Protein powders are possibly the most well-known and sought after exercise and fitness supplement. Many magazines speak on the necessity to throw down a protein shake straight after hitting the gym. Many health aware people use them in smoothies to boost the protein content. What are protein powders? Are they any good? Will they help you get the body you are aiming for?
What are they?
The most famous protein powder around is Whey protein, so let’s focus on that initially. The process to arrive at whey protein is a fairly lengthy one. It all begins as milk, then after being chilled, it is processed in a cheese factory. The cheese factory has whey as a by-product (albeit a very profitable by-product) and this is then dried and micro filtered.
After this filtering process it is filtered again to isolate the key components further. After this is done, the individual supplement companies (Optimum, MyProtein, MusclePharm etc) all take the protein and start their own process. This process will be adding their own proprietary blend in with the pure protein. This can include many things that can aid digestion, absorption. Branch Chain Amino Acids, (BCAAS) glutaime, and other components are added. The addition of these can often have an effect on muscle growth, as they provide key micronutrients for the body to use along with the macronutrient protein.
So this process makes the milk that we start with much higher in protein content, and much lower in calories. In different blends of whey protein there are different added ingredients. It all depends on the company you are buying from. Some often add enzymes and amino acids to aid with your absorption of the protein. With other protein powders, they have derived from other raw materials apart from milk. For instance, there is Soy, Brown rice, and pea protein that are available for vegans, or people who have a tough time digesting lots of dairy.
Why are they good?
Why would you use protein powder instead? There are several good arguments given. Firstly, just like everything in today’s society, it is a convenient and fast way to get some protein. For years, bodybuilding magazines have told us that we should gulp down our protein shake straight after our session in the gym, (this advice is generally followed by an advertisement for a protein powder).
However, modern research is beginning to stray away from that theory. However, it is accepted that your body seems to be in a state that is more responsive to proteins, or nutrients in general after a gym session. (Or it should be if you worked hard enough!) However, a good reason for using protein powders is that getting good sources of protein in your diet isn’t always the easiest thing to do. Often, people’s jobs don’t always allow for them to devour half a kilogram of chicken breast evenly spaced throughout the day. So protein powders can be a godsend in these circumstances.
If you are hoping to lose weight, then they can provide you with increased satiety, which means you won’t be craving cookies so often. Often if you are struggling with giving up sweet things, a shake with a few berries thrown in can rival in taste anything you would usually get your sugar buzz from. So your craving will be satisfied, and you’ll get a protein fix, and a load of great micronutrients to boot!
As you well know, protein is the building block of muscle, and to increase your muscle tissue you need to increase your protein intake. The benefits of protein powders can be that with some blends are included pre-digested parts, or some amino acids that aid absorption. Since if you are eating protein and it isn’t going to your muscles, you are wasting everybody’s time and spending longer than you would like to on the toilet.
How To Use Them Sensibly
The temptation may be with these “easy” grams of protein that you can overdo them. If you find yourself taking the majority, or even a large part of your daily protein intake from protein shakes, you may want to rethink your strategy. These powders, although they have great nutritional content, can also have less great properties. There are preservatives, flavourings and other ingredients that are typical of processed food. The mind-set to adopt with these powders are to keep them as a supplement not as a replacement for your real foods.
As is often written on the packages of supplements, you want to use them as part of a balanced healthy diet. For the majority of your protein you will be far better served looking at whole foods. Grass fed beef, chicken, fish, eggs, lentils, beans, etc. So as long as the majority of your diet is from real food, then you can use protein powders with no worries.
Suggestions For Use
As mentioned above, a great way to use protein powders is within a smoothie. This can allow you to add a few extras to beef up the nutritional values. Good choices are blueberries, spinach, kale, chia seeds, flax seeds, and maybe some other small amount of fruit, add a dash of milk and this will have enough calories to act as a meal. It can also be a perfect post workout shake.
In terms of when the best time if to have a protein shake, it really can depend on your needs. Most outlets will tell you that straight after training is the optimal time, and that can be the case. However, other suggestions include right before bed, or as part of breakfast. Remember, do not use it to replace all or most of your protein intake. You will not make the progress that you are looking for. In summary, protein powders can help you get the body you desire if used correctly. So read the ingredients, and use them in a balanced way with the rest of your diet. And get those abs you’ve only ever dreamed of!