How to Use Protein Powders Correctly

Do it right…or they’ll come a-knocking.

Maybe you’re a vegan worried about your protein intake, or maybe you’re on a diet. Maybe you’re looking to build a little muscle mass, or maybe you’re just really scared of the guys in the photo.

Before you bulk up your green smoothie with scoops of protein powder, make sure you’re doing it right.

Protein powders can be a great supplement to a healthy lifestyle, but—like practically anything—you gotta use ‘em in moderation. Here’s some tips to do just that.

1. Check Your Protein Intake

Before you guzzle down that shake, analyze your protein intake (it even rhymes!) The Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) from the US Food and Nutrition Information Center is 46 grams of protein a day for adult women, 71 grams for pregnant or lactating women, and 56 grams for men.

If you’re extremely active or trying to build muscle mass, you may need more than the RDA, which is where protein shakes come in. But if you’re sedentary or mildly active, chances are you’re getting enough protein in your regular diet. Keep track of your diet for a few days to see how many grams of protein you’re consuming without the addition of protein powders.

2. Don’t Overdo It

Unlike some nutrients, it is possible to get too much protein. If you’re getting the RDA of protein in your regular meals while supplementing that with a few daily protein shakes, you’re putting yourself at a serious risk for osteoporosis, or loss of bone density.

Your body releases acids that help with the digestion of protein, but these acids need to be neutralized with calcium. If you consume too much protein, your body takes the calcium directly from your bones. Over time, a high-protein diet can lead to bone-thinning and weakening.

3. Do Use Healthy Powders

Warning: additives ahead. Since plain protein powder can taste chalky and bland, manufacturers often mix the protein with sugar, flavorings, artificial colors, and other chemicals. Look for something organic, with the fewest (and most pronounceable) ingredients.

4. Don’t Replace Meals

If you’re eating six small meals a day, don’t replace more than two of them with a protein shake. Whole food sources of protein (eggs, beans, etc.) have an entire spectrum of vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients that powders just can’t compete with. And any protein that your body can’t use will be turned into fat—which defeats the purpose of meal replacement anyway!

5. Enjoy the Health Benefits

There’s no question that the human body needs protein. It’s known as a macronutrient, meaning that the body uses it in large amounts. Protein is essential for muscle and tissue development; healthy skin, hair, and nails; and healing wounds.

Protein powders are a quick, cheap, and easy way to get these benefits: toss an appropriate number of scoops into your green smoothie today, and drink up!

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