Protein powders: do you need them?

One thing I get asked a lot is whether I recommend using protein powders, particularly by new members/clients as they start out on their training or nutrition plans. It’s a fair question when you see people wandering around everywhere with a shaker and every supermarket now has a protein section filled with powders, bars and meal replacements.

So, do you need them?

Well it depends. Protein powders are supplements – the definition of a supplement being ‘a thing added to something else in order to complete or enhance it.’ If you’re getting enough protein from your diet, then protein powders aren’t really necessary. If you struggle to get high protein foods into your every day, then it’s maybe worth considering.

Your next question then, is probably how do I know what’s enough protein?

Again that depends on you and your goals. As an average guide I'd recommend getting between 1.5-2.5g of protein per kg of bodyweight every day. If your diet is currently fairly low in protein then maybe start by aiming at the lower end of that. If you’re already getting a good amount in then aim closer to 2g per kg of bodyweight. Tracking your food in an app like Myfitnesspal for a couple of days will give you a good insight into whether you’re getting anywhere close to this.

A good way to get enough protein is to think of each meal/snack with the protein source as the base, eg breakfast your base is your eggs or some natural greek yoghurt, and then build the rest of the meal around that. Lunch or dinner identify your protein source eg. fish, meat, tofu then build around that. This means that at every meal you know you have a good amount of protein.

If you struggle with this, or you have a few days where you’re running around and unable to have a full breakfast or lunch, then supplements like a protein powder can be useful. A scoop of protein with some almond milk or water is going to be much more beneficial for you than one of those ‘protein’ labelled cereal bars if you’re on the go.

So, do you need protein powder?

That depends on you and your lifestyle. They are a useful supplement, they are quick and convenient, they don’t have to be expensive… but they shouldn’t be relied on as your main source of protein; whole foods always come first.