One of the most difficult aspects of losing weight and keeping it off is not giving in to hunger pangs and cravings when they hit. Fortunately, protein powder is here to help. Find out how to make the best low-calorie protein powder recipes to keep you satiated.
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Adding protein powder to your diet can be an effective strategy to aid in both weight loss and lean muscle gain. To lose weight, focus on getting a large amount of protein in your diet and keep calories low by mixing protein powders with healthy additions like fruits, vegetables and low-fat carbohydrates.
Protein Powder Weight-Loss Benefits
Low calorie protein powder offers users a variety of health benefits. One of the main perks of protein powders such as whey protein powder, is that they can help you effectively lose fat and build strong, lean muscle.
A January 2016 study published in Sports Medicine showed that consuming whey protein powder helped increase lean body mass, as well as aiding in fat-free mass gain. Participants who took whey protein powder also saw a strength improvement. These results stood out, particularly when participants also took creatine.
Protein itself is essential for weight loss and maintaining a healthy weight. A June 2015 study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that a high-protein diet, particularly one in which full meals contained 25 to 30 grams of protein, improved appetite, body weight management and cardiometabolic risk factors.
Cardiometabolic risk factors include things like obesity, bad cholesterol and high blood fat or triglycerides. In short, eating a lot of protein instead of sugar, carbs and fat is going to help you. Not just with losing weight, but also in improving your overall health.
Protein powders can also spur you to lose weight, by helping you stay satiated, or full. An October 2018 study, published in the Journal of Dairy Science, found that eating whey and casein proteins for breakfast helped users manage blood glucose levels and satiety.
That being said, protein powder isn't the only solution. In fact, an August 2017 study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that consuming protein supplements like whey or soy didn't make much of a difference on weight management compared to eating regular protein found in a well-balanced diet — such as lean meats, eggs, seafood or legumes.
Read more: 5 Tips for Eating Protein the Right Way
A February 2019 study published in Annals of Nutrition & Metabolism found that a high-protein, low-calorie diet helped older adults with obesity lose weight, build muscle mass and shed fat. In short, whether you're focusing on protein powders or simply eating whole foods, you can achieve weight loss and weight management through a high-protein diet.
Low-Calorie Protein Powders
To make sure you're choosing the right low-calorie protein powder, the first thing to do is always read the label. Some protein powders contain unwanted additions, like extra calories, sugar, caffeine or even chemicals, according to Harvard Health. Choose protein powders that are pure protein, without the extra calories and sugar.
Look for protein powders that contain about 20 to 30 grams of protein per scoop. While there's a wide variety of different types of protein powders, including animal- and plant-based proteins, try to focus on the ones that are complete proteins and contain all nine essential amino acids.
Some of the best protein powders include whey, casein and egg — which are animal-based — and pea, hemp and soy protein powders for vegans and vegetarians. Learn more about each type of protein powder to see how it can complement your fitness goals.
Whey protein powder, which comes from dairy products like milk and cheese, is perhaps the most popular low-calorie protein powder on the market. An August 2017 study published in Clinical Nutrition found that whey protein may decrease short-term and long-term appetite, making it easier to postpone or prevent snacking, and avoid extra calorie intake.
Choose a low-calorie whey protein and mix it with bananas, almond butter or other fruits in a blender. This can be an excellent breakfast or pre-workout meal.
Casein protein is similar to low calorie whey protein, and comes from milk. Casein is slow-digesting, meaning the amino acids it provides you take time to be absorbed into your body. You'll feel full for longer, and be less likely to reach for an unnecessary snack.
Soy protein is actually one of the few plant-based protein powders that is a "complete protein," meaning it contains all nine essential amino acids. Soy is a high quality protein that's useful for vegans who need to ensure they're getting all the amino acids they need.
A May 2018 study published in Obesity Science and Practice found that incorporating soy protein into a high-protein diet could help in weight loss and improve body composition as well as cardiometabolic health. In short, adding soy protein to your diet can help you manage your weight over time.
One of the most-popular plant-based protein powders is pea protein, which comes from peas. Pea protein powder is touted for its usefulness as a great protein source, without the digestive issues that are linked to whey protein, as many people have allergies to whey.
Read more: Daily Protein Intake for Weight Loss
Fortunately, research has shown that protein from plant sources may be just as effective for keeping you feeling full as protein from animal sources. A January 2018 study published in Nutrients found that eating vegetable proteins like fava beans and split peas provided people with the same amount of energy and satiety as animal proteins like veal, pork and eggs.
Tips for Keeping Calories Low
It's also important to time when you consume your low-calorie protein powder shakes. According to a June 2018 study published in Nutrition Reviews, consuming protein powder with meals was more effective at promoting lean body mass, as well as reducing fat, than eating protein powder shakes in between meals or as snacks. In fact, consuming protein powder between meals was actually associated with weight gain.
To make the best out of protein powder, combine it with healthy, low-fat whole foods that can provide you with the full spectrum of nutrition your body needs. Additional proteins, like almond butter or milk, can boost the protein load of your shakes.
Oats, for example, are one of the most nutritionally packed grains out there, containing plenty of fiber, many vitamins, and even a good amount of protein. They're popular for bodybuilders as they restore glycogen levels after a workout and making one feel full, so they could be a great addition to your protein shakes for curbing hunger.
Combining a protein shake with a well-balanced breakfast, complete with eggs, avocado and fruit, could also be an excellent way to keep you feeling full longer throughout the day, and fuel your workouts. You'll find that low-calorie protein powders, in combination with whole foods, may be the best route to weight loss.
- Sports Medicine: "Effects of Whey Protein Alone or as Part of a Multi-ingredient Formulation on Strength, Fat-Free Mass, or Lean Body Mass in Resistance-Trained Individuals: A Meta-analysis"
- American Journal of Clinical Nutrition: "The Role of Protein in Weight Loss and Maintenance"
- Journal of Dairy Science: "Effect of Milk Protein Intake and Casein-to-Whey Ratio in Breakfast Meals on Postprandial Glucose, Satiety Ratings, and Subsequent Meal Intake"
- American Journal of Clinical Nutrition: "Protein Supplements After Weight Loss Do Not Improve Weight Maintenance Compared With Recommended Dietary Protein Intake Despite Beneficial Effects on Appetite Sensation and Energy Expenditure: A Randomized, Controlled, Double-Blinded Trial"
- Harvard Health: "The Hidden Dangers of Protein Powders"
- Clinical Nutrition: "Effect of Whey Protein Supplementation on Long and Short Term Appetite: A Meta-Analysis of Randomized Controlled Trials"
- Obesity Science and Practice: "Effects of Consuming a High‐Protein Diet With or Without Soy Protein During Weight Loss and Maintenance: A Non‐Inferiority, Randomized Clinical Efficacy Trial"
- Nutrients: "Protein From Meat or Vegetable Sources in Meals Matched for Fiber Content Has Similar Effects on Subjective Appetite Sensations and Energy Intake-A Randomized Acute Cross-Over Meal Test Study"
- Nutrition Reviews: "Effects of Protein Supplements Consumed With Meals, Versus Between Meals, on Resistance Training-Induced Body Composition Changes in Adults: A Systematic Review"
- Harvard T. H. Chan School of Public Health: "Oats"
- Annals of Nutrition & Metabolism: "Effects of a Hypocaloric, Nutritionally Complete, Higher Protein Meal Plan on Regional Body Fat and Cardiometabolic Biomarkers in Older Adults With Obesity"