Recent Blog Articles

Harvard Health Blog

The scoop on protein powder

March 9, 2020

About the Author

photo of Emily Gelsomin, MLA, RD, LDN

Emily Gelsomin, MLA, RD, LDN, Contributor

Emily Gelsomin, MLA, RD, LDN, is a senior clinical nutrition specialist at Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH).  As a registered dietitian, she counsels on medical nutrition therapy on an outpatient basis and is the co-director of Be … See Full Bio
View all posts by Emily Gelsomin, MLA, RD, LDN


As a service to our readers, Harvard Health Publishing provides access to our library of archived content. Please note the date of last review or update on all articles.

No content on this site, regardless of date, should ever be used as a substitute for direct medical advice from your doctor or other qualified clinician.


Lewis Goudy
March 12, 2020

“Larger quantities” meaning larger than “20 to 40 grams of protein at a time (roughly the amount found in a can of tuna)”. This is vague enough to be useless. Net protein synthesis is increased when intake exceeds that which saturates the proteosynthesis signal (around 24g including 2.4g leucine) because higher intakes suppress proteolysis. This attenuation of catabolism increases net protein synthesis which is the anabolic response (new protein synthesis) minus the catabolic response (existing protein broken down thereby replenishing the various amino acid stocks in the circulation). A can of tuna contains 25g protein and 2.0g of leucine. There is no question that taking most of your protein in a single sitting, perhaps 70g at dinner after 10g at breakfast and 10g at lunch, will be less effective than 30g at each meal. You want to keep the synthetic machinery running as much of the time as possible. If your intake is 120g daily, four feedings of 30g will work better than three of 40g. As noted, the extra intake is more than energy: amino acids have metabolic chores to perform which use them up and so they are required in larger amounts than needed for protein synthesis. “simply provide calories” simply ignores such concerns as glycemic response and satiety which are material to both personal and public health. The RDAs reflect nitrogen balance as measured by urinalysis which neglects the sloughing of cells lining the alimentary tract, skin, hair, etc. and are well if not widely known to be insufficient to maintain nitrogen balance in seniors without avoidable loss of lean mass–a prescription for sarcopenia.

March 11, 2020

The studies are pretty clear that whey and casein protein powders, in combination, build a superior amount of muscle (as well as protect from catabolism) compared to a nutrition regimen without.

Stephen mashele
March 11, 2020

Am a 39 years old father i have 6 kids so i need to build mussels which best nutrition or supplements can i take when am going to the gym

Daniel Antonio Chavez
March 10, 2020

It is much more difficult to gain muscle as we age. Increasing protein when we are older is neccessary but if we neglected to build mass when we were younger, and it was easiest, then we are fighting an uphill battle. It is much easier to retain muscle as we age, so there is a great advantage in growing muscle in our youth. If we want to have full lives as elderly people, we need to have muscles that are strong enough to carry us and fast enough to prevent us from falling if we misstep. Our muscles are the organ of longevity, meeting minimum requirements is a dangerous game to play. There is a reason why the average American only lives till about 70. Let’s encourage muscle growth, and break the stigma. We don’t have to all be athletes or Mr. Olympia, but we should eat more protein. For our future self!

March 10, 2020

“Larger quantities simply contribute calories and can actually reduce muscle-building potential. ”
Is there a source for this? It feels very wrong, unless what is meant are aesthetics, in which case it is phrased misleadingly.

March 10, 2020

I rather eat a serving of protein powder everyday than large amounts of meat.

March 10, 2020

I consume about 150 Gramd protein daily, I’m a 34 year old 5’2 male weigh around 155 pounds, inuse when protein every morning simply for the added nutrition, I eat about 4 egglands best eggs with turmeric as well, I only do this to stay healthy not necessarily get huge

March 10, 2020

I heard taking a few scoops of protein — in the neighbourhood of three — with each scoop taken two to three hours apart is better for activating protein synthesis (the biological process required to initiate muscle-building and recovery) than taking all the scoops at once. If I recall correctly, this was from a recent McMaster University (Canada) study.

I think protein intake is also important for those whose sedentary lifestyle puts them at risk of atrophy (or wasting) of the muscle. Doesn’t that justify taking slightly above the RDA?

March 10, 2020

Hi there I’m 42 years I do cardio 3 time week
Should I take protein powder

Kam singh
March 10, 2020

Hi I am a vegetarian so my protein intake is very little compared to a meat eater. Can you recommend a protein powder which is best for me to take. I’m a 120kg & 6’4 in height.

S. K. Shivarsm
March 10, 2020

Very nice article. Thank you

March 10, 2020

I started incorporating protein powder in my diet when I started losing my hair. As a mature woman, going through a stressful period in my life seemed to be taking it’s toll on my hair. When I started finding more and more in my bathtub drain, I started to panic. A body-building friend told about a supplement he used and suggested I take it everyday to incorporate more protein in my diet. Well, it worked and I would pass on this tip to anyone needing the same!

March 10, 2020

Can protein powder increase protein in the body? I am 75 and weigh 58 kg. How much protein do i require?

March 10, 2020

Should have talked of few common diets to be included In weekly intake of protein

Snehal Barot
March 10, 2020

I’m a vegetarian age 35 yrs and I’m not comfortable with the protein powder suppliment available in market and I do cycling and exercise TRX on very regular basis so what kind of protein reach veg food I can eat which can help me get more protein to my body

Gene Lessard
March 9, 2020

I’m 76 yrs old, 6’1″ and weigh 225 lbs. I workout 3-4 days a week with a fairly intense workout – full upper body one day full lower body the next. I do 3 sets of 15 reps with progressive writes. How much protien should I take in.

March 9, 2020

According to Google a 1/2 cup of actually more like 20 grams of protein.

Doug Mitrovic
March 9, 2020

Animal proteins have a much higher bioavailability than plant proteins. However, they are hard on your kidneys especialy if you have kidney disease you should avoid them and opt for plant based sources. Former Mr. Olympia Lee Haney never consumed protein powders and got all his protein from food. Fish amd other meats. The advantage of that is, they are slowly digested and optimaly utilised. While powders are mostly extreted through urine.

Michael Junod
March 9, 2020

As an almost 72 yr old male my objective is to not only maintain muscle but hopefully to increase muscle! Difficult I know! A protein smoothie each day plus chicken, fish and lean beef will definitely boost my protein intake combined with weighttraing I hope at least I can maintain if not gain muscle!

Commenting has been closed for this post.

You might also be interested in…

A Guide to Healthy Eating: Strategies, tips, and recipes to help you make better food choices

Eat real food. That’s the essence of today’s nutrition message. Our knowledge of nutrition has come full circle, back to eating food that is as close as possible to the way nature made it. Based on a solid foundation of current nutrition science, Harvard’s Special Health Report A Guide to Healthy Eating: Strategies, tips, and recipes to help you make better food choices​ describes how to eat for optimum health.

Read More

Free Healthbeat Signup

Get the latest in health news delivered to your inbox!

Harvard Health Publishing Logo

Thanks for visiting. Don't miss your FREE gift.

The Best Diets for Cognitive Fitness, is yours absolutely FREE when you sign up to receive Health Alerts from Harvard Medical School

Sign up to get tips for living a healthy lifestyle, with ways to fight inflammation and improve cognitive health, plus the latest advances in preventative medicine, diet and exercise, pain relief, blood pressure and cholesterol management, and more.

Harvard Health Publishing Logo

Health Alerts from Harvard Medical School

Get helpful tips and guidance for everything from fighting inflammation to finding the best diets for weight loss...from exercises to build a stronger core to advice on treating cataracts. PLUS, the latest news on medical advances and breakthroughs from Harvard Medical School experts.

BONUS! Sign up now and
get a FREE copy of the
Best Diets for Cognitive Fitness

Harvard Health Publishing Logo

Stay on top of latest health news from Harvard Medical School.

Plus, get a FREE copy of the Best Diets for Cognitive Fitness.