Protein powder is a popular supplement among fitness enthusiasts, bodybuilders, and athletes who want to build muscle mass and improve their athletic performance (Banaszek et al., 2019; Schoenfeld et al., 2018). However, many people wonder if it's still beneficial to use protein powder if they're not working out. In this article, we'll explore this question in-depth and provide some recommendations for daily protein intake.
First, let's define what protein powder is. Protein powder is a dietary supplement that comes in powdered form and is usually made from whey, casein, soy, or other protein sources (Jäger et al., 2017). It's a convenient and easy way to increase your protein intake, especially if you don't have time to cook or eat high-protein foods. Let’s be real and 100% transparent here. Whey protein is considered supplement you don’t need supplements by their very definition. However, let’s get down to why whey protein is used and why you might need to use it.
Whey protein is often used as a protein supplement for those looking to achieve fitness and health goals, such as losing weight, or gaining muscle. This is because increased physical activity will require you to consume more protein as a daily requirement than the regular sedentary person, because more is required to maintain or build the muscle you have on your body (Phillips and Van Loon, 2011).
Now, back to the question at hand: can you use protein powder even if you're not working out? The answer is yes, you can. While protein powder is often associated with muscle building and exercise recovery, it can still be a beneficial addition to your diet even if you're not hitting the gym regularly. In today’s economy, it can even be a more affordable way of getting protein into your diet, although it is not recommended to completely replace real and whole foods. Having a protein supplement once a day between meals would be more than sufficient.
According to both the Institute of Medicine and the National Institues of Health, the recommended dietary allowance (RDA) for protein is 0.8 grams per kilogram of body weight per day for adults (Otten et al., 2006 and National Institues of Health, 2016). However, this is the minimum amount needed to prevent protein deficiency, and it doesn't take into account individual factors such as age, sex, weight and physical activity level.
If you're not working out, your protein needs may be lower than someone who is regularly exercising. However, you still need protein for essential bodily functions, such as building and repairing tissues, producing enzymes and hormones, and maintaining a healthy immune system (Phillips, 2017).
Additionally, protein can help you feel fuller for longer and may help with weight management. A study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that increasing protein intake from 15% to 30% of total calories resulted in significant reductions in body weight, body fat, and waist circumference in overweight and obese individuals (Westerterp-Plantenga et al., 2009).
So, how much protein should you aim for if you're not working out? While there's no one-size-fits-all answer, a good rule of thumb is to aim for at least 0.8 grams per kilogram of body weight per day (0.36 grams per pound of body weight) in accordance to national standards of recommended protein intakes for adults. For example, if you weigh 70 kilograms (154 pounds), you should aim for a minimum of 54 grams of protein per day. This can easily be achieved through a balanced diet that includes protein-rich foods such as meat, fish, eggs, dairy, beans, and nuts.
If you're struggling to meet your protein needs through whole foods alone, protein powder can be a convenient and easy way to increase your intake. Just make sure to choose a high-quality protein powder that's free from fillers and additives, such as creamers and thickeners.
To provide some context, here is a comparison of how much of each type of food you would need to eat to get roughly 24g of protein:
|FEA Whey Protein Elixir - Taro||33g||24.0g||1.7g||4.4g||129 cal|
|Chicken Breast (Raw, Skinless)||106.5g||24.0g||2.8g||0g||143 cal|
|Chicken Thigh (Raw, Skinless)||122g||24.0g||5.0g||0g||174 cal|
|90/10 Lean Beef Mince||111g||24.0g||11.2g||1.1g||199 cal|
|Atlantic Salmon (Raw, Skinless)||118.5g||24.0g||7.6g||0g||165 cal|
|Egg (Large)||4 eggs||25.1g||19g||1.4g||286 cal|
|Chobani Greek Yoghurt||275g||24.0g||11.1g||10.8g||238 cal|
|Chickpeas (Canned)||488g||24.0g||9.5g||65.8g||429 cal|
In conclusion, while protein powder is often associated with exercise and muscle building, it can still be a beneficial addition to your diet even if you're not working out. Aim for at least 0.8 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight per day (or 0.36 grams of protein per pound of body weight), and make sure to choose a high-quality protein powder if you decide to supplement your diet.
As always, please seek advice from a medical health professional for your individual needs. This article is intended for educational purposes only.
Banaszek, A., Townsend, J.R., Bender, D., Vantrease, W.C., Marshall, A.C. and Johnson, K.D. (2019). The Effects of Whey vs. Pea Protein on Physical Adaptations Following 8-Weeks of High-Intensity Functional Training (HIFT): A Pilot Study. *Sports*, [online] 7(1), p.12. doi:https://doi.org/10.3390/sports7010012.
Schoenfeld, B.J., Aragon, A.A. and Krieger, J.W. (2013). The effect of protein timing on muscle strength and hypertrophy: a meta-analysis. *Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition*, [online] 10(1). doi:https://doi.org/10.1186/1550-2783-10-53.
Jäger, R., Kerksick, C.M., Campbell, B.I., Cribb, P.J., Wells, S.D., Skwiat, T.M., Purpura, M., Ziegenfuss, T.N., Ferrando, A.A., Arent, S.M., Smith-Ryan, A.E., Stout, J.R., Arciero, P.J., Ormsbee, M.J., Taylor, L.W., Wilborn, C.D., Kalman, D.S., Kreider, R.B., Willoughby, D.S. and Hoffman, J.R. (2017). International Society of Sports Nutrition Position Stand: protein and exercise. *Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition*, [online] 14(1). doi:https://doi.org/10.1186/s12970-017-0177-8.
Phillips, S.M. and Van Loon, L.J.C. (2011). Dietary protein for athletes: From requirements to optimum adaptation. Journal of Sports Sciences, [online] 29(sup1), pp.S29–S38. doi:https://doi.org/10.1080/02640414.2011.619204.
Dietary Reference Intakes. (2006). [online] Washington, D.C.: National Academies Press. doi:[https://doi.org/10.17226/11537](https://doi.org/10.17226/11537).
Nih.gov (2016). *Office of Dietary Supplements - Dietary Supplements for Exercise and Athletic Performance*. [online] Available at: [https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/ExerciseAndAthleticPerformance-HealthProfessional/](https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/ExerciseAndAthleticPerformance-HealthProfessional/).
Phillips, S.M. (2017). Current Concepts and Unresolved Questions in Dietary Protein Requirements and Supplements in Adults. *Frontiers in Nutrition*, [online] 4. doi:https://doi.org/10.3389/fnut.2017.00013.
Westerterp-Plantenga, M.S., Lemmens, S.G. and Westerterp, K.R. (2012). Dietary protein – its role in satiety, energetics, weight loss and health. *British Journal of Nutrition*, [online] 108(S2), pp.S105–S112. doi:https://doi.org/10.1017/s0007114512002589.