Protein Powder And Weight Loss
When you’re trying to lose weight, protein powder can be a godsend. Combine it with some fruit and milk in a blender, and you have a meal replacement that can be well under 300 calories.
While that sounds perfect, not all protein powders are created equally with weight loss in mind. Some can help you towards your goals, whereas others can significantly hinder them.
It’s kind of like choosing your meals – sure, you might be able to lose weight eating McDonalds hamburgers, but it’s a lot more effective to do a little bit of research and find other restaurants that have healthier hamburgers. That’s what this article will do. By the the end, you’ll know what separates a “McDonalds” protein powder from a healthy one. And we’ll recommend some brands for you to take a look at.
Let’s jump right in.The name of the protein game: calories
When broken down to its core, weight loss is a simple process.
- Your body needs a certain number of calories to fuel itself for the day
- If you get less than that number, your body will turn to fat reserves for energy and you will lose weight
- If you get more than that number, your body will have to do something with the extra energy: it will store it as fat, causing you to gain weight
Many people don’t understand that this is how weight loss works, and they focus on “healthy” foods. The fact of the matter is that even if a food is filled to the brim with vitamins and nutrients, it still has calories. And those calories don’t magically disappear; they’re stored as far.
When considering protein powder for weight loss, you want to choose the one with the fewest calories.
Why some have more calories than others
Let’s continue the example of McDonalds vs. a healthy hamburger.
McDonalds isn’t using the best beef – far from it. If McDonalds were to serve its beef as-is with no additives, then it would taste atrocious. That’s why they pack it with fat – the fat tastes good, so people don’t realize the quality of the meat that they’re eating. (Or they do, but they don’t care, because it tastes good.)
In protein powder, the thing you want to watch out for is the carbs. Carbs and protein both have four calories per gram, but there’s one big different: carbs don’t really fill you up.
In two of the teeny tiny Wise potato chip bags, there are 300 calories. A standard egg has 75 calories. Are you going to be more full eating two bags of chips… or four scrambled eggs? It’ll be the eggs, because the protein content in eggs is off the charts. (6g per egg.)
Other downsides of added calories
The other bad thing about the carbs in protein powder is that they aren’t complex carbs. Complex carbs are the types of carbs in foods like whole grain bread and brown rice. They break down slowly, and your body can use them for energy all throughout the day. Simple carbs are immediately converted to glucose, which doesn’t have the same long term energy that a complex carb does.
Now, simple carbs aren’t inherently bad, but blasting your protein powder full of sugar will do nothing to help you. For one, you’ll experience fluctuations in your energy level due to the glucose affecting your blood sugar level. You’re already going to have less energy from eating less food, so we want to avoid any further drops at all costs.
But more importantly, when considering weight loss, the last thing you want to do is be eating unnecessary sugar. It won’t fill you up and refined sugar is just empty calories. That’s why one of the easiest ways to start losing weight is to cut out these empty calories, like you might find in a soda or sports drink.
Finding a protein powder for weight loss with fewer calories
You have to watch out for cheap protein powders. Not all cheap ones are bad, but when a company is using cheaper ingredients, it will make up for it with added, unnecessary compounds.
You want pure protein. You want as few added elements as possible. Don’t worry, though: making this healthy protein powder taste good is a walk in the park, which we will explain after we give you our thoughts on powders to buy.
But first: how will you be eating it?
Some protein blends are better than others because of how they taste.
If you’re just mixing it with milk (or even water), then you will want to get a flavored one. If you’re planning on using a blender, then you can stick with a blander, healthier one and still have it taste good.
Simple mixing – Whey Gold Standard
In some industries, there is one brand that makes the competition look terrible in comparison. For protein powder, that brand is Optimum Nutrition. Their powders are by far the most popular, and they’ve been voted #1 Supplement of the Year and #1 Protein Powder of the year for ten years in a row.
Whey Gold Standard is the powder we recommend for simple mixing for a few reasons:
- It’s available in eighteen different flavors – there will inevitably be one that you love the taste of
- It’s geared towards mixing, so even if you just have water/milk and a spoon it won’t come out clumpy
- There are 24g of protein per serving, with 3g of carbs for taste
Blender – Platinum Hydro Whey
This is ON’s elite protein. Not only does it have more protein per serving, but the protein has BCAAs added to it.
What does that mean? Well, BCAAs are amino acids, and all protein is made up of amino acids. Different types of protein (grain, soy, dairy, meat, etc.) have different BCAAs. You need all of them to be able to form a complete protein – by adding BCAAs, the whey protein you’re ingesting can actually be used more efficiently by your body.
More protein and less sugar combined means that it won’t taste as good, though. And it’s not optimized for mixing like Whey Gold Standard is. That’s why we only recommend you get this if you plan on mixing the powder with another ingredient besides the liquid.
- 7 different flavors
- 30g or protein per serving, less than 2g of sugar per serving
- Optimized for complete absorption
Planning your protein is vital for weight loss
Just chugging protein powder whenever you feel like it will not help you to lose weight. Remember, losing weight is all about calories. You need to carefully calculate the calories of all of your ingredients so you know exactly how much you’re “eating” when you drink a shake. Just because they’re healthy doesn’t mean that you can’t gain weight from them.
Simple mixing: the raw numbers
Mixing water with your protein will (obviously) add zero calories to it. Milk will make your protein taste infinitely better, though.
One scoop of Whey Gold Standard has 140 calories and 24g or protein.
If you mix it one cup of skim milk, you add 86 calories and 8g of protein, bringing you to 226 calories and 32g of protein. Just one cup is going to noticeably leave the taste of the powder in there, though, so we recommend two cups of milk for those focused on taste. That’ll bring you to 312 calories and 40g of protein.
For those who want to make it taste even better at the sacrifice of more calories, you’ll want to get whole milk. You jump up to 150 calories per cup while maintaining the 8g of protein. The creamy taste of whole milk can make a simple mix taste like a milkshake, though. (And a relatively healthy one at that.)
With one cup, you’ll be at 290 calories and 32g or protein. With two cups, you’ll be at 440 calories and 40g of protein. Once you get to 440 calories, you may want to consider using it as a meal replacement instead of just a snack.
Blender: the raw numbers
When you’re making smoothies geared towards weight loss, you want to be using healthy ingredients that are low in calories. You already have protein covered with the powder, so adding in some fruit (carbs) can make a big difference on taste while not adding too many calories. A mix of protein and carbs keeps you full for longer, too, and water in the fruit will also dilute the powder further. (Because of this, you don’t have to use as much milk.)
A good calorie count to aim for with your fruit is 150. This will keep a scoop of protein, a cup of milk, and your fruit all within a reasonable range.
One scoop of Platinum Hydro Whey + one cup of skim + fruit = 120 + 86 + 150 = 356 calories
One scoop of Platinum Hydro Whey + one cup of whole + fruit = 120 + 150 + 150 = 420 calories.
The raw numbers summed up: whichever way you look at it, a protein shake is a low calorie snack or meal.
Why protein powder?
You might be wondering why protein powder is so good for weight loss. Those calories are low, but what separates it from other snacks in that range?
Protein = muscle
Look: we know that you’re trying to lose weight with the protein powder, but you’re probably doing that to look better physically, no? A big part of looking good is having muscle. We’re not talking bodybuilder muscles, here, but muscle helps keep you “tight” and looking good.
Even when we’re looking at the skinniest of models, they all still have muscle. It’s what makes them look “lean” instead of “skinny”. Men, you want to lose weight so that your muscles will show. Ladies, you want to have muscles so that when you get rid of the fat, you have all of the right curves in all of the right places.
Do I need protein to lose weight?
The answer: absolutely not. It’s entirely possible to lose weight without protein powder – people have been doing it for centuries.
But it sure does help. For one, it’s incredibly easy to prepare and eat – if you’re just mixing it with water or milk, it can be a 30 second endeavor. It tastes good, too: protein brands all compete with each other in taste, so no one (especially not Optimum Nutrition) skimps on flavor. Finally, it’s filling. Unlike other snacks, protein powder is all of the good stuff and no fluff.
Protein powder also gets you in the zone. Allow me to explain:
Your mood follows your actions, not the other way around. So if you’re already being active and doing chores, you’ll be more likely to want to work out rather than if you were lying on your bed watching TV. Protein shakes work just like this – seeing yourself drink a healthy shake is a lot more effective towards upping your motivation than eating something like a simple sandwich would be.
“I’m allergic to dairy!”
No worries. Although ON specializes in whey protein for weight loss because it’s so effective, they also recognize that some people (like those with a lactose intolerance) won’t be able to drink a product that’s derived from milk.
The next most popular one after whey is soy. It’s derived from a soy bean, so even those with dairy problems can make protein shakes with it.
Summing up protein powder for weight loss
You want to pick a protein powder that uses high quality protein, and you want to get one that’s as low in calories other than protein as possible. Whey Gold Standard is good for simple mixing, and Platinum Hydro Whey is good for making smoothies and such.
It’s not absolutely essential to get a protein powder if you want to lose weight, but we’d recommend it. It’s a healthy, low-calorie snack that can curb cravings for sugary foods, and it’s something that will fill you up for a while. Some don’t notice any difference from it, but some say it accelerated their weight loss by a large margin. Try it out – you might love it!