Growing up as an athlete, I always heard that protein powder was the key to getting jacked. Because of that, I was always eager to get my hands on some.
Other times, I heard that protein powder will make you “bulky” … and it was said in a negative way.
Well, everyone has an opinion. However, what I’ve come to realize through years of research and experience is that neither is true.
Here at 1st Phorm, we get asked this question quite often — “Does protein powder make you gain weight?” Unfortunately, the answer isn’t as simple as a basic "yes" or "no" ... it actually depends on a lot of different things.
Let's take a deeper look into this question and whether or not protein powder is a good investment for reaching your goals.
Does Protein Powder Make You Gain Weight?
So, does protein powder make you gain weight? By itself, no it does not. This is a bit of a loaded question though, because consuming protein powder alone will not make you gain weight.
On the other hand, it CAN help you gain weight as long as the right variables are in place.
You see, the only way to actually gain weight is by being in a caloric surplus. This just means you’re consuming more calories than you’re burning on a daily basis.
This creates a scenario in which your body has energy and nutrients that it needs to do something with. These nutrients will either be used for building muscle, stored as fat, or a combination of both. This all depends on the needs your body is looking to satisfy.
If your body is looking to repair muscle and adapt to a new stressor from training … the extra calories (assuming you get a sufficient amount of protein) can be used for muscle. If your body doesn’t have anything to do with the calories, it will often be stored as fat.
Now, in both of these instances, you will gain weight. However, there is a big difference between fat gain and muscle gain.
So really, the only way a protein powder could make you gain weight in the form of fat is if it causes you to overeat on calories. This is great news if you've been taking a protein powder or are looking to take a protein powder!
On the other hand, if you’re trying to gain healthy weight in the form of muscle tissue, protein powder can help. Allow me to explain why…
How Protein Powder Can Help You Gain Healthy Weight
If you’re looking to build muscle, protein is key. I’m sure this isn’t your first time hearing this either. But, why?
Believe it or not, protein is the main component of muscles, bones, organs, skin, and nails. Other than water and fat, your body is made up of mostly protein.
So when it comes to building new muscle tissue, your body needs enough protein. Now, don’t get me wrong, protein isn’t the only thing your body needs to build new muscle.
You also need to be eating in a calorie surplus and training in a way that promotes new muscle growth. Without enough protein though, neither of these things are relevant. Your body needs enough of a complete protein source in order to activate muscle protein synthesis (MPS).
This is your body’s process of taking the amino acids from protein and synthesizing them into new muscle tissue. For this to happen, your body needs a sufficient amount of a complete protein source in one sitting.
It’s been proposed that the amount of protein a young adult would need in order to maximize new muscle growth is between 20-25g (1).
The general recommendation now is .8-1.2 grams of protein per pound of body weight spread out over the course of at least 4 meals a day (1). To keep things simple, I like to recommend shooting for 1 gram of protein per pound of lean body weight every day.
I get it, that’s a lot of protein. I’m over 200 pounds which means I have to consume over 200g of protein a day to gain new muscle. This is why protein powder can be so beneficial for gaining "healthy" weight.
If you struggle to hit that much protein from food alone, which is hard, then protein powder can be a great solution for you too.
Can Protein Powder Help With Weight Loss?
One thing that most people may not realize is while protein powder can help you gain weight … it can also help you lose weight too.
There are actually quite a few reasons for this. One reason is because protein has a high thermic effect. Let me explain why that's important. See, all foods have a thermic effect, meaning your body burns calories by digesting, absorbing, and metabolizing them. Of the macronutrients, protein has the highest thermic effect of them all at 15-30% (2).
That means 15-30% of the calories you consume in protein, your body burns just by digesting it! Because of this, a high-protein diet can be super helpful for weight loss.
In addition to that, protein can also help with feeling fuller after a meal (2). This can help greatly with consuming less total calories throughout the day if you’re looking to lose weight.
As if that’s not enough, protein can also help your body preserve and build new lean muscle tissue. You may be thinking “What does that have to do with weight loss?” Well, you see, muscle tissue plays a huge role in your resting metabolic rate.
Muscle tissue has a massive energy requirement, and the more muscle tissue you have ... the higher your resting metabolic rate (3).
With all that being said, protein powder can be a great tool to help you lose weight. I know it's always been a staple of mine anytime I'm looking to lose some pounds.
What Types of Protein Powders Are There?
A lot of people are under the impression that protein powder is just protein powder. That isn’t the case at all. There are actually two main categories when it comes to protein powders, both of which are completely different.
Category 1: Sustained Assimilation Protein Powders
Sustained assimilation protein powders are slower digesting sources of protein. They are literally designed to mimic the digestion of a whole food protein source such as chicken breast.
If you can’t get enough protein in through whole foods, this can be your solution. A high-quality sustained assimilation protein is tasty, convenient, and effective all in one!
Most of the time, this will be protein powders sourced from casein protein, whey protein concentrate, plant-based proteins, and more. Some of them will even be protein blends to help give you a much more diverse amino acid profile.
Category 2: Rapid Assimilation Protein Powders
Rapid assimilation protein powders are quite a bit different. These types of protein powders are designed for post-workout recovery. Normally, these products are isolated.
Take whey protein isolate for example. With a whey protein isolate, most of the lactose and fats are removed to help the protein powder digest more quickly. Similar to sustained assimilation proteins, you can also get plant-based versions and more.
Both of these protein categories can play an important role in the results you see. It’s all about making sure you’re using the right tool for the job!
1st Phorm Protein Powders
At 1st Phorm, we actually have a few incredible options when it comes to protein powders. Through our commitment to providing the highest-quality products in the industry, we created the best of the best.
If you’re looking for a high-quality sustained assimilation protein to help you get more protein throughout the day … Level-1 has you covered. Level-1 is a protein blend of whey protein concentrate, whey protein isolate, and milk protein concentrate. It also comes processed at lower temperatures to ensure your body can digest and utilize the most amount of protein possible.
If you’re looking for a protein powder you can take for post-workout recovery, Phormula-1 is phenomenal! It’s a whey protein isolate that tastes amazing, and can help you recover faster.
This can help you reduce muscle soreness, and earn the results you’re after. Just tag it with a rapid digesting carbohydrate, such as ignition, and you’ll notice the difference after just one workout!
Heck, maybe you prefer to follow a vegan diet or plant-based lifestyle. Well, our Vegan Power Pro may be the perfect protein powder for you. We combined two of the highest quality plant-based protein sources into one delicious powder: pea protein and rice protein. Vegan Power Pro can be taken as a meal or snack replacement, and even as a substitute for a traditional post-workout protein powder.
What Are Your Health and Fitness Goals?
So, will protein powder make you gain weight? No. The reason I say this is because the protein powder itself has nothing to do with weight gain.
Weight gain comes from eating more calories than you’re burning throughout the day.
While protein powder won’t MAKE you gain weight … it definitely can HELP you gain weight. At the same time, protein powder can also HELP you lose weight. It’s all dependent on how your nutrition and exercise looks in conjunction with taking a protein powder.
Do you have any health or fitness goals you're looking to accomplish?
Well, if you aren’t tracking your nutrition or working out, that would be a great place to start. That’s the entire reason we developed the 1st Phorm App. It is the absolute best all-in-one tool to help you earn the results you’re after.
Inside the app, you’ll get access to everything you need:
• Custom workout programs
• Nutrition planning
• Calorie and macro tracking
• 1-on-1 assistance from your own personal advisor
• Progress tracking
• Educational content and live streams
It doesn’t even stop there! But regardless of what you need help with, we’re here for you. All you have to do is reach out to anybody here at 1st Phorm HQ! We have a full team of NASM Certified Personal Trainers and Certified Nutrition Coaches who are here to help you for FREE. Just give us a call at 1-800-409-9732 or send us an email at CustomerService@1stPhorm.com anytime!
(1) Schoenfeld BJ, Aragon AA. How much protein can the body use in a single meal for muscle-building? Implications for daily protein distribution. J Int Soc Sports Nutr. 2018 Feb 27;15:10. doi: 10.1186/s12970-018-0215-1. PMID: 29497353; PMCID: PMC5828430.
(2) Pesta DH, Samuel VT. A high-protein diet for reducing body fat: mechanisms and possible caveats. Nutr Metab (Lond). 2014 Nov 19;11(1):53. doi: 10.1186/1743-7075-11-53. PMID: 25489333; PMCID: PMC4258944.
(3) Zurlo F, Larson K, Bogardus C, Ravussin E. Skeletal muscle metabolism is a major determinant of resting energy expenditure. J Clin Invest. 1990 Nov;86(5):1423-7. doi: 10.1172/JCI114857. PMID: 2243122; PMCID: PMC296885.