Eating enough protein is not just for athletes and gym-goers. Getting your daily protein intake is important for all of us, no matter your age, lifestyle or diet.
Protein is essential for a healthy immune system and is required for a number of major organs to perform properly including your heart, brain and skin.
Protein, of course, can also help with muscle growth and that is one of the reasons why protein powder and supplementing your protein intake has become widely associated with gym-goers and those looking to ‘bulk up’.
We’re here to dispel the myth that protein powder is only for gym-goers and athletes.
What is protein?
Before we delve into the benefits of a protein powder supplement, we first want to provide a quick recap about protein – what it is and what it does.
Protein is a part of every cell in the body. It helps the body build and repair cells and tissues and is a major component of the skin, muscle, bone, organs, hair, and nails.
Protein is one of three macronutrients, which are nutrients the body needs in larger amounts. The other macronutrients are fat and carbohydrates.
Protein is made up of long chains of amino acids. There are 20 amino acids. The specific order of amino acids determines the structure and function of each protein. Of these 20 amino acids, there are nine essential amino acids that the human body does not synthesize, so they must come from the diet.
Proteins may be either complete or incomplete. Complete proteins are proteins that contain all essential amino acids. Animal products, soy and quinoa are complete proteins. Incomplete proteins are proteins that do not contain all essential amino acids. Most plant foods are incomplete proteins, including beans, nuts and grains.
People can combine incomplete protein sources to create a meal that provides all essential amino acids. Examples include rice and beans, or peanut butter on whole-wheat bread.
Where does protein powder fit in?
There are many reasons why people choose to supplement their diet with protein powder. Some are trying to manage weight; others are trying to gain weight. Some want to build muscle mass and others want to improve athletic performance and recovery. For some, it’s all about ensuring they have a balanced diet that includes enough protein to nourish their body.
Protein powder has often been associated with people who go to the gym and want to bulk up. The truth is, that’s only a small percentage of those who choose to use protein powder to supplement their diet.
Protein powder is for everyone. Protein is the building block for life and is responsible for so many bodily functions that most people don’t consume enough daily. There are very few people that wouldn’t benefit from taking a protein supplement. Protein provides your body with energy and is vital for many processes such as muscle repair, hormone function, regulation of hormones, as well as brain and immune function.
Protein powder is a great way to ensure you are getting enough protein in your diet and will leave you feeling full of energy. There are, of course, other benefits of taking a protein powder supplement.
What does protein powder do?
The simple answer to that question is that protein powder ensures you are getting enough protein in your diet and meeting the recommended daily allowance (RDA) figures as recommended by the NZ Nutrition Foundation.
The daily recommended amount of protein depends on a number of factors including age, gender, activity level, diet and overall health. For women, pregnancy and post-natal recovery can also have an impact on the amount of protein that is recommended each day. You can find out more about the RDA for protein in our Why Protein? post.
Whilst it’s important to ensure you are getting the RDA of protein each day, there are other reasons why people choose to supplement their diet with a protein powder. Some of the main reasons include:
Many people associate protein powder with bulky gym-goers and whilst this is true to some extent, it’s not only athletes that want to increase muscle mass. Strength is important in life, not just in sport and there are many people who would like to improve their overall muscle mass.
A 2018 analysis by the British Journal of Sports Medicine of 49 studies with 1,863 participants supports the use of protein powder supplements for increasing muscle size and strength in healthy adults who perform resistance exercise training, such as lifting weights.
The analysis found that protein supplementation was equally effective in men and women.
A study by PubMed found that protein powder supplements were also effective at preventing muscle loss during weight loss.
Recovery after exercise and repair after injury
As well as contributing to muscle growth, protein can help repair damaged muscles and tissues. As a result, athletes may use protein powder to speed up recovery from muscle soreness post-workout.
The Journal of Exercise Rehabilitation reports that taking protein supplements after exercise can aid recovery by reducing muscle damage and improving muscle performance and muscle protein synthesis.
In a similar way, protein can help your body repair after it has been injured. Boosting your protein intake post-injury can speed up the recovery process and help the body repair.
Eating protein-rich foods and taking protein supplements may help people feel fuller for longer. Feeling full tends to result in smaller portion sizes and less frequent snacking, which can help a person maintain a healthy weight.
This is partly because protein reduces your level of the hunger hormone ghrelin. It also boosts the levels of peptide YY, a hormone that makes you feel full.
Studies have also shown that increasing your protein intake can also help to lower your blood pressure and total cholesterol, contributing to an overall improvement of health.
Should I start taking a protein powder supplement?
As we mentioned earlier, there are very few people that wouldn’t benefit from supplementing their existing diet with a protein powder supplement. Whilst it is possible to consume too much protein, these cases are extremely rare. It’s important that you use a protein powder supplement as part of a balanced diet that includes all macronutrients. If you already have a high protein intake through your natural diet, you may want to talk to your GP about the benefits of a protein powder supplement.
At Two Islands, our Pea Protein Powders use golden peas that contain all essential amino acids and are high in protein and low in carbohydrates. They are also free from dairy and gluten making them an ideal protein powder supplement for anyone thinking of trying a protein powder supplement for the first time.
Don’t just take our word for it though. Here is one of our recent reviews:
"Super impressive Protein Powder!"
I’m super impressed with the Two Islands Protein Powder! It’s the only plant-based powder I’ve tried that mixes properly, is smooth, isn’t gritty and doesn’t have a weird texture, and it tastes nice to boot! I’ve tried different brands and this definitely takes the cake, for sure. Bonus that the ingredients are really simple and I can take it while pregnant too.
--Sarah J, Two Islands Customer
At Two Islands, we are super-passionate about our products and we would give you a resounding thumbs up if you are considering whether you should start taking a protein powder supplement. If you do have any lingering doubts, you should speak to your healthcare professional but you can find out more about the benefits of protein powder in some of our other articles below.