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The pros and cons of adding protein powder to your diet

Food
Preparing protein shake

Protein is an essential part of a healthy diet. Found in poultry, beans, eggs and more, the macronutrient helps you build muscle mass, keeps your immune system strong, improves your metabolism and helps you feel full after you eat.
With all that in mind, it may seem like a good idea to add protein powder to your diet to help ensure you’re getting enough. But supplementing  with protein powder isn’t necessary for most people, says Kelsey Tiller, a registered dietitian at Tidelands Waccamaw Community Hospital.
“There aren’t many situations where someone needs to add protein powder to his or her diet,” Tiller says. “Most people are capable of consuming enough whole foods to meet their protein needs.”

Serving size

People who exercise often may be tempted to consume protein powder in an effort to keep up with their intense workouts.
But studies have shown that consuming more than about 2 grams of protein per kilogram of weight offers little, if any, benefit, and most people don’t need to consume that much, Tiller says.
“A 200-pound (90-kilogram) weightlifter will only benefit from up to about 180 grams per day,” Tiller says. “An 8-ounce skinless chicken breast contains 70 grams of protein. So even someone who works out often can meet their protein needs through regular foods.”
Additionally, research has shown the body is unable to efficiently use more than approximately 30 grams of protein at one time, so it’s unnecessary to exceed that amount in any one serving.

Pros

In some cases it may be useful to use a protein supplement. For example, it may be appropriate if you have a wound that is healing slowly or if you have a medical condition that makes it difficult for you meet your protein needs. If either is the case, it is important to seek the advice of your physician before making any dietary changes, Tiller says.
Although Tiller doesn’t recommend most people use protein supplements regularly, she says they can be a better alternative than some of the common snacks you may be tempted to grab while running out the door.

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“Protein powder or other supplements can be a better choice than crackers, candy bars or other less healthy, quick snack ideas,” Tiller says. “So it can be helpful to have them on hand for occasions that make it difficult to sit down and have a healthy, well-balanced meal of regular foods.”
If you choose to use a protein power, Tiller says it’s important to buy from a reputable source because they aren’t regulated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. She also encourages people to make sure their choice is not high in sugar, artificial sweeteners or other additives and fillers.
Otherwise, Tiller encourages people to seek out whole foods and healthy snacks such as Greek yogurt, which can contain up to 18 grams of protein in a 6-ounce serving, or cottage cheese, which can contain up to 28 grams of protein in one cup.
Concerned about protein intake should be brought with your doctor or a registered dietitian, Tiller says. He or she can help you determine the right options for your health and lifestyle.

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