Protein powder makes you bulky. Right? Not necessarily. In fact, when used properly, the right protein can actually help you slim down, while improving overall body composition. Let’s dust off our science books and dive into just how protein powder helps you lose weight.
I know I know. Protein powder is for bodybuilders only, or for those creepy old gym guys with the shirts that show a little too much of, well everything.
Or it’s for adolescent high school kids who are trying to put on weight to impress their friends.
They are high in calories, and help you add bulk, all while making you just a little bit gassy.
Cue adolescent brother, marching around your room, making inappropriate gestures with his shaker bottle (we all remember the shakeweight commercial, right?), and farting up a storm.
Yep. That’s still the way alot of folks think about protein powder.
Now. Before we dive too deep into the science, let’s get one thing straight.
Protein powder is NOT just for men.
Is Protein Powder Good for Women?
The stereotype of male bodybuilders and protein powders is entrenched pretty firmly in our modern fitness culture.
But the fact of the matter is, protein powder is just, well, protein!
That doesn’t make sense when you read it the first time, but let me explain.
Protein is one of the three macronutrients that fuel our bodies. The other two are carbohydrates, and fats.
All three of these macronutrients play unique roles in our bodies, but are all used as energy sources as well.
Protein is unique in that it makes up all of the connective tissue in our body. Our muscles, skin, and even our hair is made of proteins!
Protein powder is simply a powdered form of natural proteins that our body can use to repair and replenish the systems in our bodies that are made from protein.
Our body breaks down the proteins we ingest into individual amino acids (the building blocks of protein). There are Essential Amino Acids (EAAs) and Branch Chain Amino Acids (BCAAs). (If you are curious about the differences between EAA and BCAA, read the article we published on the topic here.)
But getting back on track- ALL human beings need protein to survive.
So can women take protein powder?
Of course! Both men and women both need protein equally as much, and therefore both can benefit from protein supplementation.
Benefit how? You ask…
The Benefits of Protein Supplementation
How Does Protein Help You Lose Weight?
When used correctly, protein powder helps you lose weight in five main ways, especially when dieting:
1. Protein Powder Prevents Over-Eating: Protein consumption triggers our body to release appetite-reducing hormones to make us feel full, and less hungry. Feeling full can be a huge help when dieting, when a caloric restriction can cause pangs of hunger that often lead to snacking. One recent study showed that people who increased their protein intake ended up eating over 400 fewer calories throughout the rest of their day4.
2. Protein Powder Raises Metabolism: High-protein diets are proven to elevate your resting metabolism- meaning you will burn more calories. That’s because protein helps increase lean body mass (so it builds more muscle), which has a higher energy requirement than fat.
3. Protein Powder Prevents Muscle Loss: Restrictive dieting can often lead to our bodies using our existing muscle tissue for energy, which leads to a lowered metabolism. Supplementing with protein helps maintain LBM, keeping metabolism high.
4. Protein Powder Supports Hormone Production: Protein is used in the body to make and regulate various hormones in the body- among them, leptin, insulin, cortisol, and grehlin: the hormones responsible for helping regulate metabolism, blood sugar, and ultimately weight management. One of the mechanisms by which protein can be used for weightloss, is by providing adequate protein to support the production of these hormones.
5. Protein Powder Prevents Weight Re-Gain: Studies have shown that not only does protein help people lose weight, but it also helps them keep weight off, for good. A recent study conducted in the Netherlands at Maastricht University found that a high-protein group regained less than half the amount of weight of the lower-protein group following a weightloss study.
The evidence is clear, and the research is definitive- protein powder might just be the most important supplement for a weightloss goal.
But how much protein is best to help you lose weight?
How Much Protein do I Need?
In fact, the most recent research presented at the Protein Summit 2.0, along with a recent study4 conducted at the University of Washington suggests that men and women with an active lifestyle may benefit most from a protein intake of 30-35% of daily caloric intake3.
So if you consume around 2,500 calories per day, that means you should be eating about 200g of protein per day for optimal weight-loss benefits – that’s the equivalent of about four 8 oz steaks!
No wonder protein powders have become so popular.
The Best Protein For Weightloss
So we’ve explored how protein powder helps you lose weight, but it is important to note that not all protein powders are the same.
First of all, there are all different kinds of protein powders. Here are a few of the most protein powder categories:
Dairy-based Protein Powders: Whey, Casein, Milk
Vegan Protein Powders: Pea Protein, Brown Rice Protein, Hemp Protein, Sacha Inchi protein, Pumpkin Protein, Soy Protein (not recommended)
Egg White Protein Powders: Cage-Free, Pasture-Raised, Egg Albumin
Collagen Protein Powders: Marine, Porcine, Bovine
Depending on their source, different protein powders have unique properties that make them better for different purposes.
Dairy proteins have the highest concentrations of branch-chain amino acids, which make it the most popular and common for athletes, and people with active lifestyles, while a growing segment of the population is turning to vegan protein powder for allergen (or ethical) reasons.
Collagen protein is becoming more and more popular among individuals seeking skin and beauty benefits.
While there is no ‘one-size-fits-all’ with protein powders, if you are not lactose intolerant or allergic to dairy, a good blended dairy protein is a great place to start when selecting a good protein powder for weightloss.
Daniel Pendick of the Harvard Health Medical School, advises us to “Aim for protein sources low in saturated fat and processed carbohydrates and rich in many nutrients1.
To expand on what he means by those ‘many nutrients’ – dairy proteins are also excellent sources of carnitine and naturally-occurring fats like ALA, which have both been associated with the weightloss effects of protein.
A final thing to consider when choosing the best protein powder, is the rate at which the protein digests. While we already learned that all proteins release hormones that reduce hunger, the time it takes to digest the protein can also impact feelings of satiety/fullness, and energy.
Whey protein is the fastest-digesting of the dairy-based proteins (digests fully within 1-2 hours), whereas Micellar Casein is slower digesting (takes up to 7 hours).
Egg white protein is somewhere in between, with a digestion time between 2-5 hours.
A good weightloss protein is one that combines multiple protein sources, to maximize satiety while providing the most diverse pool of amino acids and other nutrients.
With just 2g net carbs, virtually no fat (<1g), and 24g of nutrient-dense grass-fed protein, APOLLO protein makes for a fantastic protein powder for women of all ages with a weight-loss goal in mind.