If your New Year’s resolution is to get back in shape or get that body you so desperately wanted all year long, you may require something more than a workout plan and hitting the gym. You will also need to have a proper diet plan, supplements, and good eating habits. In this article, we will talk about protein powder and how it can help you achieve your fitness goals.
In the recent past, protein powder was mostly used by bodybuilders. However, that has been slowly changing and more health-oriented people are integrating protein shakes into their diet for different goals, from muscle gain, weight loss to improving endurance. However, protein powders are not a panacea and you will have to do more based on your goals. To help understand this better, let’s take it back to the beginning and look at what protein powder is.
What is protein powder?
These are powdered forms of proteins that come from dairy or plant sources. Protein is a macronutrient essential to muscle building and maintenance, repairing tissues, bone strength and other numerous bodily functions. In total, proteins contain 20 amino acids which are the building blocks of muscles. Protein powders complete proteins, meaning they contain all the nine amino acids necessary for human dietary needs. That does not mean that they work like magic, just one scoop and voila! According to a research study by the University of Montreal, three-quarters of professional athletes fail to see an improvement in performance after using protein powder because they do not know how to choose and use them well. Therefore, it is paramount that you know how to choose the best protein powder for you.
Types of protein powder
There are different types of protein powders available, with various sources, amino acids, and digestion rates. The powders may also include other added ingredients such as vitamins, added sugars, thickeners, and minerals. The amount of protein per scoop also varies, with products for muscle building containing relatively more than those used for weight loss. The most common types are:
- Whey protein – this type is mostly used by athletes. It has fast digestion rates therefore perfect for muscle recovery as it gets to the muscles faster. This powder is a by-product of cheese production.
- Casein protein – this is a dairy-based protein powder that contains all the essential amino acids. However, it is absorbed slower than whey protein. It is, therefore, best taken at night.
- Soy protein – this is a plant-based protein powder and therefore excellent for vegans and people with milk allergies. It also contains all the required amino acids. It contains soy isoflavones which may have additional health benefits.
- Pea protein – this is a plant-based protein with adequate levels of protein. It is however deficient in methionine and cysteine amino acids.
- Hemp protein – this type has a high nutritional profile and almost a complete protein one.
Uses of protein powder
Protein powders in the past were used almost exclusively by athletes, but they can be used by anyone in several ways including keeping your body nourished, satisfied or achieving your body or health goals including:
- Muscle growth
- Weight management
- Muscle recovery after exercises
- When you are recovering from an injury
- Overall wellness
Using protein powder for muscle growth
Protein supplements are designed to promote muscle growth with regular exercises by providing your body with the necessary amino acids required to build muscles more efficiently and quickly. Athletes and bodybuilders combine protein powders with intensive physical activities which usually require high protein levels. By matching these levels, you give your muscles more time to recover and rebuild.
If your goal is muscle growth, the best protein powder for you should have high digestion rates as the quicker they are broken down into amino acids, the faster the muscle tissues are repaired and built. Therefore, whey-based protein powders are more likely to offer superior results than those which are slowly absorbed.
Taking extra proteins before exercise optimizes muscle development but it is not advisable to take more than 30 grams in one sitting. It comes down to the individual because different people respond differently to the proteins. They should also not replace protein food sources altogether. For the right diet and exercise combination, you should consult a nutritionist.
Using protein powders for weight management
Protein is an essential macronutrient when it comes to losing weight. High protein foods and protein powders help people feel fuller for more extended periods, thus reducing appetite (calorie intake) and boosting metabolism. Meaning more calories out. It reduces frequent snacking and cravings. This can help a person lose weight without actively limiting their portions. Muscles burn more calories than fat, metabolism is also promoted because of the calories needed to break protein down.
Exercise and high protein intake during weight loss have been shown to reduce muscle loss and metabolic slowdown. This is because the body will not usually break down muscles when the protein intake is high, therefore preventing the adverse effects of weight loss. Protein powders that have slow digestion rates are more appropriate for this.
How to take protein powder
- Protein powder can be added to porridge, smoothie, water, or milk and used as a shake. Milk will slow down the digestion and add more calories, so if your goal is to add more bulk, you should probably consider this option. If your goal is to lose weight, you can use water.
- After a workout, using a protein shake within half an hour can help prevent muscle breakdown and enhance recovery. This 30-minute period is called the anabolic window.
- The amount of protein powder you require depends on your diet, physical activity, and weight. Unless you have minimal protein intake from your diet, using the protein powder once a day is sufficient.
There are many protein powders available on the market today. They can be helpful protein supplements for older people, vegans, vegetarians, athletes, and anyone else trying to remain fit.
Considering using protein powders? Ensure you get high-quality supplements. It also pays to talk with your doctor for advice and dosage instructions.