Is it necessary?
A quick and simple answer for you is no - most people, from a health perspective, do not need to supplement.
But whether you’d like to include it is a different question!
Most people can get enough protein from whole food sources, BUT it depends on their goals and priorities as to whether they choose to add in protein powder e.g. if you’re in a serious muscle building phase, are vegan or are choosing protein powder simply for convenience in the absence of other options.
Bear in mind that many people do not get enough protein, especially females, so protein powders can be an easy way to up the amount of protein. You should be aiming for 1.4 - 2.0 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight or 1-2 palms of lean protein in each meal and if this is tough for you, then protein powders can be really handy! Protein powders also mean you don’t have the same volume of food which can be a bonus if you’re feeling overly full trying to reach a certain protein goal.
As a vegetarian, personally I find protein powders a handy way to top up my protein intake every now and again. I also love feeling strong and building muscle, so protein powders are ideal for my goals.
Not going to lie, I've tasted some disgusting ones in the past. So if you’re interested in powders it's worth figuring out how not to waste money on them!
My top tips for adding protein powders:
1. Choose unflavoured, unsweetened versions. Many people see protein powders and bars as more of a ‘health’ food, but not if they’re full of a load of added processed ingredients! Consider using powders such as whey (or whey isolate if you struggle with lactose), or hemp, pea or rice powder if you’re after a plant based version. Avoid the marketing. Look for simple, minimal ingredients.
2. Add your own flavours e.g. fruit, cacao powder (also a source of protein!) to make it tasty but with the added bonuses of the nutrition of those whole ingredients e.g. fibre, vitamins, minerals etc.
3. Buy a small bag first! There’s nothing worse than opening up a bag and realising you hate the aftertaste or texture and you have 1kg of it to get through somehow! There are now so many brands out there that I suggest you experiment with smaller bags or even better, ask your friends for a scoop or two of their favourite!
4. Find some tasty recipes to include your powder. Some of my favourites are smoothies or breakfast options such as baked oats, overnight oats and even protein pancakes and cookies! I still remember my husband trying to get down a ‘smoothie’ of just pea protein and water, not nice for him or me!!
Here is a protein pancake recipe for you to try!
50g (½ cup) whole grain rolled oats
1 tbsp chia seeds
1 tbsp cacao powder
½ tsp baking powder
2 scoops of chocolate flavoured protein powder (optional)
1 large banana, mashed
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
60ml (¼ cup) milk of choice
Start by mashing the banana and then add in all the other wet ingredients and stir. Measure out the dry ingredients (apart from the baking powder) and mix. If you’d like the texture to be smooth, then blitz the oats first or substitute in some plain flour. Add wet ingredients to dry ingredients and mix well. Add the baking powder last, mixing well but not too much. Fry a tablespoon of mixture lightly on each side until golden brown. Repeat with the remaining mixture.
Experiment with the versions of this! You can try plain or vanilla protein powder (leaving out the cacao powder) for vanilla pancakes. I love my pancakes with yoghurt and berries, and a dollop of nut butter. What are your favourite toppings?