Do you need to add protein powder?
Often, when I meet with customers for the first time, they are anxious to know about which are the best protein powders to include in their diets. I am always surprised at how many people take supplements, without really knowing why and without really knowing what they consist of. I am a huge advocate of healthy eating with a variety of nutrients coming from real foods. However, I do understand that some people have different fitness objectives which require them to intake a larger amount of protein and for some of these people, protein powders can be convenient. But not all products are created equal therefore if you do rely on protein powders, you must read the ingredient list in order to choose.
The first ingredient you will be looking for is of course, the protein itself.
Whey is the most popular one and the most complete with all essential amino acids but it can be harder for some people to digest because it is a type of milk protein. Casein is also a milk product but it is a slower release type of protein. Some powders contain a mix of both whey and casein for both quick and slow release.
On the plant based side, soy is the most complete one because it does contain all the amino acids as well. Soy is a little controversial and some experts will tell you to stay away from processed soy, protein powder being a processed form. But if you do enjoy soy, definitely consuming organic products is best in order to stay away from GMO (genetically modified organisms).
More and more, with the vegan movement being stronger, there are many other plant based protein powders available. If you want to make sure you are getting a complete protein, it is important to combine different sources because usually, plant based proteins (except for soy) don’t contain all of the essential amino acids. However, because different sources contain different amino acids, by combining, you can obtain complete protein. Some interesting forms of plant based proteins are pea protein, hemp protein, pumpkin seed protein, or spirulina.
Most importantly, once you do choose which type of protein you need, it is important that the ingredient list of the product you choose contains minimal ingredients and you do want to stay away from fillers, sugars, sweeteners, stabilizers, preservatives, and added flavours. These additives will transform what you think is a healthy product into a no so healthy choice. For different reasons, many additives and sugars can mess up your metabolism and hormones. If you do choose a flavored product, make sure that the added flavour is last on the ingredient list so that it is added in very small quantity and make sure that the sweeteners are also very minimal. If you choose a neutral powder with no added sugars or flavours, you can blend it into a smoothie and add some banana or berries to enhance its taste. Cacao powder, cinnamon and natural vanilla extract can also be used to add your own flavour.
Not everyone needs to add protein powders to their diets. Someone who is trying to build muscle will benefit from it however. It’s important to assess your goals and to determine the amount of protein that you need per day to achieve these goals. By looking at your height, your weight, your gender and your objectives, the amount of needed daily protein can be determined. The common recommendation is to get at least 0.8 g of protein daily per kilogram of body weight but for people who want to build muscle, the recommendations go way beyond that amount. Then, by analysing what you eat in a day, you will know if you are lacking protein and whether a protein shake is the answer for you. You can certainly get the help of a nutrition or fitness expert to help you decipher your protein needs.
If you want to try experimenting with protein powders but want to start with little quantities to see if this is something for you, here is a fun recipe that incorporates plant based protein powder for a fun and healthy snack: http://khatrinutrition.com/2017/10/19/matcha-protein-bites/