We've written about some of our thoughts on trendy supplements however, we've never explicitly talked about one of the most popular questions we receive about diets: "Do I need protein powder?"
When it comes to weight loss, muscle gain and pretty much every health/fitness goal, protein is the King or Queen.
Protein is one of the three main macro nutrients (the others being carbs and fats) that make up the foods we eat. Similarly to carbs, protein is 4 calories per gram but it isn't used for energy in quite the same way.
Think of protein like a Lego for your body, or the Lego's of the body. Protein is comprised of amino acids, which then build upon one another to create unique proteins. While there are 20 total amino acids, there are 9 deemed essential. When these 9 are found in one source, they are a complete protein. Complete proteins include soy and animal products. Incomplete proteins, on the other hand, don't contain all 9 essential amino acids. Incomplete proteins include most plant proteins. However, getting protein from a variety of plants can give you the essentials you need.
Protein is quite literally the building block for your body: it aids in building muscle, repairs and builds new tissues, keeps you fuller longer, can help in weight loss/maintenance/gain, reduces age-related deterioration of joints and bones, helps with blood function, blood pressure, vision, fluid, and many more. Without protein, your body would wrinkle into a little ball of skin and bones that couldn't function.
As you consume protein (which takes a while to break down!), those proteins are sent to the liver where they are delegated to spots around the body. As mentioned earlier, protein is not used for energy nor can it be moved around later, which means any additional protein gets flushed for nitrogen (urea) and then turned into triglycerides that get stored for later use/fat.
While any extra protein gets stored, most of us don't consume enough protein for our goals. While it's been said that excess protein can harm our kidneys, the amount of protein we would need to do that is generally not really possible to consume due to the filling nature of protein* (*you could, but it's unlikely).
For weight loss, we generally recommend at least 0.8g protein/lb. of bodyweight. So, for someone 150 lbs., that would be 120 grams of protein per day. For many, 1g/lb of bodyweight is actually a better recommendation. People looking for muscle gain can consume upwards of 1.5-2g protein/lb of bodyweight.
Often times, we under consume protein without having any idea. While things do add up, getting upwards of 100g can be difficult if you aren't paying attention to it.
One of the easiest ways to consume more protein throughout the day is through the use of a supplemental protein shake. Often times, protein shakes contain anywhere from 20-30g of protein per serving, very little carbs and almost no fat. Most protein powders are made up of a whey protein or whey protein isolate which gets digested quickly, making it ideal for a post-workout meal. In general, whey protein is a cost effective option for protein as well. Often times, a tub of protein provides about 20-30 servings for anywhere between $20-$60, making each serving of protein pretty reasonable.
Many whey proteins are now lactose free and almost all are gluten free which means that most people can use them.
In addition to whey protein (most popular), there is also casein protein as well as protein blends that contain whey+ casein, or whey, casein and egg. If you cannot tolerate dairy at all, there are now many other options available including beef protein, egg and many vegan varieties that tote high protein profiles with no dairy.
Any of these options provide an easy and convenient source of protein that can be a little easier than chewing down meat or veggies all of the time.
When picking a protein look for:
1. Minimal ingredients (avoid long lists that take up the whole container!)
2. A good nutrition profile of at least 20g protein per serving, less than 10 carbs and little to no fat. Check sodium levels as sodium is generally high in many proteins.
3. Go for quality over the price--a cheap protein may seem good financially but likely isn't filtered as well or made with as high quality ingredients.
Protein bars are also an easy way to grab some extra pro on the go. While bars usually contain more ingredients, carbs and fats, they can also be a tasty way to fill up while on the go, in a meeting or just needing a snack.
When picking a bar, avoid labels that go for miles, weird ingredients you've never heard of or too much fiber which can cause digestion issues.
Generally, bars will be slightly more expensive than servings of protein powder, however, depending on the way you make a shake, the bar may keep you fuller for longer.
Whatever your goal, extra protein in the diet will be beneficial!
Now offering exclusive Body Construct protein at the Commence Fitness studio! Lots of great flavors. 100 calories of delicious protein! Stop in or ask about it today.