Recently a colleague of mine asked me if protein powder was necessary after reading another blog post online about it. He was concerned that he was wasting his money on buying protein powder and would be better off just not getting it. We chatted a bit, but I figured there are a number of other folks out there with the same question, so I would write a bit on it.
The short answer to do you need to buy protein powder is; no. However, the long answer has a number of caveats that are important to understand.
Protein powder is just a simple product to allow you to get in a greater amount of grams of protein each day by simply mixing water and said powder and drinking it. If you have a diet that already is high enough in protein (if you are aiming to gain muscle we are talking about getting in at least 1.5g/kg of body mass each day) then you don’t need the protein powder, but if you want to optimize your muscle mass building response taking protein powder directly after training will enhance your recovery. Also, when you are trying to lose weight you have to run a caloric deficit. This requires the obvious decrease in calories you eat each day and most protein powders are simply protein, and your protein demands actually increase when you are losing weight as a means to preserve lean body mass (over 2g/kg of body mass). Using protein powder as a means to hit your protein goal without messing with your caloric deficit is a good way to go, especially when most meat has fat also in each serving which adds up quickly. So those are two simple reasons of why to use protein powder to just optimize your muscle mass.
Some other good reasons why you would want to supplement with protein is when you are eating a diet that is naturally lower in protein. For example being a vegan or some of the stricter forms of vegetarianism where your high protein options are very limited (try getting 200 plus grams of protein each day from quinoa). If you are an athlete trying to gain muscle mass, or lose weight and retain your muscle mass this is very hard if you aren’t getting in enough protein. If you are only living on vegetables, fruits, nuts, and seeds this can be done, but requires a lot of effort and planning, whereas protein powders allow for simplicity.
There can be other nutritional issues like travel, having your jaw wired shut, or otherwise where this just allows for a simple option that you can easily transport. At the end of the day I would always recommend whole food for the majority of your diet, but protein powder can be a nice bridge. So at the end of the day, you don’t need protein powder, but it is useful in a number of situations. Thanks as always for reading and is you have any questions about types of protein powders (or want me to write about it) just let me know.