You might have heard that you should probably be eating more protein. And you might have seen lots of people having ‘protein powder’ and ‘protein bars’ as part of their diet.
It can be a bit confusing if you’ve not come across or had these before.
This is a guide on all you need to know about protein supplements, and the answer to many frequently asked questions.
What is this ‘protein powder’ stuff everyone keeps talking about?
Protein powder is just an easy and convenient way of adding protein to your diet.
Specifically, whey protein is a by-product of the manufacture of cheese – the separation of curds and whey. Once separated, whey is then filtered, warmed and spray dried to become whey protein powder.
You can get unflavoured protein, or you can buy it in a variety of flavours (which make it taste a lot nicer).
Why is it good for me?
Most people – women in particular – don’t eat enough protein.
There can be many benefits to increasing your intake if it’s currently low:
- protein helps you feel fuller for longer
- it requires more energy from your body to break it down compared to carbohydrates and fat, so you burn calories just in digestion
- protein supports muscle growth (this is good if you want to tone up)
- it also helps you recover from exercise
- protein is vital for many different functions in the body including the production of enzymes, hormones and other body chemicals
- it’s also an important building block for bones, cartilage, skin, blood, hair and nails
Will it make me big and muscly?
To gain significant muscle as a woman is tough – you won’t do it by accident.
Women don’t have much of the natural muscle-building hormone testosterone for a start.
You’d need to eat lots of food and train regularly. You’d also need to use heavy weights for a consistent period of time, to have any chance of looking big and muscly.
Through eating enough protein, and doing regular weights training, you’re far more likely to lose weight, drop dress sizes, and look lean and toned, than get anywhere near looking like Arnie.
For successful weight loss, this is the formula – a high protein intake, a gradual reduction in calories, and regular exercise (weights training in particular).
Through this formula, you tell your body to keep muscle, get stronger, tone up, and preferentially burn body fat.
Without enough protein or resistance training, you can still lose weight, but more of that will be muscle.
Keeping hold of muscle should be a priority at all stages of life.
Does protein powder speed up weight loss?
Unfortunately, there are no specific foods or supplements that will cause you to lose weight more quickly.
It it will always come down to getting your calorie balance right, and consuming less than you are expending.
BUT protein powder can support weight loss by keeping you fuller for longer, and by helping you retain (or build) muscle.
How much protein do I need?
The recommended amount of protein each day in the UK is 0.75g per kg of bodyweight.
Most people in the world of fitness and nutrition though, who are up to date on the latest research, believe this very low.
It’s enough to cover your bases and not lead to malnutrition. But if you are active and wanting to be at your best in terms of health, fitness, energy and strength, more is better.
Most leading fitness experts recommend roughly 2g of protein per kg of bodyweight (or target bodyweight if you have more than a stone of weight to lose). This is a good target if you are active and take part in regular exercise – particularly lifting weights at the gym.
To keep things simple, roughly 25-40 of protein in each meal, plus a high protein snack, is a good amount to aim for.
Around 25-30g protein can be found in:
- 3 eggs
- a fist sized portion of meat
- a fillet of fish
- a tin of tuna
- 200g high protein yogurt (Arla, Liberte, SkyR and Total are all good options)
- 200g low fat cottage cheese
- Puy lentils from a sachet – check the packet for serving size
- a quality protein bar (see further down for more info on this)
- A scoop of protein powder
Do I actually need to use protein powder?
No, nobody needs it to achieve their goals, and it’s not necessary at all if you get enough protein from natural foods.
If you can get a serving of the high protein foods listed above into your meals each day, you’re probably doing just fine without protein powder.
But if those foods aren’t always convenient or appealing, whey protein can then be a helpful and convenient option to get more protein in.
It can also be a good replacement for chocolate bars or desserts. A way to get a ‘sweet fix’ while still staying on track with your overall nutrition.
I always encourage clients to get their protein from ‘real food’ sources when possible, as they contain various other nutrients that benefit the body too.
But for convenience and the all important enjoyment factor of eating for long term weight loss, it can be a great addition to your regular diet.
How do I consume it?
If you buy a bag or tub of protein there’ll be a scoop inside (you may have to dig around for it a little bit).
One scoop is usually 25-30g and counts as one serving.
The easiest / most popular ways to consume protein powder are:
Mixed with oats
Cook your oats first on the hob or in the microwave, then stir in a scoop of protein. Cook another minute or so if needed.
Usually protein powder flavours and thickens the porridge enough to mean that you can make it with water rather than milk. That saves a few calories too.
Made into protein pancakes
These taste amazing and feel like such a treat!
Often a big favourite of clients once they try them.
You can find two protein pancake recipes in my free ebook here:
Mixed with plain yogurt
1 scoop with some plain natural or Greek yogurt (Greek gives extra protein) makes a very tasty and super easy snack or pudding.
If you have chocolate brownie flavour, try adding a teaspoon of cacao / dark cocoa powder too – so good! A handful of fresh berries can also be a great addition.
Added to a smoothie
Below is a smoothie made my online client Helen. 200ml unsweetened almond milk, blitzed together with blueberries and a scoop of vanilla protein powder. Chocolate flavour works well too. Yum!
Drink as a shake
You can buy protein shakers from myprotein.com (I like this one HERE). They make it easy to mix up a quick shake by adding the powder to milk or water and literally shaking it all up.
The shakers have a metal spiral ball or plastic filter grid inside them that mixes everything together (the powder can be a bit clumpy otherwise).
Thank you to Kathryn and Chloe from my free Facebook group –
for providing these shake photos 🙂
Used in protein baking
There are so many good baking recipes now that give you an alternative to regular ‘treats’. Protein baking is generally higher in protein, lower in sugar and lower in calories compared to regular alternatives.
This photo is of my protein chocolate brownies, which you can find the recipe for here:
For some more scrummy protein baking recipes including my hugely popular banana bread, millionaire shortbreads… PLUS ideas for breakfast, lunch and dinner, check out my Healthy Recipe Ebook here:
Where do I get protein powder from?
I always recommend myprotein.com as it’s good value, fast delivery, and has a variety of flavours:
You’ll see protein powder in in supermarkets and health food stores, but it’s generally more expensive and no better in terms of quality.
What about protein bars?
Protein bars can make a great snack option when you’re on the go. They can also make a tasty (and more beneficial) alternative to a chocolate bar.
Until fairly recently, the taste and texture of most protein bars was pretty awful. But in the last few years they have improved dramatically and many are now delicious. Even better; you may have noticed them becoming much more widespread in supermarkets, health food stores, petrol stations and newsagents.
If you find a flavour you particularly like, I’d recommend buying a box online. Amazon usually have the best deals.
The tastiest protein bars, in many people’s (including mine) opinion, are Grenade Carb Killas. They’re so good! Plenty of delicious flavours to choose from and you can find them in most supermarkets, petrol stations, Holland and Barrett, as well as on amazon.
Chocolate chip salted caramel is excellent – you can find it HERE.
Other bars including PhD (white chocolate blondie… amazing), Quest, Promax and Sci-Mix are good too.
BIG TIP – check the nutrition lable.
Protein bars do vary a lot in terms of their calorie and protein content. Ideally, you’re looking for something that’s around 20g of protein and around 200 calories.
If it has much less protein, or quite a few calories, it’s not a good option.
Protein cookies and flapjacks often fall into this category.
Being a big protein bar fan, I have a stash of different flavours in my cupboard. I also keep one in my bag in case I get hungry with no other food options around.
Below is a photo of (part of) my stash. Favourite out of these… Grenade white chocolate cookie, very closely followed by Jaffa Quake (effectively chocolate orange flavour). Both are delicious.
I’ve seen ‘Diet whey protein’… do I need to get that if I want to lose weight?
No, any protein powder with word ‘diet’ on it is just a marketing ploy to get you to spend more money.
The nutrition stats for whey protein vs diet protein are very similar.
The word ‘diet’ makes women more likely to buy, so they put that word on it and then make it more expensive…
Standard whey is the one to go for.
What are the best flavours of protein powder?
My personal favourite, and that of many clients, is chocolate brownie (it’s amazing!).
If you try it and find it a bit sweet, try mixing it with 2-3 tsp of cacao / dark cocoa powder. That works very well to give it a darker, less sweet, more chocolatey taste.
Vanilla is also good and works well in shakes, smoothies, pancakes, and many baking recipes.
Sticky toffee and Cinammon Danish are fairly popular too.
Can too much protein be bad for my health?
Most of the ‘dangers’ you might hear about consuming protein are myths.
The only risk factor is if you have kidney disease, in which case too much protein can accelerate damage from the disease.
If you have normal healthy kidneys, a high protein diet is completely fine and will not cause any damage.
No other health risks have been shown. There’s little point in eating much more than 1g of protein per lb of bodyweight. But even higher intakes than that have not been shown to cause any problems.
You’d have to really try hard to actually consume this much protein too. And you’d probably have to exclude other beneficial foods such as vegetables and healthy fats, simply because you’d be too full.
Getting 3-4 servings of protein per day, plus lots of veggies, some carbs, and some healthy fats most days. is the best way to ensure maximum nutrition from your diet.
Is there a certain time of the day when it’s best to have protein?
Protein powder is fine to have whenever, but there are a few times when it can be most useful.
It can be good as a quick breakfast when you’re on the run or doing an early workout. Another time it’s useful is as a post-workout meal or snack.
It’s not essential to have protein straight after your workout. But it does make a lot of sense to consume a protein-rich meal or snack as soon as you’re hungry after exercise.
It will help your body start the recovery process by giving it the muscle-rebuilding nutrients it needs, And it leaves you less likely to get hungry later on.
If your workout finishes just before a meal, and you have time to eat some actual food, by all means go for that. Or you could make a meal with protein powder in it, like porridge or protein pancakes.
But if you’re in need of just a quick and easy snack to keep you going, a shake could be the perfect solution.
How much protein powder can I have in a day?
I’d recommend 1-2 scoops per day maximum, simply so you can get other beneficial nutrients from other protein sources too.
One protein bar is fine too.
But I’d recommend going for ‘real food’ options most of the time when they are convenient and available. That way you’ll get a boost of natural vitamins and minerals too.
That’s it – enjoy your protein!
I hope that was helpful.
If you have any questions, please comment below or feel free to get in touch HERE.