle soreness after intense exercise. Men undergoing strength and muscle building training prefer to use protein powder shakes after an intense exercise regime.

The most often recommended protein powder for men is whey protein powder because of its ability to assist in gaining muscles. Also, whey protein has a slightly higher carbohydrate content that speeds up the process of building up of muscles.

Soy protein powder can also be used by men as it is rich in nitric oxides that enhances the process of muscle recovery by promoting the release of growth hormone.

(Read more: Muscle cramps management)

Protein powder for women

The major challenge faced by women in modern times is getting and staying fit. Protein powders for women are an effective means to cut extra weight, gain strength, and achieve the required muscle tone. Protein powders are a healthy alternative to other snacks. Women need to ensure that their required nutritional levels are met to avoid deficiencies. So, protein powders for women are packed to provide all the vitamins, minerals and other essential nutrients generally required by women.

The most favoured protein powder for women is whey protein powder containing calcium and Vitamin D. Whey protein helps in the repair of muscle tissue, while calcium and Vitamin D is required for healthy bones. Also, whey protein is low in fat content which helps in achieving effective weight loss and gaining lean muscle mass.

Whey protein powder along with the necessary vitamins, is thus, the most recommended protein powder for women.

It is relatively easy to make protein powders at home with the right blend of ingredients. Homemade protein powders do not contain any artificial sweeteners and added preservatives which reduces their side effects. The most notable benefit of homemade protein powder is that the flavour can be modified according to one’s choices and extra nutritious products can be added accordingly.

How to make protein powder at home

The recipe to make homemade protein powder is relatively simple. Given below is a detailed procedure that can be followed to make protein powder at home.

Ingredients for homemade protein powder

  • 3 cups (240 gm) instant nonfat dry milk, divided
  • 1 cup (80 gm) of instant dry oats
  • 1 cup (142 gm) almonds
  • Any flavouring of your choice


Steps to prepare homemade protein powder

  1. Add 1 cup of instant dry milk, 1 cup of oats, and 1 cup of almonds in a blender. Grind until smooth.
  2. Add the remainder of instant dry milk in the blender and grind it for a few times until completely blended.
  3. Put the mixture in an air-tight container and cover it.
  4. Store it at cool room temperature if you plan to use protein powder within 2 weeks.
  5. If you plan to store it for a longer duration, keep the mixture to prevent the nuts from turning acidic.

How to use homemade protein powder

  • Scoop out 1/2 cup of protein powder and mix it with 1/2-1 cup of liquid (milk/warm water/juice) in a blender.
  • Let the mixture sit for 5-10 minutes for the oats to plump.
  • The homemade protein powder is ready for consumption.

The dosage of protein powder depends upon the type of protein powder being consumed and the type of body mass which is desirable. The dosage may vary from person to person. So, it is essential to consult a dietician or physician regarding the right dosage of protein powder. 

Protein powder has several health benefits when used as supplements in appropriate amounts. However, unmonitored and excessive use can result in severe side effects. The most commonly observed side effects due to the unregulated consumption of protein powder have been mentioned below.

  • Affect the digestive system:
    Whey protein powder and casein protein powder are the two most popular supplements, that are milk derivatives. These protein powders are rich in lactose, a carbohydrate naturally present in milk. People who are intolerant to lactose, should, therefore, avoid using these protein powders, as it can have side effects in them. Excessive intake of these proteins can also cause increased bowel movements, bloatingnausea, and diarrhoea.
     
  • Unhealthy weight increase:
    Protein supplements can also lead to unwanted weight gain in the form of fat if taken in excessive quantities. The workout regime should match the protein intake, or the unutilised calories get converted into fat. This accumulation of fats leads to excessive weight gain within a short period of time.
     
  • Kidney damage:
    Ammonia is a by-product produced as a result of protein metabolism. Ammonia is converted into urea, which is eliminated from the body through urine. A person consuming a high amount of protein excretes a higher amount of urea. This puts the kidneys under additional pressure to filter out large amounts of urea from the blood. Large quantities of protein consumed over a long period might lead to an increased risk of renal (kidney-related) disorders.
     
  • Excessive lowering of blood pressure:
    People taking medicines for high blood pressure must consult their physician before taking protein powder supplements as their blood pressure may be excessively lowered by using these supplements. (Read more: High blood pressure symptoms)
     
  • Affect liver:
    A diet consisting only protein supplements and no carbs can drive towards ketosis, a state where the body metabolism utilises fat as the major source of energy. This leads to high levels of acidity in the blood. Blood that is consistently acidic has been found to impair liver function. It can cause inflammation of the liver that might result in severe liver disorders. 
     
  • Dehydration:
    High amounts of protein can cause dehydration. It is essential to consume large amounts of water when the intake of protein is high.
     
  • Acne:
    Whey protein is known to increase the production of a hormone called IGF, or insulin-like growth factor. This hormone can trigger sebum production and development of acne as a result.
     
  • Heavy metal poisoning:
    Certain heavy metals like lead and arsenic are found to be added in protein supplements. These metals could accumulate in the body and cause heavy metal poisoning. To avoid such threats, it is safer to use homemade protein powders as supplements. 

Protein is an inevitable part of the diet, but taking it in excessive quantities is not advisable. So, one should ensure that they take adequate amounts of proteins as per the health requirements without going overboard with it. It is always recommended to consult with your doctor before starting with the use of protein supplements.

Dt. Akanksha Mishra

Dt. Akanksha Mishra

Nutritionist
8 Years of Experience

Surbhi Singh

Surbhi Singh

Nutritionist
22 Years of Experience

Dr. Avtar Singh Kochar

Dr. Avtar Singh Kochar

Nutritionist
20 Years of Experience

Dr. priyamwada

Dr. priyamwada

Nutritionist
7 Years of Experience

References

  1. Jooyoung Kim, Chulhyun Lee, Joohyung Lee. Effect of timing of whey protein supplement on muscle damage markers after eccentric exercise. J Exerc Rehabil. 2017 Aug; 13(4): 436–440. PMID: 29114510
  2. Pasiakos SM, Lieberman HR, McLellan TM. Effects of protein supplements on muscle damage, soreness and recovery of muscle function and physical performance: a systematic review. Sports Med. 2014 May;44(5):655-70. PMID: 24435468
  3. Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion. Nutritional Goals for Age-Sex Groups Based on Dietary Reference Intakes and Dietary Guidelines Recommendations. [Internet]
  4. Health Harvard Publishing. Harvard Medical School [Internet]. The hidden dangers of protein powders. Harvard University, Cambridge, Massachusetts.
  5. Kimball SR, Jefferson LS. Signaling pathways and molecular mechanisms through which branched-chain amino acids mediate translational control of protein synthesis. J Nutr. 2006 Jan;136(1 Suppl):227S-31S. PMID: 16365087
  6. Sheikholeslami Vatani D, Ahmadi Kani Golzar F. Changes in antioxidant status and cardiovascular risk factors of overweight young men after six weeks supplementation of whey protein isolate and resistance training. Appetite. 2012 Dec;59(3):673-8. PMID: 22889987
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