We live in a fitness-focused culture, where staying healthy and strong takes center stage. Gyms are bustling with people chasing various goals – weight loss, muscle building, or simply a healthier lifestyle. Regardless of your personal motivation, you’ve likely heard about the widespread use of protein supplements. Perhaps you’re already using them, or considering them to accelerate your progress. But alongside their popularity, whispers of potential downsides have also emerged.

So, are protein supplements truly beneficial, or just a fad fueled by misinformation? Let’s delve deeper and separate fact from fiction.

The potential benefits

Helps you manage weight

Trying to lose weight but worried about losing muscle too? Protein powder can be a valuable tool in your journey. Ensuring adequate protein intake alongside your workouts can actually support both muscle building and fat burning. Protein is the building block of muscle, and when you combine sufficient protein with strength training, you’ll be better equipped to target stubborn fat stores.

Another benefit: protein promotes satiety, keeping you feeling fuller for longer. This can curb cravings for unhealthy snacks and processed foods, making it easier to stick to your diet and achieve your goals.

Helps in muscle growth

If you are hitting the gym or practising strength training workouts at home in the hope of gaining muscles, you can’t do it without protein. As we said before, protein is the building block of muscles. No muscles without an adequate amount of protein.

Prevents you from losing muscle

Hitting the gym consistently for months, only to face a vacation that threatens to derail your progress? Fear not! Maintaining adequate protein intake can help prevent muscle loss during exercise breaks. Protein acts as the building block for muscle, and ensuring you get enough, even during rest periods, can minimise muscle breakdown.

However, the benefits of protein extend beyond gym-goers. As we age, muscle loss becomes a natural concern, leading to an increased risk of injuries due to poor balance and weakness. Protein supplements can be a valuable tool for older adults, helping them maintain muscle mass and improve overall well-being.

Easy to take when you can’t add enough protein to your daily diet

Meeting your daily protein needs can be a challenge, especially for vegetarians who consume limited or occasional non-vegetarian foods. While plant-based protein sources like beans and lentils exist, they may not always provide enough protein to reach your goals. This is where protein supplements can be a helpful tool. They can bridge the gap between your dietary intake and your protein requirements.

However, it’s important to prioritise a balanced diet as your primary source of protein. Think of protein supplements as a way to complement your meals, not replace them.



Protein powders and other supplements can be expensive. A 1kg box of protein powder can somewhere cost around INR 2000 and last only a month. Likewise, even protein bars can be 4-5 times the cost of chocolates.

It may have potential contaminants

Protein powders may contain some levels of lead and BPA, which is bisphenol A, an industrial chemical used in making certain plastics and resins. These components can have detrimental effects on one’s health.

What does ICMR have to say?

Recent dietary guidelines from ICMR (Indian Council of Medical Research) advise caution regarding protein supplement use. Specifically, they highlight potential concerns with whey protein, which is rich in Branched-Chain Amino Acids (BCAAs). Studies suggest high BCAA intake might be linked to an increased risk of non-communicable diseases, including insulin resistance and neurotransmitter imbalances. Additionally, some protein supplements may contain added sugars, flavours, and artificial sweeteners, which should be considered when making dietary choices.

Beyond these considerations, potential downsides exist for excessive protein intake, regardless of source. The body needs to work harder to process excess protein, potentially straining the kidneys over time.  Dehydration can also occur as more water is required for protein processing. Digestive issues like constipation and bloating may also arise with excessive protein consumption.

Closing thoughts

The healthiness of protein supplements largely depends on individual needs, dietary habits, and overall lifestyle. While protein supplements can be a convenient and effective way to meet protein requirements, particularly for athletes, vegetarians, and those with specific health conditions, they are not universally necessary. It’s important to choose high-quality natural protein sources and to use them as part of a balanced diet. Consulting with healthcare professionals can help ensure that protein supplementation aligns with personal health goals and nutritional needs. Ultimately, whole foods remain the gold standard for nutrient intake, providing a broader range of benefits than isolated protein supplements.

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