This may sound like a familiar thought to you when you’re in your local GNC, Vitamin Shoppe, etc. It was definitely a similar thought I had looking for the “right” protein supplement many moons ago. The upsetting part to me was that the type of protein I should consume was only the beginning of the, what seemed to be, trillion and one questions I had regarding protein powders.
In my discussions with our boot camp members, I find the same questions and/or confusion, which I once had, regarding the “right” protein. With that said, I’m going to shed some light on the wild and crazy world of protein mix in this blog post.
What are protein powders?
Simply put, protein powders are dietary supplements that contain a high percentage of protein.
What are the different types of protein powders?
As you know, there are several types of protein mixes. Protein mixes are derived from a variety of food sources. Below is a list including, but not limited to, the protein mix food sources and its strengths:
- Rice protein: hypo-allergenic, gluten-free, neutral taste, economical. 100% plant-based
- Egg protein: fat-free, concentrated amounts of essential amino acids
- Milk protein (includes whey, casein, calcium caseinate, and milk protein blends): may enhance immunity, high in BCAAs (branched chain amino acids), highly studied.
- Pea protein: no saturated fat or cholesterol, highly digestible, hypo-allergenic, economical. Rich in lysine (used to prevent and treat cold sores), arginine (aid kidneys remove waste products; maintain immune and hormone function) and glutamine. 100% plant-based
- Hemp protein: provides omega-3 fats, most forms provide fiber, high in arginine and histidine. 100% plant-based
- Soy protein: May have benefits for cardiovascular disease, contains some anti-nutrients, may be derived from genetically modified soy. 100% plant-based.
A word on the more popular protein powders i.e. milk isolates, whey, casein, soy and rice. There’s a few factors that will affect the when, what, how of the protein powder world. Because whey protein is quickly absorbing protein, you want to have it immediately before/after a workout or also during. Casein protein is much slower digesting protein so having it outside of that “workout window” will serve you much more sufficiently, along with the milk protein isolates. Casein and milk isolates are both great as a night snack as the slow release of protein keeps you full at night. * If you’re on a plant-based diet, soy, rice, or pea protein powder may be a good choice. Soy protein is the most controversial of the proteins listed. There are budding opinions in the industry that soy is a “super-food” versus the good amount of research showing the health risks of consuming soy. Due to that, I recommend that you do your due diligence and make a decision you’re comfortable with.
*Please note that if fat-loss is your goal be cognizant of serving size and other ingredients.
Why protein powder and not whole foods (yogurt, chicken, eggs, milk, etc)?
Whole foods are never a bad thing for getting your proper nutrient intake and I ultimately recommend getting your macronutrients from whole foods. As a matter of fact, whole foods are at the top of the hierarchy. Remember, protein powder is a supplement and not the end-all-be-all for your protein intake.
With that being said, there are advantages to protein powders:
- The speed in which the protein powders digest and the ability to get the nutrients in its basic form of amino acids to the soft tissue that’s under duress from a workout.
- If one is lactose intolerant, protein powders can be a good option.
How much protein should I have daily?
This will depend on a few factors. One of the main factors is your activity level and the kind of activity. The basic recommendation is 0.8 grams per kilogram of body mass (not a math or science person, no worries there will be more on this later) in generally healthy adults. For example, a 140lb person would consume 51 grams of protein a day. However, this recommendation is pretty conservative considering this amount is to prevent protein deficiency. This may be sufficient for someone leading a sedentary lifestyle. It may not be enough for someone that leads a more active lifestyle. For someone exercising more days than not (at least 4 days/week) at a moderate to high intensity may require 1.2-1.8g/kg of body mass. That same 140lb person would now consume 76-115 grams of protein a day. These suggested levels are necessary for the creation of new proteins from individual building blocks (protein synthesis). A recreational exerciser probably should not consume anymore than 2.0g/kg of protein throughout the day.
How do I figure out my daily protein intake?
There are two very simple mathematical steps to calculate your daily protein intake:
Step 1: convert your weight in pounds to your weight in kilograms by dividing your weight in pounds by 2.2
Weight (lbs) / 2.2 = weight (kg)
Step 2: multiply your weight in kilograms by 0.8-2.0 based on how active you are (0.8 = preventing protein deficiency; 2.0 = highly active individual (athlete))
Weight (kg) * 0.8 – 2.0 = daily protein intake
When should I have a protein powder?
Remember, protein powders are supplements! So have it if/when you need to supplement your intake due to deficiency and/or convenience. You should strive to consume protein at each meal. Why? You ask. Let’s speak briefly on the functionality of protein. Protein improves our immune function, metabolism, satiety, and body composition (weight management). Couple that with the fact that our protein stores upper limit never increases, while our protein stores fluctuates over the course of the day, we should aim to consume protein at each meal to keep those stored protein levels high so you can thrive!
Your take away
- “You need little protein to survive but much more to thrive”
- Take whey within the workout window and casein outside of the workout window
- On a plant-based diet or have any intolerance/allergies, opt for soy, pea, and/or rice protein powder
- Figure your daily protein intake by: converting weight (lbs) to weight (kg) and multiplying by a range of 0.8 – 2.0 based on how active you are.
Step 1: weight (lbs) / 2.2 = weight (kg)
Step 2: weight (kg) * 0.8 – 2.0 = range of daily protein intake
Be sure to consult your physician before drastically changing your diet!
Join us for our JCF Empowerment Workshop: Taking Charge of Your Life through Nutrition this Wednesday August 22nd 7:30pm – 8:45pm @ Grassroots Community Space (54 Coles St. (corner of 3rd Street) Jersey City, NJ 07302). RSVP at email@example.com