Are Protein Powders A Waste Of Money?

Scooping protein powder into a shaker and adding water after a workout is the norm for many gymgoers. 

A quick protein boost can help you reach your fitness goals faster and smarter. But just how effective are protein powders? And do we rely on them too much?

On this episode of The Science Briefing, Dr Sophie Calabretto talks about the science behind protein powders with Cosmos Magazine journalist Matthew Agius and whether or not you are getting the bang for your buck.

The Australian Institute of Sports recommends 1.2 to 1.6 grams of protein per kilo of body weight daily for athletes with heavy training. While an average sedentary adult is 0.8 grams per kilogram of body weight.

“We do know that it’s not just athletes chugging down these protein shakes. The protein powder industry itself has continued to boom. And last year, some indications put the industry at around 20 billion USD globally,” Agius said.

So, are there any special sauce or secret ingredients that warrant a $20 billion industry?

Agius said the industry was essentially based on dehydrated milk extract. However, there was also a decent amount of technology when making these powders.

“With most protein powders, or at least what we might call a whey powder, all they do is take whey, which is the liquid byproduct from cheese production and concentrate the protein part,” he said.

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However, another protein called “whey isolate protein powder” reached the next level.

Agius said the factory would concentrate the whey even further, processing 90 per cent of protein at the end. 

Despite the advantages of using protein powders, there are some unknown facts and concerns raised by scientists and dieting fans about protein powders.

One of these is the common belief of having protein powder immediately or shortly after a workout.

“The science around that is a bit mixed. A lot of nutrition and dietary science professionals are finding that maybe as long as you hit the requirement for protein at some point during the day, you don’t need that big hit straight after benching 100 kilos,” he explained.

“Another thing is that some people take too much. The protein overload as it was, Excess protein or protein that isn’t used by the body at all continues to travel around our body waiting to be used somewhere.” 

Tune into the full episode of Science Explained with host, Dr Sophie Calabretto to hear the full recap of this month’s discoveries. 

Introducing The Science Briefing: a podcast about the science of everything and your new go-to podcast for your snapshot of science news. Hosted by Dr Sophie Calabretto and featuring journalists from Cosmos Magazine.