Protein is a predominant micronutrient essential for the body to carry out special functions including hormone regulation, maintenance of fluid balance, and sustenance of general well-being. Mankind needs to consume daily adequate levels of protein to allow muscle building and to keep bones and skin healthy. Researchers believe that amino acids (building blocks of proteins) support immune system cells which protect the body from infections.
Protein can be found naturally in various food items such as beans, legumes, dairy products, meat, and fish- to name a few. It must be consumed through our diet as our body cannot produce 9 essential amino acids- isoleucine, histidine, lysine, leucine, threonine, phenylalanine, methionine, valine, and tryptophan. It is satiating, meaning that the person who has a sufficient intake of proteins in their diet would not feel hungry sooner and stay fuller for longer.
The recommended dietary allowance (RDA) for protein is 0.8g per kg of the body weight of a healthy adult with a sedentary lifestyle. On the other side, an athlete or a sportsperson requires much more daily protein intake to maintain muscle mass. It is recommended for them to have an intake of 1.4 to 2g per 2.2 pounds of their body weight to build their muscles and for their strength training. However, old people who are aged above 65 are recommended to take not more than 1-1.2 grams per 2.2 pounds of their body weight. As this much consumption may not be possibly provided through whole foods, they go for protein supplements or protein powders. But, are they healthy? Continue reading to find out what nutritionists speaks. [1, 3]
What is Protein Powder?
Protein powder is a nutritional dietary supplement made from extracting plant and animal foods with added ingredients like sugars, minerals, vitamins, and flavorings. Animal-based protein powders include water-soluble and easily digestible whey protein and casein which makes up 80% of cow’s milk protein, collagen, and eggs. Plant-based protein powders include hemp, pea, soy, rice protein powders, pumpkin, and algae which are preferred by people who are allergic to dairy products. There is no single standard formulation for protein powders.
Protein powders are usually taken by bodybuilders, fitness freaks, and athletes to build their muscles and improve their performance. They are taken after exercise to reduce muscle damage by repairing muscle tissues and promoting the synthesis of muscle proteins. Many people rely on protein powders to meet their daily protein targets, lose or gain weight, or recover from any injury or surgery. It is one of the most convenient and cost-effective way to consume protein. [1, 3]
The Nutritional Breakdown For Protein Powder:
One serving of a protein powder consists of about 20-25 grams of protein, typically a few scoops, provided inside the package. An individual can determine how many portions of protein powder can fit into his/her daily needs by assessing their overall protein target.
Another way to check out the nutritional value of a protein powder is to compare the protein present in it with the amount of protein found in other protein-rich foods. For instance, one serving of protein powder provides about the same amount of protein as a 3- ounce skinless chicken breast and a few more grams added to the cup of cooked lentils.
Keeping all this in mind, a person can use protein powders in two ways. One approach is its use as an alternative to other protein-containing foods and another is to mix or blend it with some dish (recommended by experts) to boost its protein content. 
So, Is It Healthy To Take Protein Powder In The Diet?
Protein powder is a healthy supplement if it has passed third-party testing and is certified by National Sanitation Foundation which ensures its quality, safety, and checks if its contents are up to some standard levels. A single-ingredient, plant-based protein powder can certainly be a healthier way to meet daily needs protein-especially when they are free of contaminants.
The health benefits of having protein powder in the diet include:
When a meal consists of protein sources, it makes the person feel satiated. As a result, the person would control his/her appetite which in turn would help him/her maintain a healthy body weight.
A protein powder can even result in some weight gain as it boosts the calorie intake of the food to which it is added. Thus, the underweight person can put on some extra pounds. Weight gain can even be an outcome of excess protein intake as the body won’t use it and instead store it as body fats.
There are many flavors of protein powders with varying ingredients in the market which can easily be blended into a myriad of foods. Protein powders are best to add to beverages, smoothies, granola bars, soups, hot cereals, pancake batter, and cookies.
- Increase in Muscle Strength And Size
In individuals who do daily workouts, a protein powder can promote muscle growth. Muscle gaining is successful in weight lifters who widely use protein shakes or supplements
- Prevention of Muscle Loss (In Older Adults)
Elderly people demand more protein intake as they consume less food, have muscle loss, and reduced physical activity because of their old age. Whey proteins are best to prevent muscle loss and fall risks in old people.
- Attainment of Health-Related Goals
Nowadays, more and more people are switching to diet-friendly foods depending on their needs. For those who have a vegan lifestyle, they opt for vegan protein powder while those who wish to limit their carbohydrate intake would choose a low-carbohydrate protein powder. If the concern is skin health, maybe a collagen protein powder is best to take. Thus, it concluded that there are many protein powder formulations available to reach the unique health goals of the individual.
However, protein powders do have some cons. These include the chances of contamination, resulting in possible excessive protein intake, hence one must consult a healthcare professional to know which diet to take or type of protein powder one must intake in their diet for best outcomes. [2, 3]