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Protein powder for PCOS: uses, benefits and best protein powders

You’ve likely heard that combining protein with carbohydrates and fats can be a great way to balance a meal, and may even help with symptoms of PCOS. One question we frequently hear is: “What about protein powder for PCOS?”. We’ve got you covered! There is a lot of information about protein powder for PCOS on the internet with questions surrounding its usage, benefits and the best protein powders for PCOS.

Today, let’s deep dive into the world of protein powder for PCOS.

What is PCOS?

Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS) is a common endocrine (hormone) disorder affecting 5-6 million people around the world. This syndrome is characterised by hormonal imbalances, irregular menstrual cycles, and the development of small cysts on the ovaries. Its exact cause remains a mystery, but factors like insulin resistance and inflammation often play significant roles.

PCOS cannot be cured so its treatment focuses on managing symptoms to improve wellbeing and quality of life. This may involve medication, supplements, nutrition and exercise.

What is protein powder?

Protein powder is essentially a concentrated source of protein, derived from either animal or plant sources. Common protein powders include whey, casein, soy, pea, and hemp.

To make protein powder, the protein is extracted via heat or enzymes which removes the water and some of the other nutrients. This creates a powder that is 70-85% pure protein with the rest being made up of fats and carbohydrates. Protein isolates are protein powders which have been processed further to isolate the protein more – resulting in a powder made up of 90% protein.

Protein powders may have other ingredients added such as added sugars, artificial flavouring, thickeners, vitamins, and minerals.

Why protein is important for PCOS

Protein is a macronutrient that is essential for humans. Protein is made up of amino acid chains. Within the body, protein has many roles including tissue repair, enzyme production, immune system support, and the creation of hormones and other essential molecules.

Protein plays a key role in balancing blood sugar levels, which is crucial for those with PCOS. People with PCOS often have insulin resistance which is when the bodys cells don’t react to insulin how we would expect. This means that more insulin is released in an effort to move glucose (sugar) from the bloodstream into the cells.

A diet with an adequate amount of protein can help to regulate insulin, and manage blood glucose levels. This may help improve symptoms of PCOS including carbohydrate cravings and fatigue. Moreover, adequate protein intake supports muscle growth and repair which may help to boost metabolism too.

How much protein do we need?

There is no definitive amount of protein that someone with PCOS needs to consume. General guidelines suggest that people require about 0.8g of protein per kg of body weight. But, if you are particularly active, or are pregnant or breast feeding, then you may need to consume more protein to keep up with your body’s requirements.

Are protein powders good for PCOS?

In general, yes! Protein powders can be a great addition to a PCOS friendly diet. They offer a convenient way to ensure you’re getting enough protein, which can help manage insulin levels and support metabolic health.

If you are someone who struggles to eat enough protein, do a lot of strength training, are extremely active or are pregnant or breastfeeding then adding protein powders into your diet may be helpful.

Benefits of protein powder

Protein powder has many benefits including being versatile, and convenient, helping to balance blood sugar levels, reducing cravings and supporting muscle recovery.

Versatile

Protein powder can be extremely versatile and used in many drinks and dishes. You can add it to smoothies or create protein pancakes for breakfast, or even bake it into savory muffins. It can also be drank on its own by mixing it with milk or water.

Convenient

Rather than cooking up a chicken breast or stir frying some tofu, protein shakes are super convenient ways to get your protein needs on the go. You can simply mix up a shake in a few seconds and drink it when commuting or at work or school.

Helps to balance blood sugar levels

Combining protein with carbohydrates can help to balance blood sugar levels. As mentioned, people with PCOS tend to have an increased likelihood of having insulin resistance which can lead to higher levels of glucose (sugar) and insulin circulating in the blood. This can worsen symptoms of PCOS.

Protein appears to “blunt” the absorption of carbohydrates leading to more stable blood sugar levels. Combining carbohydrates with protein appears to be a good way to manage blood sugar levels.

Reduces cravings

People with PCOS often have carbohydrate cravings, likely linked to the increased risk of insulin resistance. Protein can help with cravings as it is highly satiating (helping you feel satisfied and fuller for longer). If you struggle with cravings then boost your protein intake in your meals and see if it helps.

Supports muscle recovery

Consuming enough protein can help support muscle recovery after a workout. Eating a source of protein about 30-minutes post exercise has been seen to help replenish energy stores and rebuild muscle – helping you recover quicker and grow stronger.

Best protein powder for PCOS

The best protein powder for PCOS is one that aligns with your dietary needs. A good rule of thumb is to look for a protein powder with minimal ingredients and one that complements your diet, whether it’s whey, casein, or plant-based. If possible, choose a protein powder that has no added sugars or artificial sweeteners.

Best whey protein powder for PCOS

This whey protein from Bulk Powders contains just two ingredients: whey protein concentrate from milk and sunflower lecithin. It comes in many flavours and is versatile to add to many dishes, or can be consumed simply in shake form.

Best Whey Protein
Bulk Pure Whey Protein Powder Shake
£26.61 (£2.66 / 100 g)
  • Over 25 flavours
  • Provides 23 g of protein per serving
  • 5 g of branched-chain amino acids (BCAA) in every serving
  • Low in sugar
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06/17/2024 11:35 am GMT

Best pea protein powder for PCOS

This vegan protein blend from FreeSoul primarily uses pea protein combined with hemp seed protein to create a nourishing powder with 20g of protein per serving.

Best Pea Protein
Free Soul Vegan Protein Blend
£24.99
  • Vegetarian
  • Vegan
  • Gluten Free
  • GMO Free
  • Soy Free
  • Lactose Free
  • Sucralose Free
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Best soy protein powder for PCOS

This unflavored soy protein from Pulsin is a great protein powder to use in both sweet and savoury cooking.

Best Soy Protein
Pulsin Unflavoured Vegan Soya Protein Powder
£22.99 (£2.30 / 100 g)
  • Vegetarian friendly
  • Vegan friendly
  • Gluten free
  • Contains no refined sugars, artificial flavours or preservatives
  • 100% Soya Protein Isolate
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06/17/2024 11:22 am GMT

Homemade protein powder

Did you know you can even make your own protein powder? By blending up milk powder and oats then you can create a homemade powder that will bulk up your protein intake and not break the bank. We like this recipe from Teaspoon of Spice.

Frequently asked questions: protein powder for PCOS

Have more questions about protein powder for PCOS? We’ve got you covered.

Is too much protein bad for PCOS?

While protein is beneficial and essential in our diet, like all things, balance is key. Consuming too much protein can strain the kidneys and could lead to nutrient imbalances. It’s always crucial to listen to your body and consult a nutritionist, dietitian or healthcare professional tailored to your individual needs.

Is plant-based protein powder better for PCOS?

Plant-based protein powders like pea, hemp, and soy can be an excellent choice for those with PCOS, especially if they’re lactose intolerant or sensitive to dairy. They’re typically easier on the digestive system and come packed with additional nutrients and fibre. Whey protein does appear to be better at supporting muscle growth and recovery, but plant-based protein contains many vitamins and minerals.

Are protein bars OK for PCOS?

Protein bars can be a handy snack for those on the go. As with all PCOS snacks aim to balance protein, fats and carbohydrates where possible.

What about whey for PCOS?

Whey protein is made from milk. Many people are concerned about the link between dairy and PCOS but there is actually no evidence to suggest that dairy is bad for PCOS. Whey protein can be enjoyed if you have PCOS, but if you are intolerant or sensitive to dairy then there are plenty of plant based protein powder options too like pea, soy or rice protein.

Key takeaways: protein powder for PCOS

In conclusion, protein plays an essential role in a PCOS friendly diet, and protein powders can be a convenient way to ensure you’re getting your daily dose. Remember to consult with a healthcare professional if you are making changes to your diet and to find a management plan that works for you.

Alex Okell ANutr Founder and Editor

Founder and Editor | Registered Associate Nutritionist

 

Founder of Be The Collective LTD [The PCOS Collective & The Endo Collective] Alex Okell ANutr is a London-based reproductive health nutritionist with experience in research, private practice and digital media. She holds a Master’s degree in Nutrition from King’s College London and has co-authored papers with the University of Cambridge, King’s College London, The Food Foundation and the Food Standards Agency. Alex offers 1:1 PCOS support in our virtual PCOS clinic.

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