Do you know how much protein you should be getting in a day? The recommended daily allowance (RDA) in order to not be protein deficient, is 0.36 grams per pound of body weight. However, if you’re working out regularly, trying to build muscle, or focused on beating a personal record at the gym, you’re going to need more. Think closer to 0.72 grams per pound, according to PubMed Central.
Why protein powder, though? Why not just eat more food that’s high in protein? Here are a few reasons people choose protein powder as a supplement:
- They’re active, and protein powder smoothies or shakes help them reach their RDA of protein without having to worry about going overboard on other things in the process, like sugars or carbs that might be in food.
- Throwing together a protein shake is much easier than cooking an extra meal.
- Protein shakes are (arguably) tastier than high-protein foods like chicken or broccoli.
- Making a protein shake is more affordable than buying one from your favorite smoothie place or getting takeout to meet your protein quota.
- Protein shakes are an easy way for people who eat plant-based diets to get the protein they need.
- More protein equals more strength. Sometimes active people experience extreme fatigue during or after workouts because they’re not getting enough protein.
Tips for Taking Protein Powder
Buy quality protein powder.
Read the ingredients before you buy a protein powder. You’ve heard this advice before, and it’s especially important when it comes to protein powder because supplements like protein are not regulated by the FDA. Consequently, there are a lot of protein powders on the shelf packed with ingredients that are difficult for your body to digest. Choose wisely.
Pick protein types and portions based on your goals.
There are many types of protein powders available. They all come from either dairy, eggs, rice, or peas. The proteins of these ingredients are extracted and concentrated to make protein powder. Dairy, eggs, rice, and peas can make seven types of protein powder.
- Whey. Made from dairy, whey protein is the #1 choice for individuals trying to build muscle. Like all animal proteins, whey is a complete protein, meaning it gives your body the 9 essential amino acids it can’t make on its own.
- Casein. This protein also comes from milk. Casein digests and absorbs very slowly into the system, which makes it good for fasts, even short ones like overnight.
- Egg. Eggs are the only non-animal protein source that’s complete. Another unique benefit of eggs is that in regards to quality and digestibility, they score highest among all whole foods. Egg protein is made from only egg whites, not the yoke, in order to reduce the amount of fat in the supplement.
- Pea. Peas are a high-fiber legume, which contain 8 of the 9 essential amino acids. Pea protein contributes to overall muscle health, but its ability to increase muscle mass is still debated.
- Brown Rice. While more research needs to be done on brown rice, the general consensus is that it’s not optimal for building muscle. If muscle composition is your ultimate focus, stick to whey protein. Brown rice protein technically has all of the 9 essential amino acids, but it is too low in lysine to be considered a complete protein.
- Hemp Plant. Two major advantages of hemp protein are that it is rich in omega-3 fatty acids, and it is easily digested by the body. Due to hemp’s recent gains in popularity, insufficient studies have been done on the plant to determine how it compares to other protein supplements.
- Plant Combinations. Many plant-based protein powders will use a combination of plants such as chia seeds, peas, flax seeds, hemp and quinoa in order to create a protein mix that includes all of the 9 essential amino acids. Because they’re high in fiber, plant proteins are digested slowly, which means your body may not be able to access all of the proteins it needs right after exercise.
As far as portions go, you can’t really overdose on protein, However, any protein that your body doesn’t burn will be stored as fat. That’s why it’s important to pay attention to how much you’re burning versus how much you’re ingesting.
Take your protein shake when it works for you.
The long-held belief has been that you should always take your protein within the 30-minute anabolic window after your workout. While you certainly can do that, studies have shown (though, it is still hotly debated) that taking protein before a workout versus during the anabolic window has little effect on performance and muscle growth. So, take your protein when you want it. The important thing is that you take it the same day of your workout in order to meet your recommended daily allowance.
Sugar is not the answer.
Chances are, your protein powder already has sugar in it. Adding more is going to undermine any gains you may otherwise get from the supplement. If you’re really struggling with the chalky flavor of your protein powder, try a different brand, or opt for a flavor like chocolate or strawberry. You can also add honey or fresh fruit to sweeten up your shake.
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