Protein powder is one of the most popular nutritional supplements. This is most likely due to the fact that protein is essential for building muscle, repairing tissue, and making enzymes and hormones in the body. It is even beneficial for weight loss and muscle toning.
With all of the different protein powders available today, I wanted to discuss; the health benefits, the different types available, and even make some recommendations if you are looking for advice.
I do want to mention before diving in that meeting your needs with protein-rich foods outweighs the possible health benefits of protein powders. You should always try to get as much protein as you need from quality high-protein foods because they help meet other human dietary needs. However, there are some benefits to picking up a good tub of protein powder.
Health Benefits of Protein Powder
Read below the video for more benefits as well as recommendations.
Protein is one of the building blocks of muscle, bone, and skin. It is also needed to produce hormones, enzymes, and other necessary chemicals in the body.
You can learn more about protein itself in the article Complete Protein vs. Incomplete Protein: A Guide.
Some of the main health benefits of protein include:
Better Muscle Growth
Complete protein is essential for muscle growth. This is why many athletes, bodybuilders, and just casual gym goers drink protein shakes after training. The spike in protein intake will help with the recovery of the muscles that have been broken down during training and can help increase muscle size. With adequate calorie intake and the right training, the increase in protein will improve muscle size and strength.
It is worth noting that protein supplementation is equally effective in men and women. More supplementation may be needed in older individuals as protein needs increase.
There is conflicting data on how much protein intake is required for muscle growth. Anywhere from 0.73 grams per pound of bodyweight to 1.2 grams per pound of bodyweight. Because of the additional satiety benefits and because I personally notice less soreness, I tend to stay around the 1.2 grams per pound mark. Now, it is worth noting that I only use protein shakes when I can’t get enough protein through diet. Protein shakes should be used to supplement whole food diets not replace meals, except for weight loss in some cases.
Better Weight Management
A diet that is high in protein, including supplemental protein shakes, can help people feel fuller for longer as it is more satiating than other macronutrients (fats and carbohydrates) according to The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. Being satiated tends to result in less snacking throughout the day and better portion control. This can help in maintaining a healthy weight or even facilitate weight loss.
In fact, whey protein shakes specifically have been shown to help reduce total fat mass in people who are overweight or obese. They may even reduce blood pressure, cholesterol, and other cardiovascular disease risk factors.
Beyond these health benefits, protein consumption will also help reduce the amount of muscle lost during weight loss.
As mentioned above the inclusion of protein shakes after training can help repair damaged muscles and tissues. It also aids in speeding up recovery from muscle soreness after exercise because of the increase in muscle protein synthesis following exercise. In fact, whey protein specifically is known to be the best protein source to stimulate muscle protein synthesis.
The minimum recommended daily intake of protein for people older than 18 is 46 grams for women and 56 grams for men. Click here to see the minimums recommended by WebMD. For people that find it difficult to meet these minimums, protein powder is a great way to increase intake.
For people who engage in athletics, weight training, highly physical jobs, or that suffer from chronic illness a higher protein intake is necessary. People who fall into these categories should consume 0.62 grams to 0.9 grams per pound of bodyweight.
Protein Powder Options
A good protein powder is a great way to get some additional grams of protein in if you can’t meet your needs with whole food protein sources. Luckily, the types of available protein powders on the market seems to be growing every year. Whey is the most popular protein supplement. This probably has to do with the additional benefits that come from whey specifically.
Commonly used types of protein powder include:
Whey protein powder is a water-soluble milk based complete protein. This means it mixes easily and digests easily. It also contains all of the essential amino acids that the body requires from food.
Here is one of the top whey protein powders.
Casein protein powder is sometimes included in whey protein mixes and is also milk based. It takes many hours to digest and is usually best to take before bed because of this. Casein is also very rich in glutamine, making it helpful in speeding up muscle recovery and maintaining gut health.
If you want a casein only protein powder try this one!
Soy protein powder is the most common alternative to whey protein for vegetarians or others who do not consume milk products. It also happens to be one of the few complete plant proteins.
Here is one of the top rated soy protein powders.
Hemp seed protein is another complete plant protein that is an excellent alternative for people with dairy or soy allergies.
Amazon reviews recommend this hemp protein powder.
There are many more protein powders available including pea, rice, and even beef (this beef protein is one of my favorites– their mass gainer is phenomenal). For the sake of keeping the article short and relevant I wanted to only include the top contenders. However, I am particularly fond of beef protein isolate as well.
The USDA does not regulate protein powders. For this reason, even some of the most well-known companies have been caught amino-spiking their powders, using low quality ingredients, or even containing harmful ingredients such as lead, cadmium, and arsenic. The best way to avoid this is to buy from reputable supplement companies who are honest on their labels and are third party tested to provide the consumer with accurate labeling.
Protein Powder Uses
Before using any protein powders, I would recommend calculating your nutritional needs. This should include your daily caloric intake as well as the amount of protein needed to meet your specific goals.
Keep in mind that protein shakes should not be the main source of protein in your diet. The best way to get protein is from whole food sources. These include meats, dairy products, and other complete protein food sources. Supplemental protein is only meant to help you reach your goals, not to be a food replacement.
You also need to be consuming plenty of other beneficial foods. Foods that contain the necessary fuel for your body to run in a healthy state. Things like healthy fats and carbohydrates, especially those high in fiber, also need to be consumed on a daily basis.
When trying to lose weight, protein powder is a great mix in to low calorie meal replacement shakes containing whole foods or mixed with water following a workout.
When trying to gain weight, protein powders can be mixed into high calorie shakes. Drink these shakes in between meals or post-workout in milk or water.
Protein powders can be a beneficial supplement for many individuals. They are especially beneficial for athletes, older adults, vegetarians, vegans, and those with restricted diets. They are a convenient source of complete protein that has been shown to have many health benefits.
I personally prefer these proteins as they mix well and digest well. They also come in a variety of great flavors, and the company is well trusted. All the company labels are clear and the products are 3rd party tested. These test guarantee the products contain no banned substances or unsafe ingredients. Their whey is all cold processed so it retains the best nutritional value possible.
An ultra-filtered whey, providing the highest biological value of any protein source. It contains a combination of whey concentrate and whey isolate. This makes it ideal for building lean muscle. It contains papain and protease for helping with protein absorption. 25 grams of protein per serving.
Rather than being a mix, this product is a pure whey isolate. Less than 1 gram of sugar, fats, and carbs per serving. This product is perfect for post workout especially if you are trying to lose weight. It contains papain and protease for helping with protein absorption. 27 grams of protein per serving.
I always go with chocolate but flavor is super subjective!
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