PROTEIN: BENEFITS & SOURCES
Not all protein powders are created equal. I have tested a variety over the years and do my best to periodically switch it up so that my system does not become accustomed or irritated by any particular one. I also am a firm believer that resorting to protein powder over food is not appropriate. Gaining as much nutrition for wholesome, nutritious foods is the best option to maintaining not only a great physique but a healthy body inside and out. Therefore, absorb this information but keep in mind, consumption is to be based on your eating plan as an entire unit.
What is it?
Protein powders can be made from a variety of whole foods such as milk, eggs, hemp, pea, or rice proteins. Most provide the 23 amino acids we need in order to build muscle, create enzymes and hormones, and regulate other processes for immune and cardiovascular health.
Since all of our tissues are made up of proteins, it’s important we are consuming enough protein daily. Our ability to maintain muscle mass is a balance between muscle protein synthesis (MPS) and muscle protein breakdown (MPB). If you are a person that consistently skips meals or waits for prolonged periods of time to eat post-workout, protein powders may be right for you in order to keep MPS up and MPB down. Here are some of the benefits researchers have found protein supplementation to provide.
- Helps to rebuild and repair muscle
- Satiety-promoting effects, at the expense of carbohydrate, improves the amount of fat loss and preserves lean tissue
- Stabilizes blood sugar levels, keeping metabolism of nutrients running well
- Increases brain function while boosting energy levels
Research has found that indicators of heavy muscular use, such as the presence of creatine kinase, is decreased after protein consumption post-workout. This means that the increased amount of protein is helping to rebuild and repair muscle. Protein’s satiety-promoting effects, which appear to be greater than those of carbohydrate and fat, make it the ideal macro to increase in lieu of the others during a calorie-deficit eating plan. Staying happy and satisfied instead of hungry deters tiredness and gives your brain to the ability to remain focused.
Contraindications or Points to Ponder:
Artificial sweeteners and colors are a sneaky culprit that some companies slide into our protein supplements. Some will even reduce the amount of protein in their product to fill with other things such as CAKE MIX! Or they could claim the product contains 20 grams of protein, however 5 grams could be considered useless because it is full of non-essential amino acids. Non-essential aminos can be made by our bodies therefore we don’t need to get them from out diet. When trying to achieve muscle-building or recovery, that kind of swap out is not ideal. In line with this, shy away from purchasing a protein that has extra bcaa, beta alanine etc…It is best to take those supplements separately because they are generally added at the expense of your protein grams. In my Overview of Dietary Supplements blog, you can find some more information about choosing your products wisely.
Be aware of how the product makes you feel regardless of the reviews you’ve read or promises made. Some proteins may cause you indigestion, bloating, fatigue, cramps, headaches, ect. where other people have not experienced this. If they do not agree with your system, discontinue use and seek out a different brand. If you are struggling to find the right protein for yourself, consult a physician.
If you are nursing, pregnant, or trying to become pregnant, it is best to consult your doctor before starting the use of any dietary supplement. Take as many precautions as necessary to protect your health and the health of your baby!
Rotate Your Protein
If you continually consume the same protein powder, your body may develop a sensitivity to it that can cause symptoms like bloating or stomach cramps. To avoid this, rotate through at least 3 protein powders. Once you finish one tub purchase a different kind. It may be a good idea to track how switching powders affects you so you know if maybe you should try a different one for the next round of rotation. This is a beneficial method because you are able to get other vitamins and minerals from a variety of plant and animal sources.
Different diets contain different Essential Amino Acids (EAAs) per food source. These proteins make up the building blocks of our bodies such as tissues, organs, muscle, ect. They are considered essential because we can only obtain them through food sources as our bodies do not make them on its own. Therefore it is important to make a variety of foods part of our diets. Some of the foods that contain high amounts of protein are listed below.
Animal Sources: contain all the EAAs
Plant Sources Plant
- Hemp (seeds, butter, protein powder)
- Beans & Legumes – adzuki, lentils,
- kidney beans, pinto, chickpeas etc.
- Nuts & Seeds (not signi cant enough to be main source of
- protein, but more of a protein boost – for best results soak and sprout
- Tempeh (fermented soy)
- Tofu organic, sprouted only
- Soybeans – organic, sprouted only
It is very possible to obtain enough protein from you diet as a vegan. In fact, I have a blog post that may be a good read for you to source your protein from food. I know many soy items are listed above, however, while soy and soy products provide a substantial amount of protein it is important to note that there may be many contraindications to consuming a great amount of soy which you can read more about here. When shopping for vegan protein powders, be sure to research prior to searching the shelves or ask for help from a health food store attendant. I have a better description of hemp, pea, and rice protein powders in my blog about Choosing a Quality Protein Powder. Be advised, milk protein is listed for my vegetarians, skip to the appropriate sections!
Types of Protein Powders
There are two types of milk protein, they both contain all the EAAs and are major hosts of leucine, one of the 3 branched chain amino acids associated with muscle sparing and recovery. If you are intolerant to lactose or allergic, you may be able to use one type of whey protein as described below. However, if it causes any bodily distress, you should seek out other sources of protein.
- Whey: the different kinds of whey protein are all distinguished by the composition or protein level. Whey protein concentrate contains more carbs and fats than the other forms, while only holding anywhere from 30-90% protein. Whey protein isolate on the other hand is more easily digestible, is made up of almost all protein, and contains very little carbohydrate or fat. It is also stripped down to contain less than 1% of lactose in the manufacturing process, meaning some who are intolerant to lactose may be able to consume it without distress. Though isolate contains more protein and less lactose, whey protein concentrate is considered more a whole food due as it is less processed. Whey protein hydrolysate is known for the process in which it is created. It is hydrolyzed meaning it has been broken down to be the most absorbable form of whey protein. The body does very little in order for these molecules to enter the muscle for recovery and repair. In other terms, it is called ‘pre-digested’.
- Caesin: Once ingested, this type of protein is slowly digested so that muscle recovery lasts for an extended period of time known as ‘time-released’. Some choose to consume this protein prior to bed so that your body is continuing to release protein well-after food consumption ends. I do not participate in this type of supplementation, however there is some research to back the belief. Also, because this type of milk protein is so heavily altered, it is the most common protein powder to cause negative symptoms, I do not include it as an option in any of my Train With Lyzabeth plans.
Bone Broth Protein:
This protein is made exactly what it sounds like. Bones, cartilage, and ligaments are left to simmer for many hours creating bone broth and then made into a powder from there. This process allows you to obtain nutrients you can’t get from just consuming muscle. Bone broth contains all the essential amino acids along with extra pluses making it amazing for joint and skin health! It also helps with exercise recovery, keeps you energized during the day, and able to sleep well at night. It contains glycine which can help reduce signs and symptoms of diabetes, lowers the risk of heart attacks, and improves your body’s ability to absorb vital minerals. Glycine, in combination with two other components found in bone broth (glutamic acid and cysteine) make a great antioxidant, glutathione. Reading the label to ensure you are getting a bone broth protein manufactured from reliable sources is important to avoid consuming added pesticides or hormones is very important with this type of protein.
A hidden gem, collagen protein can do wonders for your skin, hair, and nails. Collagen makes up some of the tough structures in your ligaments, bones, tendons, and keeps the firmness of your skin. There are different types of collagen powders, the most popular being hydrolyzed (broken down into smaller units) because it easily dissolves in hot or cold water. This protein powder also contains the three aminos that are necessary to make glutathione, a powerful antioxidant. It does, however, only contain 8 out of the 9 essential amino acids. Regardless, this is a great addition to your shakes!
This protein powder is literally made from dehydrated cow and processed into powder. It is uncertain how much is actually made from the flesh of the cow, and how much other parts (like ears and hooves) are mixed in. For that reason, it may be more beneficial to retrieve this protein in it’s natural form to avoid having over-processed foods. It is however a great source of all the essential amino acids. It just may be better to buy a steak than use the protein powder.
While it is lactose-free, if you have sensitivities to eggs it may not be a good option. Egg protein contains 9 out 9 of the essential amino acids that we need to consume from our diet with good amounts of vitamins A, B, and D. It is important that you read the labels carefully to determine if the protein is sourced from free-range chickens. Free-range egg whites contain greater amounts of vitamin E which is a great antioxidant, helping to protect the body from free-radicals that may cause damage. Regardless if it is free-range protein, the product may contain trace amounts of antibiotics and hormones. Factory farmed egg white protein may have greater amounts however, which good causes antibiotic-resistance in humans. Be sure to read the label carefully and do your research about the brand before purchasing.
Soy protein is a plant-based protein made from soybeans. It contains 8 out of the 9 essential amino acids. However, based on the studies that I’ve come across, I would recommend you stay away from soy protein and choose a pea or other vegan protein. Read more in my blog The Dangers of Eating Soy to see why.
Contains a complete arrangement of all 20 amino acids with a healthy dose of omega 3 Fatty-acids and fiber that make it a heart healthy addition to your morning smoothie. It’s full of omega-6 fatty acid and linolenic acid (GLA) which is good for preventing loss in bone density. Due tot he high amount of fiber, it helps keep the colon clean and cholesterol levels down. The hemp plant doesn’t require a lot of pesticides while growing but it doesn’t mean the risk isn’t there. Be sure to do your research as always!
Pea & Rice Protein:
These are the least hypoallergenic proteins and considered safe for those of you with sensitive digestive systems. Both are gluten and dairy free! But while packed with antioxidants, they do lack some essential amino acids so be sure to obtain those amino from other sources.
Sounds a little gross, but actually crickets carry more protein than beef! This is the newest trend in western culture, but cricket protein has been consumed by many cultures for years. It is a complete protein with all the essential amino acids and loaded with iron, B12, and other vitamins and minerals. If you’re a creative cook, this is a great protein powder to use in baked goods and other recipes. Give it a shot, you’ll never know until you try!
The average person needs about 0.4 to 1 grams per lb of body weight of protein per day. The range is based on how active that you are each day as well as how much resistance type training or work that you are doing in a day. A very high level athlete would be closer to the 1g/lb of body weight needs while someone more sedentary would be closer to the 0.4 g/lb of body weight needs. Now, ideally, you should be eating that in actual food (e.g. chicken, fish, egg whites, turkey, beans…) but if you cannot meet these goals, picking up a good quality protein powder is a good option. Keep in mind that your body can only really process and uptake 20-25g of protein each meal, which means you need to plan to space your consumption throughout the day.
Protein’s satiety properties keep hunger hormones at bay while increasing appetite-reducing hormones. Therefore taking a protein supplement between meals, on the go, or in a nutritional bind is the best time utilize the convenience of a shake for weight loss purposes.
There is a lot of research and opinions on the best time to consume protein for anabolic (muscle building) reasons. Some believe that it is necessary to take it immediately after a workout, literally as you finish your last set, ‘or you won’t maintain any muscle!’ Other studies have indicated that there is an ‘anabolic window’ of 15-60 minutes where your body does the most muscle repair and therefore it must be consumed within that time frame. More recent studies indicate that there is actually a two hour window where your body will continually build. From my personal studies, it has been deemed more important to consume simple carbohydrates directly after an intense workout than protein in order to restore your muscle glycogen, which is the fuel for movement. As long as you are feeding your muscles glycogen, protein intake of 20 grams (no more than 25g) should follow relatively closely behind, maybe 30-60 minutes following. If you wait too long to consume anything, your body can go into a catabolic state and actually eat your hard-earned muscles because it is searching for fuel. Plan appropriately to have the proper nutrition on hand post-workout in order to avoid back tracking your progress!
Be advised that ingesting more than enough protein at one time or even throughout the day is not beneficial to muscle growth. Hard work and weight training in conjunction with protein intake is what is going to increase your musculature. Protein ingestion is not the sole determination of results. Take the recommended of protein per the consultation of your physician.
Again, let me express how important it is for you to try to obtain most of your protein from food. If you do decide to supplement, be sure to research the brand and product enough to be certain you are getting the best quality for your money. Protein powder supplements have the potential to fill in the gaps in your nutritional plan, but it doesn’t help much to invest in a poorly constructed supplement that could potentially cause negative symptoms. If you have any questions or concerns, take them to your medical physician.