Do you need protein powder in your diet? It isn’t necessary to meet your daily protein needs, but it can be a handy way for some people to ensure they are getting enough protein in meals that may be lacking. Here are some tips that can help you figure out if a protein powder is right for you.
Figure out your daily protein needs:
The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics recommends getting between 0.4 – 0.8 grams of protein per pound of body weight per day. The range accommodates different activity levels, with a lower end for sedentary or lightly active men and women, a middle range for endurance athletes and avid exercisers, and a higher range for strength athletes. This means about 60 grams per day for a sedentary 150 lb person, 90 grams per day for an endurance athlete, and 109 grams per day for strength athletes.
Consider a food-first approach (and a food journal):
The best way to know how much protein you’re getting each day is to keep a food journal for a week or two. Getting protein from whole foods means you’re getting a wide range of additional vitamins and minerals along with it. For instance, when you eat 3 ounces of canned tuna, you’re getting 15 grams of protein plus the important nutrients, selenium and vitamin D. Here are some protein counts for reference.
3 ounces cooked chicken, beef, pork: 21 grams
1 cup nonfat plain Greek-style yogurt: 22 grams
5 ounces canned tuna: 25 grams
1 cup cooked beans/lentils: 16 grams
1 ounce (23 pieces) almonds: 6 grams
3/4 cup cooked quinoa: 7 grams
1 large egg: 6 grams
1 cup oats cooked with water: 6 grams
1 cup oats cooked with 1 cup nonfat milk: 15 grams
1 cup soy milk: 7 grams
Use protein powder on an as-needed basis:
Add protein powder to foods that are otherwise lacking, like fruit smoothies, oatmeal, hot cereal, pancakes, and waffles, particularly if you’re using nut milks in place of yogurt, milk, or soy milk (nut milks are low in protein, with about 1 gram per cup compared to 7-8 grams per cup for soy/cow milk).
Choosing the right one:
Protein powders are considered a supplement, not a food, which means they’re not as tightly regulated as food. So, choose a quality brand. Look for a powder that is unsweetened or very very lightly sweetened (<2 grams of sugar per 2 tablespoons). Also, check the ingredients list and look for minimal additives, particularly avoiding carrageenan, artificial or high intensity sweeteners (sucralose, monkfruit extract, stevia, etc), and flavorings. The main ingredients you want to see are the protein source (whey, casein, brown rice, pea protein, etc.) possibly probiotics, and not much else. We like Epic brand’s original protein powder and Tera’s Whey grass-fed, organic unsweetened protein powder.