How Much Protein Powder Should You Take Per Day?

A nutritionist explains exactly how much you might need.

how much protein powder should you take per day?

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Protein is kind of a big deal. It’s the macronutrient responsible for creating the body’s hormones and enzymes, providing structural support for cells, and, of course, building muscle. Getting more of it in your diet has been associated with benefits like weight loss and greater satiation from food.

It’s no wonder, then, that protein powders enjoy star status as a dietary supplement. The global protein supplement market was valued at $5.83 billion as of 2022, with projected growth through at least 2030.

With all the protein powders out there (and all their different ingredients and dosages), it’s not always easy to tell how much you really need of this popular supplement—if any at all. If you're wondering whether you’re overdoing it on the powdered stuff, we’ve got the scoop on the right number of scoops. Keep reading to learn more.

What’s in Protein Powder?

Every protein powder has one thing in common—protein. From there, though, products can vary widely. Different protein powders not only contain deviating levels of protein—typically anywhere from 10 to 30 grams per serving—they may also pack in additional macronutrients or micronutrients.

Some brands also add fats like omega-3s or medium-chain triglycerides. Others have carbs from sweeteners, fruit blends, or added fiber. Then, too, there are multiple unique sources of protein that brands may use as their product's base.

Whey protein is an animal food that is a byproduct of cheesemaking. It’s considered a complete protein because it contains all nine amino acids the body needs. Whey isolate takes things a step further by removing fat and carbs and leaving pure protein. Then, there’s another dairy choice—casein, which comes from cheese solids rather than the liquid runoff like whey.

For those who prefer something plant-based, soy and pea protein are plant-derived options that offer a complete protein. Other plant choices (that aren’t considered complete, but still add to your daily protein target) include hemp or rice.

How Much Protein Is in Protein Powder?

Here's a look at how much protein the most popular powders contain per 20-gram scoop, according to the USDA FoodData Central database:

  • Whey Isolate: 16.6 grams
  • Pea: 15.5 grams
  • Casein: 13.7 grams 
  • Whey Protein: 13 grams
  • Soy: 11.1 grams
  • Hemp: 7.7 grams

Is More Protein Always Better?

There’s no doubt that getting enough protein is critical for good health—but there is such a thing as too much. Going overboard on protein can actually have serious consequences. Research has linked long-term high protein intake (especially from meat) to kidney dysfunction, increased risk of some cancers, bone disorders, and other health conditions.

According to the Mayo Clinic, more than two grams of protein per kilogram of body weight per day is considered excessive. And, despite what you might believe (considering our national obsession with this macro), most Americans get about 15% of their calories from protein, a number well within recommended daily targets.

In other words, it’s not necessarily common to need a supplement. Older research from 2008 estimated that the percentage of American men eating lower-than-optimal amounts of protein was “very low,” and that, in women past adolescence, the percentage was just 7.2% to 8.6%.

What happens if you eat too much protein?

Consuming too much protein, whether from food or protein powder, can result in kidney problems and higher risk of some cancers, bone disorders, and other conditions.

Finding Your Best Dose of Protein

But knowing how much you need a day, can be a challenge. Here's the nitty-gritty on your protein needs. The recommended intake of protein for sedentary adults is 0.8 grams per kilogram of body weight. If you weigh 150 pounds (or 68 kilograms), your weight multiplied by 0.8 means your daily protein target should be around 54 grams.

Of course, this number isn’t the end-all, be-all for everyone. It could go up or down, depending on your age, level of physical activity, health conditions, or goals like weight loss or gain. Older people tend to need more protein, for example. And people who exercise regularly have higher needs than sedentary folks—about 1.1 to 1.5 grams per kilogram of body weight. For a 150-pound person, that’s 75 to 102 grams per day.

If your chosen form of exercise is weightlifting or resistance training, or you’re training more intensely, such as for a running or cycling event, your needs go up even further to 1.2 to 1.7 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight (82 to 116 grams per day for a 150-pound person). A healthcare provider or a registered dietitian can help you calculate your ideal target.

So…How Much Protein Powder Is Best?

Fortunately, getting enough protein from a regular, balanced diet is well within reach for most people. If you’re meeting your needs through food, a powder probably isn’t necessary. To use the 54 grams-per-day protein target as an example, a three-egg omelet at breakfast (18 grams) and one cup of chicken breast at dinner (40 grams) go above and beyond the needs of a 150-pound person—and that doesn’t even consider lunch!

On the other hand, if you’re certain your diet isn’t hitting your daily goal, a supplemental powder can be helpful. Once you’ve calculated your needs based on weight and activity level, you can identify how much you might be falling short. Then, go ahead and make up the difference with a supplement, remembering that two grams of protein per kilogram of body weight is a good upper threshold.

As you measure out scoops of powder, be sure to read the label instructions to know how much you’re getting. Some scoops are a full serving of protein, while others require two or even three scoops to reach the intended serving size.

Bottom Line

While useful, protein powders and shakes aren’t a complete substitute for a well-balanced diet. Real, whole foods (as opposed to powders) contain synergistic nutrition, providing not only protein, but carbs, fiber, fats, and essential nutrients like calcium, iron, vitamin D, potassium, and more. Though it may be tempting to rely on protein powder as a convenient way to fill your protein “tank,” you’ll likely be missing out on much-needed nutrition by doing so all the time.

Read the original article on Shape.

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