Protein is essential for our bodies. It is needed for growth, reproduction and healing as well as supporting a healthy immune system. Protein is a satiating agent which means it helps us keep full for longer when we consume it at our meals. Protein is made up of amino acids which are the building blocks to our bodies. There are nine essential amino acids that we must obtain from our diet that are crucial for overall health. There are many great food sources out there that contain complete proteins (which provide us with the 9 essential amino acids) such as meat, fish, eggs and poultry. Many plant sources are incomplete but if you mix and match the right sources then you can make complete proteins.
If you go to a gym, you’ve probably heard the guys by the weight machines talking about the protein shakes they drink after a workout and what kind of shake they prefer. Protein powders – made into a shake or consumed however you like – are getting more and more popular as a nutritional supplement. People love convenience and this could be the reason why they are becoming so popular. I see a lot of people purchasing various supplements as soon as they have joined a gym because there local personal trainer has told them too or they just see everyone taking these powders and assume they need it. This is totally dependant on your goals, your current dietary intake and your exercise regime. Most of the time, you probably don’t even need protein powder as you most likely get a sufficient amount of protein from your diet. However, this is different from person to person which is why one rule doesn’t fit all.
What are Protein Powders?
Protein powders come in various forms. The three common ones are whey, pea and casein protein. There three common forms of these:
- Protein concentrates: Produced by extracting protein from whole food using heat and acid or enzymes. These typically supply 60–80% protein, with the remaining 20–40% composed of fat and carbs.
- Protein isolates: An additional filtering process removes more fat and carbs, further concentrating the protein. Protein isolate powders contain about 90–95% protein.
- Protein hydrolysates: Produced by further heating with acid or enzymes — which breaks the bonds between amino acids — hydrolysates are absorbed more quickly by your body and muscles.
Some powders are also fortified with vitamins and minerals, especially calcium.
Whey Protein: Whey protein comes from milk. It is the liquid that separates from the curds during the cheesemaking process. It’s high in protein but also harbours lactose, a milk sugar that many people have difficulty digesting. While whey protein concentrate retains some lactose, the isolate version contains very little because most of this milk sugar is lost during processing.
Whey digests quickly and is rich in branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs). Leucine, one of these BCAAs, plays a major role in promoting muscle growth and recovery after resistance and endurance exercise.
Pea Protein: Pea protein powder is especially popular among vegetarians, vegans and people with allergies or sensitivities to dairy or eggs.
It’s made from the yellow split pea, a high-fiber legume that boasts all but one of the essential amino acids. Pea protein is also particularly rich in BCAAs.
Casein Protein: Like whey, casein is a protein found in milk. However, casein is digested and absorbed much more slowly. Casein forms a gel when it interacts with stomach acid, slowing down stomach emptying and delaying your bloodstream’s absorption of amino acids.
This results in a gradual, steadier exposure of your muscles to amino acids, reducing the rate of muscle protein breakdown.
Who needs Protein Powder?
If your diet is already rich in high-quality protein, you likely won’t see much difference in your quality of life by adding protein powder. The amount of protein you need depends on your age, gender, physical activity level, health state, gut health and lifestyle.
This also comes down to your goals, if you are the ‘average jo’ who has just joined the gym to get moving and lose a bit of body fat you probably don’t need protein powder. Although it does make a great addition to smoothies and a convenient snack or breakfast option. If your goals are after building muscle then a good quality protein powder may benefit you. This is something you should discuss with a Nutritionist or qualified health professional. Athletes and people who regularly lift weights may find that taking protein powder helps maximize muscle gain and fat loss (usually due to the convenience factor).
There are so many protein powders out there, which one should I get?
When it comes to supplements, I always recommend quality over quantity! You need to talk to someone qualified about this, not just the local supplement retail worker as they tend to sell you anything! I am a proud partner of Go Good Protein and know there products are very clean and pure. They only contain three ingredients and source locally from non-GMO cows. They taste amazing and don’t have all the added ‘crap’ or ingredients you can’t even pronounce (fillers, emulsifiers, additives, preservatives etc) like a lot of the other protein powders. All these added sweeteners may cause tummy problems. Always go for a brand you trust, good quality ingredients and research to back up their claims.
I personally only use protein powder in my smoothies as it thickens the smoothie, adds flavour and balances the meal out. Do you use protein powder?