# What will happen if I receive major part of my protein needs from powders rather than foods?

I am a 31-year-old man, am 180 centimetres tall, and weigh 75 kilograms. I am on a Bulking diet. According to this TDEE calculator, I need 219 grams of protein, which is too much for me.

In my daily diet, I eat 125 grams of chicken filet, 2 eggs, 100 grams of fish, which overall gives me 90 grams of protein.

So, I still need 129 grams (219 - 90 = 129) more protein and I have no option beside protein powders, just because I cannot eat more than this. This amount is about 59% of my needs.

As a rule of thumb, I have heard that protein powders must not be replaced with normal food. As far as I know, a normal person can get 30%-50% of his protein needs from powder. Which means, I can receive 109.5 grams from powders.

My question is:

What will happen if I get protein mostly from powders rather than food? I mean, what if I exceed this 50% and get 60% or 70% of my needs from protein powders? Is it dangerous?

• When you say you “can’t eat more than this”, do you mean it feels physically uncomfortable? Or something else (time, money, etc)? Jul 27, 2020 at 23:58
• That is a ridiculous amount of protein. There's no way this calculator is making sense. Jul 28, 2020 at 8:14
• "I have heard that protein powders must not be replaced with normal food" I think you got that the wrong way around.
– Mast
Jul 29, 2020 at 9:11
• The main result of eating powder instead of nice food is that you'll be less happy. Jul 29, 2020 at 12:00
• Also, at 31, you can only gain about 2-3 pounds of muscle per year MAX. All other weight you gain from bulking is fat. You're simply too old to make the kinds of gains that a 20 year-old could. If you want to do something about this, the only (legal) solution is to talk to a men's health physician about HRT. Finally, once you understand all of the above, no, it doesn't matter where your protein comes from. You could drink protein powder all day, eat no other source of protein, and still gain muscle. And 1 gram of protein per pound (.45 kg) of muscle is MORE than enough for anyone. Jul 29, 2020 at 16:34

First, it must be noted that the quantity of protein that is being recommended by the calculator you have found is not supported by science. The literature suggests that optimal recovery occurs with a maximum of about 2 grams per kilogram of (lean) body mass per day (g/kg/d), with most of the world's institutes of sport, for example, recommending between 1.5 and 1.8 g/kg/d for bodybuilders, strength and power athletes. Proportioning higher amounts of protein appears not to have any effect on recovery, and may be harmful to your health. Certainly, such high proportions pose challenges to your achieving those goals through a normal diet—as you are finding.

The problem with the Total Daily Energy Expenditure (TDEE) formula employed by the calculator is that whilst it does reasonably estimate your daily energy requirement, it appears to consider neither your macronutrient requirements, as is supported by science, nor the practicality of meeting those requirements. For bulking, it is both beneficial (anabolic) and sensible to achieve most of your energy from carbohydrate.

So the good news is that (making assumptions about your body composition and activity level) your optimal protein intake is much lower than you have been led to believe—about 95 and 115 grams per day. You are already consuming very close to that amount! And it should be noted, also, that if you are finding it difficult to eat more, it is likely that your optimal protein intake is, in fact, lower still.

To answer your question directly, however, whilst it is always preferable to achieve your nutrient requirements from a varied diet, there is no danger in achieving your protein requirements through supplements. And even very high protein intake appears not to be harmful if you have no pre-existing health conditions.

I hope that helps.

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– Alec
Jul 30, 2020 at 10:12

I have no option beside protein powders. Just, because I cannot eat more than [a piece of chicken, 2 eggs, and a serving fish per day].

Yeah, right. There's no reason not to eat six eggs, double the chicken, and an extra serving of fish except you don't want to put in the effort. Two eggs? Two eggs is how many you eat when you're trying to lose weight! Get a hold of yourself and eat more!

Powders are fine. Go ahead and have a whey protein shake. Have two a day. It doesn't make a difference for health; it's just expensive. The reason you shouldn't do that is that you clearly want to use them as an excuse. That should worry you. There's no way around it: you've got to eat. Trying to use supplements will only fool you for a little while. If you try to cheat, the only person who gets screwed is you. Focus on the lifting and the eating, not the supplements.

If you're deadlifting heavy enough then you should have The Hunger anyway, and this wouldn't be a question.

• Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat.
– Alec
Jul 30, 2020 at 10:13

First of all, the calculator is entirely wrong. The only way to know how many calories your body uses is to measure every day for a period of several months. Track every calorie you eat and your median weekly weight. Then you'll be able to calculate your maintenance calories, i.e., the number of calories you need to eat per day to maintain your current weight. You can use online calculators for a very rough guess to start with, but everyone is different, and it's best to track calories anyway if you're serious about fitness.

After that's done, you need to understand that "bulking" is not a useful or necessary thing to do, unless your goal is to gain fat. You can build muscle while in a calorie deficit. All that matters is that you're getting enough protein, not eating in TOO much of a deficit (100-300 calories below your maintenance level is fine), and doing the work to break down the muscle (i.e., lifting heavy weights).

Also, at 31, be aware that you can only gain about 2-3 pounds (.9-1.3 kg) of muscle per year MAX. All other weight you may gain from "bulking" is fat. You're simply too old to make the kinds of insane gains that a 15-20 year-old could. If you want to do something about this, the only (legal) solution is to talk to a men's health physician about HRT.

Finally, once you understand all of the above, no, it doesn't matter where your protein comes from. You could drink protein powder all day, eat no other source of protein, and still gain muscle. It has all the amino acids you need. And 1 gram of protein per pound (1 lb = .45 kg) of muscle is MORE than enough for anyone. You should be eating 165 g protein per day at the most; really, 150 g will be fine and should be easily doable.

It is very hard to not eat enough protein. In your daily estimate, it sounds like you're only accounting for the obvious animal-based proteins, when there is likely protein in many of the other things you eat (such as bread or milk). Take this example: Chug two protein shakes in the morning and you're already at 50 g protein. Three eggs and a piece of toast is another 23. A tall glass of milk is another 16 g. Add an extra egg white to your eggs and that's another 5. This is not even an especially large breakfast for most active men (it's about 770 calories), and afterward you'd only need 56 more grams of protein in the entire rest of your day. A nice, large chicken breast for lunch will get you basically there, and you haven't even had dinner yet.

The main reason bodybuilders like protein powder is that it's a low calorie AND convenient way of getting protein that tastes decent (it's also often the cheapest). They want to watch their calories so that they don't gain fat, but they also need to get enough protein within their calorie limit. Chicken breast is also very low in calories, but it's high in time and effort to cook. Eggs take less time and effort, but are high in calories. Same with milk. Egg whites are drinkable from the carton, but don't taste super good and need to be refrigerated. Protein powder, on the other hand, is super convenient and does the exact same thing inside your body as the others, so why not use it?

(BTW, if you're a total newbie, i.e., never lifted before, then you should expect to gain a lot more than 3 pounds of muscle in your first year at any age. But only in your first year. After that, 2-3 pounds or .9-1.3 kg of muscle per year max for a 31 year-old. And I do want to stress that's the max, and after 35 gains diminish even faster. Still, that's 10-20 pounds or 4.5-9 kg of solid muscle by the time you're 40, which will look great if you stay trim. Many people don't realize the insane difference that just 10 pounds of muscle will make in your appearance.)

According to this source,

protein powders come in various forms. The three common ones are whey, soy, and casein protein.

Whey is the liquid remaining after milk has been curdled and strained (Wikipedia).

Soy protein is a protein that is isolated from soybean. It is made from soybean meal that has been dehulled and defatted (dito).

Casein proteins are commonly found in mammalian milk, comprising c. 80% of the proteins in cow's milk (dito).

As you see, all three, and hence most protein powders consist of macromolecules that come more or less straight out of nature. I feel hard pressed to understand how one could say that you should not replace protein powders by "real" food - except of course that, as you found out, you simply cannot eat enough of it due to the carbs and fats that come on top of it.

As long as you get all the other nutrients you need (correct total amount of calories, plus vitamins etc.) from other sources, there's not much of the difference. At the end of the day, you are simply eating more concentrated forms of the same molecules.

You should still take a good look at the actual powders you consume, though. Some of them have very high amounts of sugar added. There are also indirect/invisible risks, summarized in this article from health.harvard.edu; for example you don't know if the list of ingredients is exactly as advertised; or your digestive system may be upset due to the form the protein is taken - i.e. as a very one-sided fluid without fiber, and so on.

The problem here is that "protein" isn't one item, but many and despite what the nutritional advice normally says you don't actually need it. What you need are amino acids, the usual source for them is protein. The problem is that there are 9 of them that you must have and not all sources have them in the same ratios. Eating a lot of protein from a source that doesn't have all 9 in a reasonable ratio can leave you deficient in the ones that aren't there even though the total amount of "protein" you consumed was above requirements. This is also why vegetarians must be careful with their diet--they have basically nothing that has all 9, they must eat combinations that cover over the holes.

It is possible to live on protein powder rather than meat if you know what you're doing. When my food sensitivities are acting up I have no choice--but I have spreadsheets carefully calculating amino acids, vitamins, and minerals to ensure I'm getting what I need.