Currently, more and more women are consuming protein powders to either supplement their diets or as a meal replacement, based on information that suggests that this type of supplement can boost weight gain or lead to weight loss. Therefore, it is important to properly understand how this type of supplement works. Protein powder alone does not promote weight gain or weight loss. It is actually the way you use the powder that will determine the effect you experience.
Proteins are often referred to as the body’s building blocks because they are essential for every cell, organ, and process in your body. For instance, along with fats and carbohydrates, proteins boost the production of hormones and enzymes that improve your metabolism.

Protein is broken down in the stomach into smaller substances called amino acids that travel through the bloodstream to areas where they are most needed. Once they reach the right destination, the amino acids are rebuilt into proteins that promote enhanced metabolism, energy levels, and optimal organ health. [1]

Increased protein synthesis also means your body uses more fat as a supplemental energy source and the more protein you consume, the more fat you can burn. In other words, the consumption of protein as a fuel source triggers protein synthesis in the body, which plays a key role in weight loss as well as the ability to maintain a healthy weight. [2]

However, consuming too much protein can cause unwanted weight gain. Therefore, maintaining a balanced diet and not exceeding the recommended amount of protein powder is a good way to reach your desired weight. [3, 4]

Calories are the main factor in protein powder supplementation

Calories are the main factor that promotes weight loss and muscle gain. While everyone knows that if you eat fewer calories, you will begin to lose weight, what most don’t realize is that if sufficient protein is not included in the diet, the body will start to break down muscle tissue and use it as an energy source [5]. This is muscle tissue that acts as your natural calorie burning engine. Therefore, it is important to prevent it from being broken down.

When engaging in calorie reduction the goal should be to consume amounts that support your body’s basic needs, and do not deprive your body of its minimum caloric energy requirements. For example, if you burn 500 calories during a workout routine, you need to replace those 500 so that your body will burn fat for energy, and not muscle tissue. In addition, a certain amount of stored fat is also important because it protects against starvation and if your body is denied adequate calories or protein it will begin to use muscle instead!

Muscle gain vs. fat gain with protein powder supplementation

If you are interesting in taking a protein powder supplement in order to achieve a proper balance between your muscle gain and weight loss, then you must evaluate the physical state of your body and your lifestyle. Using protein powders alone won’t help you lose weight, but could actually cause weight gain if too much is taken. This is because, while protein is an essential building block, it requires the combination of fat and carbohydrates in order to promote optimal metabolism and health. The main problem with people’s fitness and weight goals is they are based on an ideal body that is not typical for every individual. This means that you have to keep your expectations realistic in regard to your body’s unique composition and type, and ensure that your diet supports increased exercise along with a reduced caloric intake.
Overall, combining protein powder supplements with proper diet and exercise is an effective way to reach your weight goal.


  1. Blomstrand E, Eliasson J, Karlsson HK, Kohnke R. Branched-chain amino acids activate key enzymes in protein synthesis after physical exercise. J Nutr. Jan 2006;136(1 Suppl):269S-273S.
  2. Schaafsma G. The protein digestibility-corrected amino acid score. J Nutr. Jul 2000;130(7):1865S-1867S.
  3. Sachiko T. St. Jeor, RD PhD; Barbara V. Howard, PhD; T. Elaine Prewitt, RD D.Ph.; Vicki Bovee, RD MS; Terry Bazzarre, PhD; Robert H. Eckel, MD; for the AHA Nutrition Committee. Dietary Protein and Weight Reduction: A Statement for Healthcare Professionals from the Nutrition Committee of the Council on Nutrition, Physical Activity, and Metabolism of the American Heart Association.
  4. Westerterp-Plantenga, Nieuwenhuizen, Tome, Soenen and Westerterp. Dietary protein, weight loss, and weight maintenance. Annu Rev Nutr. 2009;29:21-41.
  5. Noakes M, Foster PR, Keogh JB, et al. Comparison of isocaloric very low carbohydrate/high saturated fat and high carbohydrate/low saturated fat diets on body composition and cardiovascular risk. Nutr Metab (Lond) 2006;3:7.

Last reviewed 06-Nov-2016