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Does protein powder cause weight gain? An expert answers

Can protein powder cause weight gain? Making these 3 mistakes that you might be making while consuming protein powder can make you gain weight instead of losing it.
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How to consume protein powder for weight loss? Image courtesy: Adobe Stock
Aayushi Gupta Updated: 5 Apr 2024, 05:34 pm IST
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Protein powder is widely consumed by fitness enthusiasts, athletes, and those aiming for muscle growth. It plays a crucial role in weight loss due to its ability to promote satiety and preserve lean muscle mass. However, does protein powder make you gain weight as well?

If you have been wondering whether you should take protein powder for weight gain, you should know that protein powder directly can not cause weight gain. Rather, it occurs when you consume more calories than you burn, regardless of whether it comes from protein shakes or any other food and drinks. Health Shots spoke to nutritionist Nupuur Patil, to understand how protein powder consumption can lead to weight gain.

How much protein do you need everyday?

Protein is crucial for muscle repair, immune function, and overall health. Including different sources of protein, such as meat, dairy, beans, nuts, and protein supplements, in your diet ensures a well-rounded amino acid profile. The recommended dietary allowance (RDA) for protein is based on factors like age, sex, and activity level. Generally, adults should aim for 0.8 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight. For a more active lifestyle or muscle-building goals, the range might be 1.2 to 2.2 grams per kilogram. Athletes engaged in intense training may require even higher amounts.

What is protein powder and what does it do?

Protein powders are protein in powdered form that are made from plants such as Soybeans, potatoes, peas or even eggs and milk. Consuming protein powders can be an easy way to increase your daily intake of protein. These can be added in shakes, or even food items such as oats. In fact, it can even be added to batters to be baked. However, does protein powder make you gain weight is a question that can be answered looking at the amount of consumption as well as the other ingredients your consume with the powder.

Why does protein powder make you gain weight?

First of all, understand that it;s unfair to blame only protein powder for weight gain as is not the only result of consuming protein powder. It depends on various other factors as well. When used appropriately, protein powder can be a valuable tool to achieve fitness goals, including weight management. Here are 3 major reasons why protein powder can result in weight gain:

1. Calorie surplus

Protein is essential for muscle repair and growth, and incorporating protein powder into one’s diet can help meet daily protein requirements, especially for individuals engaged in regular physical activity. However, Patil explains that an unintended consequence—weight gain—may arise when the increased protein intake contributes to a caloric surplus. A caloric surplus occurs when an individual consumes more calories than their body burns in a day. This surplus can lead to weight gain over time, as excess calories are typically stored as fat.

protein powders
Consume protein powder in moderation. Image Courtesy: Adobe Stock.

2. Excessive carb and fat content

Protein is one of the three macronutrients, alongside carbohydrates and fat. Patil elucidates, “Excessive intake of carbohydrates and fats, in addition to protein, can contribute to an imbalance in your macronutrient intake.” So if you are wondering if protein shakes help you gain weight, then it depends on what else you are putting in the shake.

These three nutrients play a crucial role in providing energy and essential vitamins and minerals for proper bodily function and overall health. When you eat more of these macronutrients than you need, your body converts the extra energy into fat tissue, which is stored in the body for later use.

3. Lack of physical workout

Some individuals may mistakenly believe that protein powder alone can lead to weight loss or muscle gain without considering their overall diet and physical activity. If you consume protein powder but do not exercise, this can result in low energy demand, and due to this, the energy provided by protein powder is converted to glucose and eventually stored as fat. Are you wondering does eating a lot of protein make you gain weight? If you’re someone who works out daily, chances are that your body will be able to use protein to help repair, build muscle, and aid in weight loss. However, a study, published in JAMA, states that sedentary lifestyle and lower levels of physical activity can lead to weight gain.

Which type of protein powder is weight loss friendly?

Different types of protein tend to have different effects on the body. Hence, the type of protein you are consuming also matters when it comes to weight loss. The same goes true for protein powder for weight gain. Some protein powders contain added sugars, fats, or other ingredients that contribute to overall caloric intake, resulting in weight gain.

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“Choose a protein powder aligned with your weight loss goals. Opt for high-quality, low-calorie protein powders with minimal additives like whey isolate or plant-based proteins. These lean sources enhance satiety, support muscle retention, and aid fat loss,” suggests the expert.

What are the types of protein powder suitable for weight loss?

When it comes to choosing the protein powder for weight loss, you may try these 5 options:

1. Whey protein: Derived from milk during the cheese-making process, whey protein aids post-workout recovery and boosts weight loss. Packed with amino acids, whey protein can help with muscle growth as well. A study, published in Nutrition and Metabolism, states that whey protein consumption leads to loss of body fat and preservation of lean muscle.

whey protein
Whey protein powders are best for weight loss. Image courtesy: Adobe Stock

2. Casein protein: Also derived from milk, casein has a slower digestion rate compared to whey. This results in a sustained release of amino acids, which provides a feeling of fullness, and reduces the risk of snacking and excessive calorie intake. A study, published in Healthwise, divided participants into two groups. One group was given whey protein, and one was given casein protein. The participants with casein protein intake lost more weight.

3. Pea protein: Ideal for vegetarians and vegans, pea protein is plant-based and easily digestible. It contains all nine essential amino acids, supporting muscle preservation during weight loss. A study, published in Foods, suggests that pea protein helps promote a feeling of fullness.

4. Soy protein: Another plant-based option, soy protein, is derived from soybeans. It is a complete protein, meaning it contains all essential amino acids. Soy protein has been associated with various health benefits, including improved heart health and weight loss. A study, published in International Journal of Medical Sciences, claimed that soy protein helped enhance body composition.

5. Hemp protein: Another vegan option, hemp protein is not packed with protein but with fatty acids and fibre, supporting overall health.

Protein shake
Don’t go overboard when consuming protein powder. Image courtesy: Adobe Stock

How to consume protein powder for weight loss?

To maximise weight loss benefits with protein powder, incorporate it wisely into a balanced, calorie-controlled diet and exercise routine. This way your protein powder will not cause weight gain. Patil advises beginning your day with a protein-packed breakfast, such as a shake with protein powder, almond milk, and fruit. You can also use protein powder as a post-workout recovery by blending it with water or milk.

Be mindful of portion sizes, as excess calories can hinder weight loss. Replace higher-calorie snacks with protein-rich alternatives, like a shake or protein bars. Stay hydrated and follow a healthy lifestyle for weight loss!

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About the Author

Aayushi Gupta is a health writer with a special interest in trends related to diet, fitness, beauty and intimate health. With around 2 years of experience in the wellness industry, she is connected to leading experts and doctors to provide our readers with factually correct information. ...Read More

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