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Are you getting enough protein from your diet? If you’re exercising regularly you may need a little help from protein shake to meet your protein requirement for the day. A protein shakes is not a meal replacement, it’s a supplement, meaning you’ll have one or two protein drinks in addition to your daily meals.

People often have their protein shakes to fuel their bodies and repair muscles tissue. However with so many options to choose from it’s hard to navigate through a supplement store. With varieties like whey protein, vegan protein, egg, or casein, there are so many options to choose for muscle growth it’s important to pick the right one for you and your needs.

What are protein powders? 

Amino acids are the building blocks of protein and what is required to repair the micro tears made during the workout, aid the recovery and build the muscle. Protein is not only essential to muscle growth however, it also builds our hair, nails, and builds and repairs every cell in our bodies. This is why it’s considered an essential nutrient.

Protein shale 

Why drink protein shakes? 

While real food is always the optimum choice there are many reasons to invest in a protein powder. As discussed amino acids in protein are essential to the bodies function, growth and repair. Our bodies can make some amino acids but there are some it cannot make, and those must be consumed through diet.

Athletes and people with heavy workout schedules may benefit from protein shakes but other reasons could include growing teenagers, people who have busy schedules and forget to eat or have poor eating habits (junk food), people with sport injuries could also require a higher protein intake.

Protein shakes may also be beneficial for individuals transitioning to a vegan or vegetarian lifestyle to ensure their amino acid requirements are met until they learn how to balance their diet correctly through food. Most protein shakes also contain a multivitamin compound making it a great way of ensuring growing kids get the nutrients needed

How do you know if you need a protein shake?

It is entirely possible to get more than enough protein in the diet from food, however as we’ve discovered some people may need more protein for repair, growth and recovery whilst others may just have a poor diet. It’s Important to remember that protein powders are a supplement and do not replace the food taken in from diet but are an addition to it. For any individual protein should make up 10-35% of your daily calories. The lower percentage being the less active people and the higher percentage would be the athletes.

  • Recreational athletes need 0.5-0.75 grams of protein a day per pound of body weight
  • Competitive athletes need 0.6-0.9 grams per pound of body weight
  • Teenage athletes need 0.8-0.9 grams per pound of body weight

If you are unsure if you are getting enough protein for your workout level then there are lots of calculators online to help. The bottom line is the more you exercise the higher your protein and overall total calorie intake will be.

What the nutritional benefits of drinking protein shakes? 

An optimum diet gets all our recommended protein, carbs, fats, fiber, vitamins and minerals from food. However in today’s busy world it’s easy to forget to eat or settle for junk food which can leave us deficient in all the essential amino acids, vitamins and minerals. By switching to a protein shake we can ensure we’re getting the nutrients needed to start us on the right track.

What is whey protein?

Whey protein powder is dairy based and is the most common and cheapest protein available. It can be found almost anywhere from grocery markets to supplement stores. Unlike casein (which is also dairy derived), whey protein digests much quicker making it a faster acting recovery drink post-workout. There are some different types of whey protein however.Whey concentrate is your basic whey protein, no muss no fuss.

This is generally the cheapest of the three and the most commonly available along with whey isolate. Isolate is the whey protein with the non-protein components removed to isolate the protein, this means less calories, less carbs and more protein when compared to the same dose of concentrate. This purification process also makes the isolate more expensive. The most expensive of the three is the hydrolysate which is further purification. This process partially breaks down of the bond of the amino acid chains in the proteins making hydrolysate digest quicker with a bitter taste as a trade-off.

What is vegan protein?

While whey and casein are great options for omnivores what about those people that choose a vegan diet or those with egg or dairy allergies? Well there are plant based protein powders too. These include soy based protein powders and plant based non-soy protein powders for those with soy allergies or sensitivities. There are more different types of vegan plant protein powders than whey depending on the plants used, including rice protein powder, hemp protein power, soy protein powder and more.

How does plant protein compare to whey protein? 

Whey protein is a complete protein, meaning it contains all the essential amino acids needed that the body cannot produce. Some plant based proteins however may not contain all the essential amino acids. Pea protein for example is lacking in some amino acids, whilst rice protein is lacking in others.

Thankfully companies like Vega, Garden of life and Plant Fusion have blended the different plant proteins together to create a completely balanced plant based protein powder with all the essential amino acids. Whilst the comparison to whey powder is a valid one in terms of amino acid content,  it’s worth remembering that most people will look towards plant based protein powders due to dietary health or ethical reasons rather than protein content.

Can you get the same amount of protein from vegan protein powder?

Absolutely! Plant based protein powders vary in protein content according to the blend used but they can be comparable amounts of protein compared to whey. Vega for example has 25g of plant protein making it very comparable to whey protein. Conversely hemp protein powder can vary greatly, with anywhere from 9 – 20g per serving.

What are some of the most important nutrient you want from your protein powder?

Firstly you want to make sure that it contains the amount of protein you require per serving. The amounts can vary a lot, but remember even though the powder may contain a set number of protein grams per serving you don’t necessarily have to use a full serving. The most important thing about the protein powder is that it contains all the essential amino acids needed to supplement your diet. The specific thing to look for in a post workout protein powder would be the Branch Chain Amino Acids (BCAAs) leucine, isoleucine and valine.

What to look for when purchasing protein powder? 

For whey protein look for something that is ideally 100% whey protein powder. Whether you buy isolate, concentrate or hydrolysate is personal preference as studies¹ showed that the hydrolysate isn’t really much better, and perhaps it’s going to be more of a pocketbook choice for most people.

One thing to remember however is that as humans we don’t actually need that much protein and protein deficiency in America is unheard of. Recover really doesn’t take that much extra protein and added to the foot intake during the day it can be quite easy to get more than is required. This isn’t a big problem for healthy individuals but the big caveat for protein powders is those people with kidney disease. As protein is hard on the kidneys it’s vital that patients with kidney disease check with their nephrologist before adding protein powders into their diets.

Sources: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18608553





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