Why Does Protein Powder Work For Weight Loss?

When someone mentions protein shakes what do you think of? Body building, muscle gain, gym junkies? What about weight loss?


While many people use protein shakes to tone muscle and get more out of their workout, protein shakes can also be used to reduce total calorie intake and help you to feel full – essential aspects of any weight loss plan. If you’re trying to lose weight – whether you want to tone your muscles or not – protein shakes can be an excellent addition to your diet.


Why is Protein Powder Good for Weight Loss?

An adequate daily intake of protein is essential for body functions like muscle repair, skin renewal and wound healing. Dietitians recommend a daily intake of 0.8 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight. That means a 60kg woman who doesn’t exercise who require 48 grams of protein per day according to dietary guidelines.


While we’re often told we’re at risk of eating too much protein in developed countries, the reality is we may not actually be eating enough[1]. Protein intake requirements can be higher if you’re exercising a lot or following a high protein diet. High protein diets have been scientifically shown to result in less calories eaten, feeling fuller while dieting and often resulting in more weight loss when compared to other diets[2].


How Does Protein Powder Help You Lose Weight?

Adding protein powder to your weight loss plan can be a powerful tool to help you lose more weight, while sculpting a toned and healthy body. Protein powders works for weight loss by providing the following benefits.


  • Protein Powder Helps You Feel Fuller

There’s no way you can succeed with your weight loss plan when you feel hungry all the time. Losing weight is about finding a new, healthier way to live, not starving yourself. Using protein powder for weight loss fits perfectly into any weight loss method, because it’s been scientifically shown to help you feel fuller for longer[3]. This means less tummy rumbles and junk food cravings, making it easier to stick to your diet goals.


  • Meet Nutritional Needs

Protein shakes are specially formulated to contain an adequate serve of protein, along with healthy carbohydrates and all the vitamins and minerals your body needs. This means that high-quality protein shakes can be safely used to replace meals, providing an easy and convenient way to reduce energy intake, and ultimately, lose weight.


  • Lower Calorie Intake Without Counting Calories

If you choose a weight loss method that doesn’t use professionally formulated protein shakes, you’re going to have to count calories, measure portions and track your vitamin and mineral intake to ensure you’re going to reach your weight loss goals while staying healthy. Using protein shakes makes this easy by putting everything your body needs into one low-calorie shake.


  • Boosts Muscle Growth

No-one wants to be ‘skinny fat’. By using whey or pea protein powders as part of your weight loss plan, you can build long, lean muscles while also losing weight. The more muscle your body has, the more energy you burn, even when you’re not exercising, meaning you lose weight even faster[4].


  • Increases Fat Burning

Whey protein is well known to be the most thermogenic protein type – which literally means it helps you burn more energy. Whey protein helps increase your metabolism, making it easier to burn fat and lose weight.


  • Energizes Your Mind and Body

Whey protein provides muscles with a ‘wakeup call’ helping you to feel energised and get more out of your daily activities or workout. Whey protein also reduces tryptophan[5] – a neurotransmitter that makes you feel sleepy – helping you to remain alert and motivated.


What Are The Best Shakes For Weight Loss?

It’s hard to go past the many, many benefits of protein shakes for weight loss, but how do you know which protein shakes are best for weight loss vs. those for body building or muscle gain?


  • Calorie, Fat and Carb Content

If you want a protein shake specifically for weight loss, it’s important to look at overall calorie content as well as total fat and carbohydrate content. Shakes for weight loss should have less than 800 Kj (around 200 calories) per serve, and around 5% fat and 15% carbohydrate overall (note: some fat and carbohydrate are important for health and optimum protein absorption).


  • Whey or Pea Protein

Whey protein is the highest quality protein supplement that boosts energy and fat burning, while pea protein is the gold standard for vegan protein powders.


  • Vitamins and Minerals For Meal Replacement

Protein powders for weight loss need to be taken as meal replacements, and an effective meal replacement needs to contain vitamins and minerals to support your health and wellbeing while you lose weight.


  • Protein Content

When choosing protein shakes for weight loss, you don’t need to go overkill on the protein content, but you want to make sure the shake has enough protein so you feel full. Choose a shake that contains between 20-25g of protein per serve.


  • Taste

When you’re using a protein shake everyday (or even more than once a day) as a meal replacement, you’re going to want it to taste amazing! Choose a good brand of protein powder for better quality ingredients and flavour selection, and overall, better taste.


[1] https://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/how-much-protein-do-you-need-every-day-201506188096

[2] https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/07315724.2004.10719381

[3] https://academic.oup.com/nutritionreviews/article-abstract/60/7/189/1839762

[4] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21228266

[5] http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0150376

About the Author

Cara Dibdin is a Dietician & Exercise Scientist and a writer, originally from Sydney, Australia. Specializing in health, nutrition, behaviour change and meditation, Cara is passionate about finding innovative ways to nourish mind and body.

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