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The Power of Protein

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Posted: March 10, 2015

Have you ever wondered if protein powders and supplements are better or worse than protein food sources?
protein powders

protein powders

Protein is in every cell, tissue and organ in the body.  So, without it the body cannot build and repair those cells, muscles, and other tissues as they are used and broken down throughout every day tasks.  Protein is especially essential in growth and development through its role in producing enzymes, hormones, and other body chemicals.
If the body contains too much protein, it will be excreted in the urine, assuming there are no other kidney or liver issues.  A common misconception is that consuming extra protein will make a person stronger, more muscular, and, in some opinions, more attractive.  The media provides images of men with huge muscles standing next to protein powders and other supplements. This type of marketing sparks an interest in any male or female that desires to look as strong as the models portrayed in the media.  Those whose interests are captured assume that drinking protein powders will get them the body they want.  They turn to supplements and powders as opposed to getting their protein requirements from whole food sources.  Does that matter?

A macronutrient is a substance essential in large amounts for the growth and health of a human. “Large amounts” can be interpreted in many ways.  In the case of protein, a large amount is not as much as a large amount of carbohydrates.  For example: an 18-year-old boy requires almost 300 grams of carbohydrates daily while they only require about 52 grams of protein. A three ounce piece of meat constitutes roughly 21 grams of those 52 grams of daily recommended protein.
So, why is there a recent trend to eat a high protein diet with added protein supplements when it is easy to meet those daily requirements through consuming a healthy diet? One reason is that protein powders are easy and convenient to prepare and consume, as well as  provide high amounts of useful protein.  But, supplements sometimes provide high calories, high expense, low amounts of nutrients, and all are not proven to be safe.

Food sources provide enough protein to easily meet daily requirements, offer a wide array of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants, and increase the feeling of fullness which could reduce snacking.  But, some require high amounts of prep time, may be difficult to consume after a workout, contain saturated fats, cholesterol, sodium, and sometimes high calories, and can be pricey.  Both protein sources provide valid arguments.  So, the question remains: are protein powders and supplements better or worse than protein food sources?

Contact Information

Paige Whitmire/dietetic intern/pnw5006@psu.edu