Wondering if you should be guzzling down a protein shake post-workout? And if so, what of the many protein powders you should choose? One of the most common questions that I get from clients surrounds the use of protein powders. Read on to find out if you should consume a protein powder, and if so, which one.
Many people believe that they don’t get enough protein in their diet. However, most people, even vegetarians, easily meet their daily protein needs through food alone. However, as I’ve talked about in past blogs (click here), what I more commonly see is that people don’t distribute their protein intake appropriately throughout the day. For instance, some people will get enough total protein in their diet because of large portions of meat at lunch and dinner, but do not get enough protein with breakfast, snacks and/or immediately post-exercise.
Remember, consuming more protein is not better. Extra protein does not magically turn into muscle. Depending on your body size, most people can only handle about 10-25 grams of protein at once. When your energy intakes are being met, the extra protein is converted into body fat. Additionally, protein powders have not been shown to offer any extra benefits over protein rich foods like meat, fish, poultry, eggs, yogurt, and soy. Getting 10-25 grams of protein through these foods is not hard. For instance, ½ cup of meat or 1 cup of Greek yogurt both provide about 20 grams of high-quality protein.
When protein intake is achieved through food, a protein powder is not necessary. However, if you can’t get this 10-25 grams of protein through food, then a protein powder may be beneficial. For instance, some athletes have a hard time eating immediately post-workout, so a protein powder may be an appropriate choice. Keep in mind that protein should be consumed in conjunction with carbohydrates post-workout. Some people, myself included, have a hard time getting enough protein with breakfast or snacks. I personally add protein powder to my oatmeal since by itself, it would not meet my protein requirements.
There are many protein powders available, each with their own powerful advertising and claims. Protein powders are made from a variety of sources including whey, casein, hemp, peas and soy. Out of these options, whey protein has been shown to be the best for athletes because it contains all essential amino acids, and is also rapidly digested. Whey protein also contains the branched chain amino acid, leucine. As I’ve talked about in past blogs (click here), leucine is an important amino acid for building muscle. Protein powders made from whey will either be labelled “whey concentrate” or “whey isolates”. I recommend selecting a whey isolate. This means that other components like fat and carbohydrates have been removed from the protein powder.
Athletes who compete under anti-doping codes need to be extra careful when selecting a protein powder. There is the risk that protein powders are contaminated with banned or non-permissible substances. Just because a protein powder is labeled 100% pure, free of banned substances, or contains a Drug Identification Number does not guarantee it’s free of banned substances. The best thing you can do is select a protein powder that has been third party tested such as by NSF. Some examples of brands that have been NSF certified include Biosteel and Klean.
Wondering if you’re getting enough protein in your diet and distributing it appropriately? Book an appointment with me for a detailed computerized dietary analysis. I not only look to see how your macronutrient distribution compares to your requirements, but also your vitamin and mineral intake.