In our day to day life, we must consciously and consistently ensure that we have a well-rounded diet with all the necessary nutrients. We have to go through our days thinking Oh I shouldn’t have a sandwich. I already had toast this morning, maybe I’ll get a salad and some yogurt… maybe I should also have some milk… is that enough dairy? Having to consciously track your nutrient intake can be exhausting. And, although it’s already a lot to think about, we often lose track of a crucial nutrient that is important for many of our body’s functions: protein.
Protein is a macronutrient that your body needs for numerous functions such as enzyme reactions, cellular function, and transporting oxygen through the bloodstream. Protein also acts as an energy source for the body and plays a big role in the function of the metabolism. Given the many benefits of protein, it’s crucial that you are consciously including it in your regular diet. You’re likely already getting protein from consuming a variety of foods including eggs, almonds, chicken, milk, greek yogurt, etc. But many also elect to use protein powder as an additional source of this crucial nutrient.
Why Use Protein Powder?
There are many reasons why people will turn to protein powders as a source of protein in their diets. One reason would be that they are active and workout regularly. Adequate amounts of protein are crucial for repairing muscles following activity and must also be added on top of your daily protein requirements. Finally, using protein powder as a dietary supplement can be helpful for those who simply have trouble meeting the daily recommended amount of protein in their typical diets.
Types of Protein Powders
One of the most popular protein powders is Whey Protein, which is made by using the liquid from the cheesemaking process once the milk has curdled and strained. Whey Protein remains one of the more popular forms due to its ability to be digested by the body quickly, compared to Casein Protein. Whey Protein is available in three forms: concentrate, isolate and hydrolysate. Each of these forms contains Branched Chain Amino Acids (BCAA’s), which are three amino acids highly involved in the process of repairing muscle damage that occurs during exercise.
Another common choice is soy protein, which involves hulling and drying soy into flour, then isolating it into a powder. It is a vegetarian choice and has also been shown to be helpful at reducing cholesterol. Egg protein, a powder made from separating and dehydrating egg whites, is another option. Although this option does contain a series of amino acids, vitamins, and minerals and is typically low in lactose or lactose-free, it can also be one of the more expensive protein powders.
Casein, the most abundant protein in milk, is another option that is digested by the body at a slower rate over several hours. Hemp protein is a 100% plant-based protein option that is derived from seeds of a cannabis plant. Although it is hypoallergenic and a good source of omega-3 fatty acids, it’s low in leucine which is one of the more important amino acids for muscle development. Rice protein is another vegan option that also has the added benefit of B vitamins but will need to be added to other sources of protein for proper muscle growth. Finally, there’s pea protein, which is made from golden pea plants. This acts as a vegan-friendly alternative to casein as another slow-release protein.
What Are Your Needs?
When choosing which protein powder works best for you, you should consider your protein needs. For example, if you’re planning to add a protein powder to your diet to help support muscle goals such as building, recovering or maintaining muscle, you’ll likely want to look at a whey protein, or more specifically a whey protein isolate that is more highly purified since it has a high biological value. since it has a high biological value. If you’re looking for a vegan-friendly protein, you’ll want to go with the hemp, pea, or rice protein options. If you’re looking to lose weight or you have a medical condition like diabetes, you’ll want to choose an option without any added sugars.
How Much Protein Powder to Take
The Recommended Dietary Allowance is .36 grams of protein per pound of body weight per day, but those who are active may need to consume more to replenish their muscle tissue. For those who work out, 20-40 grams are typically recommended as an additional protein supplement. This is the ideal amount in order to support muscle protein synthesis, which is the process that supports repairing and rebuilding muscle. If you’re simply looking to add protein to your diet, however, look for a lower protein option like one with 10 to 15 grams per serving since your body doesn’t need it for muscle-recovery, which requires higher volumes of protein.
When to Use Protein Powder
Scheduling your protein powder consumption will depend on your goals and which type of protein you’re using. For example, if you’re an active person, ClevelandClinic.org recommends that one should consume their protein powder within 60 minutes of their workout as this is when one’s muscles are most responsive. Whey protein is also recommended in this instance as it is absorbed by the body at a faster rate. However, slower absorbing proteins such as pea or casein protein from milk are great for replenishing your body’s protein slowly overnight, so they’re a great option to consume nightly before bed.
How to Consume Protein Powder
If you’re looking for a protein powder that will be both a good source of recovery and flavor, an easy option would be Optimum Nutrition whose Gold Standard 100% Whey Protein Powder was chosen as the Best Tasting Whey Protein Powder by Business Insider in 2020 and remains the world’s best-selling whey protein. With this type of protein powder, you can simply add milk or water and you’ll be good to go. For those looking for a non-dairy protein, Optimum Nutrition Gold Standard 100% Plant Protein can be a good option.
If, however, you prefer more taste and texture, finding a few fun recipes and using a blender to create a shake with a mix of fruits and vegetables and sweeteners like honey will not only yield a yummy shake but will also add more nutrients to the experience as well. For example, adding chia seeds or flax seeds will give your body additional omega-3 fatty acids. And, if you want to get really creative, you can even make it a fun dessert by baking your favorite protein powder into cookies, cupcakes, mug cakes, or even pancakes.