Is Protein Powder Good for You? (Science-Based)

Connor Sellers
Published by Connor Sellers | Senior Coach
Last updated: November 29, 2023
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In all my years as a personal trainer, I have seen a lot of changes in the dietary supplement sector. And one question most of my clients always ask is whether they really should be drinking a regular protein shake.

The simple answer is that anybody who regularly exercises could see health benefits from a higher protein intake.

But do you fully understand what those benefits are and how much protein powder you need for those benefits?

To help you with this, I got my dietitian to help out and create this easy-to-follow guide. I also cover what protein powders to consider.

Quick Summary

  • Protein powder is good for you as it presents the following benefits; promotes weight loss, improves exercise recovery, and enhances muscle building.
  • The following protein powders are recommended when compared to other supplements; milk-based protein, plant-based protein powders, and branched-chain amino acids.
  • Protein powder can be consumed by anyone, including individuals who don't regularly exercise.

Do Protein Powders Provide Health Benefits?

tape measure on a womans body and a man working out

There are three main areas where protein powder can help you out.

1. Weight Loss

Most people who go through constant fat loss and weight gain fluctuations most likely have the wrong macro balance.

With most of my clients, a few weeks of analyzing their daily macro balance with a food journaling app will reveal a high-carb diet.

And that's simply not a recipe to help you lose weight.

Studies suggest that rebalancing a healthy diet towards protein improves people's control over their appetite and fat mass [1].

2. Exercise Recovery

Exercise recovery is one of the most important times for athletes of any level. Whether you're a professional sports star or you've just gone to the gym for the first time, it's all about optimizing your muscle protein synthesis.

This is a process where physical strain causes muscle damage that the body repairs by transforming the amino acid intake into new muscle tissue [2].

This process is important for avoiding that post-exercise stiffness and to help you maintain muscle mass.

3. Muscle Building

This is going to be an important factor for most athletes but especially bodybuilders. Anyone that wants to bulk up will require a certain amount of protein per day.

Based on some dietary recommendations, you should aim for up to 3 grams of protein for every one pound of weight [3]. And while you can get a lot of that through your food, you might not exactly fancy eating another chicken breast after you finish at the gym.

That's why a protein shake might be the best option to support muscle growth immediately after weight training.

Are Certain Protein Powders Better For You?

variety of protein powders in cups

To answer this, I had a dietitian break things down into three important categories.

Milk-Based Protein

Whey protein powder is the most common type you'll find, and the reason for this is that it contains the right combination of essential amino acids. It's this amino acid profile that makes animal-based protein powders so favored by athletes [4].

Casein protein powder is another option, but it's sometimes more expensive and not as suitable for people who may have a sensitive stomach.

“Whey concentrate is higher in carbs and lower in protein compared to whey isolate and hydrolyzed whey. It also contains larger amounts of lactose, so it may cause digestive problems in those with milk allergy or lactose intolerance. Its protein content varies between 30 percent and 90 percent.”

- Andra Picincu, Writer at

Plant-Based Protein Powders

bowl of protein powder and chickpea

Many people have made the switch to vegan protein powder, even if they don't stick with a plant diet.

One downside is that with the exception of hemp protein powder, most plant proteins need to be blended to get the full amino acid profile [5].

That's why you usually see a mix of soy, brown rice, and pea protein powder. It's a simple solution, and some people find it easier on the stomach.

Branched Chain Amino Acids (BCAAs)

This is a special type of protein powder for high-performance athletes. It isolates leucine, isoleucine, and valine, which are vital for muscle function [6]. Taking these just before or after a heavy training session may help with performance levels and recovery time.

The bottom line here is that whey protein powder is one of the best options for non-vegans, and you'll find that it's the most commonly available one.

Should You Use Protein Powders To Balance Your Macros?

The simple answer is that protein powder is one of the easiest ways to get the right macro balance. If your diet goal is to switch to high-protein for a bulking phase, it can be quite a challenge to eat high-protein foods all day.

Imagine a 200-pound bodybuilder aiming for 700 grams of protein each day.

It will happen more often than not that you simply can't look at protein-rich foods for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. And that's where a few protein-rich shakes can make your life so much easier to balance all those macros.

However, some people start drinking more protein shakes in order to replace their meals, without knowing that shakes do not maintain satiety for a long time.

Edible Quintero of Health Insider shares that this could result in weight gain because hunger can lead you to snack on other foods.

Are There Side Effects Of Taking Too Much Protein Powder?

man holding his big belly

Yes, there can be some side effects from significantly exceeding the recommended dietary allowance of 2 grams of protein per pound of body weight.

Typically, this is down to eating a lot of protein in one sitting. Imagine a dinner of 3 large chicken breasts, and you wash it down with a double scoop protein shake.

That's a lot of protein for your stomach, and it can cause stomach cramps and bloat [7].

Julio Lopez, a nutrition specialist and a certified personal trainer at 365 Physique, adds that too much protein can also result in unnecessary and unhealthy weight gain.

While protein is an important piece in an individual’s weight loss journey, one must consider the caloric density of protein powders.

If one consumes too much protein, this could take a person out of caloric deficit which can lead to weight gain, particularly if the pattern is recurring for weeks and months.

That's why you need to space out your protein intake carefully throughout the day.

Also, if you have health conditions such as kidney disease, then you need to discuss such a diet approach with your doctor first.


Can You Take Too Much Protein Powder in One Go?

Yes, you can take too much protein powder in one go. Most protein powders recommend 1 to 1 1/2 scoops per shake, and anything more than that could cause bloating and cramps.

Are Protein Powders Bad if You Don’t Exercise?

No, protein powders aren't bad if you don't exercise. But they will have a limited effect on your body, especially lean muscles.


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